How To Transfer Vinyl To CD Or MP3

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Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to explain how to digitize your vinyl records and tapes through the use of VinylStudio. Computer software VinylStudio allows you to achieve end results that are of as good a quality as the original while making the whole task fast, simple and easy. There are a few things that you will need that you will most likely have. Of course, a PC or Mac is important. Keep the record or tape deck handy. You will also need a cable or maybe two. A phono pre-amp will also be used and is easily available. USB turntables and cassette decks can be used if you find them affordable but cheaper alternatives are also available.

You can’t play the vinyl you love in your car or hi-fi or on the computer. This guide will show you how to digitize them into CD’s that can then be used as usually done. Copying tracks onto your MP3 player or iPod will be a new avenue opened to you. You also will not need to burn a CD to play these tracks on your PC or Mac computers.

VinylStudio: What is it?

When you want to digitize your vinyl albums and tapes, VinylStudio is your best option. Its software devoted to digitizing. In this one software, you will have everything you need to record, split tracks, remove clicks, hisses and hums. You can also use it for CD burning and creation of MP3 files. Not only this, VinylStudio acts as a managing platform for your collection. As your recordings increase in number, you won’t have to wade through thousands of separate audio files. These can be managed through the software directly. When you can do all these things with one software program, it adds up to higher efficiency and ease of use. Not only will you be able to manage these tasks quickly but you will also be saving loads of space on your hard disk drive. The software is very result oriented while you also have great fun digitizing. The best thing is that it barely costs a few $$$ so it is a win-win situation for you!

All versions of VinylStudio can help digitize vinyl albums, tapes, 78s as well as singles with equal competence. The VinylStudio 4 comes with added support options for collections of singles as well as spoken word cassettes.

What does the process involve?

Every issue that you might face while using the software will be discusses in detail in the guide. The understandable problems of correctly connecting your recording gear to your computer as well as finally recording your music are dealt with here. You might also be wondering how you will be able to keep track of the various files that will be used easily. Another question arises pertaining to the conversion of these files into formats that are regularly used like CD’s, MP3 files that can be put to use in your iPods and MP3 players. VinylStudio has a clear and quick answer to all these queries.

The method through which VinylStudio deals with these problems is by creating a collection. The first step will be to record your music onto your computer. Once this is done, these recordings, album and track name basics, track boundaries as well as the outcome of any audio cleanup work that you may have undertaken (like filtering out any clicks and hiss) get recorded too. With all this information, VinylStudio has enough to burn CD’s which are similar to the ones you buy from music stores in that they contain proper track boundary information. It then allows you to copy tracks to your MP3 player and/or iPod.

The best thing is that most of these steps are automated so that you can rest easy. They can all be completed with the use of the tools provided within the program. For example, once you have defined your track breaks, you can initiate VinylStudio to burn a CD. Defining your track breaks will hardly take a few minutes. You are free to begin a whole new set of recordings or pretty much anything you want to do!

What computer specifications will you need?

VinylStudio is easy software and will run on any of the subsequent computers and operating systems:

  • A sensibly current PC which runs on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7
  • A Macintosh which uses OS X 10.4 (Tiger), 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Within these it can also be a G4 Power Mac or higher variations. Indeed any Intel based Mac will do great.

Disk Space: The most important thing you require is ample of disk space. Since every recorded album covers about 500 MB or 0.5 GB approximately, if you have an 80GB hard disk, you will only be able to store about 150 albums. There are of course alternatives if disk space is your problem area. You might think of getting rid of your recordings as soon as you burn them to a CD. It would be worth your while to leave them on the hard disk though as if you want to come back and change stuff on it or do something new like create MP3 files from the original split-up tracks, it will be time consuming to rip your burned CD’s again. Another option that is recommended only if you have little or no disk space to spare is to use VinylStudio to record direct into MP3 format.

Of course, an external USB hard drive is a viable option but there are a few things to take heed of if your machine is an older one as discussed later. Another way that might work very well if done right is having a second hard disk installed inside the existing computer.

Processor Speed and Memory: While the basic working of  VinylStudio doesn’t require much, if you intend to go a step further and use the audio cleanup tools, it will be a whole lot easier with a fast enough processor. Slower processors take more time and the efforts will be less enjoyable. A reasonably fast processor like 1 GHz or more would be the best bet. A fairly average amount of memory of the likes of 512 MB will do unless you are using a Windows Vista OS which will by default require at least 1 GB to even begin the task.

Sound Card: The sound card that is provided with most computers is almost always good enough to record any kind of audio. Depending on the condition of your sound card, you may have to make a few changes. To figure out if your sound card is working fine or if it is introducing mains hum or any other types of noise into the signal, all you have to do is first listen to the record playing on your hi-fi and then compare it to a test recording. Listen to the test recording wearing headphones and concentrate of the quieter passages to hear any intrusive hums or clicks. If you find bothersome background noise that you want to get rid of, you can buy an external unit. There are plenty of external units for affordable prices which do a reasonably good job. For example, the Griffin iMic is available for approximately USD $30 or UK £30. However, give whatever system you buy a look because the iMic in particular works well with other systems but is incompatible with the Windows Vista OS.

Another alternative is buying a USB turntable or cassette deck like the one explained in the guide. This will be a great option, particularly if you don’t have any personal audio equipment

Speakers: You need to hear what you are recording and a set of speakers or headphones is incumbent to do this! Headphones are a great option for more than one reason. You will have the privacy to play recordings as many times and as loud as you want without troubling other residents! They are also very useful when it comes to assessing the quality of the recordings that you have created.

CD Burner: once you are done with creating the recording and splitting the tracks, you will need a CD burner in your computer to burn CD’s. A DVD burner will also do the same job as it can also burn CD’s. Another thing you will need is a USB port which will be needed while downloading MP3 files to your iPod or MP3 player.

Using Your Laptop:

Technically speaking, you can use your laptop to run the software but you might face a few issues. One of these issues is that most laptops are equipped with a mono input jack. Another problem is that older laptop models have a whole lot less disk space to be had as compared to a similarly priced desktop PC or Mac. Laptops are not very easy to upgrade either.

Some laptops have a stereo input jack while others don’t. The best way to check if your laptop has one is to start VinylStudio and create a test recording. Listen to the recording on your headphones and compare it with the original record. You should be easily able to tell if your laptop has the ability to record stereo by listening to the test recording. If you feel the need to have added help, you can purchase an additional USB sound card like the Griffin iMic. Keep in mind that the unit you buy must have a Line in connector. There are several smashing pieces out there that only offer a Microphone unit and while they look great, it will not serve your purpose. Of course as said earlier, the Griffin iMic is not compatible with Windows Vista OS and you will have to look for something else then.

Budget permitting, your other options are a USB turntable or a USB phono-preamp like the NAD PP-3 which work well with all laptops.

USB Hard Drives: In today’s day and age, one of the easiest ways to increase existing disk space to a laptop and even a desktop machine is to purchase an external USB hard drive. These are relatively inexpensive now and can be useful additions to the process. However, if your desktop machine or laptop is an older version which only has a USB 1.1 port and no USB 2.0 port, the performance may not be up to the mark for you so you will need to have that checked first before buying a USB hard drive.

Audio Equipment Specifications and How to hook it all up?

One of the biggest hurdles for people using the software is how to set up their audio equipment and we offer various options that are covered in detail here.

What to do if you already have a turntable that is connected to your amplifier?

The job is almost done if you have a USB turntable or record deck already connected to your amplifier. This means that your amplifier has a phono input so that is one less to worry about! All you will now need is a cable so that you can connect the setup to your computer. This is easily done. New amplifier units have an integrated mini/midi while older amplifiers consist of separate units. All these will have a pair of female RCA connectors or phono sockets on the back. These will be clearly labeled as Rec Out, Tape Rec or something similar.

If you already have this amplifier, all you need to do is buy a cable that will fit in directly to the Line In connector on your computer. You will find the connector located on the back of your PC and is generally coded in blue. The cable that you need to buy is cheap and easily available. Depending on where you are in the US, you will need to ask for a 3.5mm Jack, 2 x Male RCA Phono Audio Cable or a 1/8″ jack. If you are in the UK, the best place to get one of these cables is at Maplin Electronics. Amazon also mail orders the Jack To RCA cables. The only thing to remember while buying these cables is that you need to get male RCA connectors or plugs and not the female ones. Also ensure that the cable is as long as you need it to be!

When you are ready to put the cable to use, check if there is a link connector on the back of your amplifier linking Play In and Rec Out. If there is one, simply remove it without any ado. Keep in mind that you need to press the Tape button on your amplifier or you will not be able to hear a thing once you start.

What do I do if I already have a turntable but not an amplifier? What if my amplifier is not a suitable one?

These are all legitimate concerns. So if you don’t have an amplifier, or your hi-fi has no appropriate output socket or it is not possible to locate it close enough to your computer, you will have to get something that is known as a phono preamp. A phono preamp serves many purposes. The primary one is that us boosts the signal that is emitted from the pick-up cartridge. This weak signal is bumped up to a level that is enough to work the sound card in your computer. Another purpose that is served is that a phono preamp equalizes the signal emitted and adds bass which would otherwise be missing. If your amplifier has an issue, you just cannot step around buying a phono preamp!

All you will need is a fairly basic phono preamp. This is quite cost friendly and inexpensive. There are some affordable ones priced at approximately $30. Maplin Electronics stocks the phono preamp as well if you are in the UK looking for one.

You will need the same cable that we explained in the last section to connect the phono preamp to your sound card. The signal starts from the turntable plug and leads straight into the input of the preamp. Don’t forget to connect the turntable’s ground wire to the ground terminal on the preamp, if one is available. This helps in minimizing mains hum pickup.

You will also readily find phono preamps equipped with a USB connector, like the NAD PP-3 in the market. As far as the budget goes, these may be a little costlier than the regular ones but they are a good buy if you have an inadequate sound card or just don’t want to bother about buying the cable you need to connect a conventional preamp. Another advantage is that when you buy a PP-3, you will receive a complimentary copy of the VinylStudio Lite with it! It has a few feature restrictions but is an attractive option!

No turntable? Or turntable that is built in to an integrated system?

There are solutions to every problem. If you do not have access to a turntable, or if the one you have is built in to an integrated system without external cabling, you will need to buy a new or second hand one at a cheaper price. The best thing to do will be to get a conventional turntable, some of which are available second hand. This alternative will give you the most value for your money. Once you have it just complete the steps above. One of the things to keep in mind for your convenience is to get a turntable that ceases at the end of the record or you will have to wait around while it works.

If this does not work too well for you, there are a few other alternatives that you can try. When budget is a major concern, you can opt for turntables that plug straight into a USB port. A few of these are now manufactured by Ion Audio and Numark. Connecting them to your computer is a cinch and is quickly done. The best one to go for is the Ion iTT USB 05 as it is the only one that stops at the end of a record. If the need arises, you can also find a 78 stylus for it.

Another way to get what you need is to get a turntable that has a built-in phono preamp. There are a few that are now easily available in the market. Options like the Denon DP-300F and the Audio Technica AT-PL50 are good buys. These TT’s have a cable that allows it to be connected straight to your computer’s sound card. However, phono preamps are available cheaply and this option may reduce your choice of TT’s.

How do I record 78’s?

Recording 78’s is also quite simple with the VinylStudio software but you will absolutely need an appropriate stylus. You can’t do without one as the grooves on a 78 happen to be wider as compared to those on modern albums. A regular stylus will simply bump along the bottom of the groove. The result will be positively horrid!  Since you are using VinylStudio, you will not need 78 speed setting on your turntable though. VinylStudio can convert the speed from 33 or 45 rpm. This will take a little longer while recording each side but is a small price to pay for the convenience.

Most 78 styli are easily found for all USB turntables that are presently available on the market. These will be the best buy for you. However, if that doesn’t work, then you might have to scour the Internet to find a suitable one for your TT. Check if you will need a replacement cartridge too.

Even if you are faced with high amounts of background noise, rest assured that VinylStudio’s audio cleanup tools like the hiss filter work beautifully with 78’s.

How do I digitize tapes?

With an orthodox separate cassette deck, you will not have to worry much as it in all probability has phono output connectors located at the back. This means that you can directly connect it to your sound card. While most reel-to-reel machines come equipped with such connectors, you may have one that has flying leads terminated with phono plugs. If this is the case then you will need the female equivalent of the cable. You can get this one from the same supply networks discussed above.

You may also try to simply record from a Walkman or personal cassette player by using a cable with a 3.5mm (1/8″) Jack plug attached to each end. This seems to work quite well! The sibilance in Dolby tapes can be corrected by using VinylStudio’s graphic equalizer, if the need arises.

Do I need any software?

Using a comprehensive solution like VinylStudio software negates the need for any other separate specialized software. VinylStudio is the one stop shop when it comes to digitizing your vinyl and tapes as it is geared to do just that! You won’t need separate audio editors, CD burning programs or any other software. While VinylStudio easily performs all the duties mentioned here, it also gives you added benefits. You can manage your collection and organise it as it increases. This will help you keep your hard disk relatively free and leave your disk space open for other tasks. It also has a functionality that allows you to import any previously created recordings.

There are a few major steps that need to be followed while digitizing an album using VinylStudio. You will be taken through them now.

How To Begin Recording?

The very first item on your list has to be to check that your signals are clear and making their way through. VinylStudio comes equipped with some means to do this. You can also play back everything that is being recorded through the use of your computer’s speakers as it is being recorded. This way will be able to hear what sounds are being recorded.

Second on the menu is the creation of a few test recordings. Save yourself from the cumbersome task of doing actual recording twice by doing a few test runs. Hear them wearing your headphones. The quiet passages will give you a fair idea as to whether the output is what you want. You can then invest the time and energy needed in getting the recordings done for real.

Before you start recording in earnest, find the right recording level. If it is too low, the level of background noise on your recordings will drastically increase and you will end up losing ‘dynamic range’. On the other hand, if it is too high, you might end up with ‘clipping’ which is quite awful. If you are unsure what is just right, you would rather be caught on the lower side of the spectrum than on the higher.

VinylStudio comes fully equipped with recording level indicators. These indicators flash red if there is an overload. A slider is also available to be set at a particular level. One small issue is that recording levels mostly differ slightly while recording different types of albums. Unfortunately there is no consistent way to set it without human intervention. The best way to get around this is to simply record similar albums like all rock, jazz or classical together at one time. As long as the level is not set too high, the one setting will work well for most albums of a type.

VinylStudio works very well with vinyl as it stops recording on its own when it reaches the end of an album. However, when using the software with tapes, this does not work quite so well. This can be remedies to a certain extent by setting a maximum recording time. As and when this time is completed, VinylStudio stops the recording. With this software you can also shorten recordings that are too long. This helps you recover some hard disk space in the process.

Contrary to what the name suggests, when you are track splitting in VinylStudio, you are not exactly splitting the track. What you are doing is defining a trackbreak between each track. The software uses the setting while burning CD’s or generating MP3 files. This will be well worth the time taken to specify track breaks as your CD’s will be made up of separate tracks. Entire LP sides can be difficult to manage and may not be what you need, particularly when copying individual tracks to your MP3 player or iPod.

It is very easy to define trackbreaks. All you have to do place markers in the gaps that exist between tracks. Simply adjust the markers with the mouse so to position them precisely. You might need a little time to get the process straight as precision counts. Once you are well versed with it, it will barely take a minute or two to set the trackbreaks for every album. Of course, live albums need a little more care and concentration. You will also have the added functionality of fading tracks in and out through the album.

VinylStudio connects with the Internet to find track listings. For the ones that are not found or are unavailable, you can insert them manually. There are many reasons why the availability of track names is quite important like (a) they help you find the way round the recording particularly when using the audio cleanup tools and (b) when creating MP3 files for your iPod or MP3 player, this information is added as an ID3 tag by VinylStudio so that the track and album titles are displayed on the player’s panel. This step can be skipped if you only intend to burn audio CD’s.

Similar to other vinyl-to-CD programs, VinylStudio can inspect for trackbreaks on its own. This must sound fantastic but there are many times when the result is not quite stellar, depending on the nature of the music. It is better to enter track times manually or simply find them online. This way VinylStudio places trackbreaks in relatively the right place and if you need any adjustments done, you can finish up easily to get just the right outcome.

What are the Audio Cleanup Tools?

VinylStudio is comprehensive software solution that allows for a stunning set of useful audio cleanup tools. These tools are highly successful on vinyl albums, tapes and 78’s. While no special effects like reverbs are offered, you can rest easy knowing that are no hidden issues either.

One probable issue might be too important to ignore and that is disk space usage. VinylStudio uses an unusual way to attack this problem. Since audio files are bulky, it is your interest to keep away from making redundant copies of them. However, you also do not want to overwrite your initial recordings with the new version just in case you need to go back to the original one at a later date. VinylStudio is a great option because it offers you the very best option in both situations. You can keep your original recordings as they are while the new changes can be applied every time you need to apply them like when burning a CD. What this does is it keeps the hard disk space usage low. Every recorded album takes almost 0.5 GB of space. Your original recordings are also safe as and when you need them!

Removal of Click & Scratch from vinyl albums, 78’s and more

Most records even if they are in great condition have some sort of distorting surface noise. This tool is great to use for many vinyl recordings, particularly classical music. Of course the best thing for your vinyl is cleaning before your record them. Going the extra mile will stand you in good stead as the recording will be as good or as bad as the condition of the vinyl before you start out is.

The technicalities of declicking a recording are straightforward – all you have to do is specify  the settings you need in VinylStudio, start a scan that will barely take about a half a minute for a regular LP side on a modern PC or Mac and then hear what you have scanned. You can do the same section or another one with different settings. VinylStudio comes equipped with a multi-level undo/redo facility.

Automatic scanning works well in the case of most recordings, but VinylStudio has plenty of additional features for those who want to be extra precise. Harsh clicks that were not found or only eradicated to a degree by scanning can be manually worked on and repaired. The damaged parts of a longer period can be ‘patched’. Both these processes are semi-manual. This means that while you have to be the one to identify and locate the damaged section, VinylStudio initiates and completes a repair automatically. This repair can greatly help a badly damaged recording that you are eager to breathe new life into.

It is important to understand that declicking software is not a foolproof one as there is no infallible method of distinguishing clicks from some other types of music. The two main difficulties faced are dulling of certain percussion sounds and even worse, distortion of rasping musical sounds like those of the saxophones, brass and other synthesizers. VinylStudio’s declicker works hard to protect sounds like these. There is a list of user-friendly settings that are easy to understand and easier to undertake. This makes it more usable for a wider variety of people. There is also an ‘undo’ ability which means that you can dabble with the recording without any fear of ruining it as you can always revert back to the original. As per our knowledge, no other program has an undo feature in it.

Reduction of Hiss best for tapes and 78’s

By its very nature the process of hiss reduction works by removing a ‘noise fingerprint’ from the original. In most cases this is from a part of the recording that has no music playing. While this works well, if the vinyl recordings are in a good state, hiss reduction is not usually needed and is not suggested.

It is however, a good option for tapes like cassette tapes as well as elderly vinyl, shellac or cardboard recordings. Hiss reduction can ensure that a recording becomes more pleasurable to listen to as long as you don’t go overboard with it. It works best when you reduce the distortion of warbling or add a metallic timbre to the sound that hiss reduction can bring in. just don’t try remove every last iota of hiss and you should get outstanding results.

VinylStudio’s hiss filter operates in ‘real time’, so if you are listening to a quiet course of music, you can tug the settings till you get the result that you are looking for. It will also track your filter settings for every recording. This way you can experiment all you want and if you change your mind about something later, you can revert back to the older version.

Using the Hum Filter Only When Needed

The hum filter barely affects the sound quality but you can use it if you need it. To understand whether or not you need it, listen to a quiet section of music like the silence between two tracks. In this passage if you can hear a low pitched humming or buzzing sound, you can try using the hum filter for a good effect. Filtering is a function that uses real time so you will hear the effect immediately.

Keep in mind that if the recording has both a hum and a hiss, you need to be extra careful and turn the hum filter on. If you don’t, the hiss filter might debase the bass notes.

Using the Rumble Filter – Recommended Action for All Vinyl Recordings & 78’s

Rumble can be defined as a low frequency vibration that is brought into play, generally, from the turntable bearings. Rumble has the potential to spoil loudspeakers when experienced at high volume settings. The issue with rumble is that it can’t be heard! The filter will have negligible effect on the sound quality of the recording, so it is a precaution that you might as well take.

Using the Graphic Equalizer -Particularly for tapes and 78’s

Most graphic equalizers tend to be a little complicated. VinylStudio’s graphic equalizer is as complex or flexible as those in a specialized audio editor. However, it is much easier to use! It also manages to solve the problems that are set before it quite easily. You will have the functionality of 10 frequency bands with which you can either perk up a dull-sounding recording that was created from a cassette tape. You will also be able to fiddle with a recording’s tonal balance till it meets your needs. Applied in real time, like the other filters, you can also use this one selectively on singular tracks or even particular sections of any given track as per your convenience.

While recording 78s at 33 or 45 rpm, chances are that you will end up with a little less bass. If this is a problem, use the graphic equalizer to rectify it. All you have to do is adjust the sliders till you get the sound results you want. Words of caution are don’t go for the overkill and if the slider indicators flash red for overload, reduce the preamp slider a bit.

Some brave souls also try to record their vinyl albums at 45 rpm instead of 33. While this isn’t recommended as chances are high that you will lose a little treble while doing this, you can go on to use a graphic equalizer later to tweak the sound a bit.

CD Burning

One of the best benefits of using out-and-out digitizing software is that burning of CDs becomes a lot simpler. You don’t have to use an individual CD-burning program like Nero. Within Nero, you will be saved the hassle of generating files for every track first, finding them in Nero, and then creating a CD image of the right kind, so on and so forth. You will also be able to easily create mix and match CD’s which include the best of all your favorite albums!

VinylStudio can fashion both audio CDs capable of being played in any player and MP3 CD’s containing individual MP3 files and will only play in CD players that are exclusively intended to play them. Car journeys will never be boring! You can easily work in approximately 150 3-minute tracks on an MP3 CD! All the files are complete with album artist, album title and track title information which will be displayed on most players’ panels.

VinylStudio’s version 4 also allows for the export of CD track listings onto a file that most CD-cover editors can identify. Nero Cover Designer also works well with them. This way you don’t need to type the track names in all over again.

Copying Of Tracks To iPods or MP3 players

With VinylStudio, generation of MP3 files from all of your recorded albums is easy on demand! It will also be a cinch to copy them onto your player. The files will be tagged with album and track information, and almost all players will show this information on their display panel.  These tracks can also be played any computer with the use of Windows Media Player or iTunes.

VinylStudio output has the best sound quality even for the minutest file size because it uses the VBR or variable bit rate type of encoding. Since the generation of MP3 files takes plenty of power from the CPU, a fast processor can be a great help in this process!

Can this be done for Free?

If you are ready to put in plenty of hard work and then settle for less than good results, it can be done for free. Plenty of people on forums seem to be recommending a freeware called Audacity though their reasons are suspect.  Audacity happens to be a very capable audio editor, but it is clearly not well equipped when it comes to digitizing records and tapes. You have to copy each track first to an individual file manually. Only then can you start burning them to CD in another program. Also, if you need to move tracks onto your MP3 player, you will have to copy the tracks out all over again, this time in MP3 format. It’s all very mind-numbing and lengthy. With a long learning curve, it really isn’t a recommended option irrespective of which other software you chose.

Conclusion

This has been plenty of information that needs to be digested but once you start out, it will seem much simpler! Hopefully, this guide will help you through any tough spots!

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