Love vinyl? Sounds sooo sweet but after all that cleaning and maintenance you just want to know how to record your vinyl to computer so you can preserve them or add them to your running playlist.
In short this is how you do it…
Connect the turntable to your computer. Use Audacity. Create a project and select the turntable’s audio. Adjust levels and start recording. Now play your vinyl. When over pause recording to flip the vinyl and repeat. Remove the gaps and the noise. Edit the tags. Export your project to your preferred audio format. DONE!!!
FYI: If all this sounds too much for you then some new record players can rip directly to a USB drive or SD card without the need for a computer (you may still need a computer to polish things). Though in my opinion the method I have outlined here would give you the most polished outcome.
Benefits Of Recording Your Vinyl Collection To Digital
While recording your vinyl sounds like quite a process, there are some great benefits to it as well. Recording vinyl to digital enables you to capture some of that warm, emotion provoking sound with many advantages.
• Archive your vinyl collection to help preserve it (perhaps you have a really old collectable that you love).
• Once ripped, you can add the vinyl music to your playlists.
• Store it on your mobile or go jogging with your favourites.
Connecting The Turntable To The Computer
First check what outputs your turntable has.
1. Turntable has a USB output
• Connect it to your computer’s USB port using a USB cable. Boom! You’re done. I have an Audio Technica LP60 with USB and this is what I do.
2. Turntable has a phono output (usually RCA connectors)
• Connect the it to your computer via your amplifier or receiver’s line level outputs to your computer’s line level audio input (usually a 3.5mm female jack like a headphone socket). You will most likely need a stereo male RCA to 3.5mm male cable for this. This assumes that your amplifier or receiver has a phone preamp which is what you’ve been using to listen to your records.
• Connect it to a device like this Behringer USB audio interface device (basically an analog to digital converter) which has a phono input and connects to your computer via USB. Use a stereo RCA cable to connect the phono output from the turntable to the audio capture device’s phono in. Then plug the device into the computer’s USB port. This is my preferred method as it is the neatest and offers good sound quality as well.
3. Turntable has line level outputs (usually RCA connectors)
• Connect it to your computer’s audio line in using a stereo male RCA to 3.5mm male cable.
• Connect it to an audio capture device like the Behringer mentioned above which even has a phono preamp and offers great sound quality.
Check your computer’s audio settings to see if the computer detects your analog to digital converter/capture device or turntable (if it is connected directly to the computer). It should be under the Input part of the audio settings in a drop-down list. If you have connected to the computer’s Line In then you should find that here as well.
In Windows 10 (lastest 2018 update), right click the sound icon in the bottom right of the task bar and select Open Sound Settings.
In sound settings, under Input and then Choose Your Input Device select your audio device from a drop down list and the click on Device Properties.
Now select the Advanced tab. Here make sure that the right format is selected as per your input device.
In the Advanced settings tab, for the device, make sure that the computer is set to capture audio in stereo and also with the same bit depth and sampling rate as your line in to USB converter (read the specifications on the box). For reference CD quality has a bit depth of 16 bits and a sampling rate of 44,100 khz (in stereo). Use this quality also if the computer’s audio input is being used.
If all is well we can move on to the next step.
Play Vinyl Records Through The Computer
At this stage you can play your vinyl records through the computer’s audio as well. This is a great idea especially if you have some awesome speakers hooked up to the computer. Once you’ve interfaced your turntable to the computer, there’s just one setting to enable.
In the Device Properties box from earlier, click on the Listen tab. Now enable Listen To This Device and click Apply. Use the computer’s volume control to adjust the volume. Also, your device will show up in the Sound Mixer when you right click the sound icon. Here you can adjust the sound level or mute it if you find it interfering with the ripping process (though it shouldn’t).
Vinyl To Digital Software
In my opinion, the best vinyl ripping software is Audacity. Audacity is a free audio editor available to download for Mac, Windows and Linux. While it can do many things, it is easy to use for ripping vinyl records.
This guide will show you how to record vinyls on to your computer using Audacity. There are other programs as well like Vinyl Studio which isn’t free. You can find a comparison between Audacity and Vinyl Studio here.
So Let’s Rip…
PRO Tip: Before actually starting to rip make sure the clean your vinyl record and don’t forget to clean the stylus too. This way the vinyl record will be captured sounding top notch so you can proudly archive it in to your collection.
Fire up Audacity and first go to File and Save Project As, give your project a name and save.
In the toolbar under the menu look for the microphone symbol (with a drop down list) and select your audio capture device. Also, look in the bottom left corner of the screen and ensure that the sample rate there is the same as your device sample rate.
In the toolbar to the right of the above mentioned microphone button is another microphone button. Click it and it will say Start Monitoring (click that). To the right of that after a level meter (2 actually) there a slider to adjust the recording level (mic icon). Play your record (around the loudest passage) and adjust the levels with the slider. Make sure that the level isn’t set very high or the recording will distort. Set the level such that at no time does it go over -6dB.
Make a test recording by clicking the record button on the toolbar and playing the record. You should see the track begin to record the audio. Hit stop on the toolbar and click play next to it to hear this test recording. If you’re satisfied click the x in top right of the track window to delete this test and start on a clean slate. Don’t worry a new track window will open up when you click the record button.
Capture The Vinyl To Computer
Quick Tip: While the record is being captured listen to it closely and note down noisy sections as we can deal with them later.
Now we are all set to finally capture the vinyl record into a digital audio file. Click record and play the vinyl from the first track. Let the side play all the way to the end. Don’t worry about segmenting it into different tracks as Audacity will let you do that later.
When the side is over, click pause and flip the vinyl. Click pause again to start recording and then begin playing the second side of the record. When the side finishes, click stop. We are done capturing the vinyl record but there is still some work left to do. I’d definitely suggest saving your project at this stage to ensure against any twists of fate!
Next up is post processing, editing, noise reduction and tagging (all that good stuff).
Pro tip: In the Audacity menu under View is Zoom. Use this to zoom in and out of your recording. This will make it easier to edit the recording. In the same zoom menu the keyboard shortcuts are mentioned. Use them to be more agile at editing. Example Zoom In is Control + 1, Zoom Normal is Control + 2 and Zoom Out is Control + 3 (Control is the Ctrl key on the keyboard in case of a Windows PC and Command in case of a Mac).
Looking at the zoomed out recording, one can see the silent beginning part before the vinyl record starts to play. Along the same lines we can see the part where the record is flipped and maybe also when the record ends and the delay before stopping the recording.
Our goal is to delete these parts. To do this make sure the Selection Tool (F1) is enabled (it is by default anyway). Then click somewhere in the beginning of the recording, a line will appear. Bring the cursor near this line and it will change into a pointing finger. Drag it left till the beginning and that part will be selected. Similarly, drag the right of that selection box till where the music starts. Now press delete.
Repeat this for the end of the recording and also the middle where the side was changed. Listen to the recording especially where you’ve editted and then save your project.
Remember I’d asked you to note down sections of the vinyl during the recording process which were noisy? Now we will deal with these. If the pops and clicks detract from the listening experience in certain places (perhaps during a soft passage), we can try and remove them or minimise them.
Select the problem area. Go to Effects in the menu and then to Click Removal. Here there are two settings Threshold and Spike Width. Experiment using a Threshold of around 115 and a Spike Width of around 35. Click Ok to apply. Once applied, check to see if you’re satisfied, otherwise use Undo (Edit menu) and repeat with different settings.
If there are some really stubborn clicks, use the Repair tool (Effects menu) to remove them. The Repair Tool work on very small portions so you’d have to do this a click at a time.
Like earlier, select the problem area (in this case a single click). You will need to zoom in quite a bit to do this. Once selected, go to Effects in the menu and then Repair. That’s it! Rinse and repeat this for other clicks if needed.
Adjust The Volume Of The Recording
One other thing you can also do in the post phase, is increase the volume of the recording if you notice it to be low. Click once anywhere on the track and then use Control (Ctrl) + A to select the entire track. Then go to Effects > Amplify. Try not to boost the volume too much as it may distort. Keep your peaks on the lower side of 0dB.
Once applied, see if you’re happy with the results. Especially listen to the louder parts of the recording to notice if they’re clipping (distorting).
That’s it for post processing, remember to SAVE your work.
Tagging and Track Segmentation
Before we can export this into song files, it’s a good idea to tag this recording. Tagging means adding metadata like artist, album etc. Also, it is important to add track information so that individual song files will be exported as opposed to one file for the entire album which is what it is now.
Head over to Edit > Metadata. Enter only the album information like Artist Name, Album Title, Year and Genre. Don’t enter track specific information at this time. When done click OK.
Move the cursor to the beginning of the recording. The easiest way to do this is click near the start of the recording and then use the cursor (Left arrow key in this case) to the start position. Go to Edit > Labels > Add Label At Selection. A single track will appear under the recording track with a text box. Name your track and hit Enter. Next locate the beginning of the next track and do the same. Zoom in and also play the track to find the exact spot. In this way title all the songs on the album.
Save the project!
Export The Vinyl Recording To FLAC Or MP3 Or Other Formats
In the menu go to File > Export > Export Multiple
In the dialog that opens choose the output folder and format. Also, choose Numbering before Label/Track Name so that your songs will be numbered in the album order.
When it comes to choosing the audio format, I personally prefer to export to FLAC as it is a lossless format unlike MP3. What this means, without getting in to any audio debate, is that I am archiving my music in the best quality possible. I can always make MP3 copies later, if I so desire.
Vinyl To CD
If you plan to burn your vinyl music to CD then I’d definitely suggest using a lossless format for best results. If your CD burning software accepts FLAC files then export to FLAC otherwise to .wav.
Exporting To FLAC
In the export dialog choose FLAC in the format drop down menu. Leave the Level at 5 and the Bit Depth at 16 unless the computer had been setup to earlier to capture audio at a higher bit depth. A higher bit depth would create larger files so 16 bit is fine in my opinion.
Once you click Export a dialog box will open up letting you edit the tag information of each individual track one by one. You’ll notice that most of the fields are already populated with the information we had filled earlier. Edit if needed and click Ok (You will have to do this for each track).
Audacity will start to process and then your done.
Exporting To MP3
If you prefer to export to MP3 you will need to download (//lame.buanzo.org/) a file lame_enc.dll. On the download page scroll down to “Recommended Intaller Package for Window: Lame…” and download the zip option.
Once downloaded, extract the file to a folder as the downloaded version is a .zip file. To do this in Windows 10 right click on the file and choose Extract All. A dialog box will open up showing you where the files will be extracted (you can change the location if you wish). Now click Extract and you’re done.
In Audacity, go to File > Export > Export Multiple and now choose MP3 for format. In the options below choose a Quality preset. Extreme is good one. In Choose Mode select Joint Stereo for smaller file sizes or Stereo otherwise. Click Export to begin.
As mentioned above in the Exporting To FLAC section, a dialog box will open asking to edit any metadata you want to for each track. Click Ok for each track after editing if needed. When you’ve clicked Ok for the last track, a box will appear telling you that Audacity needs the file lame_enc.dll to create MP3s. Browse to the file’s location where you had extracted it earlier and select it. Click Ok.
Audacity will start to process and then you’re done.
Extra: Album Art And Advanced Tagging
If you suffer from OCD like me then you want to add album art and other advanced metadata tags. To do this download MP3Tag (//www.mp3tag.de/en/) for Windows. MP3Tag is completely free and is truly awesome.
While there is no native MAC version here (//www.mp3tag.de/en/mac-osx.html)are instructions on how to run it on your Mac. Alternatively you can search the internet for tag editors for Mac, there are none I’ve tried so I can’t recommend any.
Now, you’re really done. Happy ripping!