Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

To S. Andrea Sundaram,

I was about to buy the Furutech Alpha Design Labs GT40 for digitizing my record collection when I read your lucid review and realized the GT40 wasn't suitable for my application.

I'm a bit new to ADCs. Do you have any reviews for ADCs for high-quality LP and cassette tape conversion to digital? Or could you point me in the direction of some info on digitizing LPs and old 4-track mixdowns?

I have a collection of old analog music (4-track guitar and bass recording mixes and 50-100 LPs) that I would like to make digital. I would like to record it at reasonably high quality (24-bit and 96kHz) for archiving, but most tracks will end up burned to a CD or for use on an MP3 player for everyday use. I use computers daily but this application is new to me, so I'm a bit lost. What, for example, should I consider in terms of power and soundcard quality when buying an ADC? I am eventually willing to spend up to $600, but might start out by familiarizing myself with something in the $100 range.

I interpreted your review to mean that the GT40 was built more as a DAC (whose applications I would not be able to name) than an ADC. Also, there was some tech talk about needing a preamp in addition to the GT40. I'm looking for something with all necessary components: preamp, power amp, high-quality soundcard (I don't really know what this is, but suspect it's the heart of the ADC process), and USB connection. I want this all to sit between a turntable (a whole other story, I know) and my computer. I also want the option of cleaning up hisses and pops using software like Audacity, so don't want the all-in-one department store LP-to-CD conversion devices like the one by TEAC.

Sincerely,
Kevin Ryan

My review of the GT40 focused on its use as a DAC and headphone amplifier, because we believed those to be the features of greatest interest to our typical readers. We actually cut a significant portion of my original draft where I had gone further in-depth on using the GT40 as an analog-to-digital converter. (It would have made the review too long.) The GT40 incorporates a fairly decent phono preamplifier and passable ADC into a convenient-to-use package. That said, if you aren't interested in the very nice-sounding headphone amplifier that Furutech put in there, you may be able to get the same, or higher, quality level on the input side or greater flexibility for less money.

By far the cheapest option is the Sound Blaster X-Fi HD ($99), which even incorporates a phono preamplifier with RIAA correction. The specifications look promising, but I have no idea how it sounds. If you already have a phono preamplifier, you should probably consider one of the many USB digital audio interfaces targeted at the home studio market. Many of these devices operate at 24/96. They will all handle at least stereo inputs, and many of them could even accept the four individual channels on your tapes -- no down mixing required. I have experience with products from M-Audio and EMU in this price range, but there are many other brands as well. If your stereo is not located in the same room as your computer, you may want to consider a standalone hard-drive recorder from TASCAM or Fostex. These provide the same ease-of-use as an old tape deck, but you could then back up or edit the resulting digital files on your computer. We haven't done reviews on these sorts of products in the past, but we may consider doing so in the future. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram