Sound and Vision: some technical details of digitizing lacquer discs

This time we’ll direct our attention to some technical details of the digitizing process and the equipment we use at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid) to digitize our lacquer or transcription discs (gesneden platen).

The digitizing production environment has been developed by Sound and Vision together with sonic restoration expert Harry Coster. Digitizing starts with a record player. Stanton ST15 with extra SME armOut of the professional players Sound and Vision chose for a Stanton ST15, basically because it also plays at the speed of 78 rpm. Also it was very easy to remove the power part of it. This little box is now placed outside the turntable to avoid  disturbances. We did not choose the Stanton standard tone arm, but a specially fitted SME M2-12 arm. To get the best sound during the playback we have a small range of special styli. These are truncated elliptical styli with dimensions ranging from 0.0011” – 0.0035”.

The turntable is placed on top of a pedestal made out of heavy garden tiles. Stanton record player with outside power box (below right)This provides stability and any movements in the area, like someone walking by, will be absorbed. To tackle the problem of the stylus receiving vibrations from noise or movements around it, the digitizing room has been partly refurnished. There is carpet on the floor and against the wall we have a few blue squares which look like Yves Klein paintings. These are sound absorbing surfaces made from felt and horsehair. For the same purpose a couple of room screens have been placed around some of the record players.

The sound from the turntable enters the pre-amplifier. We have a VADLYD MD12 MK3, from Denmark. Here the incoming signal gets ‘flat’ amplified. Sound / noise absorbing surfacesBecause the signal is still analogue we need an ‘analogue to digital converter’, the RME Fireface. The real recording is done with the audio editing software from Nuendo 5. In accordance with international recommendations we record with a sample rate of 96KHZ and a bit depth of 24bit.Turntable while recording with on the monitor editing program Nuendo 5 After the recording we are left with a basic broadcast wave and the XML file with metadata like title, time code, stylus information or technical remarks. After the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) the file and wave arrive at Ericsson broadcasting facilities. Ericsson will make sure that the information gets it’s place in the digital Sound and Vision catalogue, called Immix. Here customers can trace it back, listen to a mp3 version and order a wav file.