Question: How do I transfer my old vinyl LPs, 45s, and cassette tapes into MP3 for playback on my computer? –Thom
Answer: If you’re anything like me, you probably have an old milk crate or two full of LP records gathering dust in a closet somewhere.
Here’s how to transfer songs from those records into a digital format for use on your computer, or even to create CDs out of them. Note that, since you own the record or cassette, this is legal to do, but it is not legal to share the resulting digital files with others.
If you are not ready for that yet, then i mention it later in this article. First let’s talk about the equipment and software required.
You will need:
- A turntable (for LPs and 45s) and/or a tape deck for cassettes
- A stereo with amplifier (into which your turntable and/or tape deck connect
- A cable that connects your stereo’s Audio Out connector to your computer’s Line In connector on your sound card.
- A computer with the following specs:
- Pentium II 266 computer or better
- 128 MB of RAM or more
- 200 MB free space on your hard drive
- a soundcard with a “Line In”Â port
- WAV file recording software
- WAV to MP3 conversion software
- MP3 burning software, if you want to make audio CDs
Let’s talk a little about this list. First, you must have the means to actually play the original music.
Vinyl needs a turntable, and audio tape needs a tape deck. These older pieces of hardware can still be found in either your local pawn shop, second-hand store, thrift store, or a decent boutique stereo shop or vintage record store. You can get them new here. You can also try eBay . Or check your Dad’s basement. Just be careful not to trip over the the Betamax, the CB radio, or the 8-track player.
Each component shouldn’t cost more than about $150 or so, but remember that cheaper versions can mean cheaper quality which means a poor source from which to record.
Second, you must hook these up through a stereo with an amplifier. The reason for this is that most (but not all) turntables require amplification.
If you hook a turntable directly to a computer, chances are the audio will be too faint to record properly. You can try plugging the turntable into the microphone jack, because that does amplify the audio source, but it’s not an ideal solution.
Next, you’ll need a cable that converts the two Audio Out RCA jacks from the stereo (see photo below) like these:
They must be converted to a 1/8 inch Line In or Microphone jack (sometimes called a mini-jack) on your computer’s sound card (see photo below).
You can get this sort of cable easily at Radio Shack, a stereo equipment store, or get one at [link removed] here.
Now for the software you’ll need:
MP3 recording software is pretty easy to find. A product I recommend is All Sound Recorder XP – get it here.
The program has a very straightforward interface that allows you to get up and running quickly. It’s available as a fully functional spyware-free 30-day demo.
You might also look at AIPL Singulator – it’s software used to record a vinyl album, cassette tape, or any analog audio to your PC. It separates songs when recording and stops when finished. Check it out here.
Watch how to do it in our video tutorial: I created a how-to video that you can use to learn All Sound Recorder XP easily and record a song from an LP. You will need Adobe’s Flash Player installed to see the tutorial – chances are your browser already has it installed but, if not, get it here free.
More audio software here: Audio Category page of the TechnologyTips Software Library.