We disagree. Variety makes the world go around.
Would you use an "open source" tape deck or turntable to play back your valuable recordings? How
about an "open source" A-D converter?
No doubt, some of this software is of excellent reliability and design and very useful for some
purposes. I can think of several networking-related programs and indeed the FLAC format (although I
choose not to use this until it's adopted more widely by for-profit sustaining entities). But, if
I'm asked to do a professional job -- and transfer work should be a profession when historical audio
and established institutions are involved -- I'll use a professionally published and supported
program, not an Internet group-volunteer program.
Another "open source" type thing is Freedb and the original cddb, now Gracenote (this is a
for-profit company now). Those of us who like accurate and consistent titling, genre information and
other metadata for our CD's know the lousy quality and inconsistency of this stuff. You get what you
pay for. A bunch of volunteers all over the world is a nice notion but it doesn't work.
Professional-grade stuff needs paid management, strict quality control and rigorous standards. And
thus it needs to be sold, for a price to make it profitable. That's just how it is. Everything else
is just herding cats.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Hirst" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, August 15, 2008 12:10 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Seeking recommendations for oral history digitization equipment (fwd)
>I must take exception here. Audacity is not freeware it is an Open Source Project:
> The two are very different things.
> Of course Audacity does not have the same features as Soundforge. It is however solid and
> reliable. It will accept VST plugins and can perform all the basic editing functions necessary for
> sound capture/audio transfer. Whilst I would not suggest using Audacity as a tool for audio
> restoration, it is a tool that I have recommended and used in training and working with museum
> professionals. Used in conjunction with a quality analogue playback and an audio interface with a
> good spec, there is no reason why Audacity should not perform as well as Soundforge, Adobe
> Audition, or any other commercial package.
> Tom Fine wrote:
>> Hi Sam:
>> No reason at all they shouldn't use Soundforge! That's why I recommend it. It's easy to learn,
>> easy to use and perfect for bringing in 2 channels and now more channels at a time. Plus the
>> latest version comes with very nice processing and restoration tools that, again, are not hard to
>> learn or use. And as I alluded to, the latest version (9) finally allows for more than 2 channels
>> at a time -- I currently have it set up for 4 channels at a time.
>> An academic or institutional customer should be able to find the academic-discount price for any
>> software, which is cheap compared to the cost of redoing a project due to bad work.
>> My experience with Audacity was that it's akin to the graphic user interfaces floating around for
>> Linux -- it's klunky and primative and you're fooling yourself if you think it's in the league of
>> a real-deal, paid-professional program. It's freeware, this is something that people with no
>> budget use because they have to, which is fine but non-ideal for doing efficient and high-quality
>> transfer work. If I were a guy wanting to get my semi-worn-out LP collection into my iPod, I'd
>> have no issues with plugging a cheap preamp into my soundcard and using Adacity. If I were a
>> professional trying to preserve an archive of unique sound recordings, I'd scale up substantially
>> and do the job right so I didn't have to do it again and I could leave a legacy of high-quality
>> digital audio for the future.
>> I'm sure any of the pro-grade programs are in the same league as Soundforge, btw, I just
>> recommend because I use it and know it. I will say that I find Protools overly complex for almost
>> anything I'd do, and a tracking/sequencing program like Acid or Cubase may or may not be
>> appropriate for this sort of work. Its seems like DC6/DC7 would work just as well, too, and
>> perhaps at a lower cost.
>> Finally, let me emphasize that software choice should be secondary to as good an analog playback
>> as possible and as good a digital interface as possible. The hardware quality or lack thereof can
>> ruin a transfer effort right from the start. With any competent software used by a person who
>> knows how it works, you have to work at it some to ruin the audio quality. It's more a matter of
>> how you want to spend your time --
>> fussing with primative and klunky interfaces or getting the job done efficiently.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Sam Brylawski" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2008 10:19 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Seeking recommendations for oral history digitization equipment (fwd)
>> You've made an unequivocal non-recommendation of Audacity. For someone
>> on a budget who is only re-formatting/migrating, presumably w/o
>> "processing," exactly why shouldn't they use Soundforge? Deatils would
>> be very useful.
>> On Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 9:37 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> The most cost-effective way to do a large-ish transfer project is do it once
>>> and do it right. So, you don't want to cut too many corners. Joel has laid
>>> out a bunch of good points before. Even for cassette-quality oral history
>>> type stuff, it's best to do a good -resolution transfer once on a
>>> well-maintained deck into a decent digital signal chain. Bottom-barrell
>>> stuff will give bottom-barrell results but there is a whole range of
>>> reasonably-priced and good quality gear out there.
>>> As for software, I hate Audacity. I think it's worth exactly what it costs.
>>> It's klunky garbage, at least the last version I used, which was 2 years
>>> ago. Much better is Sony Soundforge which can be had very reasonably if one
>>> is an education-related institution (see Educator Superstore website for
>>> instance). The newest version of Soundforge comes with restoration/cleanup
>>> tools that, when used conservatively and tastefully, can be very helpful
>>> with this kind of audio.
>>> Your best practice is to plan on at least three collections of files: 1) raw
>>> transfer PCM audio, hopefully higher resolution (I like 88.2/24 or 96/24 but
>>> Richard Hess makes a convincing argument that 44.1/24 is perfectly OK for
>>> spoken-word material). 2) processed PCM, this would be NR'd, normalized,
>>> EQ'd etc and perhaps saved at CD resolution with a "safety" version burned
>>> to archival CD media. 3) online/small-format version, MP3 or whatever
>>> crunched format you used, saved from the CD-quality processed PCM version.
>>> This would be for online/streaming or podcast use. These can be batch-made
>>> by Soundforge out of the processed PCM files. My caveat would be, beware
>>> crunching too lossy. Spoken word starts sounding really crappy when it's
>>> surrounded by digi-swishies and other artifacts. I never go lower than
>>> 96kbps for MP3, which some might consider overkill but I sure don't. I
>>> actually prefer 128kbps whenever possible because it preserves the upper
>>> mouth/throat air resonances of most voices and also a decent MP3 cruncher
>>> won't make swishies out of even heavy tape hiss.
>>> Don't neglect the cassette end of this. Having a Tascam 122MkII is one thing
>>> but, how old is it and how well-maintained is it? I highly recommend sending
>>> it to NJ Factory Service for a refurb and have him make sure the head is OK
>>> too. As of a few months ago, Tascam still had heads, belts and other parts
>>> for these machines.
>>> Now that you see that even this kind of "pedestrian" audio is no simple feat
>>> to transfer and preserve correctly, have you considered out-sourcing the
>>> transfer work? You could then concentrate your expertise on archiving,
>>> editing, and making available your assets. There are grants out there to pay
>>> for outsourcing audio work to audio professionals.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "JA Eaton" <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2008 12:11 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Seeking recommendations for oral history
>>> digitization equipment (fwd)
>>> Hi John,
>>> Some thoughts on your situation...
>>> 1) As you are digitising for the first time, it's worth thinking about
>>> preserving your files for future use, especially if you expand this
>>> resource in the future. Therefore it's probably worth digitising your
>>> material in the highest quality available in a format best suitable for
>>> sustainability in the best possible way.
>>> Which leads to...
>>> 2) Record your audio in the best available quality and convert down to
>>> CD/web quality afterwards. i.e. 88.2Khz/24bit. You can back up the 'master'
>>> files onto a hard drive or DVD's/CD's. Even though you may not need
>>> these high quality files now, it'd save any future re-digitising issues and
>>> provide you with a backup if anything goes wrong. You may wish to consider
>>> using open source file formats for future proofing such as Vorbis ogg or
>>> FLAC, whereas WAV or AIFF are fine for CD distribution.
>>> which leads to...
>>>> One of the USB interfaces I was looking
>>>> at (the Tascam US-144) comes with a free version of Cubase, but I don't
>>>> know that it would be any better for our purposes than Audacity
>>> A dedicated A>D converter over USB 2.0 or Firewire is going to give you
>>> much better conversion quality than plugging into your internal soundcard.
>>> These vary in quality and price and will generally be defined by your
>>> budget. Quality of the pre-amps you use is also worth noting.
>>> 4. Pro Tools is a highly advanced multitracking and editing suite which
>>> although capable is probably far too advanced for your needs. If you were
>>> planning on digitising multiple media at once (multitracking) then
>>> something of this ilk may be worth thinking about. (note that Pro Tools is
>>> only compatible with it's own hardware except for Pro Tools M-Powered, a
>>> lighter version). Audacity on the other is a freeware simple interface for
>>> recording, simple editing, basic processing techniques and file conversion.
>>> One consideration is that the simpler (and cheaper) the program then the
>>> less 'restoration' processing features it is likely to offer (should you
>>> need them), such as de-noisers etc.
>>>> Anyway, your thoughts on a good USB interface, a good and inexpensive
>>>> pair of monitors, headphones
>>> a good pair of monitors may be worthless if your listening environment is
>>> not designed for audio analysis(e.g. your desk is in a big open plan office
>>> with lots of background noise), however there are some decent reference
>>> monitors on the market under the £400 mark. (KRK, Genelec being at the top
>>> end of the scale).
>>> Again look for professional headphones with a 'flat' response (i.e. not
>>> marketed to D.J's, live broadcast etc) but this can often be tricky judging
>>> between brands. Try AKG, Sennheiser.
>>> USB interfaces. at the top end of the price scale (for your project
>>> anyhow)MOTU make decent converters with quality preamps, alternatively
>>> M-Audio, Edirol and Mackie do cheaper products. Look for ones which offer
>>> higher sample rates/larger bit depth for any future needs.
>>> hope this is of some help!
>>> Joel Eaton
>>> Joel Eaton TSO - Sound Resources
>>> TASI - A JISC Advisory Service
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> Free Helpdesk for UK Further and Higher Education: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Online advice documents: <http://www.tasi.ac.uk/>
>>> Hands-on training: <http://www.tasi.ac.uk/training/>
> Mike Hirst
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