Converting your Vinyl Records and Tapes to Digital format
and copying a DVD sound track to use on an audio CD
Well a lot has been written on this subject and so I don't intend to repeat it but I will document my experiences to date, and if you have any relevant input to share then please contact me by clicking on the Contact Us buttons on this page.
What Hardware do I need?
If you use a Record Deck with a magnetic cartridge, as fitted to most decks in the last 20 years or so, then you'll need a phono pre-amp in order that the signal you feed into the sound card line in is at the right amplitude. These can be bought from around the £20 mark upwards. If you have a really old deck with a ceramic cartridge then you won't need a pre-amp stage as the output will be high enough. Tape players/recorders just connect directly into the line in port of the sound card. By the same token, if you want to record out to the tape deck then just connect line out or the headphone socket to the input of the tape deck.
Another option you might have is a 'music centre', where the record deck is an integral component of your Hi-Fi system, and here again you won't need a pre-amp, but you will need a suitable lead to go from either the headphone socket or line out, and this could be 3.5mm Stereo jack plug to 3.5mm Stereo jack plug or a 6mm to 3.5mm Stereo jack plug, etc. If in doubt look in your manual, if you still have it.
For these machines you'll need a 3.5mm Stereo jack plug to twin phono plugs, also known as RCA connectors.
If you don't already have a suitable record deck and are thinking of getting one, then look at the recent USB decks on the market, as these have a built in pre-amp stage and just plug into a(n) USB port. No other connection required.
Whichever system you use, do ensure you have a good stylus so as to get the best out of the final files. Also ensure your records are clean of any dust before you start.
Links to a few sites I used or referred to can be found in the left hand column.
Got the Hardware, now for the Software
Well, now we've got the hardware sorted, it's time to look at the software.
Having seen the Audacity software and having an initial play at a friend's house I thought I'd give that a go. It's what is known as freeware too, which is a bonus. It's been written by enthusiasts, but is fairly usable by the novice, hence I use it!
This can be downloaded from the Sourceforge web site and my advice would be to use the 1.2.x version that they say is stable rather than the v1.3.2 which is in beta form at the time of this article. Read the Audacity page as it suggests that if you want to save out as MP3 format then you need to download LAME MP3 Encoder software, and it gives you the link. Follow the instructions and download this and copy the file lame_enc.dll to the audacity dir in the Program Files where you installed the Audacity software for simplicity.
There is other recording software available, but as I said this is based on my experiences and these have been with the Audacity 1.2.4b to date.
A couple of useful things about the Audacity software worth mentioning here is that you can record an LP (album) in it's entirety, or single track, at 45rpm and convert back to 33⅓ in the software, hence speeding up the transfer time. However, if you listen to the recording it might remind you of 'Alvin and the Chipmunks'!! The other useful facility is being able to easily split the album into individual tracks, and to make the breaks more visible the track can be expanded - just highlight the area and click on the icon of the magnifier with a + sign on it.
Please note that whilst Audacity provide Documentation and Tutorials what follows are solely my experiences with using the product to transfer my vinyls to Digital files for creating Audio CD's or DVD's for my personal use.
Having downloaded, installed the software and fired it up, you'll get a screen shot similar to the following.
Before one starts, then a couple of items need setting up in the Preferences screen, found under Edit on the Menu bar (or Ctrl+P).
Here one needs to set up the relevant Device, and if one is using a record deck connected to a sound card, then the Playback Device setting needs to reflect this, as does the Recording Device and if Stereo etc. When using the USB deck, these settings are different and so refer to the accompanying manual for the correct settings. The manuals I saw for these type decks was very informative and easy to follow. As it says in the manual, you'll need to check the Software Playthrough box to hear what you're recording but if one does that with a sound card setup, like a standard deck, then you'll hear an interesting 'echo'! Try it and you'll see what I mean.
Time to try a recording!
A word of warning though before you start any recording from a record deck of any kind! If the room in which you are doing the recording has wooden floors then you would be well advised to NOT walk or move across them if at all possible or you may find the movement transferred to the recording in a low frequency waveform! If necessary, put a notice up to warn others before they come charging in with the coffee!! If the room is adjacent to any other room, you may also need to restrict movement in that room too, for the same reasons! A solid floor is by far the best for this type of exercise.
Now we're ready to try a recording.
When you start, you'll need to set the recording such that the input doesn't overload and this will depend on your particular system. As a start, try setting the slider next to the microphone - see top screen shot - about half way. The idea here is to try to keep the red bits as near to the right as possible - see the following shot - but not stay up there!
If the darker red band stays permanently up at the right end then you'll end up with a distorted sound file and too far to the left and it'll be too quiet! For best results it will pay you to optimise this setting before you continue.
Editing out the noise, clicks and pops
This area has caused me some headache and if anyone out there can enlighten me as to whether I've got it about right or I'm barking up the wrong tree, I'd be grateful.
Here is a typical recording where there's noise, at the end of the track. From about 4:11.0 through to the end, this is regarded as noise.
Now my dilemma is, does one take out the noise in the 'quiet' section between tracks or throughout the total recording? Gut instinct says throughout the whole recording and that's basically what I've done. I tried just the quiet inter track areas on their own but if I'm honest, I can't tell the difference to the music when doing it that way or throughout the total recording. Question is, which is the right way? I think it should be removal throughout the whole track and not just the bits between the tracks. Comments?
All of the various filters can be found on the Effects option from the menu bar.
What I did was to block a selection of the sound wave, and then select Noise Removal from the Effects menu, choose Profile and then select the whole recording and choosing Noise Removal again, this time selecting the remove option. That simple!
After that, again select the whole track (Ctrl+A) and this time select Click Removal. This will take out any noisy clicks sometimes found on a dirty or scratched record. You may need to play with this to find the optimum settings.
Then, finally, if I'd recorded the album at 45 and it was a 33⅓ then we need to reduce the speed and we do that via the Effects menu option and Change Speed. Simple as that!
Time to Save your recording
Well, I guess I forgot to mention about being safe and saving the recording before starting the processing, because we've all heard about Murphy's Law etc., but one does get a bit lax now and then.
As you'll find in the official documentation, you can save your files in various ways. Either as a Project, as a WAV, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format file. For further information on the various formats I suggest you read the documentation. Suffice to say the two formats I'm interested in are WAV and MP3. The documentation will explain what Save Project does, but in a nutshell, it saves the file and the position you were at in the processing of the file at the time you saved so that when you return, you can pick up where you left off.
The options I use mainly are Export as WAV, Export as MP3 or Export Multiple, this latter one when I wish to export each track of an album.
When you first Export an MP3 file you will be asked for where the lame_enc.dll file is stored at and if you put it where suggested at installation stage, browse to that directory and click on the OK. If it finds it there, you won't get asked again for it's whereabouts.
You'll be asked where you want to save the files to and in the case of MP3, you'll get asked for other details for the recording, like Title, Artist, Album, etc. This information is then stored within the MP3 file and if you play the track back in say Media Player, the information is displayed on the screen.
Splitting the complete album into individual tracks
If you recorded a complete album in one go and want to spit it up into each individual track, then you need to use the Project option on the Menu bar and choose the 'Add Label at Selection' option after you have lined up the cursor at the point you want the next track to begin.
This can be tricky until you become familiar with it but basically I go to the start of the recording and place my first marker - shortcut is Ctrl+B - and then I work my way to the beginning of the next track. At this point it might pay to expand the area you want to put the marker to make it easier for yourself, and to do this, block the area and expand it by clicking on the magnifying glass towards the top right of the screen. This will enlarge the area for you to easily find where you want to place the mark for the next track.
Continue along the recording until you've finished marking them all. Once you've done that, go to File, Export Multiple on the menu bar and follow the screen choices and prompts, depending on the format you choose to save the recordings.
If you are say splitting up a concert, follow the instructions as above and then if you want your resultant CD to appear as a concert, ie no breaks in the track then when you burn the CD do make sure you check the box entitled "No Pause between tracks", or words to that effect. Burning a CD in this way will enable you to jump to preferred tracks when listening, whereas if you'd just recorded the whole track as one then you'd have to listen to it and not able to jump tracks.
If you split say a concert into single tracks and want them to appear as single tracks in the end result then you might want to use Fade In and Fade out on the 'Effects' menu. Quite useful and effective. Try it and you'll see.
It's that simple!
As you can see there are many effects one can apply to the waveform, including Amplify and Normalise, for when you want to make a number of tracks on a CD of equal volume. Another couple of useful effects I found are the Fade In and Fade Out but maybe you need to experiment to suit your needs.
DVD Soundtrack 'ripping'
There are various software packages available to do this, as can be found by doing a web search, and they'll rip the sound off much quicker than recording the sound you play back with the DVD in your PC, but they won't necessarily rip all the sound tracks off. I wanted the music off a DVD to play on an audio CD, but the way it was recorded onto the DVD wasn't the normal way. It was contained within a menu structure and this meant the rip packages didn't see it.
How I overcame it in the end was to set up Audacity to input from an alternative input option like CD Volume or Stereo Mix, and then process the resultant track and because it came from a DVD, I had to amplify the resultant track. Once the processing was complete I then split the track into it's component parts. All good fun!
Now all that is needed is to burn your masterpiece compilation to a CD or DVD and whether you want an Audio CD to play in a standard CD player in the home or car, or maybe put loads of MP3's on a disk for either filing or playing on a PC, whether it be a laptop or desktop, or what.
You can compile and burn the CD/DVD with your usual CD/DVD burning software and hence that's another story!
I hope that the above has given you some ideas and maybe eased you into having a go yourself in transferring your Vinyl records and tapes, and maybe the odd DVD sound track to the world of digital media.
Please remember that anything you do copy is for your own use only and mustn't be sold on or in any way infringe copyrights, etc.
If you have anything to add that might help others, or myself, then please feel free to forward your comments etc by using the Contact Us buttons on this page.