Copying vinyl to CD for less than five bucks
by Alan German
Do you know what a tone
arm is? Do you think that a stylus is only used
with a tablet PC? If you have a stylus, mounted
in a cartridge, installed on a tone arm, and
connected to a hi-fi system, you probably also
have lots of vinyl long-playing records. Maybe
you have been wondering about how to transfer
some of these oldies but goodies to
CD-ROM. Well, heres how, and all for less
than $5.00! Perhaps you also have cassette tapes
or even reel-to-reel recordings. The same basic
techniques described below can be used to
transfer these to CD-ROM also.
First, a little disclaimer. I considered
entitling this piece Digital Recording for
A. Dummy. By no means would I claim to be
an expert in the process. The following is based
on my experiences and successes with my
equipment. While, in general terms, the method
should be similar for most standard audio and
computer systems, it may well require tweaking
for specific circumstances. Some excellent
reference materials for the whole process are
noted at the end of this article.
Can you really make sound recordings for less
than $5.00? Well, of course, this price assumes
that you already own a few computer basics, such
as a sound card, and a CD-burner, but who
doesnt these days? All you need in addition
is a Y-adapter cable to connect the RCA output
jacks on your stereo system to the input coaxial
jack of your sound card, and some software to
make things happen.
The cable we need (assuming your sound system is
like mine) will provide two RCA jacks on one end
and one stereo mini co-axial jack at the other
end. The best buy that I found on the required
cable was at Canadian Tire - an RCA 3.5mm Plug
"Y" Adapter - at just over $4, tax
Its a cast iron certainty that if we can
get music to run down this cable from an LP
record to a computer file we can transfer the
resulting file onto a CD-ROM. While, for most
people, proprietary sound recording and CD
burning software may be the most efficient means
of capturing and storing an entire LPs
worth of music, before we take a look at which
such program we might actually use, lets
first try out some freeware just to make sure
that the basic transfer process works.
My program of choice for this task was Wave
http://www.delback.co.uk/wavrep/) developed by
Clive Backham in the U.K. This program is
primarily a sound file editor, and to use all of
its features on a regular basis requires
purchasing the program (US$30). A 30-day fully
functional trial period is provided so that you
can evaluate the editing capabilities and decide
if the program meets all of your needs. Better
yet, if you dont need the editing function,
the basic recording and track splitting functions
are always available with Wave Repair operating
in freeware mode. Thanks Clive!
Making a recording from an LP is straightforward.
Firstly, connect the Y-adapter cable between the
amplifier output of your sound system and an
input on your sound card. The latter may take the
form of Line-in or
Microphone. Different sound cards
seem to have a variety of different inputs.
Anyway, be brave and plug the co-axial jack into
one of the available input sockets.
Run Wave Repair and select Play/Record
Input (Record) New WAV File. A dialog box lets
you select the directory and file name for your
soon-to-be-recorded masterpiece. Wave
Repairs display now pops up a master
control window. Choose an input from the
drop-down list, either Line-in or Microphone
depending on which of these you plugged the
adapter into, and press the Monitor button.
Now, fire up the LP record on your turntable, and
watch with glee as the input levels glow green,
moving to the right and left as the tracks
volume gets louder and softer respectively.
Yellow bar fragments at the right end of the
display indicate volume levels are approaching
maximum levels. Red bars indicate that the volume
peaks are likely going to be clipped (and some of
loudest of the recorded sounds may be distorted).
Slider controls let you modify the levels of the
left and right channels of the stereo recording.
Normally moving in concert, the two levels can be
adjusted individually by checking the
enable pan box. Set the recording
levels so that they stay mainly in the green,
perhaps with the occasional burst of yellow, but
with no red bars showing during the loudest parts
of the music.
If you dont have sufficient control over
the volume levels, in that either you dont
have enough volume or you cant keep the
recording level out of the red, check out the
side bar at right Sound Problems? for
some possible fixes.
Press the Record button and let Wave Repair
record one track from the record or perhaps just
a minute or so of music. You want to check that
you have a piece of a recording in the bag before
you go ahead and spend the time to record the
entire contents of an LP. So, press Stop and then
Close. A status line will indicate progress as
the partial recording is stored to disk.
The display will now show a waveform
representation of the music. Also available on
the command bar are some normal music-player
controls. Press Play (the right
facing triangle) and listen to the recorded
sound. If you dont hear any sound at this
point, check out the Not enough sound on
play back item in the side bar at right.
Adjust Windows volume controls and try
again to record a single track and then play it
back to ensure success.
Now, you are ready to record your LP. Start
playing the record, press Wave Repairs
Record button, sit back and enjoy the music. Once
the first side of the record has been recorded,
press the Pause button. Flip the record to the
second side, start it playing, and press Wave
Repairs Resume button. At the end of the
second side, press Stop and then Close. Voilą,
you have made a digital recording using your very
own computer-based recording studio!
Next time well take a look at how to
process the resulting WAV file in order to burn a
CD that we can subsequently play on any CD
Wave Repair, Version 4.8.2
Transferring LPs to CDR: Some Advice
Clive's FAQ About Audio on a PC
Originally published: May, 2005
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.
Not enough/too much sound on record:
If you cant control the volume levels when
recording, either because there isnt enough
volume, or the input volume level is so high that
you cant avoid clipping, check the volume
levels on the sound inputs.
Right-click on the loudspeaker icon on the task
bar and select Open Volume Controls. At this
point, you probably only see the controls for the
output devices. To change the display, select
Options Properties Recording and
make sure that at least Line-In and Microphone
are checked. The Recording Control will now let
you select the input levels for these latter two
devices. Ensure that neither is muted and set the
levels close to their upper or lower range
depending on whether you need more or less
If you are using the Microphone setting and the
volume is still too low or too high, select
Options Properties Recording
Options - Advanced Controls - Microphone
Advanced. If you need more volume check the box
marked 1 +20db Gain. If you need less
volume, make sure that this check box is not
Not enough sound on play back:
If no sound is evident when you try to play back
your recording, check the Windows volume
controls. Right-click on the loudspeaker icon on
the task bar and select Open Volume Controls.
Make sure that both the master output
Volume Control and the volume control
for Wave are not muted, and that
their slider bars are close to the top of their
range. You can always adjust these levels later.