How to copy vinyl records to CD
It is possible for you to transfer your record collection to CD with a bit of hard work. This tutorial is designed to provide a few tips to help you get the music from your turntable to computer and ready for burning to CD.
We don’t cover the complex area of audio restoration in which software is used to clean up noisy records.
The following equipment will be needed to produce a signal capable of driving a typical computer soundcard.
•A turntable fitted with a good quality cartridge and stylus. •A Pre-Amplifier with RIAA equalization. •Interconnecting cables.
Turntable / Cartridge
The turntable must be positioned on a solid level surface. The cartridge should be adjusted near the maximum recommended playing weight and the anti-skating adjustment checked. For best results you should use a magnetic type cartridge. If you change cartridge type make sure the cartridge matches the arm type. Crystal/ceramic cartridges are not recommended.
Carefully clean the stylus before playing each side of a record. Always clean from the back of the stylus to the front and use some alcohol if necessary.
Your stylus should be regularly checked for wear as a worn stylus will permanently damage your records. A worn stylus should be replaced.
Vinyl records must be as clean as possible so that surface dust does not build up on the stylus. Always use a fine fiber brush to remove dust before each playing.
If playing the record reveals high levels of background noise, or if the stylus becomes repeatedly clogged with dirt after playing, you may need to take additional steps. You could use a mixture of alcohol and distilled water to remove dust and dirt which is deep in the record grooves.
A pre-amplifier must be used to amplify the low level signal from the pickup to a suitable level for your computer’s soundcard. The pre-amplifier must provide RIAA equalization in order to ensure proper frequency response from the record.
Your system may integrate the pre- and power amplifiers into a single unit. In this case, it may be possible to utilize the tape output to send the signal to the soundcard.
If your pre-amplifier has an adjustable output level, use it to ensure that the signal to the soundcard is not too high. If the output level is fixed, then use the gain control in the Windows mixer applet.
Most soundcards come with a 3.5mm jack as the line input connector. However, most hi-fi equipment use either phono or DIN connectors. You will therefore need to fabricate or purchase a connecting lead which converts between the two connector types.
Make sure that all connectors are of good quality and that they all are seated correctly. Poorly fitting connectors can produce unwanted noise or hum.
Play The Record
Once you have all of the component equipment set-up, the next step is to play the record and save a digital copy on your computer. It is best to record one entire side of an album at a time. You will end up with two large digital files one for each side of the album. Your software should allow you to separate the music tracks prior to copying to CD.
You should make a test recording to your hard disk, to verify that the sound card is not being driven too hard and causing distortion. Listen carefully for hum during silent passages between song cuts. It is a good idea to actually burn a CD in order to verify that all is well. For example, this will help ensure that your left and right channels are not reversed.
Setting the Recording Level
It is important that the analogue signal is presented at appropriate amplitude if optimum results are to be achieved. You don’t want too low or too high a recording volume.
Sound recording software will provide a recording level meter which monitors the signal at the A/D converter input.
The sound level should be adjusted so that the loudest sections peak in the -3 to 0 areas of the bar graphs. However, some soundcards will distort at levels somewhat below this. In such cases, it is best to record at a lower level and then to digitally adjust the level after recording. (normalizing).
If your pre-amplifier has an output level control, you should use this to adjust recording levels. In this case, set the applet control to maximum and adjust the recording level using the control on your pre-amplifier.
The Windows applet is located at Start/All Programs/Accessories/Entertainment/Volume Control. Select Options/Properties and then “Adjust Volume For - Recording". Make sure that the ‘Line’ check box is checked. This will enable a volume control for the soundcard Line Input. Now check the ‘select’ check box under the ‘Line’ volume slider. If necessary, you can use the slider to set the recording level.
Next, open your recording program and adjust the recording level using the program’s level meters.
Vinyl Record Audio Restoration
Once you have successfully transferred recorded music from turntable to computer, you will probably want to use an audio restoration program to clean up the sound.
Most old vinyl records will have a certain amount of surface damage which will affect the sound. During playback, you may hear some surface noise and a number of click and pops. Particularly annoying are the repeating clicks which occur when the damage has spanned several adjacent record grooves and which consequently repeat once per revolution of the record.
Audio restoration software use digital filters to help remove the unwanted noise.
Or writing to CD. Once you have recorded all the required tracks from an LP and removed any clicks, pops, scratches or whatever, it is a straightforward task to write the tracks onto a blank CD using your CD writing software.
First decide if you want an audio CD or would rather make up an MP3 disc.
A normal CD will play in any domestic player, but an MP3 CD needs a player that can cope with this format. They are now more widely available than previously, most domestic DVD players - some in car CD players and some personal CD players will play MP3 discs. The big advantage with MP3 format is that of capacity. A normal audio disc can hold say 20 tracks of average length (80 minutes or thereabouts), while an MP3 format disc can hold between 10 and 20 albums !! This is done using data compression techniques which result in much reduced file sizes with very little lost sound quality.
Once you have decided between the two formats, you can use your CD writing software to assemble a collection of audio tracks to be burned to CD. Don't forget to separate the tracks before burning.