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Converting Vinyl LP Records to Digital

Subscriber Cary wrote with questions about project common to many people:

I’m starting a little project to record about 100 vinyl LPs to mp3s on my hard drive. I\’m looking for free software that will let me record a line-in source. I\’ve heard that Audacity is very good, but one critical feature I want is for the software to recognize a few seconds of silence as the end/beginning of a song and stop/re-start recording a new song. Otherwise, I\’ll end up with one very long mp3 that is basically the contents of the entire album. Do you have any recommendations? Cary


Having dreamed the same dream, let me say that you just wish you could do it in one step. Remember that your digitizing process is the most fixed in real time — a 45 minute album will take 45 minutes plus startup and shutdown of the record process.

I discovered very quickly that the idea of digitizing and immediately breaking into cuts made me do the recording over and over.

I never found a software package that would ACCURATELY split cuts — it would either make 20 cuts out of 8 or 3 cuts out of 14 — far to sensitive or not sensitive enough.

So, my recommendation is to record the whole album in wav format. Then, break it into individual files — you can easily spot the right places. Finally, convert the individual wav files to mp3.

Audacity will take some effort to learn, but it’s quite powerful.

I used Goldwave for my recording projects. It is a full-function downloadable trial — not with a time-limitation, but with a limitation to the number of steps you can do before you register it.

I quickly bought Goldwave based on my short experience and the recommendation of a friend. The price is $45 CAD (= $44.59 USD at current exchange rates on Yahoo), plus whatever your credit card charges for the currency exchange.

Goldwave lets you mark the places to separate the cuts and then save automatically from the one full album side into however many individual cuts you marked. I don’t have much experience with Audacity, but I think that, with Audacity, you’ll have to save each cut individually.

By the way, my LP to digital conversion is still in the "I’m going to do that one of these days…" status. I spent a lot of time trying to do that about eight years ago, mostly unsuccessfully, because my turntable was failing. I’ve got my eye on one of those new USB turntables that are designed for this kind of effort.

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  1. 2013-03-03
    Terry, with Audacity, after you record the entire LP or cassette into one long file, you can make a separate track that has the song titles at the start of each section by finding where the silences are. Then use the Export Multiple option under File and it will split the file up into separate parts at the title points. I usually put the track number at the start of each title so when it finishes all the parts stay in the same order in the folder as they are on the vinyl or cassette.

  2. I would agree that the only sure-fire method is to record each track separately, laborious thought it may be, as I’ve never known a program to be smart enough to accurately split and/or put track markers in at the right places automatically. A fade-out quite often fools the beast, as indeed does any noise on the recording. I’ve done it on many a occasion, using Audacity but, as Terry infers, doing it in real time is one hell of a drag, as there is always extra time involved. I also clean up the tracks (de-pop, de-scratch or whatever needs to be done at the same time. Audacity has some tools for this but by far the most accurate for scratches is to use the pencil tool, which can be used to actually manually re-draw the waveform at the location of a scratch after expanding the waveform to see the actual sample points.

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