Saturday, April 16, 2011

How To Listen To Your Beach Boys 78 RPM Record Even If Your Turntable Won't Spin That Fast

Just got back from Record Store Day with your Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" 78 RPM double 10" EP, but don't have a turntable that spins at 78 RPM? Really want to hear those previously unreleased alternate versions on the second disc?

You are probably not alone.

So, what's to be done? You could follow the advise of commenter Mark N. and just play it at 45 RPM and pretend it's Vanilla Fudge covering the Beach Boys. That might be fun for a spin or two, but once the quaaludes wear off it might not be so amusing anymore.

There is another solution. You could record the tracks to your computer and then once they've been digitized, manipulate them digitally so that they play back properly. However, there are couple tricks to doing this that are necessary in order for them to sound right.

First, you'll need to record the tracks. If you've never digitized a record before, I recommend doing a little research on best practices. If you have a CD recorder, you could just record to that, then load the tracks on your computer. There are numerous programs you can use to make recordings directly to your computer, including a free one called Audacity.

For simplicity's sake, I recommend recording at 45 RPM and setting the digital sampling rate to 44.1 kHz (this is the standard for CDs, so if you went the CD-R route you're good). Once you have made this recording, if you use any de-clicking software, I recommend running it through the de-clicker at the slower speed.

The next step will be to change the sampling rate without resampling. This will change the speed at which your computer plays back the recording. Assuming you recorded at 44,100 Hz, you'll want to change the sampling rate to 76,440 Hz. (If you recorded at some other sampling rate, simply multiply the original sampling rate by 1.733333...) Again, it is important that you do not resample when you change the sampling rate. Most audio programs will offer the ability to change the sampling rate without resampling, but you'll need to check your owner's manual for how to do this.

Once you have done this, you should have a recording that sounds correct in terms of speed, but not quite right in the frequency domain. If you want to get things right, you'll need to change the equalization because you originally applied the RIAA equalization at 45 RPM, and changing the speed also shifted the EQ. To make the proper EQ change, I recommend you download the free program, Equalizer.

Once you open Equalizer, use the following settings: Under Filters "Original" select "RIAA + 45>78," under "New" select "RIAA." I would also recommend in the box that says "Mono Mix" that you check the box that says "Merge." Make sure "Lo-cut" and "Hi-cut" are off (they should be by default). Under "Main controls" Click "Open" and select the file you recorded. A box will come up asking you for a name for you new file. You can call it whatever you want, but by default Equalizer adds "-dr" to the name of your original file. Select "Save." Under Main controls select "Start."

Once the program is finished running (it shouldn't take long), you will have a new file that is both speed and EQ correct. You can then make any further changes you want (normalization, etc.) in your normal audio editing software. Enjoy!

Or you could just let someone else do the work and wait for the result to show up somewhere on the web. But what is the fun in that?

Merry Record Store Day!

**Update: I offered some bad advice, but it wasn't my fault, it has to do with the screwy way (I suspect) that Capitol cut this. See my updated post for details.


J Huber said...

Thanks! I just got this home and realized I couldn't play it!!!

phenomenal cat said...

Thank you thank thank you! I did the conversion in my 2002 version of Cool Edit Pro, and it was quick and easy. I chose "Adjust Sampling Rate', typed in 76440, Hit "Save" and now I've got some Beach Boys. Now if only I could get the sound of my wife laughing at me out of my head as I recorded these suckers to Cdr at 45 rpm last night.

Pete Bilderback said...

I can't help you with the later problem, but if you figure out a solution, let me might come in handy sometime.