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    Soundware Guides: How to Convert Vinyl to CD or MP3

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    In this guide we'll explain different methods of transferring your vinyl records or cassette tapes onto your computer, and show you easy-to-use hardware and software that can help give your music collection a new lease of life...
    Why Go Digital?

    It's becoming increasingly popular to transfer collections of vinyl records or cassette tapes to a digital format.
    • Records that you don't have time to listen to at home can be burned onto a CD to play in the car or downloaded onto an MP3 player.
    • Digital copies of your records or tapes also make great backups, saving wear and tear on valuable originals.
    • It's also possible to improve the sound quality of your records or tapes using your home computer, by using noise reduction software to remove clicks and hiss.

    What Do I Need?

    You can use practically any computer, whether PC or Mac, desktop or laptop, to convert your music collection.

    In addition to your computer, you'll need two things:

    • A way of connecting your hi-fi to your computer.
    • Some audio editing software to record the incoming signal and save it or burn it to CD.

    Connecting Up...

    The best way to connect depends on what connections your computer already has, and your budget.

    Method 1: Direct to Sound Card

    If your computer has a line input for recording, it's possible to connect the output of a hi-fi directly to it using a cable with the correct connections.

    A line input on a computer will usually be a stereo minijack (also called a 3.5mm or 1/8" jack) socket. Every sound card is different, though, and there may be several different sockets - the line input is usually marked with a symbol showing a circle with an arrow pointing inwards, to the centre of the circle.

    Simply choose a cable that has a stereo minijack at one end, and a connector that matches the output of your hi-fi at the other end. If your hi-fi doesn't have a line output port, you can simply use the headphone output instead.

    Connecting this way is very easy, and since all you need is one cable it's a great way to get started if you're on a budget.

    Lynx Standard Phono to Stereo MiniJack 1.2 MTR
    View our Cables and Leads Section for more connections...
    View our Guide to Cables and Connectors for more information...

    Method 2: Audio Interfaces

    If your computer doesn't have an audio input, you can connect a hi-fi to a spare USB or FireWire port instead using an audio interface.

    An audio interface works in just the same way as your computer's sound card, except that it connects to a USB or Firewire port instead of being fitted inside your computer.

    Audio interfaces can transfer sound in and out of your computer. There are many different models available, which allow you to connect everything from microphones and guitars to hi-fi's and keyboards.

    Because audio interfaces are specially designed for recording, they usually give higher sound quality than connecting via a standard computer sound card.

    Some audio interfaces also include bundled software for making and editing recordings, so you can get everything you need in one package.

    View our Audio Interfaces Section for more interfaces...
    View our Guide to Sound Cards for more information...

    Method 3: USB Turntables

    It's also possible to buy turntables with a USB connection.

    These turntables have a built-in audio interface, which transfers the sound directly to your computer.

    If you only want to convert vinyl, you can't beat a USB turntable for convenience. Best of all, they can be connected to an amplifier and speakers and used as a normal turntable as well.

    View our Website for USB turntables...

    What about Software?

    Once you have a way to connect your hi-fi to your computer, you'll need some software to record and edit your collection with.

    Audio Editing Software

    Audio editing software allows you to record the sound coming into your computer from your hi-fi. Once you've recorded it, you can then use the software to split it into tracks and save your albums as MP3s or burn them to CD.

    You can use almost any music production software for this job, but there are some pieces of software designed specifically with vinyl conversion in mind:

    Bias Peak 6 LE
    Audio editing software for Mac. For professional-quality audio in your iLife projects, vinyl LP/cassette to iPod transfers, dialog editing, soundtrack sweetening, sound design, or music mastering, Peak LE delivers unparalleled value and results.
    Sound Forge Audio Studio
    Sound Forge Audio Studio software is everything you need to edit and master professional-quality audio on your home computer. Best of all, Sound Forge Audio Studio software is easy to use. With a few basic commands such as cut, copy, and paste, you can produce high-fidelity audio on your PC.
    View our Audio Editing Section for more software...
    View our Guide to Music Software for more information...

    Noise Reduction Software

    Some software is designed specially for removing clicks and hiss from vinyl or tape recordings.

    This software doesn't allow you to record audio, so you still need audio editing software to record first. However, once you've recorded you can load your files into the noise reduction software to remove clicks and pops and reduce hiss and rumble. The software can work automatically, or you can tweak the settings yourself for perfect results.

    Bias Soundsoap 2
    The easiest way to remove tape hum, hiss, buzzing, rumble and most other types of background noise. For Mac & PC.
    View our Audio Restoration Section for more software...
    View our Guide to Music Software for more information...

    How to Convert?

    The method of transferring audio onto your computer is mostly the same whichever hardware or software you're using.

    To convert, you'll need to start by connecting your hi-fi to your computer using one of the methods above.

    If you're using a cable, you'll just need to connect it. If you're using an audio interface or a USB turntable, you may need to install some software, called a driver, so that your hardware will work properly. Instructions on how to do this will be included with your hardware.

    Once your hardware is up and running, you'll need to install and configure your software. This will differ depending on what software you have, but in simple terms you'll need to tell it where you want to record from. This is usually a case of choosing your sound card, audio interface or other hardware as the recording input source. Detailed instructions for installing and using your software will be given in the manual or the help file.

    When you're ready to go, set your software recording then set a record or cassette playing. The software will record the audio as it plays in real time, so you'll need to wait until it's finished playing and remember to turn cassettes or records over when necessary.

    When the record has finished playing, stop the recording and use your software to divide the audio you've recorded up into sections for the songs on the album you've transferred. You can then save the individual sections as WAV or MP3 files, for burning onto CD or putting onto an MP3 player.

    If you're unsure about any of the above, or if you're not sure which products would be best for you, please contact us and we'll be happy to offer friendly, impartial advice and recommendations.

    Click here to join our Mailing List - our monthly newsletter includes news, opinion & technique features on all things music technology. There are also competitions, exclusive offers and a chance for subscribers to promote their music!

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