Any interest in audio archiving process?

Hey, is there any interest in my personal audio archiving and transfer process? Folks may have their own methods, so this would all be my own taste.


Sure! What are you currently using?


I am curious, whats your process ?

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Yes there is!


Sorry for the delayed reply, work has gotten crazy. Alright, so as I’ve already stated before in another thread my prof when I went back to school had a huge thing for audio preservation, fidelity, and mastering. At the school we boats one of the largest collections of Pop music in the country, so we’re always transfering audio from a large number of various formats. Anyhoo, I learned my current method at the school under his teachings. We had a Horus converter that fed audio into Pyramix with a Crookwood Mastering control remote feeding 2 Genelec 8260A monitors up front. There were also some smaller genelecs set up for surround mastering as well.

Anyways, to get to the meat of the matter; I will use vinyl as a source since it’s one of the more requested formats to convert to digital. It’s importart that the surface is as clean as it possibly can be, like this website outlines. I have also used the wood glue trick with wonderful results.

The next step is finding a media player, the one we used at school was a fairly standard TTUSB Numark turntable. we took the RCA output of the gear and put it into an outboard active phono pre to get our RIAA EQ curve impressed on the signal, which then went into the Horus. If you’re not familiar with the RIAA curve, it is an extreme EQ cut used on the audio when it is going to vinyl media to reduce the needle jump (read; vallleys and bumps) induced by the lower frequency transients like a kick drum. You’ll also want to make sure that the stylus you are using is fairly new and not worn too much, they do make special archival needles for the hi-fi enthusiast that work very well for this exact purpose.

Once we verify that we’re getting signal into our converters we’ll set up our capture session within the Pyramix software. The sessions would usually be set up with 192k sampling rate with 24-bit, and I made sure to ask about this because it was a point of contention amount the students when it came to a regular tracking session in the other studios. The reasoning is that the more samples that are captured during a certain time increases the resoultion the audio, but also of any errors in the source. As an analogy, if I’m making a correction on a painting, like removing a small spot of dribbled paint, it would be more precise to use a small brush rather than attemping to use the edge of a roller. Sure, you would get rid of the dribbled paint, but chances are good that you might get rid of the good stuff too.

During the transfer process, particularly with vinyl, it is important to keep the room as quiet as possible. No talking or playing other music on your laptop. We found this out the hard way because the needle will absolutely pick up the ambient sounds in the room…such as students talking shit about another students/teachers.

Once we have our capture in the DAW its is time for cleanup depending on what the client wants, some want to keep the crackle and magic of an LP sound…other want it as clean as possible. For most archival purposes we will attempt to clean up the audio to original master-quality, though going back far enough each record was its own master so we keep that in mind as well.

For cleaning the audio itself we went with (and I still do) Izotope’s RX program. I will often use a spectrograph and freq meter side by side in my window setup for sanity checking. Before moving on I would like to identify two types of noise we usually observe in a capture; Broadband and Narrowband. Broadband is audio that is present over a wide frequency range, whereas Narrowband happens over a small frequency range. Further, these terms can relate to constant or transient noises.

Now, getting a good baseline is important so I’ll go to a section of the capture that has no music or audio playing and get a snapshot of what mechanical/electrical sounds may be present inherently. A 50Hz hum? An unidentified buzz? you can see the constant noises on the spectro, along with any resulting harmonics. Anything that sounds like it may be constantly present in the capture is made known here…usually. A 50 or 60Hz hum’s culrpit is usually derived from mains power, in the US it will be 60Hz whereas UK and Europe will exhibit 50Hz. Unfortunately, as with most narrowband sine signals that overdrive, you could possibly see harmonics generate from 50/60Hz to create a larger broadband issue referred to as “hiss”…quite audible. the good news is that hum is easily cleaned with RX without much degradation in the original audio. The harmonic hiss from the hum can be suppressed with Denoiser as well, but you’re starting to lurk into useful audio domain in these frequencies so that’s exactly why higher sampling is needed.

Even though I’m not using tape as an example here, it is important to note that tape hiss is a larger problem than the harmonic hiss because it is relatively random. Even external noise captured through the needle, such as computer fans, A/C, and vibrations in the room can cause random hiss. The RX Denoiser can usually tackle this issue if used carefully.

Now that the constant noise issues have been addressed it is now time to focus on transients such a crackles, clicks, and pops from dirt or scratches on the record’s surface. These are usually fairly easy to tackle with the De-click tool in RX, but because these are random events in the capture a lot of attention and quality monitoring must be put into this part of the process.

One of the last processes in the archival process is a touch…and I mean ONLY a touch of EQ to gain back what was lost in the cleaning process to make it sound as close to the original as possible. I won’t go much into those processes at this point because this write-up was only supposed to cover how I transfer and clean audio for archiving or digitizing. My current setup isn’t terribly different from the one I use those few years ago at school except I use Apogee 2-channel instead of the Horus, and HD600s and HS8s for monitoring.

Please let me know if I missed something or would like to add anything, as I would be really surprised if I included everything I wanted to write about on my first draft. If you have any questions about a specific part, please let me know as well. Thanks for reading!


Wow Chase, what a great writeup. I really enjoyed reading it and I learned a lot!

Is this a service that you do as a business? I have a couple old cassette tapes I would love to capture digitally but have never motivated up to get the appropriate gear…

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@Taomine, holy shit dude. I’ve never met someone who used Pyramix. I thought those systems had completely fallen off. How long ago was that?

Didn’t know that. Is this normal?

+1 for the Izotope RX!! Waves and Nugen also have some good stuff for this.

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@Chordwainer Dave, I did this work for free at the school because I wanted to learn how to do it. Now it’s just a passion project for me, really. I’m currently working on an country album originally tracked back in the 70’s that no one can find the master tapes for, along with a couple other family projects and contracts. Are you interested in learning how to make the transfers yourself, or would you like me to help out? I’m game either way!

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@Jonathan Hey thanks for checking the article out! Yeah, the Horus and Pyramix software are a bear to get used to, so I think that’s why it never really caught on. That being said, I found the fades the software used were superior to PT (my usual poison of choice), as well as the capability to actually author the master with flags, UPC, track info, and artist info. Not to mention the capability to create DDPs!! That’s pretty much the biggest reason I keep it around.

Oh yeah, the needle thing! So, in class we were curious about the needle picking up sound waves (and not just mechanical valleys and crests from the LP). So we did an experiment where we would talk closely around the turntable, then louder and louder. We did this with the lid open and closed, as well as with a small battery powered fan with varying proximity. What we found was that the talking and fan could certainly be picked up with only small transmission losses with the lid closed. They couldn’t really be that audible because of some natural hiss and noise masking, but you could certainly see it on the graph and thus required to be cleaned. We even took turns shouting near the turntable, and boy…you could hear that easily on the transfer! So yeah, a controlled environment for that kind of transfer!

I discovered RX when working with Post! It’s such a nice tool! I have some Waves stuff, but I’ve never looked into their cleanup software, same with Nugen. I would like to see about doing forensic audio work for local law, seems like it would be a pretty sweet deal.

Pyramix, like Sequoia are real niche type DAWs. And impractical for music production. Pyramix seems really popular with classical and orchestral guys. You still have your copy? Is it current? Has Merging kept their software up to date? Or have they fallen behind on implementing new features?

Cedar is really popular for that, but they’re brutally expensive. And the ROI (returns on investment) are debatable, as Ozone does the same stuff very very well.

Its faster to get it tweaked and working than Izotope. The Izotope stuff takes more work to get going but it does quite a bit more if you need it to.

Chase, that would be great to get your help. I don’t want to invest in the gear or take a bunch of time because I have just a couple of tapes I’m looking to capture and then I’ll never need it again. I’ll send you a PM and we can take it up offline. Many thanks!!

Just spent a good hour on the phone with those guys. They’re great…and understand the frustration in the marketplace with Avid. $3000 is a lot for a DAW, I was pleasantly surprised to see full Atmos and high grade metering in their flagship package. Fully Eucon equipped too. Which makes a big difference for commercial studios. Its nice that they offer a demo version. I’ll take a look around it when I have a chance. And they DO keep up with their updates. Also no charge for phone support. Much better than Avid, and better than Magix/Sequoia that don’t offer it at all.

If you did’t know, they split their packages into essentials, native, and pro. Then mass core, mass core pro, and mass core extended.

Lol…funny. The rep asked me “what’s the max i/o capacity of your mixing console”.


“That’s all? You can probably probably get by with essentials”.

“No…I mean one thousand twenty four…”

“Uh…(silence) you’re gonna need the next one up.”

“lol…you thought I meant between 10 and 24”

@Chordwainer @Jonathan Hey everyone, just got back from a small deployment and trying to catch up with things here on the forums. So, the first thing I did was some remastering of a small-run vinyl a family friend made back in the day (1978). They were being inducted into the Kansas Country Music Hall of Fame and the family wanted to present them with some digital copies of the music that had only been available in vinyl (extremely hard to find) before.

Link to Elk River Biscuit and Gravy Band on Discogs

I have included a Google Drive link to a folder with the original capture from the vinyl and the cleaned/remastered files.

Hey Chase! Welcome home! Glad to see you. I’ll be in touch about getting those cassettes transferred… :slight_smile:

Yes! Please! I haven’t forgotten, and was actually looking forward to working with cassettes as I’ve never actually done any restoration with that medium yet.

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