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Recording those old LPs! : 21 October 2003

I have between 300 & 400 LPs that I was about to throw out or give away; I mean who the hell listens to LPs anymore? A suggestion was made that I transfer the "good ones" onto CD before doing either.

So here we are, and here's what I've done so far.


DAK Turntable & Mixer

DePopper

I purchased a turntable and mixer combo from Dak2000. The hand that is shown in the photo was not included; at least, it wasn't with mine. This is a very nice system, not too expensive, and includes almost everything you need to transfer LPs to WAVs.

Installation is simple: Connect the turntable to the mixer; connect the mixer to Line-In on your sound card with the included cable. Make sure Line-In is not muted and play an LP. (Do NOT connect to MIC as your sound will be distorted and will probably overdrive the mixer, or MIC.) If everything is Ok, you will hear the LP sound through the system speakers.

The included eBook tutorial (well, sort of included, you have to remember to download it when you purchase the system) contains installation instructions and recommends recording your LPs with MusicMatch1. Also included in the package is DePopper which is a utility for removing clips and pops, etc. from WAVs.

The first thing you will find, after setup is completed and you've made your first recording, is that there is no easy way to record tracks individually. There are settings in MusicMatch that are supposed to allow it but I haven't been able get them to work; maybe I'm too impatient! I decided that while I liked the look of MusicMatch, it has way more stuff than is needed for this job and that it was time to turn to Google.

Searching Google for LP recording software, I found LP Recorder and LP Ripper from CFB Software. You can read more about these utilities on their website. They are very simple to use and have a clean interface. LP Recorder has, among other things, an AutoStart option that makes it easy to sync with the start of your LP. It also has an AutoStop option which unfortunately only works if your turntable lifts the stylus at the end of the album. LP Ripper separates the LP tracks and allows you to rename them to match the LP titles.

When I made my first recording, I discovered a problem with "noise" in the recorded WAV. I solved this by moving the line-in cable from my main computer to my second computer. This created another problem because I have one set of powered computer speakers that are/were connected to my main computer. In order to monitor recordings, I moved the speaker cable to my second computer. Now I needed a mini-jack switch so that I could listen to music on either computer without plugging/unplugging the cable.


Sony SBV-40 Audio Switch
Audio Switch
xitel INport
xitel INport

I was unable to find a Mini-Jack switch in the US, so I ended up with a Sony SBV-40 which has RCA jacks that I had to convert to Mini-Jack with cables from Radio Shack, and Video ports that I don't need. Actually, I am very happy with this switch; it's simple, clean, and looks good. You can find it by again searching Google.

While still Googling2 around I found a Line-In device, the INport, that bypasses the soundcard and claims clearer recorded sound. The package includes LP Recorder and LP Ripper so you don't need to purchase them separately. Note, however, that these versions of the software are earlier than the versions available on the CFB website.

There are a few things you need to be aware of when copying LPs. Unlike ripping a CD, you have to listen to the whole thing; at least you have to listen to the end. In other words, you can't leave the room unless you want to let the stylus thump around on the end of the album, and you don't mind cleaning up the last track.

This is the copy/recording sequence I follow: (I am assuming that you have everything setup and working properly!)

  • Place the LP on the turntable and turn its, and the mixers, power on.
  • If the LP is by Neil Diamond, get your shotgun, load it, take the LP outside, throw it, and blow it to hell! No more Cracklin Rosie! or "brang me."
  • Start LP Recorder, check AutoStart and Auto Level, and click the play button.
  • Position the stylus at the beginning of the LP, or whatever track you want to start with, and lower it.
  • When the LP reaches the end of the last track you are recording, click the Stop button on LP Recorder. and return the stylus to the start position.
  • Run DePopper to clean up the clicks and pops.
  • Run LP Ripper to set the track information. You can also rename the tracks before saving the track list. Then click Edit/Trim Tracks and make sure the track breaks are correct. If the album was recorded from a live performance, you will most likely have to do some tweaking. This is actually quite painless with LP Ripper.

LP Ripper can call an encoder to convert WAVs to MP3s. I use the Lame Encoder that can be downloaded from here. I set the Encoder Parameters to "infile.wav outfile.mp3 --alt-preset fast extreme". LP Ripper Help explains how to set this up.

After MP3s are created, I run Tag & Rename to clean up titles and create playlists.

The WAVs can be burned as an Audio CD, and the MP3s can be burned as a Data CD, using a tool like Nero Burning ROM.

Sample LP Cover

I am using a Canon Digital Rebel to photograph the LP cover. Right now this is a fairly awkward procedure. I am planning on designing a jig that will make the process easier.

I use Microsoft Digital Photo Suite to manipulate the LP cover .jpg. You can buy this at COSTCO, or any computer store. I clean up the photo and make a copy that is 4" x 4" for use as a CD label.

I use Surething Label Maker to get the image on the CD label.

1 The eBook states that MusicMatch is free, but, if you want to use its built in recorder, you have to buy the Plus version.

2 I read that "googling" means using the internet to spy on your friends, colleagues, and potential employees. That's not what I'm doing. But maybe I will. It could be in the national interest. Or, not!

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