Contrary to popular belief, vinyl records are capable of reproducing sound with astonishing fidelity, if they were mastered and pressed with care, if they have been kept free from physical harm, and if they are transcribed using high-quality analog equipment.
With few exceptions, the LPs transcribed for the Avant Garde Project are in excellent condition and have low levels of surface noise resulting from the manufacturing process. The analog rig used for the Avant Garde Project introduces almost none of the tracking distortion that normally produces a flat, harsh sound in LP transcriptions. As a result, instruments and voices sound more realistic and detailed, and there is more of a sense of acoustic space in the recordings.
The audio files in all AGP installments are FLAC files. FLAC is a lossless compression format that decompresses to produce CD-quality WAV files. MP3 files, by contrast, preserve a decent amount of the sound in a recording, but lose the low-level detail that gives it realism. The difference is plain even on moderately priced equipment.
Further information on FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and free downloads of the FLAC coding/decoding software can be found on the Sourceforge FLAC web site. This software has a very simple, intuitive interface, and will enable you to produce WAV files that can be burned to an audio CD. You can also download plugins that will enable you to play FLAC files directly in Winamp or Foobar2000.
For the most part, no noise reduction or other digital manipulations are used in AGP transcriptions, so that nothing is done that cannot be undone. In a few tracks, however, loud pops have been selectively removed or frequent minor clicking noise has been cleaned up. Thus, the (hopefully unobtrusive) sound of the LP surface is still evident in these transcriptions. To remove this subtle background noise, even using the latest digital noise reduction, would risk subtly degrading the actual information in the recording.
AGP partisans who would like a cleaner sound for their own listening purposes may want to try Click Repair. Unlike more aggressive noise reduction software, Click Repair merely identifies individual noise events and removes them, leaving the rest of the waveform intact. Only a small number of the 44,100 digitized samples per second are altered for each click repaired. Used judiciously, this software can dramatically reduce surface noise while only minimally affecting the recording itself. But be careful not to set the threshold value too high, or some musically relevant information is lost.
See the Click Repair manual for more information.