After doing a lot of research I came up with a way of digitizing my records, which I am quite happy with. I posted my recommendations already at Discogs, but would like to share my experience here too.
I have to say that I ended up spending much more than I anticipated, but I am fine with that. Recordings sound amazing and let us say I made myself a couple of anticipated birthday presents.
My setting at the beginning was:
1) Ortofon Concorde DJ E
2) Technics 1210 MK2s
3) DJM 500
4) 2010 Mac Pro
5) Denon Receiver UDRA-F07
6) Bose Acoustimass III
I ended up with the following setup:
1) Ortofon 2M Bronze
2) Technics 1210 MK2s
3) Pro-Ject Tube Box S
4) Apogee Duet
5) 2010 Mac Pro
6) Yamaha HS8
(7) Project VC-S
Let us start with the speakers (6). I found it very difficult to judge sound quality with my speakers, even with my Sennheiser HD 25-1. My Bose Acoustimass III are great, but not for this usage. Therefore I "organized" proper monitor speaker (Yamaha HS8). They were essential and improved my ability to judge different settings and their sound. Proper speakers are the first thing someone should get.
(5) I used my Mac Pro with Vinylstudio for recording. Discogs integration in Vinylstudio was really essential for my work.
(4) I bought a used Apogee Duet from "eBay Kleinanzeigen". This is a sort of Craigslist in Germany. The Apogee is an excellent piece of equipment and is working great, although next time I am going to buy such a valuable piece at least on eBay since the buying experience was not that great. Something I learned here.
(3) I bought the Pro-Ject Tube Box S in order to bypass my mixer and go straight into the Audiointerface.
(1) Cartridge: I always used Ortofon and ended up buying a 2M Bronze I found at a acceptable price on amazon. Ortofon 2M was set with 1,5 gr + 1,5 antiskating. Levels of both channels were equal and sound great, although on a blank test recording the stylus shifted. I had to set it to antiskating 3 to keep it centred, but Ortofon told me to keep antiskating at the same value as downforce. I do not know why the Stylus still shifts on a blank record, but since sound quality was ok I went with 1,5gr + 1,5 antiskating as suggested by Ortofon.
At this point I cleaned my discs before recording. I invested in a Project VC-S, which at the time had just come out and I am really pleased with it!!! I was in doubt between the Project and the Okki Nokki, and went with the Project mainly for it’s velocity! Records spin on it with about 2 seconds per rotation and this speeds things up. On the other hand I prefer the compact size of the Okki Nokki, the Project is quite a bit larger in size. I suppose they clean equally well, at least I am really pleased with the results of my Project! I used cleaning fluid + demineralized water to clean my discs before recording. At start I used a small amount of ProJect vinyl cleaner provided with the washing machine, after that I bought a 50 ml bottle of Okki Nokki and at the end a bottle of l’Art du Son. ProJect and Art du Son were both excellent. Also the Okki Nokki fluid was ok, but at a certain point I ended up with a lot of discs, which after hearing them once, had a lot of static charge. I think I cleaned those discs with the Okki Nokki fluid, but i also changed cleaning routine on the Project VC-S and it was also really hot during this period, so I do not know where the static came from.
My final cleaning routine was:
1st: 1 rotation clockwise for applying cleaning solution (H2O & Cleaning fluid) + 1 rotation clockwise with brush + 1 rotation counterclockwise with brush + 1 rotation to vacuum dry in each direction.
2nd: same routine with mineralized water only to clean everything.
At the beginning I used 2 rotations vacuum drying in each direction, maybe this was the cause for the static. Almost all my records are clean now, and when I am going to buy a new or used record I am going to clean them this way in the future.
I recorded everything this way after cleaning my vinyl:
1st: brush vinyl gently with carbon brush.
2nd: Apogee Duet setting 24bit 96kHz
3rd: VinylStudio for recording, splitting and naming, 24bit 96kHz WAV. I do not use any cleanup plugins, only occasionally do I correct some major scratches in VinylStudio. Before exporting I normalize the recordings with the options: Ignore transients, Normalize left and right channels separately, Normalize album sides separately checked.
In order to get a decent gain level I had to set the Project Tube Box S at 51dB instead of the 41dB you would use for MM cartridges. I also had to set the Apogee’s analog input level to +4dBu instead of -10dBV. With my Ortofon 2M + Project at 41dB and Apogee at -10dBV I ended up with gain levels at around -6 to -10dB, with Project at 51dB I got slight over clipping and with my setting I was at -1 to -2dB. I checked with Apogee and Project and they said my settings would be ok and not impact sound quality.
Recording went pretty straight. After circa 300 discs I ended up with small amounts of dirt and fibers on the stylus, which did not go away with the blow of air I used until then, and I started using the small stylus brush to brush the stylus once before each record side. Around that time I also had two records with a bad or without end groove and the stylus went over the label.
After 500 recordings, while recording some Drum n Bass records, I got some distortions. I also was quite curious about the condition of my 2M stylus so I bought a magnifying lens and checked the stylus and saw something really strange. I saw something like a shark tail + a tiny tip on it. I took some demineralized water with the stylus brush and applied some brushes and to my surprise the shark tail was just grease, dirt and tiny fibers and I ended up with the naillike stylus shape I know. After cleaning my discs I do not know where all this dirt came from, maybe the stylus collected it from the two times it ran on the labels? I will now have to check the Drum n Bass recordings for distortions and see if they came from the dirty stylus.
I have to say that I am really pleased with the audio quality! I spend more than I wanted to (about twice of what I wanted to spend in the first place and I keep the monitor speakers out of the bill, since I use them now for music listening). The fact that a new stylus was broken or badly produced was really unfortunate though and I could still cry today!
But I currently have digitized around 600 records and I am really pleased. All the suggestions which were made in this thread improved my resulting sound quality. Cartridge + bypassing old mixer where probably the most important once, but also record cleaning resulted in a remarkable improvement.
I almost have no cracks on my recordings, only some distortions occasionally. I would advice to clean records before digitizing and not use software!