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Q. How can I improve the quality of samples taken from a record deck?

Published November 2012

I just got hold of an old record deck and am having problems trying to record samples off some of my Dad's old vinyl. When I plug the deck into my mixer (Mackie 1402 VLZ Pro) I can hear the sounds, but they're really, really quiet and if I turn it up on the desk it gets really noisy. Is this a fault, or am I doing something wrong?

To record samples from a record deck you need a phono preamp stage between your deck and the mixer, otherwise you won't be able to capture anything usable, given that the audio will be so quiet. And anything you do capture will be seriously noisy once the volume is turned up.To record samples from a record deck you need a phono preamp stage between your deck and the mixer, otherwise you won't be able to capture anything usable, given that the audio will be so quiet. And anything you do capture will be seriously noisy once the volume is turned up.Q. How can I improve the quality of samples taken from a record deck?

Jack Holland, via email

SOS Reviews Editor Matt Houghton replies: There are a couple of issues here, but the answer's pretty simple: you need a phono preamp stage between the deck and the mixer. You've not mentioned problems with the frequency balance, but when mixes are mastered for vinyl, a 'pre-emphasis' curve is applied, boosting the high frequencies and cutting bass. This reduces noise and allows us to get more low end from a record, but a corrective EQ curve needs to be applied to restore the correct frequency balance on playback. That side of things can be done in software if you want, but you'll still need to boost the signal to a sensible level, either using the mixer preamps or a separate phono preamp — which will both apply the corrective EQ curve and boost the output. The ART DJ Pre II Phono Preamp provides a tailor-made solution to getting the sound directly into your computer, but to feed your mixer the right signal, any old hi-fi amp with a phono input and tape in/out facility should do the job. The tape out would be used to feed a signal your mixer channels. Decent-quality amps can be had cheaply off eBay and similar sites. The Mackie accepts both balanced and unbalanced inputs, and you'll be fine feeding it signals from consumer gear like this.  

Published November 2012