I have transferred 100+ records and have been very pleased with the results. Here's what works for me. I have an old PII laptop with 30Gb total and 256m ram, so your hardware is going to be more than enough. Any sound card that can capture 16bit audio with a sample rate of 48kHz will record audio that is better than vinyl. It's important to understand that it won't improve the frequency response of the source, but at least you won't lose anything. You'll want to use a good quality turntable with a good stylus and a good quality amp. I had two albums that were deteriorated in two tracks beyond repair so I ended up purchasing commercial CD's (80s era jazz). My recordings from vinyl of the undamaged tracks were undistinguishable from the commercial CDs. So you should definitely give it a try - you'll be glad you did.
Here's how I do it:
I use Magix Audio Cleaning 2005, but there are many products out there that will do the job for a similar price. I use a "Y" adapter that has RCA plugs on one end to plug into the stereo amp and a .125" headphone plug to plug into the line-in jack on the computer. I clean the album as carefully as I can and start the album on my turntable. The recording software has a volume level meter that I use to set the recording volume slightly below 80% (where the meter peaks are just hitting yellow). I try to set it so that the peaks never get into the yellow. Once I'm happy with the record level, I restart the playback and hit record on the software. I monitor the volume meters to watch for any peaks in the red. If they ever hit red during a recording, just reduce the volume a couple of percent and try again. When the meters hit red, that means the sound is "clipped", which means that it was too loud to capture the high frequency portion and that will be lost. In the old days of analog recording to tape, you'd probably never notice a little clipping (a lot would sound dull and distorted). With digital recordings though, clipping will kill your joy because it will sound like a loud crackle when you play it back.
I record whole sides at a time. You can record a track at a time if you like, but you'll spend more time on it. An album side will typically take somewhere between 150 and 250 Mb in a .wav file. (My software will record direct to an .mp3 which will use much less space, but I like to keep it in .WAV format until I'm completely done. The .WAV format will preserve the full quality of the recording through any post processing where .mp3 will degrade with each generation.)
Once I have my .WAV file, I run the audio cleaning options in the program to remove hiss, rumble, and ticks. The program I use works well (better for hiss and ticks, not as well for rumble), but there are usually a few ticks I have to remove manually. The software gives a graphic representation of the wave form, so ticks are easy to find, zoom in on, and delete. (You lose a few samples, but you have 48,000 samples in each second of audio so you'll never hear the loss in the final output.) Two things I do before I do the final burn is to "normalize" the volume and "remove DC offset". These are both options in the audio editing software. Some purists may criticize that, but between setting the record volume slightly below 80% and normalizing, the signal to noise ratio of the audio sample will be improved. You can try it both ways and see what you like. I can't explain DC offset other than to say doing it seems to noticeably improve clarity.
That done, you are ready to cut and label the tracks. You can use auto detect, which works well, but you'll need to check to be sure the program is not finding silent passages within a song. I think it's a nice touch to add short (1-2 second) fades on each end of the track, but that's not real important. The last step is to use the 'burn CD' option, but I choose the sub-options to burn each track to a file instead of a CD. That makes it easy to combine all of the sides of the album (especially for those multi record sets) into a final compilation to burn to an audio CD. Having individual tracks also makes it easy to convert each track into its own .mp3 for my portable.
By the way, Magix Audio Cleaner can handle the disc burning and .mp3 conversion, but I like Nero Burning a little better for that. Again, there are a lot of programs out there for burning CDs and converting audio formats and I suspect they all work equally well.
Good luck, I hope you enjoy being able to recapture that old collection.
Submitted by: Paul L. of Toronto, Ontario
You're in luck Ferdi! This is actually a simple version of a problem most people deal with -> Transferring Video on DVD's and CD's. This usually requires the use of video captures cards and spiffy software which can get quite expensive!
However, if you're only interesting in transferring audio to preserve all those great vinyls, given what you've already got, you only need a few connectors from your local electronic (or even dollar store sometimes) and some free software off the net to make things happen.
Will start with the Hardware:
Your Cassette player, as well as your record player, are likely to have Head Phone outputs. They may even have RCA outputs which would be good too, either way you still have to get about the same number of connectors. If you have head phone outputs, at the electronics store all you need to get is a 3.5 millimeter to 3.5 millimeter jumper cable that is male on both ends (think of the jack on end of your headphones). Your record player might have a larger jack for which you'll need a converter to a 3.5 millimeter, once again at the electronics store.
For RCA, you just need a "Y" connector that converts standard stereo Red/White RCA in to a stereo 3.5 millimeter jack, which you can probably get at the store for about ten bucks or less. You may also want to get a 3.5 millimeter extension cable too, in case the Y connector is not long enough and/or is awkward to plug in.
Either way, your going to connect the other end into the "Line In" jack on the back of your computer, it's usually grouped together with two others, the microphone jack (mono only) and the line out, which is used for speakers.
Now onto the software:
Everything you need in terms of software is available for free on the 'Net. Doesn't get much better then that. First, the audio capturing software. The best free one to use is Audacity, available from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. To create MP3 files, it might also ask you for the LAME MP3 encoder, which is available in many places to be found with a quick Google search. Then you simply need to connect up to the Line In port (make sure it is unmuted in Audio Properties), hit record in Audacity, and hit play on your record or cassette player and let the music fly. It records in real time, so you'll have to listen through them all, or else just let it run and walk away.
Afterwards, you can use Audacity to do things like remove excess noise, chop up the single file into multiple tracks, and save them all as MP3.
The other software you'll need is a burning program. One may have come with your burner, but if not, a great free one for Windows XP is CD Burner XP Pro, located here: http://www.cdburnerxp.se/
Using CD Burner XP Pro is pretty simple, just start it up, select if you want DVD or CD, and if you want it to be Audio or MP3 (keep in mind that Audio CD's will play in most CD players, while MP3, though you can hold many more songs, will only play in MP3 compatible players). Also, you can create Data DVD's which many DVD players (though not all) will be able to play the MP3 Files directly off of the disc. In case not, your DVD player should still have no problem playing Data MP3 CD's.
That's pretty much all there is to it, pretty simple and cheap. Enjoy your new digital music!
Submitted by: Jason D.
Hello Ferdi. I?ve just made a start on copying my own collection of vinyl onto CD. The machine I?m using is very similar to yours, with a P4 processor, 756mb of RAM and XP Pro.
I began by connecting my stereo amplifier to the sound input port on the PC, using a lead that has two separate phono plugs at one end and a 3.5mm stereo jack at the other. My local electronics store sells these for approx