How to digitise vinyl (re-visited)

A year or three ago I wrote a short article on how to digitise your vinyl records to a digital format to play in the car etc.

How to digitise a Vinyl record (or a Cassette etc)

Time has moved on and I thought I would re-visit what I wrote to see if anything has changed. It has a little but not much.

The main change is that I am now “ripping” everything to FLAC rather than MP3. Truthfully there is not a lot of difference between 320kbps MP3 and FLAC but using top end equipment I believe I can hear it so it is now FLAC for me. This means that some stuff is being re-digitised.

The other significant change is that I no longer use Spin-it-Again but am now using VinylStudio by Aplinesoft to rip my vinyl records to FLAC.

Software being used is

VinylStudio – Windows software that “records” vinyl records to FLAC using a USB soundcard.
mp3tag – Windows software to tag FLAC files if other software can’t find the right data
dbPoweramp Reference – Windows software to rip CDs to FLAC (or other formats). Reference edition includes lookup to multiple online music databases for tagging.
Vortexbox – a headless server that autorips CDs to FLAC and is the home of one of my LMS installations.


Vortexbox/QNAP NFS Project

Project Summary
Part 1 – VB box as Ripper direct to storage on QNAP via NFS. (COMPLETED)
Part 2 – VB as LMS with storage on QNAP via NFS (COMPLETED)

I am a longstanding Squeezebox user and have a number of instances of LMS running in my network.
My “production” LMS is 7.7.2 running on a QNAP TS419P (4 disc raid) – there is no good reason why I haven’t upgraded this to 7.7.5 or 7.8 except the “it ain’t broke …” rule
I also have a single disc QNAP running 7.7.5 for library testing purposes, a Win XP box running 7.8 for general testing and whatever versions of LMS exist on a flashed o2 Joggler and whichever SD card I stick in a Raspberry Pi.
I have used EAC, VinylStudio & mp3tag for years.
I have some reasonable Linux skills.
I should know what I am doing however years ago I made a biggish mistake.
I decided (foolishly) to rip everything and digitise my vinyl to 320 kbps MP3. The decision was based on a) storage and b) mobile use (car & phone etc) criteria

My good lady wife bought me a pair of really expensive headphones for Christmas. I could hear stuff on MP3s that I hadn’t heard before and decided to rip a few CDs & some Vinyl to flac to see if that made a further difference – it did.

I still need mp3 copies of stuff to play in the car but due to 3g/4g & more and more wi-fi I don’t really need mp3s on my phone (except a few for holidays etc). I discovered Google Music storage a long time ago and have been backing up my LMS collection to Google who conveniently convert flac uploads to mps3 for you. I buy most of my CDs from Amazon who of course in many cases give you an mp3 autorip. When I want to change the library in the car (usb stick) I can download tracks from Google or Amazon. No big issue.

So now I need to re-rip a thousand or so CDs. Doing this with EAC or dbPoweramp is going to take a long time. Too long. I need something to rip more quickly but efficiently. Hence I built myself a VB using an old Dell server with a 200GB HD which I wish to use as a ripping tool and perhaps eventually as my production LMS but with storage maintained on the QNAP which incidentally does a weekly rsync to the second QNAP for backup purposes.

Some of you will say that it is best to keep the storage on the VB but I would disagree in my circumstances as I already have a high quality raided NAS. I would also suggest that VBs strongest attribute over other LMS hosting alternatives is the CD ripping and auto cover art creation.

I quite fancy the idea of a headless Mac Mini type box with SSD in my Living Room that can do the ripping and act as the LMS server (also as a player connected to hi-fi if need be) while the storage is safely out of the way in my office. I do have a spare Mac Mini (2nd Gen) which hardware wise would be ideal but I need to do a lot more research about the gotchas before I attempt to install VB on it. There seem to be major issues getting it to boot correctly so that is a step too far at this stage.


Vortexbox 2.3
Initial Build. 2 issues encountered. 1. 403 forbidden when I first launched the web admin. 2. Samba would not start. Both issues quickly resolved by reference to the Vortxbox forum.
Basic testing of ripping process carried out successfully. One or two CDs where album cover could not be found. Easy to add via Samba interface.

I installed Webmin so that I could easily start and stop LMS without bringing up a shell session. Why is there no start/stop control in the VB admin interface ?

I ran Rsync on QNAP to pull files across from VB which was OK but there was a permissions issue which meant I couldn’t edit files via Samba without a separate chmod command.

My testing revealed that you you can’t  rsync the other way as QNAP rejects connection from VB. I think this is a version issue. However I determined that rsync of files in this way was not a long term option anyway as I don’t want to build up a separate library (albeit copied to QNAP) on VB.

I decided (as a few others appear to have done) to attempt to use NFS mount to rip direct to the QNAP and set correct permissions. I have succeeded to my satisfaction so what follows is my version of a How To.

Creating NFS Mount
I switched on NFS and set the correct NFS permissions on the QNAP Qmultimedia folder.


Set Access right to No Limit
Put the IP address of your Vortexbox in the allowed IP field

I then followed the instructions to create the NFS mount found here

I mounted qnapipaddress:/share/Qmultimedia to mnt/NFS on VB and edited fstab as indicated. The connection worked straight away.

VB Ripping  – etc/ripit/config

I changed “dirtemplate” to create artist/album/track structure as per existing QNAP library –

I changed output to “mnt/NFS” (and created a folder called “flac” in Qmultimedia on QNAP).

I switched off m3u playlist creation – I don’t need it.

I changed dpermissions to 0777 (see below) and set fpermissions to (at least) 0664

1. These permissions reflect the standard QNAP directory / file structure required for Samba. If you try dpermissions with 0755 or 0775 you CANNOT edit the files through Samba so you can’t for example correct tagging or delete shoddy cover art. LMS will see the files though.
2. NFS writes files with UID0 & GID0 unless you fiddle it to do different. On the VB this equates to root.root and in QNAP terms this maps to admin.administrators which is fine for LMS to access and also OK for access via Samba (for an admin user) provided the file permissions are set properly.
3. fpermissions sets the permissions on flac’s but does not set them on cover art – they already get created as 0644 by default
Now if I rip a CD on VB it get automatically saved to the QNAP in Qmultimedia/flac/artist/album and I can edit, rename, add cover art etc via a Samba share
I have the QNAP LMS set to rescan for new stuff overnight and can confirm that this works as intended

Part one completed.


EDIT. Part two was easy. Just pointed LMS at /mnt/NFS/flac. Job done. No issues.

Topping NX1 – an alternative to new headphones (for now).

I like Topping products. With the recent acquisition of a TOPPING NX1 Portable Audio Amplifier Headphone Earphone Amplifier, 3.5mm USB Rechargeable Battery (which is a nifty little gizmo but more of that later) I now have three of their mini amplifiers in various places around the house.

The original Topping TP21 acts as a headphone amp next to my bed and is plugged into a Squeezebox Touch and a pair of AKG something headphones. I use this rig to listen to music in bed when she who must be obeyed (“SWMBO”) is watching TV.

I also have a Topping TP20 in the same bedroom which acts as a much needed replacement for the TV sound. It is hooked up to the TV and a pair of Wharfedale Modus Cubes. The sound of the speakers built into the TV – a Toshiba 26″ thing – was woeful. The Topping is plugged into the headphone out so the TV remote still operates the volume. A high WAF (“Wife Acceptance Factor”) as I don’t think she even knows there is an amplifier and speakers there. Also attached to the TV via HDMI are an Apple TV and a recently acquired Amazon Fire TV. The latter has the SB Player app loaded so if it want music from speakers I can use the Fire TV as a music player.

The new Topping NX1 has been acquired to provide a solution to a problem in my Living Room. For years I have had a pair of Sennheiser RS130’s which are RF wireless headphones and with some trickery involving the multiple live outputs on a Squeezebox Classic, a Zone 2 facility on my AV Receiver, a long cable under the carpet and a separate Sony amp I have used these to listen to music in the Living Room when SWMBO is watching serious stuff on TV like Emmerdale, Coronation Street and my current favourite I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. The Sennheiser’s are however reaching the end of their useful life. They suffer from interference and the volume control on the right hand earpiece has started to play up to an extent where if you are adjusting the volume you can cut out the right hand output altogether instead of making a minimal upward or downward adjustment. The problem (to me) is such than I started looking for alternative RF wireless speakers. I don’t want bluetooth.

While I have been researching options – only Sennheiser and Sony make serious contenders in the non Bluetooth wireless headphone arena – I have been using an old iPod touch with a pair of Sennheiser HD201s. The iPod has a copy of iPeng installed with the in-app player purchase so the combination is an effective alternative to the RS130s. The only downside being that the iPod’s onboard headphone amp is a bit weak. Step forward the Topping NX1.

It arrived on Friday and I had it connected and plugged in within minutes. It provides a set of Velcro tabs so it can piggy back the iPod. In this configuration there is very slight interference from the wi-fi signal but it left non piggy backed there is no interference whatsoever. It will also work as a great headphone amp while travelling. Nice clean sound and my HD 201s no longer feel as if they have run out of steam. I will need to trial some other wired headphones with this combo as the HD 201s have 3 metres of cable. A pair of B&W P7s has 1.2 m of coiled cable. Far more suitable but £330!

Amazon Fire TV – a review

I had an Amazon Fire TV on pre-order from those nice people at Amazon for its UK launch. This mini-review was posted elsewhere after about a week of use. Nothing has really changed as yet.

SB Player (an Android Squeezebox player) bought (£1.86) and loaded. Sounding good. Music sorted apart from the now playing that I would really like but …
I am not at this stage going to sideload the Squeezebox now playing app which I have on my Galaxy Tab because it seems highly unlikely that it is going to look any good (apologies to the developer) and the manner in which you would need to launch it (see later) instead I have uploaded some photos to the Amazon Cloud for screensaver purposes.

Movies & TV
Amazon Prime
TV Player – live UK TV incl BBC, ITV, C4 & 5 but SD I think.

Catch Up TV
BBC iPlayer
5 OD
No ITV or C4 as yet
NB. The only devices that have all UK catch up services I have found so far are Samsung smart TV & networked Blu Ray players, Sony PS3 and Roku.

Movies stored on my NAS.
Tried VMU Player an official app costing a few pence which said it would do the job. It played the video but with no audio. Rubbish.
Sideloaded XBMC (Xodi). Up and running in no time. The only downside is that you can’t it seems add the app to the home screen you have to launch it via System/Applications/Manage Applications/ scroll to XBMC and then launch. The Fire TV remote controls it for the most part but won’t let you do a select and hold. iPhone remote will however so no big issue.

Other Apps
Haven’t tried anything else as yet.

The hardware is very good (Ethernet/Wireless, HDMI,Optical & USB) and at £80 is about the real price of a Raspberry Pi once you have added in the SD card, case etc
So far impressed.