How To Convert Vinyl Records (singles and LPs) to Audio CDs and MP3 files
[Or you can
commission me to do it for you]
The Full StoryThis site covers the whole story on how to convert your music from vinyl to audio CD or mp3 and also includes freeware downloads.
Copy ing your vinyl singles and LP s to make music audio CDs and MP3 files is easy enough. But what if you have a problem and its not working? I start here with a list of hardware and software you need, then a step by step how-to. Then I'll cover some more detail in case you're still not clear. Finally a link to my troubleshooting page in case anything doesn't work.
What you need
The Software Suite (click
to download). The only thing you must have is the first one. The other
optional tools you'll probably find handy when you get going.
If you want to make your finished CDs look great, you can use a
label maker, like this
3. MP3 Manager To add ID tags to your mp3 files, this will also make text files using the tags from whole directories of mp3s which can then be read into a spreadsheet. Another great tool for this is Dr Tag, which is available as a demo or the full version for $25.
Step By Step
1. Connect the turntable to the amplifier
2. Connect the amplifier TAPE OUT sockets to the sound card LINE-IN (normally blue). You'll need a custom phono to 3.5mm jack cable for this. Any computer shop, or somewhere like Maplin Electronics (UK) or Radio Shack (US). If you're not sure where on your amp to connect, I posted some pictures on a separate page. Note that you need hifi separates, all-in-one units rarely have line out sockets of any sort, so they aren't suitable for the job. You can't use the headphone socket, because its fully amplified and your sound card can easily be blown.
3. Make sure your pc sound software (loudspeaker icon in the tray, bottom right of screen) has the RECORDING controls set with Line In checked, and the slider half way up to start with. This recording setting can be tricky to find, check out more detail in troubleshooting linked at the bottom of the page.
4. Start up some suitable sound recording software, such as Record Edit Pro which you can download from the link above.
5. Put the LP on, hit the record
button on your
recording software. When the music is over, hit stop on the software,
delete any silence from the beginning and the end, hit file-save and
save it as a .wav or .mp3 file. Its both quicker and better quality (if
you're going to make and audio CD) to save as .wav at this point and
use wav2mp3 to batch convert to mp3 later. This coding can take while
and you don't need to be sitting around waiting while this goes on.
6. Run a crackle removal if you like (dePopper is good)
7. If its an LP, you probably want to save as seperate tracks - you can do this with your sound recording software, by saving each track as a separate .wav file .If its a live LP, there are various ways to deal with that - see the section on live LPs further down.
8. If you have a cd burner, it will have come with software such as Adaptec or Nero. Now you can use this to select which tracks you want to burn to audio CD. Both of these are equipped to make audio cds from mp3 files or wav files.
NOTE - you CAN'T record straight from vinyl to CD, you must save your music tracks as files first, then copy to CD.
A Bit More Detail On Recording
Set 44100Hz, 128 bandwith, record in stereo in the options settings on your chosen recording software. These are the industry standard settings and the ones that are used in audio CDs. After recording, delete any silence at the beginning and end of the track and save the file. Now is the time to use your crackle remover if you are going to. Some software, such as WaveCorrector, has built in crackle removers, but if you're copying a lot of records its probably worth hunting out something like DePopper that can do all your crackle removing as a batch run while you do something more interesting.
I like to save my music as mp3, because it reduces file sizes from about 30Mb to about 3Mb, with virtually imperceptible loss of quality. If your software can't save directly to mp3, you can use the convertor posted above to switch formats afterwards. If you use mp3, its probably worth using an MP3 tag editor to edit in the artist and track title etc.
You can use Adaptec/Nero to make audio cds from your mp3 collection, but make sure you use a CDR (write once cd) and not a CDRW (cd re-writeable) since only the newest of CD players will play these. It is now possible to get CD players that will play MP3 files straight off the disk, both as discman and in-car units. Most DVD players will also play them. These are great since you can copy up to 200 tracks on one CD. If you're doing this, you must copy your tracks as data, not as an audio CD.
How to Deal With Live LPs
The question here is whether to keep each side as one piece or break it into separate music tracks. You can break it into tracks using your editing software with carful use of fading in and out, and that's how I like to do it so that I can use the tracks in any sequence. Another approach is break them up into tracks in such a way that they will still play seamlessly, but still allow you to skip forward track by track on your cd player. The way to do this is split the track up into however many segments you want, using a sound editor (such as wavepad etc, available off the link above), obviously don't put any fade, just make a clean cut anywhere you choose, and save each segment as a separate WAV PCM file. You must use WAV and not MP3 for this purpose. Now burn you audio CD but be sure you have set Disk At Once (DAO) as the mastering method. This will stop the 2 second delay between tracks from being introduced. Or in Nero you can set the gap between tracks independantly , so set it to zero. Thats it - play on your CD player and it will be seamless.
The reason you must use WAV PCM rather than standard WAV or mp3 format is because the pcm is the raw data format. The other formats also contain some text header data, which will appear as a tiny little bit of silence at the end of the track.
Short of any Kit?
You may well get through a lot of blank CDs, so why not buy a bulk pack of 100. Do a google or ebay search on '100 cdr'. What if you need a turntable or amplifier? Well, you can use second hand ones to set up next to the PC to save dismantling your stereo. HiFi separates are cheap at the moment since mini systems are more fashionable. In the UK you could use ebay to track one down.
You will find that modern amplifiers often don't have phono
(that is, turntable inputs), so they won't be any use for the job. You
can't get round this by connecting the turntable to one of the other
inputs because the Phono is the only pre-amplified one. The alternative
is to get a pre-amp, which is a small amplifier which provides just a
small signal boost. You will also probably find that if you buy a new
turntable it will have a preamp built in - but make sure before you buy
because they don't always have.
You'll probably put a lot of time into converting
your LPs and singles to files on your hard drive. I'm sure you know
that all hard drives fail sooner or later, so don't take a chance, make
sure you get everything copied to CD. This is another good reason for
keeping files in mp3 format - even a big music collection will copy
onto just a few CDs.