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sound card for digitalizing vinyl records and cassette tapes

by leonardolobos / December 3, 2009 9:27 AM PST

I have hundred old cassette tapes and vinyl records and I wish to transfer these to CD. I need to know if the standard sound cards that usually come onboard in desktop pcs are enough for this task or should I get a better sound card. If yes, please suggest what are the important specs to look for. I have taken a look at some websites and came across a lot of sophisticated cards with 5.1 or 7.1 chanels, midi, etc. I have a hunch that those are unnecesary features for what I want to do. I have read about sampling rate but cant find a card with good sampling rate that doesnt come with a bunch of extras I dont need. I will appreciate any advice.

Also want to transfer my Hi8 videos to dvd. Need advice on Video Card.

Thanks for reading my post. Hope hearing from you guys. Bye, Leo.

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Go Creative
by mjd420nova / December 4, 2009 12:48 PM PST

Creative makes a whole line of cards to fit your PC. It all depends on what you want, 5.1 or 7.1 and the amplifier you have to use as an output device to drive the speakers and the speaker system you have or wish to purchase. I use the Creative Audigy2 card that is a 24 bit with 106DB signal to noise ratio. It supports both 5.1 and 7.1 systems. The important thing to remember is that most CD/DVD players will only play standard 16 bit .WAV files or if capable, MP3 files. Converting the .WAV files to MP3 will result in loss of clarity and some spectrum as the compression process discards some of the content which can not be replaced when decompressing or converting back to .WAV files. I have transposed thousands of vinyl, cassette reel to reel and eight track tapes to 24 bit .WAV files for storage on my PC which I built expressly for that purpose. When I wish to make a collection of music for travel or entertainment, I then burn them to a CD in 16 bit, PCM, stereo 44KHz. This gives the best sound and is comparable to the original media. The Creative card also comes with software for cleaning up recordings, such as from scratched vinyl or over-compensated tapes.

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Using the standard Sound Recorder to digitally record analog
by kshorting / December 4, 2009 1:09 PM PST

I am not an expert on sound cards etc, but you might find this interesting. I also wanted to record my old tapes and LPs. I knew I could attach my stereo to my computer using special jacks that have RCA stereo plugs on one end and a stereo pin on the other. These are usually used to connect an iPod to a stereo. But I needed software to capture the sound. (I never considered what sound card I might need. I have a Dell Dimension 4500S with a SoundMax sound card.) I searched around for software but a good deal of it was designed for DVD movies etc. There are some worth considering, but I didn't want to spend money on what seemed to me to be a very simple task. So I tried using the free Sound Recorder program that ships with Windows XP, but it would allow only 60 seconds of sound to be recorded at one time. This is understandable as the purpose of this software is to record short sounds for system events. I was stumped for a short while until it occurred to me that the 60 second maximum was an artificial limit. Sound Recorder wants the file to be prebuilt to a certain size and so it creates a 60 second file automatically. I created a bigger file by using the Insert function from the menu to insert an existing Sound Recorder file into another. I just kept inserting until I had a file that would hold over 20 minutes (one side of an LP). I hooked up my stereo to my PC using the cables, opened the 20 minute file with Sound Recorder, pressed record, put the needle on the vinyl and let it happen. I had to tweak the sound volume coming in because some sources send a louder signal than others. The results are perfectly fine. I have made CDs of vinyl and tapes for friends and they tell me they are amazed at the quality. So, all you really need is 20 dollar cables and the free software that came with your computer. I don't know if Vista ships with Sound Recorder, but it is a simple stand alone application that can be simply copied onto any computer running Windows. (A friend of mine has a new Mac. I cannot figure out how to record on that machine at all.) Good luck!

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Easy with this!
by raymould / December 4, 2009 3:27 PM PST

Hi, I've been using Magix softwhare and hardware for some time and I feel that this could be just what your looking for.

This stuff will work with any sound card, but make sure you get the pre-amp with the software. Anyway check it out.

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Any sound card is OK to digitalize records and cassettes.
by Stan_S / December 4, 2009 4:24 PM PST

Whatever on-board sound card you have is more than ok - it's much better than the quality of cassette tapes and LPs.

I use Audacity software to copy LPs - and it will work the same for tapes. You can even use a mic.

Audacity is a free program from Sourceforge. Find it at

When you run it for the first time make sure you go to Edit > Preferences and set it for two channels, ie, Stereo.

You'll have to wire your turntable/stereo to your computer. Most stereo systems use RCA plugs, so you'll have to get a pair long enough to go from your stereo to your computer. You may have to experiment a bit, but I plug my cables into the Line Out on the stereo and run them to the computer where they plug into a 2 RCA socket to stereo phono plug that plugs into the Line In socket on my computer.

Even without the software, when you play a tape or LP you should hear it in your computer speakers. If you don't, make sure the volume is set in the computer. You may have to go to Options > Properties in the 'Master Volume' and set whatever your input is to show.

If you only have a turntable, you'll need a pre amp. You may get away with plugging in to the stereo's headphone jack, but keep the level low as it can blow the input of your sound card.

When you've finished recording something, 'saving' it saves to a proprietary format, so it's better to 'export' as a wav or MP3 file.

Good luck.

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Re: Recordings
by sirpaul1 / December 4, 2009 10:20 PM PST

Audacity is by far the best free music editor/recorder (if you already have a full version of 'Nero', you already have a very good music editor/recorder).
Some turntables (built in the last 10 years) have a pre-amp built in (usually under the platter mat or a switch in the rear. If not, you can pick one up at Radio Shack for about $30 or maybe cheaper online.

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thanks to all
by leonardolobos / December 6, 2009 6:59 AM PST
In reply to: Re: Recordings

Thanks for all the advice. I'll take a look at those recommended software. Tell you guys in a couple of weeks how it went. Best regards, Leonardo.

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by alaskagram / January 8, 2010 9:31 AM PST
In reply to: thanks to all

Please keep in mind when it comes to the turntable phono cartridge combo that this is what makes or break the "sound" of the record.This is why CD's sound better on the average than records.Being an analogue system the quality of the turntable and cartridge are extremely important and expensive.You are better off going to a pawn shop to find an old (80's or 70's)turntable and then you need to find a good needle(they are only good for a couple of hundred hours this is where CD's are superior).The USB turntables under $300.00 use crystal pickups that track at 5 grams or more ruining your records as they are played.To get a quality playback you will need to spend $400.00 or more on a turntable/cartridge combo.This is why well produced(hard to find anymore because of loudness wars)CD's sound better than vinyl played on cheap gear(Under $400.00)

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