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Record Music from a Vinyl Record to Your Computer - LP to MP3/CD/storage



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Climb onboard the way back machine to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when analog LP vinyl records were the media of choice for music in the home. The Beatles, Rolling Stones and all the rock bands of the time started out on vinyl records.



LP vinyl record from the 1960s The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Album

The vinyl LP record played at 33 1/3 RPM on a turntable. Turntables are still available today. You might find some vintage turntables on EBay.com that still work or even at a local thrift shop or classified ad online. Pioneer was one of the more dominant brands. Some folks have kept their turntables over the years and are now thinking about preserving those oldies but goodies on CD or digitizing their songs for an iPod, iPhone or other portable digital music player.

Well, to get the music from LP record to digital audio, you need to think about which approach is best for you depending on what gear you already have and what gear you may need to buy to get the job done. There are several ways to go about the task.

1. You can buy a modern USB Turntable that connects to your computer/laptop's USB port.
2. You can use a vintage turntable and a vintage amp/receiver with a phono input connected to a PC sound card Line Input.
3. You can use a vintage turntable and a modern audio/video receiver (many of which do not have a PHONO input) with a Phono Pre-Amp.
4. You can use a vintage turntable with an Audio adapter which has a USB connector for PC or laptop.
 



Yes, those old records can be sent over to your laptop or PC and kept on disk and backed up for history. What do you need to do that?

You need some RCA audio cables, your computer, recording software, such as Audacity, and a component to connect the turntable to the computer. This component can be either a vintage stereo amplifier, a stereo receiver, a phono pre-amp box or a more modern audio/video receiver with a PHONO input. If you want to record to your laptop, you may also need a USB audio adapter box because many laptops do not have a line-in port. You could record using the mic input but you will not be pleased with the results. USB audio adapters will take the RCA input and connect to the laptop using a USB connector. Cost should be around $40.






Things You'll Need

1) Your LP record albums,
2) a quality stereo turntable with a working cartridge,
3) a stereo phono preamp (unless you have a receiver with one),
4) a pair of RCA audio cables,
5) a computer (PC or Mac) with sufficient hard drive space,
6) a software application that can record audio directly to the hard disk in the computer,
7) a hardware interface (soundcard),
8) a software application that can record digital audio files to the CD burner/drive,
9) some blank digital media (CD-R).

Anyone who has bought a personal computer in the last five years already has a soundcard and most likely has software to burn a CD. You also most likely have enough free disk space to hold your recordings. Blank CD-R discs are available at many stores or online. Basically the things you may need to get are a turntable if you did not keep your old one, software to capture the audio and save it on disk, audio cables to connect the components and a phono pre-amp or stereo receiver with phono input.

Some things to consider and tips:

You might want to clean your records so they will sound their best for the recording transfer process. Invest in a record cleaner such as the Discwasher 1006 ($19) or the Radio Shack 42-117 Pro Record Cleaner ($12).

If the turntable speed is not what it should be, try replacing the drive belt if it is a belt-drive turntable. Consider buying a new turntable. Turntables

If the turntable's phono cartridge is not up to par, it is best to replace it with a new one to achieve the best results.
Phono Cartridges
www.needledoctor.com
Make sure the cartridge is properly aligned and that the tone arm counter-weight is set correctly for proper tracking on the vinyl record.

NeedleDoctor Contact: Toll Free 800-229-0644
Local 612-378-0543
Fax 612-378-9024

Address:
Needle Doctor
419 14th Ave S.E.
Mpls, MN 55414
USA


With a turntable, the output can’t be plugged directly into the line level input of another stereo device because the signal levels are not strong enough. Most turntable cartridges put out a signal on the order of just a couple of milliVolts (mV). The turntable also can’t just be plugged directly into the mic inputs on a recorder or computer, even though they are setup to handle a signal with an amplitude of only a few milliVolts.

The reason is that when LP vinyl records are recorded, they have a special equalization curve called the RIAA EQ curve, applied to the signal. (The RIAA is the Record Industry Association of America.) This special EQ curve is used to limit low frequencies and highlite high frequencies. Then when the LP disk is played back, the opposite EQ curve is applied to flatten the signal out again (i.e., highlite the low frequencies and reduce the high frequencies). This special EQ resides in the phono preamplifier. Many receivers and amps do not have a phono preamp built in. Most vintage stereo amps and receivers from the 1960s and 1970s do have a pre-amp built-in. In 2010 you are able to find many more current audio/video receivers with a PHONO input available. If you have one of these receivers, you do not need a phono pre-amp, you can just use the receiver.

Here are some stereo Phono Pre-Amps you can buy:
Call toll-free MCM electronics 1-888-235-4692
MCM electronics Stereo Phono Preamplifier $20



Part #: 40-630
# Allows use of turntables with magnetic cartridges, with computers sound card input
# Boosts low level turntable signal to line level
# RCA type female input and output connections
# Great when transferring LPs to digital media
# Frequency response: 30Hz~20KHz
# Input level: 6mV
# Output level: 500mV
# SN ratio: >60dB
# Requires 117VAC, 60Hz
# Separately available cable (#24-6270) converts output connection to 3.5mm male plug for connection to computer

www.bswusa.com
Rolls VP29 stereo phono pre-amp
Rolls Corporation VP29
Stereo Phono Preamp $54.95

If you do need a phono pre-amp device look at MCM Electronics P/N 40-630 for $20.95. Call them at 1-800-543-4330 or go to www.mcmelectronics.com. Another low-cost phono preamp is the Rolls VP29 for about $55. You can find it at several places, including www.bswusa.com.

Generally, most turntables come with their own set of stereo cables, and you will connect these to the phono preamp inputs. If there is a ground wire coming from the turntable, connect it to the ground screw on the phono preamp (if there is one) or connect it under a chassis screw on the phono preamp.

The sound card you have in your computer dictates what type of cable you need to go from the phone preamp outputs to the sound card input jack(s). Look at the sound card audio input jack(s). It may be a stereo 3.5mm jack or it may be a pair of RCA jacks. Buy a set of cables that will allow you to connect from the phono preamp RCA output jacks to the input jack(s) on the sound card. Make sure you use the Line In jack on the sound card, not the Mic In jack.

The computer you use can be a PC or Mac.

TIP: Every stereo minute of uncompressed digital audio (WAV file format) requires 10MB, so 1 hour of digital audio will take up 600MB on your hard disk drive.

The software application you use is a matter of choice and must be compatible with the computer platform (PC or Mac) you have. If you bought a custom sound card for your computer, they usually come bundled with some sort of sound recording program that will allow you to record external audio from the Line In jacks and digitize it to your hard drive. If you don’t have a sound recording application on your computer, you can get one from the Internet.

Hook up all the connections, fire up the computer, launch the sound recording software application, put on an album and monitor it with your computer speakers. If you are getting hum, make sure that all the grounds are connected and that all the audio cables are seated properly in their jacks.

If the recording software you are using also has an editor associated with it, you can record the whole album side and then split the tracks up into separate audio files later with the editor. This is quite a bit less tedious than recording one album track at a time and then creating a digital audio file of just that one track, however it can be done this way.

Continue recording until you have converted the whole analog album into one or more digital audio files. Once you have converted your album tracks into WAV (on a PC) or AIFF (on a Mac) uncompressed digital audio files, then you can burn an audio CD-R and/or you can convert those uncompressed audio files to the MP3 compressed audio format.

To burn an audio CD-R, you will need a CD-R or CD/RW drive in your computer and the software that came bundled with it to perform the actual creation of the audio CD-R. Note that this CD Burning software is not the same as the Sound Recording software you initially used to record the analog audio into your computer.

  • (1) "Y" stereo adapter cable with a pair of RCA-style channel connectors (one is usually red, the other white) at one end, and a single line-in, 1/8-inch (3.5 millimeter) mini-connector at the other. This is also called a 3.5mm Stereo to RCA Dual Audio Cable. It can be purchased at Walmart for about $5. The 3.5mm "mini" end plugs into the computer's sound card Line-IN jack (usually blue) and the other end, the two RCA connectors, plug into the stereo jacks on the stereo receiver or phono-preamp box.



    - OR -

    (1) A regular stereo hook-up cable with RCA connectors at both ends and (2) a 3.5mm mini-connector adapter.

    or

    (1) A regular stereo hook-up cable with RCA connectors at both ends and (1) RCA-to-USB audio interface (converter). With this setup you connect the RCA cable to the converter, which has a USB plug to connect to your computer's USB port.

    or

    (1) double-ended 3.5mm stereo cable; (also available at most electronics stores)


  • A PC with a sound card that has a line-in jack. Almost all computers have this device, except for some laptop computers that do not have a line-in jack. In this case, you may need to use the USB interface. If your PC or laptop does not have a line-in, you may also be able to use the microphone-in port. Just make sure that the volume setting is not too high: start with the lowest setting and raise it little by little until you are able to record a low-volume sound.


  • Sound recording software such as Audacity.
  • A turntable with:

    (1) audio RCA output (line-out)


You can connect using various components depending on which way you want to hookup. If you have a stereo amplifier or stereo receiver or an audio/video receiver with a PHONO input, then you do not need a Phono-Preamp. If you have none of these components, then you will need a Phono-Preamp.

You also need some cables to connect up components and you also need some software to record on the computer. There are also today some other options such as a USB turntable which connects to the computer with a USB hookup. These devices are available for around $150. One newer turntable has a built-in iPod port so you can go from vinyl to iPod.

To connect a component type (unamplified) turntable, WITHOUT A RECEIVER, to your PC sound card, you will need a separate phono preamp . There are two reasons for this:

1. Low output - Turntable Phono cartridges put out a much weaker signal - 6 millivolts or so - than the other standard components of a stereo system do, which typically put out 300 to 500 milli-volts or more. A sound card line-in is simply not matched for the low output of phono cartridges. That is why you have special phono only inputs on your receiver.

2. Equalization - this is the process of weakening (compressing) the low frequencies and strengthing (stretching) the higher frequencies. This is how vinyl records are recorded and what makes it possible to squeeze the wide range of sound within the narrow grooves of a record. If that signal were to be played back directly, you would have a totally unnatural sound - screechy highs and no bass. To be played back correctly, the sound has to be restored to it's normal state during playback - the reverse of equalization has to occur - and that is the purpose of a phono pre-amp which fixes the problem by boosting the weak signal and "flattening" the frequency response.

You can buy a simple phono preamp for 30 to 50 dollars.
See www.phonopreamps.com


DJPRE II: Phono Preamp
ART DJ PRE II for $49
Phono Preamp with RIAA EQ in a Rugged Metal Case.

The ART DJPRE II solves the three basic problems common to vinyl records:

* 1. It is physically impossible to press them with ridges that end up allowing low frequencies to come out at the same reproduction level as mid and high frequencies. Bass compensation is therefore needed during playback.
* 2. Records produce a certain amount of hiss, which is covered up in post-production by boosting the gain of the high frequencies before pressing. Counter-EQing during playback compensates for this.
* 3. Magnetic cartridges produce a weak signal, which must be boosted to match the rest of the amplification, and this too is done during playback.

The DJ PRE II is a high quality Phono preamp designed for your home and studio. It acts as an interface between your turntable and your audio recording system. The analog input capacitance can be switched between 100pf and 200pf to optimize your phono cartridge response. A switchable low cut filter removes turntable rumble while leaving the audio pristine. The front gain trim control and signal/clip LED allow you to optimize the preamps gain for a wide range of input sources. The built-in low noise Phono preamp circuitry is highly accurate and precisely conforms to the RIAA standard. The Line Output jacks are low impedance and can work with any sound card. Housed in an all aluminum black anodized case, the DJ PRE II can be powered by a wide variety of external supplies. If you need to amplify and EQ your vinyl records to interface with your audio workstation, sound card, or main monitor system, the DJ PRE II gives you flawless audio reproduction in a rugged and reliable package. Has left and right RCA audio inputs and left and right RCA audio outputs.

APPLIED RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY
Email: support@artproaudio.com • www.artproaudio.com




Diagram connect PC to Turntable

Once your turntable is connected to the preamp's input jacks, you can connect it to your sound card from the OUT jacks like you would another unamplified component, such as a tape deck (using the Y-adapter cable with rca plugs on one end and a stereo mini plug on the other). You can also use it on an amp that doesn't have phono inputs.


Diagram PC to Stereo Receiver to Turntable




STEREO RECEIVER rear panel showing RCA audio jacks with PHONO input for Turntable


Diagram - Turntable to Laptop using Audio Adapter with USB



The audio input connection on your computer:

The audio input connection on a desktop computer is typically a 1/8" mini-jack on the back panel, labeled Line-In, usually marked with a light blue color, close to where the speakers are connected to a similar type of jack (usually marked with a green color). The Line-In connection is sometimes marked with the symbol Line-In symbol where the arrow points inwards, which is not to be confused with the speaker output marked with the symbol Speaker symbol where the arrow points outwards.

To record from the connected audio equipment, you typically select the sound source named Line-In in the Sound Recorder:
Sound source selection

* Laptop or notebook computers

Laptop

Many laptops do not have a LINE IN jack. The solution for this is to get an external sound card.
See this link for more information on external sound card for laptop. These boxes have all the jacks you need. Cost is around $30 or so. Amazon.com should have them.

Most laptop or notebook computers only have one 1/8" mini-jack input connection, marked Mic or Microphone, usually marked with a red/pink color, close to where a headphone can be connected to a similar type of jack (usually marked with a green color).

To record from the connected audio equipment, you typically select the sound source named Mic or Microphone in the Sound Recorder:
Sound source selection

If your laptop or notebook (or its docking station) has a blue colored Line-In connection as well, then it is preferable to connect the audio equipment to that connection. In that case you typically select the sound source named Line-In in the Sound Recorder software.

The plug that goes into the input connection of the computer, has to be a stereo 1/8" mini-plug, similar to the one for the computer speakers:

Stereo plug
Note that the stereo mini-plug has two black plastic rings at the tip and this is not to be confused with a mono plug that has only one black plastic ring at the tip:

Mono plug
Using a mono plug to connect the audio equipment to the computer, typically results in sound coming in on the left channel only.

The audio output connection on the audio equipment
What the audio output connection type on the audio equipment is, depends on the kind and model. It is usually marked Play-Out, Line-Out, Audio-Out or something in similar wording (Out being the keyword here):

* RCA connectors
This type of connector is most times found on modern audio equipment, like on this JVC cassette deck:

* Mini-jack connectors This type of connector is most times found on portable players.

Connecting a traditional turntable (vinyl record player)

To record from vinyl records, you will need a (pre-)amplifier connected in between the turntable and the computer. The signal strength of the turntable output is too weak to be connected to the computer directly and besides that, the pre-amplifier applies so called RIAA correction on the signal.

If your home audio set does not have a pre-amplifier built-in, or if it has no Rec-Out, Line-Out or Audio-Out output, then you can buy a separate turntable pre-amplifier.

Your home audio set will have a pre-amp built-in, if it has a Phono input connection to connect the turntable to and a Rec-Out output connection to connect to the computer.

Turntable

The Rec-Out connection on the amplifier must be connected to the computer. This is the same connection that is usually connected to a cassette or tape recorder to record on tape the traditional way.

It is especially important to select the right type of cartridge (pick-up element) that is installed on the turntable, with the phono selector switch on the amplifier. Consult the manual of the turntable for the right type, for example MM (Moving Magnet) or MC (Moving Coil). Selecting the wrong one will influence the sound quality and the Click and Crackle filters in the Sound Editor may not be able to filter clicks or scratches in recordings.

Do not forget to also connect the ground-wire from the turntable to the amplifier. This eliminates hum, picked up by the sensitive pick-up element on the turntable.

What if I only have headphones or speaker outputs?

Some audio sets like boom boxes don't have audio output connectors other than for headphones or speakers. The signal strength of these outputs is most times higher than desired for the input on your computer and their signal strengths depend on the volume control setting for that output. Special care is therefore required to connect such outputs to your computer. Before you connect the headphones or speaker output to the computer, make sure to set the volume control on the audio equipment at zero first!

* Headphones output connection
If your audio set has a headphones output connector, then it is preferred to use that one as opposed to the speaker connections. You will have to experiment with the volume control level for the headphones connection, to see which level results in the best recording quality. The headphones volume control on the player, in combination with the recording volume control in the Sound Recorder, determine the end-result.

As a rule of thumb the recording level peak meters in the Sound Recorder should hover in the yellow zone near the top, during the loudest fragments. To achieve this, set the volume control in the Sound Recorder window at approximately 75% of the full scale. Then playback something loud and slowly increase the volume control of the headphones output, until the recording level peak meters reach the yellow zone. Setting the headphones output volume too high will result in distorted sound, no matter how low you set the volume control in the Sound Recorder window.

RCA Stereo To 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Jack Adapter.

If you're planning to record your LPs onto Recordable CDs on your computer, this is the adapter you need. Many other adapters are for a 1/8 in. mini-jack, which is .013 inches too small. A 1/8 in. jack will fit, but the electrical contact will not be solid, and it will jiggle and likely fall out. This is a true 3.5 mm mini-jack, the correct size for your computer sound card. To record an LP onto a computer will require a phono-stage circuit with RIAA equalization. Going directly from the cartridge to the soundcard will not produce a correct signal.

Step by step to record vinyl records to Computer:

1. Make sure all cable connections are completed, including turntable to stereo pre-amp or stereo receiver and then to computer's sound card line input.
2. Start up recording software on computer and select new/blank file to accept sound data.
3. Start RECORDING process on computer. Usually hit record "button" on graphics interface.
4. Play record on turntable. (Select songs you want as you go along or just entire record).
5. Adjust volume as needed.
6. Stop recording on computer by pressing STOP "button" in software program.
7. SAVE as MP3 or WAV file to disk.

If you need to edit the music file, open file, edit, save, close file.
Play back music with appropriate software such as Windows Media Player.
To burn a CD of your music or transfer to an iPod, follow instructions for the iPod synch up process and/or use CD burning software on your computer.

Burn a CD in Windows Media Player
You can easily create your own customized CDs using Windows Media Player.

Click the Burn tab, click the arrow below the Burn tab, and then click the type of CD you want to burn (audio or data).

Insert a blank CD-R or CD-RW disc into the CD burner. Or, insert a CD-RW disc that has files on it, and erase the contents of the disc by right-clicking the drive in the Navigation pane and then clicking Erase disc. (Erasing is required before you can burn to the disc again.)

If you have multiple CD burners and the burner you want to use is not the one selected, choose the one you want to use by clicking the Next Drive link in the List pane above the playlist.

Note that you can only burn CDs to one CD burner at a time.
To add albums or files from your Player library, drag them from the Details pane to the List pane to create a list of files to burn.

If you need to clear the List pane before beginning to build your burn list, click the Clear List pane button.

For audio CDs, the Player typically calculates how many minutes and seconds of empty space remain on the disc after each song is added to the burn list. However, occasionally the Player may not be able to detect the duration of songs in advance, which means it may not be able to accurately calculate how many songs can fit on a CD. If this occurs, playing the songs on the burn list first may help the Player to determine the correct duration of the songs.

To add a file that is on your computer but not in your library, right-click the file and then click Add to Burn List, or drag the file to the List pane. If you have selected more files than can fit on one CD, the Player can burn all of the files to multiple CDs. Or you can try switching to burning the files to a data CD to fit more files on the CD (but note that many CD players cannot play music burned to a data CD). If you only want to burn one CD in this session, remove files from the list until they all fit on one CD. To do so, right-click the file you want to remove, and then click Remove from List. Note that removing files from the burn list will not delete the affected files from the library.

For an audio CD, it is possible that the last song will not fit even if the total time exactly matches the CD length, because the Player inserts two seconds between songs when burning. In the list, drag files up or down to arrange them in the order you want them to appear on the CD. If you have chosen to burn more than one CD at once, make sure that the files will be burned to the CD you want.

Click Start Burn.

If you are burning multiple CDs, insert a blank CD when the first one has finished burning, and then click Start Burn. Repeat this step until you have finished burning all of the CDs.

As the CD is burned, you can check its progress in the burn list. Burning a CD will take some time.

It is recommended that you do not try to perform any other actions on the computer while burning a CD. For example, playback and recording may be affected if you try to play music from the library while burning a CD.







Installing recording and editing software on your computer.

The standard sound recorder application that comes with most PCs is not the best way to record an LP to your hard drive. There are, however, a variety of programs that record audio, ranging from freeware to very expensive professional editing software. Some of these obviously work better than others, and some have more features, but in general you want a program that writes files directly to the hard drive and that enables you to do some minor editing of the recorded files.

One example that works fairly well is audacity.sourceforge.net AUDACITY can be used free. Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Wavepad is another example of software for recording and editing.


Larger image

AUDACITY screen shot - The "buttons" to control recording and playback are on top. PLAY is the green arrow to the right, then RECORD, then PAUSE, the blue double bar, then STOP, the gold square.

Saving the file you created with your recording software:

Audio files can be created in the native PC sound file type: WAV format or MP3, a compressed format. You can play it with almost any audio software like Windows Media Player. WAV files are about 10 times larger than the same song in MP3 format. Your sound recording software may be able to select which file format to save the recording in or you may need to get additional software. You can also get conversion software for copying from WAV to MP3.

  • Do not hook up your computer sound card to a speaker output on your stereo receiver. The signal from a speaker output is likely too powerful, and it could cause serious damage to the sound card.
  • Power down either the computer and/or the audio source before the final connection. The intial surge can damage circuits with some combinations of sound card and audio source. Sound cards are especially sensitive to this damage.



See also:

How to hookup stereo
PC to Stereo hookup - how to play computer thru sound system
Audio cassette to computer hookup - how to record audio cassettes to PC
PC stereo hookup
Windows Sound Recorder




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