A second important function of Pure Vinyl is that you can set your recording levels at a lower level than with standard recording software because Pure Vinyl has some gain built into its EQ specification. This translates into an improvement in the overall signal-to-noise levels. As an old tapehead who’s used to trying to wring every dB of gain from a recording, it took several passes before I had lowered the input gain enough so that the final levels were optimal.
Pure Vinyl supports transfers at any sample and bit rate used by your analog-to-digital converter. For my transfers I used 192/24 which was the highest sample/bit rate available on the Lynx Hilo. Early in the review process I compared a 44.1/16 file transfer with a 192/24 version of the same disc. After only a few moments of listening it was clear that the 192/24 file sounded far better. The most striking difference was the way the two files presented surface noise. On the 44.1/16 recording the noise was on the same physical plane as the music, homogenized and blended into one wall of sound. But on the 192/24 recording the record noise was like a curtain, clearly in front of the plane of the music itself, and like a diaphanous curtain, it was easy to listen through the noise to the music behind it. I’ve often noticed this phenomenon of the record noise being on a different plane when listening directly to an LP, but I’ve only heard it on digital transfers played back in DSD or 192/24. For my ears 44.1/16 lacks the resolving capacity to separate the out-of-phase record noise from the music.
It’s important to remember these files made by Pure Vinyl are pre-EQ, and if you try to play them with playback programs other than Pure Music or Pure Vinyl they will sound thin and bass-light. For portable devices or other playback programs Pure Vinyl can make a second set of files that have been equalized. You can also designate that Pure Vinyl create Apple Lossless files for your portable player if space is an issue. For iTunes users Pure Vinyl offers a function called “render” which creates iTunes “bookmarks” which directs iTunes to the files and makes them playable with EQ and at the native rate. I’m listening to my transfer of Gary Burton’s Duster at 192/24 through Pure Vinyl and iTunes as I write. Render can also create native sample rate or 44.1, 48, or 96kHz files for playback with other software. Unlike Korg’s AudioGate software, which can take quite a while to do format conversions, Pure Vinyl’s “engine” uses as many cores as your Mac has to offer, resulting in very rapid file rendering.
The version of Pure Vinyl that I used was 3.13. A new version will be available by the time you read this. According to Rob Robinson the next version will have a number of changes including a simplified recording set-up user interface, simplified rendering, a new snap-stylus-to-track feature, a new “Tidy Tail Editor” feature that will automatically trim silences at the ends of tracks, an improved auto track finder, the option to render each side as an individual track, a new “jump to side” command, the addition of a zero-phase rumble filter, and lots of “under-the-hood” changes to improve stability and overall performance.
Pure Vinyl Day-to-Day Use
No one jumps into a Formula One racing car with only a learner’s permit. Pure Vinyl offers the same level of performance and also requires some skill to use optimally. I strongly recommend downloading Pure Vinyl’s “User’s Guide” PDF from Channel D Software’s Web site. It walks you through the entire LP-to-digital process. I also strongly suggest reading the Pure Vinyl User’s Guide PDF more than once and keeping a copy nearby during initial transfers. It took me several tries with my first LP before I got it right. Fortunately for those folks whose reading comprehension is as dismal as mine Channel D offers remote hands-on setup. This involves using a piece of software called “TeamViewer Quick Support” that is available for download from Channel D’s Web site. With TeamViewer, Rob Robinson at Channel D can look at your setup and make whatever changes are needed to make Pure Vinyl run optimally. I had several problems during initial installation that Rob was able to diagnose and solve quickly via TeamViewer. This service is available to all Pure Vinyl owners, not just reviewers.
Does Pure Vinyl have any serious drawbacks? Yes and no. The primary drawback is that once you begin using Pure Vinyl it will be very hard to go back to archiving LPs with any other system. Also because of the way Pure Vinyl integrates your LP tracks into iTunes, when you want to listen to them it usually will be with iTunes and Pure Vinyl. If you’re the kind who insists on listening to a track through several different playback programs before you decide which one sounds best, you can create more universally usable files (with the EQ built in) through Pure Vinyl’s “render” function.
As for sonic quibbles, I found that the quality of my transfer depended more on the quality of my analog setup and digital components than the sonic properties or possible degradations caused by Pure Vinyl software. In comparisons between my digital copies played back by Pure Vinyl at 192/24 and direct analog feeds, the sonic differences were hard to discern. On several recordings, including a very clean copy of After the Riot at Newport (RCA LSP-2302), the two versions were indistinguishable. Even the ticks and pops and surface noise sounded identical. Whether you will hear differences between your original LPs and your copies depends on many factors, not the least of which is your choice of analog-to-digital converter, digital-to-analog converter, phono preamp, and turntable optimization at the time the recording was made. If your copy made using Pure Vinyl sounds markedly inferior to the original LP either something in your recording chain isn’t up to snuff or you haven’t optimized and refined your transfer methodology. In other words, it won’t be Pure Vinyl’s fault. It’s even possible with some recordings and turntables that your Pure Vinyl rendition could turn out better sounding than the original. Pure Vinyl’s rumble filter makes it possible to improve the extreme low frequencies by preventing turntable rumble or tonearm resonances from intruding on the music.
Pure Vinyl Delivers
If you’ve decided to get serious about transferring your LPs into the digital domain then the Pure Vinyl application offers an elegant way to accomplish that. But Pure Vinyl can’t work alone. It’s part of a system that requires an analog turntable, phono preamp, analog-to-digital converter and a digital-to-analog playback converter. I found the Channel D Seta Preamp and Lynx Hilo DAC/preamp to be ideal companions for the Pure Vinyl application. Together they produced results that were sonically equivalent in quality to the original LPs. If you’ve been waiting for the state of the art in digital transfers to improve before committing any of your vinyl to digital, the time has come to begin your own archiving process. Pure Vinyl will give you all the tools you need to do the job right.
SPECS & PRICING
Pure Vinyl software: $279
Seta phonostage: $3799– $6998 depending on finish and options ($6998 as reviewed)
Channel D Software