Friday, September 17, 2004

how to convert analog sausages to digital bacon

A reader asked how I record from vinyl to disk - if you find this boring, don't bother reading:

I went the expensive route -- I bought a Sony CD Recorder (it has a 5 disk changer deck on the left hand side and a recorder on the right). I also use this to backup and play CDs so its pretty versatile and I have no regrets in buying it. I find it convenient to use a solid state piece of equipment to force me into maintaining an archive of discs rather than the messy disk-based approach (I know this may not make sense but I am much better at taking care of things I can touch than I am with back-ups and disk organization). You need special CD-R Audio disks, though, to do the analog conversion. The less expensive approach is to get a good sound card and an adaptor and put a line-in from your stereo directly into your computer. Alot of people do this and there's no loss in sound or anything. There are a ton of CD recorder programs out there for this - some in freeware, some like Roxio or Nero. Finally, if you go the CD-Recorder route, I recommend you NOT buy the KLH CD-Recorder - this is a piece of shite even if it is cheaper. I went through two of them -- and thank God they proved bad before the 30-day return time expired.

Now, previously I just converted the file into an MP3 and then edited it into something I could play on iTunes - I'd try to edit out the worse of the cracks and pops with a sound editor. Now I take an extra step, first converting the file into a WAV (via Roxio Easy CD) and then running it through a program called DART XP. While it is not a cheap program, it is the best way to eliminate the cracks and pops found on vinyl. I tried just using the tools found in Roxio's Sound Editor and later Goldwave (more on those next) but found them to be substandard and made the recording sound worse. The loss due to the DART sound processing is minimal - at least I can't hear it. I've been playing with the program for the past few weeks and my last posting on Galaxie 500, is the first time I have tried it. Tell me if you hear alot of surface noise. It also eliminate tape hiss and (although its complicated) can deal with hum.

I then take the converted file into a sound editor. There are two that I use -- Roxio has a quick and dirty sound editor that's fine if you don't want to do anything with the file. It loads quick and has an easy interface. Goldwave's sound editor has more bells and whistles and allows you to better post process your tune. If you are someone who didn't like how the original was mixed or equalized, I should say, you can go in and fix it with Goldwave. Either way, Goldwave is fun to play with.

My final step is to import the files into iTunes where I add in meta information via the "get info" feature. I usually try to add in track number, composer, band name (of course), album title and copyright information especially for those that are being demoed as part of this journal.

Well, I hope I haven't sufficiently bored you to death.


Eric XXL said...

Jim... I too use CD-Recorder to record files, I bought it a couple of years ago and it works fine so I haven'tr tried to connect directly to the computer. The two step process can be a pain in that It is time consuming,but to hell with it. I use CD-RW to transfer songs from stereo to PC and then convert to MP3. I'll take a look at some of the sound cleanup tools you mentioned to help out with some of my "problem" albums

Jim H said...

Dart Pro is expensive but worth it if you have alot of problem children. I wish, though, someone would put together a site or a book with better tutorials on how to take advantage of all its features. Right now, I'm still experimenting with it and, for my files, I generally just it with the default "factory settings" but I'm sure there's more to it such as where to select the right frequency cut-off for the deClick.

Phil said...

a great faq on all things related to cds including vinyl transfers can be found at :

i own a panasonic cd/cd burner and use the same methodology to digitise then clean up as you all do. i use soundforge and various add-ins to do the de-clicking and noise reduction. it's worked perfectly for approximately 300 transfers.