Having a large collection of vinyl records but worried about the limited space? Or perhaps, you want to listen to your favorite albums on iPods when you’re not at home. This calls for a mechanism that should make digital copies of your LPs. You can always digitize your favorite LPs into MP3 or CD format.
In this post, you will learn how to convert your LPs into digital format all by yourself. But before that, you need to understand the hardware and software requirements.
The Main Hardware
The fact that there is no catch-all method for vinyl digitizing can be confusing, and it depends more on the type of equipment you have.
- You may have a turntable that has a built-in pre-amp, or
- Your turntable may not have the pre-amp and you are going to need a receiver with phono pre-amp. A standalone pre-amp will also do the job.
The good thing is, modern-day turntables feature USB ports as well as built-in pre-amps which means half of the job is done. With new turntables, you’re all set to convert those old vinyl albums into digital formats.
It doesn’t mean turntable with USB port is the only way to digitize your LPs, but if you have one, you can save your time understanding and creating those complicated connections. If you don’t have a turntable yet, here are two sophisticated and relatively inexpensive turntable models you can use for listening and converting your vinyl albums.
Audio Technica AT-LP60USB Turntable looks quite simple, but it’s a great turntable with impressive features we discussed above. The turntable is compatible with Windows and Mac OS, and offers two speed option (33-1/3 rpm and 45 rpm).
Same is true Pro-Ject USB Elemental Turntable that features a DC motor for quite operation, a USB output and a gold plated RCA cable for flawless performance. This model is available on Amazon at around $250, and there are some websites where you can get it on less price.
Other than turntables, other hardware include:
- Cables for connecting devices. If the turntable does not have USB output, RCA cable, connector and RCA-to-3.5mm chord. You can buy it at $10 from local store or online.
- Next thing is computer with “line-in” port. There must be sufficient storage for digital files.
- If the receiver and your turntable lack phono pre-amp, you have to purchase one. The price of pre-amp ranges between $20 and $1500. So, decide on your own.
This is the second phase of the process. You need to find the right software for digitizing your vinyl albums. You have a wide range of premium software to choose from, such as Vinyl Studio and Pure Vinyl, but you can always start with a free software known as Audacity.
Audacity may not offer you the same luxury like the paid ones, but it can perform the basic operations, such as:
- Recording at 192 kHz and
- Exporting the resultant audio files to MP3, FLAC, WAV or AIFF format.
The software is compatible with both Windows and MAC platforms.
Vinyl Digitizing Steps
After gathering the required hardware and software, you’re almost ready to begin. Take a deep breath, pat your back then focus on these steps. However, make sure there shouldn’t be any vibrations and noise around the system as it will affect the conversion process.
Step – 1: Remove Dirt and Dust from the Vinyl
Before playing the vinyl record, you need to remove all the dirt and dust from its surface. If the record has not been used for a long time, it must be cleaned thoroughly with lint-free cloth and carbon fiber brush.
The reason is, any sort of imperfection in the medium will affect the sound quality during recording and digitizing.
Step – 2: Connect All the Devices
Connect all the necessary devices properly.
If your turntable has a USB output, connect the USB cable to the computer’s port.
If the turntable does not have USB output, you need to connect your turntable to the pre-amp or receiver. Now, plug 3.5mm RCA cable to the monitor output and relay it to the “Line-in” port of your PC or Mac
Step – 3: Start the Software
- Simply open Audacity software, or whatever software you have, on your PC or MAC.
- Choose the right input source from the preferences pane. (other software may have different panel setting).
- If you’re using Audacity, press “Edit” button and choose “System Preferences”
- In the Device pane, choose the “Recording” section.
- Choose “Line-In” option from the resulting drop down menu
You may be required to choose and confirm the input source within the main sound panel of your computer.
Step – 4: Start Recording
There is a red circular shaped button on top indicating Record sign. You can find it at the navigational toolbar at the top. Press the button to begin recording the sound from your chosen device. Make sure that the input levels should be adjusted time to time, in order to reduce distortion and clipping.
Step – 5: Be Patient
Now, depending upon your preferences, allow the entire side or the section of it to play through. Then click on the yellow square shape that represents the stop sign. It may be different in other software, but it normally exists besides the Record button.
Step – 6: Split Tracks
Most often, people tend to split the album into different tracks. To do that with Audacity software,
- Click-n-drag the cursor and highlight the duration of the track you want to split.
- Then click on the option named “Tracks” available on the toolbar.
- Choose “Add label At Selection” in the drop down menu
- Give proper name to the track
Step – 7: Export
After splitting the albums and naming all the tracks, follow these steps to export the media:
- Click on the “file” tab on the toolbar
- Select “Export multiple” option from the dropdown box
- Choose the file format according to your requirements
- Save location
- Fill in missing meta data in the pop up menu
- Click “Export” button available at the bottom right.
Step – 8: Get Ready to Enjoy
That’s a great job!
Now, you can convert as many LPs as you like. You can always share the music with your friends and impress them with your music appetite.