David Cotterell said:
I want to convert a lot of my vinyl into iTunes on my Mac. I'm running Snow Leopard and have the iMic input/output device. I'm hoping to take a line level feed from my amp and input to my computer directly. Can anyone recommend software that is suited to this task. I'm not much interested in altering the sound (click removal, etc.) but I want to be able to choose various compression levels or full fidelity. I don't mind paying up to about $100 to get it either..
From your description it does sound like all you need is software.
That is assuming your turntable is going into a receiver or stereo preamp that has proper phono inputs, and you feed the iMic from for instance a tape loop on your receiver. You could almost certainly connect the line in/outs of the iMic in a tape send/return loop on your receiver and treat the computer about the same way you would treat a tape recorder or DVD recorder connected to the receiver. Very convenient for dubbing and monitoring.
The phono preamp does two services-- Impedance matching with the turntable and application of the reverse RIAA curve to recover the proper frequency balance from the vinyl.
Apologies for dumb pedanticism, but just wanna make sure. If your amp chain doesn't have an RIAA phono preamp in there, like a phono input on a stereo receiver, you would want to get an RIAA preamp for the best results. In that case, at one time Griffin made a phono-preamp gadget similar to the iMic. Also, some folks make USB-equipped turntables nowadays.
An RIAA preamp of some kind isn't absolutely mandatory, but it avoids applying RIAA EQ (in software) and possible impedance-matching problems if doing the trick without some kind of phono preamp.
Anyhoo, there is a cross-platform, open source free audio editor Audacity--
This project is pretty mature, and is a very nice widget for free. It has many built-in audio processing functions and easy stereo editing (cut/paste/trim/fade etc). It is the product of many 'usual suspects' bright fellows who are into digital audio many years.
Maybe play around and climb the learning curve with Audacity a bit, and perhaps that is all you need if it fits your style. If not, lemme know and I can tell you about some commercial products. I haven't used Audacity recently, but unless I'm forgetting something important, it would be pretty easy and pleasant to dub vinyl with Audacity.
Dubbing vinyl is a little bit labor-intensive. Not much worse than dubbing vinyl to cassette, but not as easy as modern-day 'practically instant' ripping a CD to MP3 or M4a.
Some companies have made 'automatic' vinyl dubber softwares which purportedly will record the vinyl then auto-split to each song, apply noise reduction and fades, etc. Maybe some of these softwares really work, but I've not tried one which is smart enough to give satisfactory results.
When I dub a vinyl album, I will record Side A into one big 15 or 25 minute AIFF or WAV file (however long each side plays). Then name and close the file and record the entire Side B into another big uncompressed AIFF or WAV file.
Using a stereo editor, it is pretty easy to see the gaps between songs. I just hilite each song in the big file, Cut, then Paste into a named smaller AIFF or WAV file. Rinse and Repeat until each song has been split out of the big file into a small single-song file. Of course if you always want to hear the entire record side, just compress the entire side to a big MP3 or M4a and don't worry about splitting it up.
The first step of recording an entire side (or both sides into one big file) saves time compared to lifting the needle and laboriously recording each song to a separate file.
If you are picky and there are clicks or pops or other abrupt effects at the heads and tails of the individual song files, you can hilite the appropriate region in the file and apply Fade In or Fade Out to get rid of abrupt artifacts.
Then use iTunes or Audacity or some other program to compress the AIFF or WAV files to MP3 or M4a. I'm a little 'annoyed' by iTunes (and modern Windows Media Player) because they work best if there are lots of descriptive tags in each file, song name, artist, album, etc. When ripping a CD, the ripping program can usually download that info automatically. But when ripping vinyl, if you want those tags you have to type them into every song yourself.
I personally don't care about the tags on my ripped vinyl, except iTunes acts so dam brain-dead if the tags are not there. I just throw the album's songs into a folder then drag the folder of files to a player program, and hear my album. But I finally bought an iPod Touch, which ONLY works via iTunes. Can't for the life of me figure out how to tell the iPod Touch to just play a folder of songs.
It thinks it is very intelligent and can do playlists and thinks it is smart enough to suggest what I want to listen to (assuming the music has the appropriate tags). However, IMO it is a dumb dumb POS because it isn't even smart enough just to play a folder of files. In fact, mediated with iTunes i don't think it even retains my original songs' directory structure.
I've been building on the same directory structure for 10 years, copied off to numerous computers, portable hard drives, and MP3 players, and if I want to hear Holst Planets, I tell it to play the files in that folder. But noooo, iTunes and the iPod Touch are too intelligent to work thataway .