May 12th 2003
Recording Vinyl records to mp3 or WAV
Do you have a vinyl record collection that you'd really like to listen to now and again but just can't be bothered with using your turntable to play at most 30 minutes of music? Keep saying to yourself you're going to get rid of all those 12" platters taking up space but don't have the heart to as there's some really good stuff there?
In this article we'll show you how to convert your vinyl collection to CD or mp3 format. Many of you will have some 7" singles or vinyl Albums that haven't been released on CD and this is an ideal way to preserve them on a more up to date media for convenient playback.
Some 7" vinyl singles. Yesterday:
First off, there are some things you'll require to do this, assuming you already have a computer with audio and a line-in socket on your sound card or onboard audio.
- A turntable to play your vinyl.
- A Phono pre-amp.
- Audio lead, 3.5mm stereo mini jack to 2 x phono plugs.
- Audio recording software (more on this later)
For burning to CD:
- A CDRW drive.
- Burning software, such as Nero.
If you're already set up with a CDRW and Nero or similar, the only financial outlay will be for a phono pre-amp and the audio lead.
Phono Pre Amp:
Twin phono to 3.5mm stereo jack lead:
The cost of an audio preamp in the UK is around £15.00 to £20.00 and it will be similarly priced in dollars in the US.
Cost of audio lead around a fiver.
Why do you need a phono pre-amp? The input to your computer sound facility is rated at line input and typically accepts an input level of 300 to 775 millivolts. This is the input level for cassette decks, tuners, VCR's and CD players.
The output from a turntable magnetic cartridge is typically around just 5mv. The phono pre-amp boosts this low level signal to line level of around 500 millivolts. If you were to plug your turntable straight into your computer line input you'd hear very little, if anything at all.
It is possible to spend a great deal of money on a phono pre-amp if you're piecing together a top end Hi-Fi system. To those who would argue that the low cost preamplifier specified in this article is not true Hi-Fi, you're possibly correct but it's a subjective opinion. I have found the preamp used in this article to produce recordings that are perfectly acceptable, particularly if you consider that many recordings made will probably be from worn vinyl disks.
However, if you wish to spend up to 500 currency units or over on a preamp, be my guest Then let me know if you can tell the difference.
Let's get connected
First let's connect your turntable to your computer. You'll need to make some space for it, if you're pushed for space at whatever you're using for your computer workstation, you could consider using a small occasional table to put it on as a temporary measure.
Plug the two turntable phono leads into the input of the preamp, noting left and right polarity. Plug the mini-jack to phono plug audio lead into the output of the preamp, noting polarity, and plug the minijack into the line in socket of your sound card/onboard audio. Now hook up your turntable and phono pre-amp to the mains, powering them up.
Earth me up.
This part is important. You'll have noticed a single lead coming from your turntable, terminating in either a u-shaped connector a bare wire. This is the earth lead. This needs to be connected to an earth point on your computer or you will experience a loud hum when playing vinyl.
The best way is to loosen off one of the case screws at the rear, tuck the connector or wrap the bare wire of the turntable earth lead around that and tighten the screw. You should now have a hum free vinyl playback facility on your computer.
Turntable earth lead connection:
Now test playback of vinyl through your computer. Open your sound facility input mixer controls. Start playing a record. Un-mute the Line In slider control if it's been ticked and adjust the sound level of the Line In slider. You should now hear your record playing on your computer.
Seven inches of black vinyl:
Now to select some recording software. There are many, many software applications available but for this article we'll be using a freeware application, dbPoweramp and it's freebie add-on auxillary module. Methods outlined in this article will be similar for other software, but I've chosen this application as it's a freebie, clutter free and works well.
Download dbPower Amp Music Converter and add-on Aux module from here:
This is where you'll find the Aux Module for download on Illustrate's site:
It's the last one on the list.
Install the software. First, install the converter by simply clicking on the exe file and following instructions, then do the same with the Auxillary module.
Open up the auxillary module to access this interface:
To the right of the record button is an arrow which brings down a menu where you can select either mp3 or WAV to save your recording to.
Now select options and select the folder you wish to save your recording in:
Enter a title for the track and any other pertinent information you feel is necessary in the top boxes.
Now to set the recording level. Select 'Test Record level' and start playing your record.
Set record level using the ramped level control. I've found it's best to have the red bar just bouncing on and off the end of the level ramp, if it's set at the 'optimal level' setting, I've found record levels to be too low, although it's probably wise to do a few short test recordings and see what sounds best for you.
The slider volume control in your sound facility mixer controls will also influence the recording level.
Close the test record level function and select record:
Start playing your vinyl record and click the record button. You are now recording and this function is very similar to making a recording on a tape cassette with a cassette deck.
When the recording has finished, click the record button again, and it's finished.
Then carry on until you've finished all your records.
If you've converted to WAV format, these can be burnt directly to CD.
There is a facility within dbPoweramp's auxillary module to record entire albums where the software claims to be able to detect the silence between tracks and start/stop recording between tracks.
I've found this function to be less than satisfactory but by all means give it a go, maybe you'll have more luck than me.
If you do decide to try that function, you'll need to list the amount of tracks on the album, like this:
And that's about it.
The auxillary module can also be used to record from a cassette deck or VCR, the procedure is exactly the same as above but you won't need a phono pre-amp. A cassette deck or VCR audio-out will plug directly into your sound card.
There are software programs available that can clean up hiss, pop and crackle sometimes present on old vinyl recordings, but they are beyond the scope of this simplified article.
It can become quite tedious and time consuming, converting all your old audio collection, being as it is in real time, but I've personally found it quite enjoyable, hearing all those oldies again and the finished CD compilations make all your efforts worthwhile.
This is my current setup, until all the vinyl is converted to CD's. I also have a cassette deck and VCR set up to record audio and video from. The three different audio inputs are switched via a three way switch box:
I would like to thank 'Spoon' from Illustrate software for creating and supplying dbPoweramp.
Here's hoping all those oldies gain a new lease of life for you