Channel D Pure Vinyl Review. Pure Vinyl is a software programme available on the Mac OS X platform that enables users to record and catalogue their records in ultra high quality straight from their turntable via an audio interface.
Sporting a litany of the finest music industry and engineering credentials, the bods behind the professional audiophile brand, Channel D, are a truly exceptional bunch that all share one plain and simple aim; to preserve purity throughout every element of audio playback. Without casting too many aspersions, you may believe that this process, in theory, is much easier to achieve than it truly is in practice, and this is why the Channel D brand is exceptional.
What Is It?
Whilst Channel D has hit all the right spots at a bevy of tradeshows by winning many prestigious awards since 1985, today at The Pro Audio Web Blog we will be investigating ‘Pure Vinyl’. This special high-profile software manages to remove the strings that almost all Vinyl enthuses have to their phonostages, digitises the content to lossless files, up samples, catalogues an entire collection of vinyl’s to place it in one on-demand environment, cuts recordings with ease, and offers countless other features; including one of the best, if not the best, (reverse) RIAA curves we have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Buying Pure Vinyl is a easily one of the most powerful software investments that a vinyl enthusiast can possibly make, so now we would like to introduce to you our experiences with this interesting strictly Mac OS X programme.
Operating System and Software Requirements:
Yes, you did indeed read that last sentence right, Pure Vinyl is unfortunately limited to just the OS X platform at this present time. It almost feels inhuman to highlight this crippling limitation so early on into our review and perhaps we can offer some explanation as to why this is so: For many years the OS X platform has served audio enthusiasts well, grown, and has become known as the most ‘supported’ platform for music industry professionals. Ever since 1985 the Channel D team has been working in the realm of producing Macintosh programmes, but this strict upbringing has been cruel to the ‘Windows’ or ‘Linux’ fraternity who have been alienated from Channel D’s extraordinary ventures. It is respectable that Channel D’s products have stuck at what they know inside out, and thus guarantee quality with Apples extended audio functionality, but, as a team, we do feel that this is the biggest downfall for this feature rich programme that promises so much. Plain and simple; this ‘misalignment’ is sadly responsible for our immediate half-a-star reduction.
Having discussed the simple environmental limitations, it is worth knowing that Pure Vinyl is not available on the App Store, so you will have to make sure in your security settings that you can install apps from third-party organisation’s, otherwise you will be unable to progress passed the install process. Personally I have never had a problem with installing apps from reputable business’ such as Channel D, and the install process was very simple to complete. You simply must have an Intel Mac, 2Gb RAM, at least 7Mb of available space for the actual file, and preferably with the OS X 10.5.8 (‘Leopard’) or above. However you must also have an audio interface with two pre-amps free, and a dual-mono (or stereo) RCA to TRS Jack converter. Although we imagine that Pure Vinyl will work with a large number of audio interfaces, it is still worth casting your eye over Channel D’s list of Audio Interfaces that have been confirmed. This list of this information can be found at: http://www.channld.com/support-soundcards.html . It must be said that the only issue that we experienced is when Pure Vinyl’s input or output settings do not match that of the audio interface. For this reason it is important that you change the right sample rates for your hardware in accordance to that selected in the software.
The system that we have personally used is the following: One Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.8GHz, 8Gb RAM, 1.5TB HDD Early 2008 Mac Pro, One Late 2008 Aluminium MacBook with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4Gb RAM, 250Gb HDD, a Prism Sound ‘Orpheus’ Audio Interface, Rega P3 Turntable with R200 Tone Arm, Goldring 1042 Cartridge, a pair of AudioQuest RCA Couplers, A 1m Chord Cable Company ‘Chameleon’ RCA, and a pair Channel D’s own impedance specific (Seta) RCA to TRS Jack and Earth connectors.
Features, and Interface:
Pure Vinyl is a deceptively comprehensive package that comprises of four fine parts: 1) Vinyl Recording; A suite of tools that are used in conjunction with each other, with or without a phono stage, to transfer your physical Vinyl’s ‘Real-Time’ into a super high fidelity digital file. 2) Vinyl Editing; A tool that cuts your digital recordings into an on-screen graphic where you can edit/cut the tracks using a digital cartridge head and play them back. These files are typically loaded into the RAM for fast transfer rates. 3) iTunes Playback; where any of your Pure Vinyl recordings or existing audio tracks (that could have been inputted from eg. CD, or Downloaded) can all bypass iTunes stock audio engine and instead use Pure Vinyl’s super-high quality audio engine to play back your music. 4) A premium drag-and-drop sample rate converter and audio file converter; this is a tool that can be accessed from the ‘Pure Vinyl Recorder’ window and works without flaw.
As mentioned previously, Pure Vinyl comes with an exceptional inverse RIAA equalisation tool. This tool in question is by far one of the best that we have ever come across, but what is even better is that Pure Vinyl comes with a huge number of tailored RIAA presets for many of the well-known players. But if you would like to add some of your own personal plug-ins to the mix, in the ‘Audio Setup’ window you can add in up to fourteen; providing that your system can handle it!
Recording with Pure Vinyl:
Recording with Pure Vinyl is a very simple affair. After selecting the inputs that you would like to record from within the Audio Setup’ pane you can see all your pre-recording controls within the main window. It is recommended that you select a sensible input gain from your preamp, and then locate the ‘Monitor’ window at the right hand side of the screen to make sure that your recording is clean by not overdriving the input or compensated output within the programme. If you are using a phono stage then you won’t need to use Pure Vinyl’s ‘RIAA Correction’ facility within the ‘Preferences’ pane. But, unless you have a very good phono stage, I would highly recommend Pure Vinyls own RIAA equalisation for the fact that it is just killer! Additionally, if you are one of those lucky people who have the same player that can be found within the RIAA ‘drop-box’ then please use is! From extensive testing that we have carried out we have determined that the team at Pure Vinyl has outdone themselves with some exceptional work in the realms of painstakingly engineering the perfect inverse curve, and we shall discuss this in a touch more later on within the review.
Within the main screen it is very useful to actually see your real-time balance and input levels. With the added bonus of a peak meter, and dynamic range meter, you are able to keep an eye on proceedings and can adequately respond if the levels go past a comfortable range. Taking this into consideration, prior to recording, if you are recording particularly dynamically rich music (such as Classical) then it really is best to set the input to a sensible level where your music won’t clip. Likewise, if you have the ability to record Vinyls up to the maximum sample rate of 192kHz then you will be able to preserve some of the vinyl’s integrity as an analogue format, but this does depend on the resolution of your audio interface, and if you have enough physical space. During use with our Prism Sound ‘Orpheus’ we did notice a couple of errors where Pure Vinyl was attempting to change its sample rate. We figured that before we use Pure Vinyl, we should change the sample rate to avoid confusion from the software to the hardware. Following this menial issue you are able to click the highlighted spindle to begin the recording process. At this stage it is wise to have your album name and information so that you can save all it’s details for when you come to edit later. At first Pure Vinyl does seem slightly hostile, but after a couple of recordings you will become a pro.
As you enter the recording you have the ability to let the software cue when the tonearm hits the deck. For effective practice you will need to let the software learn when you want it to cue the recording, and this is quite cumbersome. Often we couldn’t get it to work flawlessly so we just did without it’s handy operation, and finally once the recording starts you can relax. Unlike other software you don’t have to stop and start the recordings to split the tracks – the editing comes later.
Finally after one side has finished recording hit the flashing red spindle again, lift the tonearm up with the cue, and then wait for a very cleaver rendered picture of your vinyl on screen. The graphic that appears on screen is generated directly from the recording, and bares a similar resemblance to what you would find on the vinyl. Now the fun part begins. Without having to be too much of a geek Pure Vinyl makes it easy. From the rendered vinyl image you can slide the tangential tracking arm (similar to that of the physical cutter head during creating a vinyl master) across the record to the points where you see a break in the continuity. Almost for show the waveform will appear along with the vinyl spinning. From here you can play back your vinyl, but all you really have to do is split the track, name the sections, and save to your location. Job done! Very easy!
Sound Quality and Performance – Playback:
Now you enter the realm of playback of your track, or any track of your choice, with Pure Vinyls engine surrendering the insignificant iTunes processing abilities to produce a luxurious whole new dimension to music consumption. This added extra is where you are paying a premium on this product, and is arguably Pure Vinyls best ability. To enter this mode you simply have to select the iTunes logo in the top right of the main window when Pure Vinyl opens. Notably the software in this instance did not have any issues with changing the sample rate of our audio interface to match that of the audio file being played, so if you listen to very high-quality tracks, lossless or not, Pure Vinyl can do anything your heart desires. This obviously includes the recordings that you made in the standalone software, and the following paragraphs aim to communicate the insanely high quality of what Pure Vinyl produces upon playback.
During playback of standard tracks we found Pure Vinyl to sound massively detailed, smooth, rich and full in its approach. You will notice that there is some slight amalgamation of lower midrange frequencies that promotes a deep punch within the bass, but the midrange itself is very lush and has great body. On the whole the sonic signature is nice and dynamic in comparison to some of the other competitors out there who just deal with supplementing iTunes’ audio engine. As we continue to sing the praises of the playback engine, I really have grown to like the way that the treble frequencies are presented. On the whole the have a thinner approach that goes hand in hand with an apparent wider stereo separation. An example of this is with high-pitched synth-pads where the execution/precision of attack often comes from the sizzle of the top and the closed percussive roll on the hi-hat, and all this comes alive thanks to a super precise interpretation of audio.
Through use Pure Vinyl has enabled me to hear the minor nuances of sound, those sounds that make music ‘music’, and they are not accented per se, but they seem more naturally present than what I might have experienced before. Personally I am a real stickler for listening out for these things because to me they are so important in my appreciation and consumption of music, so with this I am overwhelmed with the precision of musicality that can be detected across the entire instrumentation. When you marry this accuracy, or instrumental refinement, with a full slightly Hi-Fi sounding stereo field you enter a truly breathtaking state, and Pure Vinyl certainly does everything you could ever want with ease. To put it simply, with insatiable finesse, Channel D has carved quality Vinyl Music playback and up-sampling in one no-hales-barred environment that soaks up all the real music and provides an accurate playback that has pricked up both of our ears.
Pure Vinyl is an exceptionally comprehensive tool that has a lot to offer. We have found its interface to be extremely detailed yet simple to use. The recording process yields a recording that matches the true input from your turntable, and the RIAA equalisation is out of this world. Even when using the Pure Vinyl engine to playback recordings, or tracks that you have acquired from any source, to sound rich and full of life. The only reason why Channel D’s Pure Vinyl is being awarded with a four-and-a-half out of five rating is because we would love to see this software on the Windows platform. A very well deserved four-and-a-half star rating is what The Pro Audio Web Blog proudly awards to Pure Vinyl.