In this article, I’m going to not only walk you through the process of converting your record collection to your computer or MP3 device, but I’m also going to explain the many reasons why’d want to strongly consider going this route, and how embracing the digital revolution doesn’t harm the future of vinyl records, but helps to preserve it.
Below, please use our interactive guide to easily see a variety of helpful turntables that allow for you to transfer your vinyl records to MP3’s or CD’s:
|Audio-Technica AT-LP60USB||$||★★★★||Convert Vinyl to CD or MP3|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||★★★★||USB Direct Drive|
|Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB||$$||★★★★||USB Direct Drive/DJ Table|
|Boytone BT-17DJB-C||$||★★★||Built-In Speakers|
|Crosley CR6004A||$||★★★||Converts Vinyl to Digital|
|Ion Audio Classic LP||$||★★★||Converts Vinyl to Digital|
|Numark TTi USB||$$||★★★||Record Directly to Computer|
|Pioneer Pro DJ Black PLX-500||$$||★★★★||Convert Vinyl to MP3's|
|Stanton T.92 MKII USB||$$||★★★||Transfer vinyl to computer files|
|Stanton STR8.150 MKII||$$$||★★★||33 RPM, 45 RPM, and 78 RPM|
|TEAC TN-300SE||$$||★★★★||USB Audio Output, Phono Pre-Amp|
Vinyl or Digital? Or Both?
Now, by now it seems pretty firmly established that vinyl records are going to continue to have some sort of life in the digital age. It may change and adapt and morph but vinyl isn’t going to disappear altogether like the 8-track or the audio cassette. It’s just too great of a medium and nothing digital has been able to replicate the vinyl experience closely enough to convince us (well, at least us die-hards) that we should give up on the wax and completely embrace the modern age.
We’re not there yet.
When you break it down though, we are in a very interesting position. Our lives are built around mobility and flexibility but our vinyl hobby is decidedly not mobile or flexible.
It’s seemingly incongruous right? Any amount of examination will prove that incorrect though. The reason the vinyl vs. digital debate is irrelevant to me is that they are two different mediums and I need them both.
Vinyl is an important part of my life. I love everything about the ritual of moving records around, digging in the crates, cueing up the track, the whole thing.
I just love it.
I also love that when I’m spinning for a party or some event, it’s quite often through a decent sized sound system, which means I get to hear my records sound nice and loud.
On the other hand, I love my digital music just as much. I need digital music in my life, perhaps even more so than vinyl. In fact, I can think of 5 specific uses for my digital music collection:
- Ease of Use: Mp3s don’t gather dust. They don’t need shelf space. They don’t need regular cleaning or special care. They just “are,” and they are there when you need them. No questions asked.
- Back-Ups: Having something digitized means that you can easily back it up, whether that’s onto an external drive or onto a CD or whatever other method you devise. The point is that you could theoretically have dozens of back-ups of your favorite music at little to no cost. Can’t do that with a record.
- Mobility: I can listen to digital on the move. I’m at the grocery store? I’m jamming. At the gym? Totally jamming. In the car? You get the picture. Digital music can go anywhere. That’s a good thing.
- Legacy of the Music: If you own a rare cut or a rare release, it’s probably a good idea to get it digitized to make sure it’s preserved forever. You can still listen to it on vinyl but it’s like the last elephant on earth. You don’t want to lose the last elephant on earth and not have any back up.
- Coolness: It might sound antithetical, but having your rarest of rare LPs or 45s burned onto your iPod means you can turn folks onto your wicked good taste any time you want. Just being able to say, “I burned this off my old vinyl” will win you points in all the right places. You can’t really put a price tag on that.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling record players currently available on Amazon:
How to Convert a Vinyl Record to CD or Computer
There are a number of ways you can convert records to digital. None of them are particularly complicated or expensive. They are, however, all time consuming, so much so that it’s kind of a drag. There’s no getting around it, unless you can pay someone to digitize your records for you, it’s going to take a huge chunk of your time.
For the sake of discussion, I’m going to assume that you’re like me in that you want your vinyl to sound great in digital form but you don’t really want to spend a ton of money.
Because of this, I’m going to stick with the more reasonably priced solutions because, like everything vinyl and stereo related, you can literally spend as much money as you want on the equipment to get this job done.
Step 1) The Turntable
Most of you probably have a deck already. If so, then your first step is to connect your turntable to a device that will bring the signal to “line level.” Unless your turntable has a built in pre-amp, the signal output will not be enough to actually record with.
You need to boost that signal to a point where it can be captured properly. That point is called the “line level.” A stereo receiver or a pre-amp will do the trick. You simply hook your table’s output wires into the device and the signal will be handled.
If you do not have a turntable or if you’re just interested in a new piece of equipment, I would suggest buying something with a built-in USB interface. There are any number of options to choose from but I’m partial to the Audio–Technica LP120 for a few reasons.
Second the LP120 comes with a USB interface, which makes the digital conversion process so much easier.
Third, the Audio-Technica USB Turntable also features a built-in pre-amp, which means you can hook this sucker directly to your computer with no amp or stereo receiver in between.
That, my friends, is what I call easy-to-use.
Step 2) The Hookup
Once you have your turntable situation squared away you need to hook it up to your computer. This interface can occur either via USB or 1/8” or Firewire or whatever your turntable and your computer need in order to speak to each other.
If you’re signal is being run through a pre-amp or receiver, then you need to determine the outputs on that device and connect that to your computer.
Step 3) The Software
Before you can actually dump your music onto the computer, you will have to download and/or install a piece of audio conversion software. The most commonly accepted program for the job is called Audacity, and I like it for three main reasons.
First, it’s free. Yup, it’s free to download and use to your heart’s content. Go for it. Second, it’s not just a conversion program. Audacity also helps you clean up any mistakes or errors or pops or whatever bothersome noise that got into the recording. While it’s not as powerful as Pro-Tools or the like, Audacity does a helluva job cleaning up your scratched records.
Third, did I mention that it’s free?
Once you are all connected and your software is up and running, you are ready to begin the digitization process.
Step 4) Data Entry: The Long Part
Start your record, click the red start button in Audacity, and you are ready to go.
Things seem to be going swimmingly up to this point, and they are, but now begins the time-consuming portion of this assembly line. Audacity can recognize the breaks between songs and “cut” them apart to form separate files for each one. You must then go into each song file and update the title, the artist, the album title, etc. You have to do this for every song on every record.
If your album doesn’t have the traditional breaks between songs, thank you Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, then you have to go in and make the cuts yourself. Very time consuming if you are converting hundreds of albums. In fact, TechHive.com recommends simply buying digital versions of your favorite records rather than going through the time-consuming process of ripping them.
Once all your songs, or at least a big chunk of them, are ripped into Audacity, you have to export them as either MP3s or WAV files so a program like iTunes can recognize them. WAV files sound better but take up more room than MP3s. It’s up to you.
Once a song file has been exported into the proper format, you can simply drag it into iTunes or whatever music program you are using.
Voilá you are done.
Step 5) Enjoy!
Once you have your files properly labeled and exported, you can simply drag them into whatever music organization program you are working with. If you use iTunes, they will be properly sorted according to the data you entered and they will appear in your artist, song, or album list just like any other.
Congratulations, you can now listen to your Father’s copy of Mel Torme while on the jogging track at the Y.
Like so many things in this modern techno-wonderland we live in, digitizing old records is relatively simple and cheap. Unlike many digitizing processes though, there is simply no getting around the time-consuming nature of the task (in fact, it’s very similar to the time-consuming process of converting your CD collection to mini-discs—if you ever had a mini-disc player).
If you’re like me and your collection numbers in the thousands, the idea of running each and every one of those into a computer and then typing out the track information sounds beyond daunting. In fact, it sort of sounds horrifying and I am someone that love my records!
In the long run, however, it’s very much worth it (especially if you have a rare record that has only ever come out on vinyl and you’d like to either make a back-up or have a way to listen to the song while on the go) but like any major endeavor, the hardest part might simply be finding the time to do it.
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