“Dad, what are these cardboard squares with the plastic circles inside?” my son asked while we cleaned out the basement.
“Those are called records. That’s how people listened to music before CDs.”
Puzzled, he inquired, “But how do you play them? They won’t fit into a CD player.”
“See that thing over there? That’s called a record player. It uses a needle to get the sounds off the records so you can hear it.”
“Yeah, right. I’m telling mom that you’re making up stories again…”
OK. Let’s pull those LP’s and 45′s out of the basement and make them into digital files that can be burned onto CD or just played on your computer.
First, you need a cable to connect your Stereo system to the computer.
The end going into the computer must be a “mini plug” (unless you have a really cool sound card with RCA jacks). This goes into the “line in” on the back of your computer. Usually this is the middle plug between the speaker output and the microphone mini plug jacks and might be colored light blue.
Depending on your setup and preference, the other end of the cable can either be two “RCA plugs” that go into the left and right Output on your stereo system/tape player…
…or the size plug that fits into your headphone jack (either another “mini plug” or a “phone plug”).
You could even use a portable tape player with the cable running from the headphone jack to the line input of your computer (two mini plugs).
Once this is set up, you’ll need good recording software. For my examples I will be using Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, though other programs out there use pretty much the same process.
Click the “Record” button. If you are using good recording software, you’ll see a window where you can set recording levels (mediocre software will just start recording).
Start your record or tape player and watch the meter to make sure you are getting a good recording level. Since songs tend to get louder in the middle, you may want to get your level from there.
Next you should give the file you’re about to create a name. WIth the program I’m using, I just click the folder icon in the bottom right corner of the Record window.
Here we have a decision to make: whether to record each song as an individual file, or each side of the album/tape as one track. A feature in Audio Cleaning Lab that I like is the ability to record the whole album, then go back and put in markers for each track that allow me to export each as a seperate Wave file. Not all recording software can do this, so you might need to do it manually.
With that out of the way, you can then start your music and click the Record button. Don’t worry if there is some silence before the music starts, this can be edited out later.
When the song / songs you are recording end, just click the Stop button. You can also make one track of just your favorite songs by clicking stop, going to the next song, and then Record again. (You could even do this to put both sides of an album on one track, but keep in mind file size—the longer the recording, the larger the file). Once you’re all done click Close.
You should see the wave for the music you just recorded. Depending on your software you have many options from here such as filters, noise reduction, effects, and equalization. You should read the Help files (just click F1) or the manual before proceeding (Magix Audio Cleaning Lab has great video tutorials). Once your modifications are done, you’ll want to Save or Export (again, depending on the software) the file as a WAV. There may be other options listed, but WAV files convert to CD with better quality.
You could even convert the files from WAV to mp3 later on (MusicMatch Jukebox will do this). From there you can create a playlist and record a mega mp3 disk of all your favorites from the vinyl age.