...linking analog LP playback with the precision of high-resolution digital music reproduction

I was looking for information on how to connect a turntable to use Pure Vinyl. What do I need?

A comprehensive guide to connecting a turntable is included in the documentation included with the Pure Vinyl software download.

What follows below is a list of suggested (and cost-no-object) components, for assembling your own vinyl playback system, using Pure Vinyl's built-in precision vinyl correction curve (preferred).

If our hardware suggestions don't suit you, Pure Vinyl isn't tied to any particular Macintosh computer model or ADC / DAC / audio interface, so you're free to assemble a playback system that fits your preferences and budget.

Pure Vinyl includes a music server feature for the automated, "jukebox" style play of tracks from your iTunes music library or custom playlists, including high-resolution (up to 192 kHz) music downloads, iTunes Plus tracks or tracks transferred from CDs, with optional, automatic, real-time upsampling (up to 192 kHz / 24 bit), and high-resolution, low-latency streaming of audio (with acoustic delay correction for echo elimination) to a remotely connected Macintosh computer.

1. Apple Macintosh Mini computer with FireWire port

The Mac Mini provides a silent, unobtrusive platform for running Pure Vinyl, using a FireWire or USB audio interface. After initial setup, it even can be run / restarted without having a mouse, monitor or keyboard connected, and controlled remotely from another Mac computer via wireless (WiFi) or wired Ethernet (or even via touchscreen iPod or iPhone).

Or, the Mini can be connected directly (via DVI / HDMI) to a widescreen digital TV, doubling as a DVD player and high-definition TV receiver (by adding an inexpensive USB HDTV tuner). Add an Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for an elegant, easy to use and flexible remote control.

The Mini is perfect for this application, but any Mac with a 1.5 GHz or faster G4 or later processor is fine (just about any Mac made in the last 5 years). A dual processor or dual core CPU is preferred.

For Windows users contemplating trying the Mac platform: it's simple to install Windows or Vista on any new Mac and have a dual-boot machine that flexibly runs both Mac and Windows operating systems. If you're new to the Apple Mac platform, this is the perfect way to "get your feet wet."


2. Turntable and Cartridge

If you don't already have a turntable / cartridge, please see the Pure Vinyl User Guide (included with the Pure Vinyl software download) for some suggestions.

The selection of cartridge is a matter of personal preference. If you want to use Pure Vinyl's software RIAA correction feature, and plan to use a microphone preamplifier (or audio interface with built-in microphone preamplifier), we recommend choosing a low-output moving-coil cartridge, for reasons given in the next section.

Try needledoctor.com or musicdirect.com for a wide selection of turntables and cartridges. They also carry Michael Fremer's turntable setup DVD ("21st Century Vinyl"), which provides thorough, clear and detailed instructions on setting up a turntable, with specific examples using several popular models. Watching the DVD is an excellent way to get an introduction to the subject of vinyl playback.


3. Phono preamplifier

The required preamplifier depends on the type of cartridge used:

  • "Low Output" cartridges, such as most moving-coil, and the special low-inductance 0.5 mV Grado moving-iron cartridges, require a Low Output Moving Coil type of preamplifier. Such cartridges usually have an internal impedance of 50 ohms or less.
  • "High Output" cartridges, including high-output moving-coil, usually require a 47 k ohm load, and the same type of preamplifier as moving magnet cartridges. Such cartridges usually have an internal impedance of 500 ohms or more.

The above represents general guidelines. Consult the specifications from the cartridge manufacturer for more information on the recommended load for your specific cartridge.

Preamplifier for Low Output Moving Coil (MC) Cartridges:

  • Channel D Seta Model L Direct Coupled Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifier
  • or any Mac OS X - Supported FireWire Audio Interface with a built-in two-channel Microphone Preamplifier, such as those listed below
  • or any professional-quality, balanced input two-channel microphone preamplifier.

The Seta preamplifiers are capable of driving long (33 feet / 10 meter) cable lengths with no loss in signal quality or noise pick-up, so the audio interface (mentioned in the next section) doesn't necessarily have to be located near the turntable.

Preamplifier for Moving Magnet / Moving Iron / High Output MC Cartridges:

  • Channel D Seta Model H Direct Coupled Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifier
  • or any preamplifier or audio interface with balanced, high impedance (47 k ohms or greater) inputs and 20 dB or more gain on those inputs.*

*Preamplifiers meeting this requirement are not as common as those with microphone inputs, which is the reason why we recommend using a low output moving coil cartridge, which will work with a wider selection of computer audio gear. If using a high output cartridge, having a balanced input is the only way to insure there will be no audible noise, particularly "hum," at high listening levels during silent passages in the music. The RME FIreFace 400 and TC Impact Twin have high impedance inputs that work well with moving-magnet (high output) cartridges.

Unfortunately, users of many conventional phono preamps and high-output (or low-output cartridges) do encounter audible levels of "hum" in their vinyl playback setups, and unfortunately many such users have resigned themselves to live with this. However, having to live with noise, which is definitely avoidable with the proper equipment, isn't the path to the best quality vinyl playback, which is our goal.


4. FireWire Audio Interface supporting 192 kHz / 24 Bit

Except for the Lynx Aurora, all other interfaces listed below have built-in microphone preamplifiers suitable for a moving-coil cartridge.

If your turntable uses shielded RCA type cables, we also can provide adaptors (which include built-in load resistors) for connecting the turntable's single-ended RCA connectors to the XLR type balanced preamplifier inputs. You also may choose to construct your own; instructions are provided in the Pure Vinyl software documentation.

The Lynx Aurora also requires input and output connecting cable sets (ordered separately from the Aurora interface) or customized balanced stereo interconnects that can be ordered from Channel D.

A FireWire audio interface can be located up to 15 feet away from the computer. Examples:

  • Lynx Aurora 8 (with optional LT-FW card and Firmware version 15) FireWire Interface (external preamplifier required, above)
  • or RME FireFace 400 FireWire Interface
  • or TC Electronic Impact Twin FireWire Interface

These interfaces can be obtained from online retailers such as Audiomidi or zZounds. Channel D also is an authorized dealer for Lynx products.


5. External Hard Drive

If recording vinyl at high resolution, an external hard drive will be needed. High resolution audio files are quite large! A typical LP saved to uncompressed 192/24 format will occupy 2 to 3 GB. This will quickly eat up space on your startup drive (and it's bad practice to save large data files to your startup drive, anyway). Fortunately, huge hard drives are cheap. The cost of RAID 1 protected (redundant) storage is now much less than $1 per LP, and falling (probably cheaper than the high quality shelving you might buy for storing the vinyl itself).

Because of the requirements of high-resolution digital audio, the hard drive must be connected to a different data "bus" than your audio interface. For example, if you have a FireWire audio interface, the hard drive should be USB 2.0 or an NAS (Network Attached Storage) type. If you have a USB audio interface, the hard drive should be FireWire or NAS.

The drives below can be set up for RAID 1 redundancy (highly recommended), which protects your recordings in the event of drive failure.

Easy, "Plug and Play:" USB / FireWire.

  • USB 2.0 / FireWire Terabyte Drive (Dual Internal Terabyte Drives, set up for RAID 1 Data Redundancy) from Newegg

Maximum Flexibility: NAS.

  • Terabyte NAS (Dual Internal Terabyte Drives, set up for RAID 1 Data Redundancy) from Newegg
  • Gigabit Switch (this will be needed if using multiple NAS drives, or if connecting the Mac Mini to a local network) from Newegg

Setting up an NAS requires some technical know-how, and reading product documentation to set it up properly is a must. The NAS may be connected directly to the Mac Mini via standard, commonly available Category (Cat) 6 cable (a "crossover" type cable isn't required). If the Mini is wired to a local area network via Ethernet (such as for remote control via another Mac), a Gigabit Switch will also be needed. Unlike a USB or FireWire disk, the NAS does not have to be located close to the Mac Mini (can be located up to 330 feet away). Multiple NAS drives can be added at any time, for essentially unlimited storage.

You also can buy a "bare" NAS enclosure and add your own SATA hard drives (more complicated, but more economical).


6. Last, but not least, Channel D Pure Vinyl software!


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