Instructables

Rip Vinyl Records To Your PC

Most of us have a collection of old vinyl records lying around that we never listen to, perhaps because in this day of digital music and iPods, no one wants to hassle with a record player. If you've ever wanted to convert your vinyl to MP3 files or even burn them to a CD for ease of listening, then this instructable is for you!

I also added a short sound clip, so you can get an idea of the sound quality. I didn't run it through any filters, so that's what it sounds like directly off of the record.
 
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Step 1: Stuff You'll Need

Most of this is pretty straightforward, and you'll have most if not all of what you need lying around. You'll need:

1.) Records
2.) A Phonograph (a.k.a. a Record Player, I'm using a Beogram 8002)
3.) A Phono pre-amp (In my case a Rotel RA-8408X)*
4.) A Stereo RCA Audio Cable
5.) An RCA to Mini-Jack adapter
6.) A Computer with recording software

You can easily pick up records at places like DI and second hand stores, or the like.

If you don't have a Phonograph, you can find them online, in second hand stores, ect.

The RCA cables can be easily acquired at Radio Shack, other electronics stores, or online stores (Monoprice http://www.monoprice.com/home/index.asp is my favorite)

Pre-amps can be found online, the cheapest one I've found is this one http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/40-630. The pre-amp is necessary because of a special equalization curve, called the RIAA EQ curve, that was applied when the record was recorded (RIAA stands for the Record Industry Association of America). The curve limits the lower frequencies and boosts the higher ones. A pre-amp then limits the high frequencies and boosts the low ones, creating a good-sounding replication. If you didn't use a pre-amp, you'd end up with a poor quality recording.

Finally, on to the the computer and software. Basically any computer will do, you just need to have a line-in input, and sufficient hard drive space to store your recorded music. Having a more beefy computer helps with ease of editing and exporting the final product. The software I use is called Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net/, it's free, cross-platform, and open source. Plus, it comes with some handy plug-ins that you can use to clean up your final recording. I'm using the beta, if you're a beta kind of person then go ahead and use that, but for others I would recommend the stable release.

EDIT:
*Recent releases of Audacity include the RIAA EQ Curve (and many other EQ curves) with the Equalization effect by default, so a pre-amp is not necessary.
Nice RHCP!!!!!!!!!!!
dave_6t1 year ago
Well this Canuck guy will play at this, cover your ears. :o)
tbaca2 years ago
Nice instructable, what's the song in the sample?
RelaxedSoup (author)  tbaca2 years ago
"Cause We've Ended As Lovers" by Jeff Beck, off of Blow by Blow. He did a pretty killer version of it at Crossroads 2007 as well.
onemoroni13 years ago
I started doing this a couple years ago. Basically the same except I have an old
SX 15000TD Pioneer tuner amp with preamp out terminals to feed into the computer sound card. With some audio switch boxes from DI (Radio Shack brand) I run in and out audio to/from the old Pentium and Pioneer. Lots of sound with 5.1 plus two sets of old tower speakers pumping the theme from "Peter Gunn". I picked up a dual cassette player at the thrift store. Lots of cool tapes for 25 cents. Being cheap I use Audacity. More commercial software does automatic stop and start recording and other trinkets, you have to babysit audacity. I use an old Dual turntable in the system. I record from the turntable and cassette deck with good results. It's interesting the different audio production techniques noticeable at the time of recording, ie, today it is all about bass. With my system I have to boost the volume with Audacity (short of clipping) and I usually kick the bass a little in the 200-400 range for the results I like. Some pop and click editing. I have a scan and stitch program to copy the covers front and back to print CD case liners so it looks like a smaller version of the old album. Sometimes I photo the old disk and with printable CD's I print to original label and vinyl off center to give a look and feel.
RelaxedSoup (author)  onemoroni13 years ago
Sounds like you have quite the setup! Definitely more complex than mine.

I too have noticed that production techniques have changed greatly, most noticeably in the amount of compression employed. Seems like albums these days are just a homogenous mass of over-compressed tracks (to the point of clipping, even) with no dynamics. It's quite depressing. I also tend to steer away from newly "remastered" albums, which just means they ran it through a compressor a couple more times and deemed it "acceptable" by today's standards. Much preferable to rip the album yourself off of the record, that way you don't have to deal with someone else's idea of what sounds good. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine if you can't tell :P.

I hadn't actually tried any EQ-ing, but that would probably help modernize them in a good way. Also very cool that you've taken the extra step of making physical copies. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the compliment. It's all home brew, not a lot of technical thought put into it, just what I have and find and make it work. Love the thrift stores. The wife is getting on me for collecting the albums, but it's a cool hobby. I feel sorry for the MP3 generation. They don't get it, that their sound is faked so much. Even the concerts. I can't bring myself to get a MP3 player because my wife has one and the sound sucks. I record my albums to wav files for the best replay.
mastercob5 years ago
What program are you using to add the metadata? I always drag my transferred songs into Itunes, and then add the metadata there. But I'm curious about other options. I rip a lot of my records to computer. I transfer one full side at a time, and then use Audacity to chop the side into tracks. If anyone's interested in doing that: highlight an individual song, and then go to File > Export Selection As..." (in Preferences, you can adjust the quality of your saved files). Repeat for each song.
RelaxedSoup (author)  mastercob5 years ago
When exporting out of Audacity, it will automatically pop up with a window that allows you to edit the metadata. I'm not sure if this is a feature only available in the 1.3.6 Beta or not. I use a similar method when ripping my records. I record a whole side at once, then I highlight an individual song and copy it into a new instance of Audacity. That way I can edit global settings for that specific song without effecting the rest of the album. Also, I use the Sound Activated Recording feature so I don't have to be at my computer the whole time I'm ripping the record. Enable this by going to Edit > Preferences > Smart Recording.
I hadn't noticed that feature (see above post) thanks.
Thank you. Yeah, the metadata pop-up is/must be a Beta feature (I've been using the same stable version for years - I should check into the Beta!). I have an mp3 blog, on which I share records (out of print punk records), and the final step - of adding to itunes then adding metadata, then zipping the folder that's now in the itunes directory - has always felt like a wasteful process. I don't do any noise removal on my transfers - I hadn't been happy with that Effect when I first tried it. It seemed to introduce digital noise. I'll check out Smart Recording, too. Thanks.
RelaxedSoup (author)  mastercob5 years ago
No problem, glad I could help.
sibu4 years ago
Thank you for this! Now I know what cable to get! Then I just have to get my albums down from the shelves and find the cables that belong to the turntable that I have been saving forever! Thank you!
RelaxedSoup (author)  sibu4 years ago
No problem! FYI, newer versions of Audacity include RIAA equalization under Effects by default, so you don't have to use a pre-amp; you can just run the RCA output of the phonograph directly into your computer's 3.5 mm Line-In. Also, I've noticed that recordings from LP's are much quieter than modern recordings, this can be compensated for by using Audacity's "compressor" effect.  This shortens the dynamic range, which effectively makes the recording louder without clipping.  Best of luck ripping your records!
LkArio4 years ago
I wouldn't use MP3, I'd first convert it to a lossless format so if you want other lossy formats other than MP3 or would like to burn a normal audio CD, there would be no further loss.
Schober4 years ago
The Beta version of Audacity has an equalization setting that allows you to adjust the curve to RIAA. Because of this you don't need the preamp. I tried this and I ended up with a recording that sounded exactly like the original.
RelaxedSoup (author)  Schober4 years ago
Wow, that's nice!  I didn't know that. I'm guessing it's a new feature that was added since the time of writing this Instructable.  I'll have to check it out and update my Instructable.
Re-design4 years ago
Nice job.
RelaxedSoup (author)  Re-design4 years ago
Thanks.
allegfede4 years ago
if it's possible, I suggest using an external sound card. USB (50euro on ebay) or firewire (m-audio's stuff is really a good choice but expensive). internal Analog to Digital converters of chipset or pci/pci-express sound cards can pick up eletrical interferences in your PC chase. External sound card don't ;D
app0 allegfede4 years ago
I think m-audio sucks. I had much problems with knobs on Audiophile firewire. They don't work anyway.
allegfede app04 years ago
don't know ... allways used internal m-audio stuff and works well in linux. Under winzzoz s.o. I discovered that beringer usb sound cards are cheap and a very hi-quality choice (and don't require drivers) cheers :D
app0 allegfede4 years ago
You used internal card. And linux. Ok, then i think windoz suxx. And m-audio drivers for windows too!
allegfede app04 years ago
device drivers for win are a default choice for producers, but in linux work is quite difficult to find an hardware producer providing linux drivers .... but today m-audio (realtek) chipset is well implemented in Open source drivers .... I usally use Ubuntu Studio+M-audio1010+Aurdour multy track editor :D For simple projects you could use audacity .......
RelaxedSoup (author)  allegfede4 years ago
Good point. However, the general quality of a record is (relatively) poor, compared to today's standards, so I wouldn't think it wouldn't make much of a difference (unless you happen to be an audiophile and can hear that kind of stuff :P). But your point does have merit, especially to eliminate the risk of accidentally frying your internal/built in sound card by overloading, etc. (I run the Line-Out of my guitar amp into my computer, plenty of potential there). Then you wouldn't have to replace the motherboard.
crackjr4 years ago
can I do it with a 60s diamond tip record player
RelaxedSoup (author)  crackjr4 years ago
You should be able to, as long as it has some sort of pre-amp, and you have a way of getting the audio output into your computer. Just be sure to take proper precautions (don't overdrive your sound card) and you'll be fine.
thanks dude and ok