Converting records to MP3 or CD
A look at what's involved in recording vinyl to your PC
What you'll need
- Computer with a USB connector
- Turntable with USB output, or digital phono preamp
LPs have to be transferred in real time. Add about a half an hour for editing/post production to the playing time of the LP.
Selecting your equipment
In order to transfer an analog LP to a computer or laptop, the signal needs to be digitized. If you don’t already own a turntable, a USB turntable is a good place to start. This type of system connects to your computer via a USB cord.
If your turntable doesn't have a USB port, then you have two choices. If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, you'll need to connect it to a digital phono preamp with line-level input. If your turntable doesn't have a built-in preamp, you'll need a phono preamp that has USB output.
Some computers come with sound editing software already installed. If yours doesn’t, Audacity® Sound Recording Software is a good choice. This is a free download and is compatible with both Macs® and PCs. Plus, many USB turntable manufacturers recommend Audacity for use with their products.
Connect your USB turntable to your computer by plugging the turntable’s USB cable into the USB port. Or, if you’re using a digital phono preamp, connect the preamp to the output of your turntable. Connect the preamp to your computer with a USB cable.
Turn on the turntable and open up Audacity (or your other software editing program). Sometimes Audacity will automatically recognize the USB port connected to the turntable as an audio input. If not, you'll need to designate it as the input source in your computer's settings.
On a PC, open the Control Panel, select Sound, then Manage Audio Devices. From there, select Recording. You should see the connected turntable listed as an input source to select.
On a Mac, select Settings, then Sound Devices. From there, open the Input tab. You should see the connected turntable listed as an input source to select (as shown below).
In your editing software, start a new project. We're using Audacity for our examples — other brands will have similar menu items.
Select the record button in Audacity (circled below). Then start the LP on your turntable. You should see sound waves displayed in the program as it records (indicated below with red arrows). Make sure that the volume isn’t too loud. If you see the waves completely filling the window, your recording may sound “clipped” or distorted. Simply adjust the recording volume downward until the extreme highs and lows of the waveform fit within the window. If the waves look very small, then you may want to adjust the volume upwards.
If necessary, you can always restart the recording process from the beginning and record over the old file.
When the LP stops playing (or you’ve recorded the songs you want to), select the stop button in Audacity (circled below). It’s best to save the file at this point. NOTE: this will save your project as an editing software file, not as a sound file you can play back on a digital player(that step comes later).
Audacity has an option to remove clicks and pops from digital recordings. You can "scrub" a wave file by highlighting it, then selecting Click Removal from the Effect menu.
Enter the metadata for your finished tracks. "Metadata" is basically text info that's attached to the file, such as artist name and song title. The more metadata you enter for your song file, the easier it will be to find the file in your digital library. In addition to entering artist and song title, it's a good idea to include album, year of release, genre, and any other information you use to sort through your music. Select the Edit Metadata option in the File menu to open the metadata editor.
Export the project. Select the format you want to export the files in and their destination. These will be the files your music player will use. For iTunes® (and much similar music playback software), it's best not to directly export your completed songs into the library. Rather, create a folder to move the songs from Audacity into, and then from iTunes, import the songs from the folder. This allows iTunes to create the links it needs in order to find the songs in its database.
allan blood from muskegon
Posted on 12/30/2022
I have a Luxman stereo system that bought in the 70's new. Got it out to add to my surrouond system but found out that myturntable needs a new stylus and cleaning but I cant't find any body that sells this equipment any more. Wandering if it is any good product or not?
willis from durham
Posted on 7/22/2021
This is just for you editors. I think the last two comments (the earliest ones posted sum things up pretty well), and I appreciate you leaving them up this long. The fact that most of the people here are looking to downgrade their LPs' sounds onto CDs (???) or don't know how to split a track tells me it's time to shop elsewhere. The article says the best players are over $800 and you best sellers are under $200. I appreciate your keeping those comments and this marketplace in the proper perspective. The articles provided some good solid information to forward on, so thank you, but if someone's seriously complaining about their computer being too far away, please stop encouraging them.
Posted on 1/8/2021
Analog to digital music conversion from a turntable to computer instructions are very easy to understand. Thank you.
Posted on 1/1/2021
Nobody ever mentions this but my turntable and computer are nowhere near each other. So is there no way for me to make digital files?
Judith from Cleveland Heights
Posted on 5/19/2020
I love you even tho/because I am nearly illiterate even in analog. Am only now toying with idea of turntable access to the abused vinyl abandoned in the basement. Hadn't even considered converting to digital til I started shopping & ran into bluetooth tables w converter programs. Sounded awful to me, and your protocol does not. Question tho: the Bluetooth programs automatically create individual tracks. How do I do that ?
Patrick H Murphy from Boulder
Posted on 11/23/2019
I don't see any mention of how to break a side of an LP into separate songs. Is there any software that does this or does is all have to be done manually, one song at a time?
Edd from Milton
Posted on 7/23/2019
Great I can't wait to try
David Compton from Charlotte
Posted on 9/9/2018
In response to "Why Would You Want To?" - I own and enjoy quite a few local/regional LPs that were pressed in the 1060s or early 1970s. None of which ever made it to digital. For me, this is a way to listen to this material while commuting, walking, etc. Reflect on what you have and when you would have enjoyed it.
Alan from Pittsfield, MA
Posted on 7/3/2018
Can a USB turntable also be played through a standard receiver with an adapter?
winston from conyers
Posted on 5/5/2017
This was very good and right to the point on how to properly convert vinyl to MP3, You took the mystery of how do this, if this type of info was included with other devises, more people would buy other electronic items . forget about online instruction that give you half of what you need and leave you with a $100 door wedge. Thanks.