Recording Vinyl with free "Audacity" software

inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
edited November 2009 in Electronics
I posted last Saturday that I'd found a 3.5mm stereo pin to dual RCA cable that launched me into creating and playing iTunes based MP3's from my laptop through my SDA's.

Today I realized that same cable let's me go from my turntable through my Bellari VP-30 tubed RIAA phono preamp and into the microphone input of my laptop's sound card.

For another project (creating ringtones for my kids), I had previously installed a freeware digital audio editor called "Audacity", plus it's associated "lame_enc.dll" that lets you export 320 kbps MP3's (not lossless, but fair sounding).

I found Audacity gives me the ability to record LP's, convert them to 320 kbps MP's, and import those files into iTunes.

Questions:

1) What software should I be considering to be able to record LP's to a lossless format instead of the 320kbps limitation of Audacity/lame?

2) When I record, there is a gain setting available that is defaulted at -3db. The gain setting range runs from -36db to +36db. Can anyone give me a quick primer as to why -3db is defaulted, and what happens if I increase or decrease gain?

3) Projects are defaulted at a 44,100 kHz sample rate. I've also seen some MP3's sampled at 48,000 kHz. Which is the best setting and why?


As always,
Thanks in Advance!
Greg
VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
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Post edited by inspiredsports on

Comments

  • LessisNevermoreLessisNevermore Posts: 1,527
    edited November 2009
    Questions:

    1) What software should I be considering to be able to record LP's to a lossless format instead of the 320kbps limitation of Audacity/lame?

    2) When I record, there is a gain setting available that is defaulted at -3db. The gain setting range runs from -36db to +36db. Can anyone give me a quick primer as to why -3db is defaulted, and what happens if I increase or decrease gain?

    3) Projects are defaulted at a 44,100 kHz sample rate. I've also seen some MP3's sampled at 48,000 kHz. Which is the best setting and why?


    As always,
    Thanks in Advance!
    Greg

    1) With the LP's, I would suggest ripping to .wav first, Audacity should be able to do that. Convert to FLAC from there, then ditch the large .wav files. It's another step, but I'm unaware of any program that will record directly to FLAC, or any other lossless format. When you do it from CD, it's already digital, so it's more of a conversion, than recording. LP is analog, and you'll have to convert it to digital. .wav is the way to go here. I would suggest, if you have a desktop computer, to use that instead of a laptop. Laptop's aren't known for quality soundcards. You could try it, and if it can handle it, and it sounds good, then cool, but it will almost certainly be better on a desktop.

    2) If you increase the gain, what happens, is distortion. I'd leave it at the -3db setting. Having recordings that are not as loud as others, is not a big deal for me. When you try to normalize, it squashes the dynamics, and kills the sound quality. Normalizing is ok, (I guess) for mp3's, but I wouldn't do it.
    In short, don't.

    3) In the digital world, the higher sampling frequency, the better. The samples are taken at regular intervals, and then interpolates, or 'guesses' to fill in the blanks between the samples. More samples means shorter spans where the guessing occurs, less chance for errors, and better clarity. (this is a very simplified answer, I'm sure there are others who can give a much more detailed explanation)
  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    1) With the LP's, I would suggest ripping to .wav first, Audacity should be able to do that. Convert to FLAC from there, then ditch the large .wav files. It's another step, but I'm unaware of any program that will record directly to FLAC, or any other lossless format. When you do it from CD, it's already digital, so it's more of a conversion, than recording. LP is analog, and you'll have to convert it to digital. .wav is the way to go here. I would suggest, if you have a desktop computer, to use that instead of a laptop. Laptop's aren't known for quality soundcards. You could try it, and if it can handle it, and it sounds good, then cool, but it will almost certainly be better on a desktop.

    2) If you increase the gain, what happens, is distortion. I'd leave it at the -3db setting. Having recordings that are not as loud as others, is not a big deal for me. When you try to normalize, it squashes the dynamics, and kills the sound quality. Normalizing is ok, (I guess) for mp3's, but I wouldn't do it.
    In short, don't.

    3) In the digital world, the higher sampling frequency, the better. The samples are taken at regular intervals, and then interpolates, or 'guesses' to fill in the blanks between the samples. More samples means shorter spans where the guessing occurs, less chance for errors, and better clarity. (this is a very simplified answer, I'm sure there are others who can give a much more detailed explanation)

    Thanks for the quick help! I'm exploring the different file formats the Audacity software makes available to me right now. There is a FLAC 16 bit option available, but I don't think iTunes can import it. There are also AIFF (Apple/SGI) options for both 16 bit PCM and 32 bit "float" as well as 16 bit PCM and 32 bit "float" .wav options available. Any opinion as to which is better there?

    Pardon my ignorance, but when talking about increasing the gain, is zero higher gain than -3db, or is -6db higher?
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
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    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
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  • ZoomzillaZoomzilla Posts: 76
    edited November 2009
    I use N-Track to record my guitar tracks, but not sure how it would work for your use. I have used Audacity in the past and it worked for my needs at the time.
  • LessisNevermoreLessisNevermore Posts: 1,527
    edited November 2009
    Thanks for the quick help! I'm exploring the different file formats the Audacity software makes available to me right now. There is a FLAC 16 bit option available, but I don't think iTunes can import it. There are also AIFF (Apple/SGI) options for both 16 bit PCM and 32 bit "float" as well as 16 bit PCM and 32 bit "float" .wav options available. Any opinion as to which is better there?

    Pardon my ignorance, but when talking about increasing the gain, is zero higher gain than -3db, or is -6db higher?

    AIFF 16bit will be fine for recording the vinyl, but the files are huge.(like .wav) Not familiar with 32bit option. You could try recording one song in each, and see which sounds better. Also, will the 32bit work with iTunes? better to make sure ahead of time.

    If you are using iTunes, convert it to Apple Lossless to save space.

    Just like positive and negative numbers in school, -6db lower, 0db higher. Stay below 0db on the peaks, digital distortion is gnarly nasty.
  • vc69vc69 Posts: 2,501
    edited November 2009
    If you are recording with the intent of burning CD's, wave @ 16bit/44.1 khz sample rate is what you want to use. For DVD-A IIRC, you can do 24 bit/ 48khz sample rate but you should check that to be sure.

    CD's are 16bit / 44.1 for sure.
    -Kevin
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  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    vc69 wrote: »
    If you are recording with the intent of burning CD's, wave @ 16bit/44.1 khz sample rate is what you want to use. For DVD-A IIRC, you can do 24 bit/ 48khz sample rate but you should check that to be sure.

    CD's are 16bit / 44.1 for sure.

    I'm converting LP's and CD's into a lossless digital format for convenient playback through my SDA's while entertaining so I can turn on a playlist, "set it and forget it", and enjoy the party. I doubt if I will use the process in reverse to burn CD's so I'm tempted to use a higher sampling rate if I can hear a difference.
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  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    Keiko wrote: »
    Greg, with Audacity I use a 32 bit float, 44100 sampling rate while recording. When I export the files, I use aiff signed 32 bit PCM. My burner will convert these to a 16 bit sample rate. You've heard the results. You can burn the 32 bit file on DVD if you choose, but 16 bit CD is still fine. Hope this helps.

    M

    Thanks. Yes, your CD's sound great!

    I know the 44,100 sampling rate is the right choice for burning CD's, but all I really want to do is convert some of my favorite LP's and CD's into iTunes in a very good sound quality format for playback when I can't tend to the preferred higher quality CD and TT sources.

    I've found creating a gigantic 32 bit float .wav file at the 48,000 kHz sampling rate from an LP, importing it into iTunes, converting it into Apple Lossless within iTunes, and then deleting the .wav file works pretty well. The converted Apple Lossless file becomes 1/3 the size of the .wav file.

    I'm experimenting between 44,100 and 48,000 sampling rates to see if I can hear a difference to see if storing the slightly larger file size is worth it. Probably splitting hairs, but you know me. :)

    I don't think I will ever burn CD's from the iTunes playlist so the 44,100 rate isn't as critical for me as it might be for others.
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
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    NAD SS rigs w/mods
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  • LessisNevermoreLessisNevermore Posts: 1,527
    edited November 2009
    I'm experimenting between 44,100 and 48,000 sampling rates to see if I can hear a difference to see if storing the slightly larger file size is worth it. Probably splitting hairs, but you know me. :)

    I don't think I will ever burn CD's from the iTunes playlist so the 44,100 rate isn't as critical for me as it might be for others.

    48k might help with the LP's. I have a digital recorder (old) that does 44, and 48. The difference is audible, for analog signals, in favor of 48k. Not sure if you can coax more from a cd. (blood from a turnip?):D

    Glad it's working out, let us know if the 48k is worth doing, or not.
  • SCompRacerSCompRacer Posts: 6,946
    edited November 2009
    IIRC 32 bit float is default. As you learned the file size is huge. Most use the higher settings, and do click repair or any other changes before dithering down to CD.

    There are lots of discussions about using Audacity at the Steve Hoffman forums.
    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/index.php
    Make yourself necessary to someone. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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  • wayne3burkwayne3burk Posts: 948
    edited November 2009
    If you dont mind burning $39.99 you might try the free downlaod (fully functional) Magix Audio Cleaning Lab 15 (made in germany). I find it much easier to use than audacity and it has very good automated cleaning tool. Happy converting
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  • bigaudiofanaticbigaudiofanatic Posts: 4,422
    edited November 2009
    2nd post why would you start out ripping into a compressed format and than try to change it to uncompressed?

    OP start ripping with flac or lossless do not start out ripping in a compressed format.
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  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    2nd post why would you start out ripping into a compressed format and than try to change it to uncompressed?

    OP start ripping with flac or lossless do not start out ripping in a compressed format.

    I have Audacity software installed on my system so that is what I'm experimenting with right now. Yes it is limited to 320 kbps when I record from my Turntable, so I guess that is the limiting factor; Audacity IS NOT LOSSLESS.

    You are right: recording into Audacity at 320 kbps, and then letting iTunes "up-convert" to a larger size lossless file probably does not make sense.

    I am now looking into better quality software that will let me record LP into a lossless format.
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
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    NAD SS rigs w/mods
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  • LessisNevermoreLessisNevermore Posts: 1,527
    edited November 2009
    I have Audacity software installed on my system so that is what I'm experimenting with right now. Yes it is limited to 320 kbps when I record from my Turntable, so I guess that is the limiting factor; Audacity IS NOT LOSSLESS.

    You are right: recording into Audacity at 320 kbps, and then letting iTunes "up-convert" to a larger size lossless file probably does not make sense.

    I am now looking into better quality software that will let me record LP into a lossless format.

    Why can't you record them as .wav files, then convert?
  • dudeinaroomdudeinaroom Posts: 3,625
    edited November 2009
    as far as the 32 bit aiff if you don't have a 32 bit sound card(which I don't think there is a consumer one on the market) It would be point less as you would either besampling the input at 16 or 24 bits, then the software would up convert to 32. Now if you have a pro card in your setup that's a different story.
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  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    Why can't you record them as .wav files, then convert?

    I am. Audacity also limits the bitrate on .wav's to 320kbps.
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    Why can't you record them as .wav files, then convert?

    I am. Audacity also limits the bitrate on .wav's to 320kbps. I'm going to invest in better software soon.
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    I've been trading PM's with Keiko on another matter and we also talked about Audacity software. He gave me the hint to explore the lossless aiff format.

    I just found the AIFF information in "Audacity Help" and it shows it as a LOSSLESS FORMAT FOR MAC ONLY. I only have Audacity installed on my PC and the PC exports are limited to 320kbps .wav or mp3 file formats.

    So that's the trick. With Audacity I need to install it on my Mac to create a lossless .aif file that I can then export into iTunes.
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • LessisNevermoreLessisNevermore Posts: 1,527
    edited November 2009
    I've been trading PM's with Keiko on another matter and we also talked about Audacity software. He gave me the hint to explore the lossless aiff format.

    I just found the AIFF information in "Audacity Help" and it shows it as a LOSSLESS FORMAT FOR MAC ONLY. I only have Audacity installed on my PC and the PC exports are limited to 320kbps .wav or mp3 file formats.

    So that's the trick. With Audacity I need to install it on my Mac to create a lossless .aif file that I can then export into iTunes.


    Hmmm. I wasn't aware of this limitation. (obviously:)) Apologies for steering you to a dead end.

    Yeah, if you have a mac, then Bob's your uncle. I have dedicated recording software,(which is rooted in AIFF, but for Windows and mac) so I have really only toyed around with Audacity-making ringtones, and such.

    If that doesn't work out for you, this has been a highly reviewed soundcard for not a lot of money. If someone doesn't have a mac, has a decent phono pre, and a load of LP's to digitize, this would be a great way.
    http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Audiophile2496.html
  • inspiredsportsinspiredsports Posts: 5,505
    edited November 2009
    Hmmm. I wasn't aware of this limitation. (obviously:)) Apologies for steering you to a dead end.

    Yeah, if you have a mac, then Bob's your uncle. I have dedicated recording software,(which is rooted in AIFF, but for Windows and mac) so I have really only toyed around with Audacity-making ringtones, and such.

    If that doesn't work out for you, this has been a highly reviewed soundcard for not a lot of money. If someone doesn't have a mac, has a decent phono pre, and a load of LP's to digitize, this would be a great way.
    http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Audiophile2496.html

    No problem. Thanks for the sound card tip!

    I always say I'm not going to do it, and then a couple weeks later I'm all in. :D

    I never thought the sound quality from my computer would be good enough, but after starting just a few weeks ago converting CD's, I'm getting really great results.

    LP's aren't quite as good with the 320kpbs bitrate limitation, but I definitely will step up if if I decide to convert my whole collection. Fortunately I have a lot of CD/LP pairs so I won't need to convert everything from LP.

    Being old-school and a huge fan of analog, I never thought I would be thinking this, but I believe digital is already both "the future and the present format of the majority" whether we want to accept that or not.

    gw
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 603
    ^^ Reported.
  • ???
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • Is there a problem with my thread?

    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 4,941
    Is there a problem with my thread?

    Not at all, he was reacting to a spammer that posted last night trying to get people to click on their spam link. The post has since been removed.
  • Thanks! :)
    VTL ST50 w/mods / RCA6L6GC / TlfnknECC801S
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 w/mods
    TT Conrad Johnson Sonographe SG3 Oak / Sumiko LMT / Grado Woodbody Platinum / Sumiko PIB2 / The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro/ Bada DD-22 Tube CDP / Conrad Johnson SD-22 CDP
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020 / Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9 / Vibrapods / MIT Shotgun AC1 IEC's / MIT Shotgun 2 IC's / MIT Shotgun 2 Speaker Cables
    PS Audio Cryo / PowerPort Premium Outlets / Exact Power EP15A Conditioner
    Walnut SDA 2B TL /Oak SDA SRS II TL (Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Custom SDA ICs / Dynamat Extreme / Larry's Rings/ FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels
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