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Transfering Vinyl Records to a CD-R Disk

By Tom Cumming


Vinyl Records can be transferred to a CD-R disc, however the process is a bit of a pantomime to say the least. The general process can be described:

1) Connect your Turntable to your PC's sound card.
2) Using sound-editing software, play the record and record into the computer.
3) Split the sound files up into smaller files, one for each CD track.
4) Burn these files onto a CD-R disc using a CD writer and CD burning software.

I will now explain each of these points individually:

1) Connect your Turntable to your PC's sound card.

To explain this bit, I need to give you a bit of hi-fi basics.

The output from a record turntable is at a much lower volume than the output on most other hi-fi components, such as tape decks, CD players, minidiscs etc. The "normal" output level is normally described as "line level", and to get your record deck's output up to "line level" before it gets to the hi-fi's amplifier, an extra little amplifier, termed a "pre-amp" is used. Traditionally these were always built into the amplifier, and you connected your turntable using connectors labelled "phono", which diverted the sound via the pre-amp. However, in modern times, amplifier manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that most people do not use Vinyl any more, so they can make their amplifiers cheaper by not bothering with a built-in pre-amp. This means that a lot of modern record decks, most notably the Bush MTT1, which started the idea, have the pre-amps inside the record decks instead. Or, if you've got an old turntable and a new amplifier, you can get pre-amps in separate boxes. Or, the only other possibility is that your PC sound card may have a built-in pre-amp. This is only the case on the very expensive top-of-the-range cards from Terratec, so if you are not sure whether you have this or not, you can probably assume you do not!

What's all this got to do with connecting your turntable to your PC? Well, the connection you've got to make is from your pre-amp output to the sound card's "line-in" connector (pale blue on colour coded systems). So, depending on your hifi you could need to make a number of different connections:

a) If you have a pre-amp in the amplifier, you need to connect the PC to a line-out on the amplifier. The "cassette record-out" connector will do fine. You will therefore need a sound cable with two phono plugs on one end and a 3.5mm stereo jack plug on the other.

b) If you have a pre-amp in the turntable, you need to make sure this pre-amp is switched on (usually a switch on the base of the unit) and then connect the turntable's output to the line-in of your PC. This will normally need a lead with two phono *sockets* on one end (female connectors) and a 3.5mm jack on the other.

c) If you are using an external pre-amp, you will need to connect the turntable to the pre-amp input (normally requiring a sound lead with two phono plugs on both ends), and then the pre-amp output to the sound card (requiring a lead with two phono plugs on one end and a 3.5mm stereo jack on the other)

d) If you have a pre-amp in the PC, then the record turntable can be connected directly to the PC's "Phono" jacks mounted on the front, probably just above or below your CD-ROM drive. If your turntable (like most) has built-in output leads, then you will need no cables at all, or if not, then you will simply need a standard stero hifi interconnecting lead with two RCA/phono connectors on each end.

Your local hifi store or electronics store should be able to sort you out with all the leads, or if not, try

2) Using sound-editing software, play the record and record into the computer.

You will need some wave sound editing software to do this. I find that the Creative Recorder utility that comes bundled with the Sound Blaster Live! series of sound cards is pretty good for this, as are Goldwave and Polderbits , or you may have another program that came with your sound card. I have also found that the one that comes bundled with Nero Burning ROM 5.5 to be quite good. First, you need to tell your computer to record from the line-in. To do this:
a.Double click the yellow speaker in your task bar;
b.Goto options/properties;
c.Click "recording";
d.Make sure "line in" is ticked in the box below; [1]
e.Click OK.
f.Make sure the "line in" slider is selected and slid up (I normally find it needs to go right the way up), and everything else is slid right down and muted, except, if you have one, a slider called "recording control", which is the master slider that governs them all. [1]
g.Minimise but do not close the mixer: you may need it later.

[1] : If you are connecting the turntable to your PC using a pre-amp in the PC (option "d" above) then you will need the "phono" or "turntable" slider, not the line in.

Now, start up your sound editing software. You need to insure you record in the correct format, and this is PCM, 16-bit, stereo, at a sample rate of 44100Hz. In most software this is found either in the options menu or by going to file/new.

Now, click record, and start playing the record. I would recommend that you just do it for a minute or so to test the connection. If you find it is distorting, then go into the mixer again and lower the recording volume. Similarly, if it sounds hissy and wishy-washy, you may need to increase the recording volume.

Once you've done this for the whole record at the correct volume, save the file.

3) Split the sound files up into smaller files, one for each CD track.

This will vary from one sound editing suite to the next, so you will need to refer to the documentation for your sound editing software for this. At this stage, if you've got a suitable program, you could also "de-crackle" it to remove some of the imperfections you get on records. I know Goldwave is pretty good at doing this. If you don't mind your CDs being written as all one track, you can leave this stage out.

4) Burn these files onto a CD-R disc using a CD writer and CD burning software.

This will also vary depending on your CD burning software, but the two most common ones, Nero Burning ROM and Easy CD Creator, it is simply a case of (a) creating a new audio CD and (b) dragging and dropping the .wav files onto the new CD window in the order you wish them to be played. Refer to your CD Burning software instructions for more information on this.

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