If you're transferring your old LPs and cassettes, you'll want to get rid of the hiss and background noise. We explain how to clean up your tracks using your PC
With their large sleeves and warm, natural sound, it’s easy to see why many of us still have a soft spot for LP records. But the trouble with vinyl is that it is highly susceptible to degradation.
The more records are played, the more worn they become. Even the tiniest scratch can have a serious effect on the way recordings sound. And let’s not get started on the problems that can afflict audio cassettes.
By digitising favourite records and tapes, however, it’s possible to create backup copies that can be played without fear of degradation. It’s also possible to reverse existing damage, using software to repair glitches.
In this article we’ll show not only how to convert records and tapes, but also how to clean them up in the process.
Make the connection
There are plenty of clever-looking devices that claim to automatically convert records and tapes to CD and MP3 format (see the heading USB turntables and tape players towards the end of this article). But all that’s really required is a way to connect existing hi-fi equipment to the PC.
Of course, this assumes that you still have a hi-fi that’s capable of playing back analogue formats but, if so, then in most cases a simple stereo phono-to-3.5mm jack cable will do the job - available for as little as £1 from Amazon.
The phono plugs connect to the output sockets on your hi-fi, amplifier, record player or tape deck, while the jack end of the cable plugs into the audio-in socket on the PC.
If your hi-fi equipment does not have any dedicated output sockets, then it’s possible to use the headphone socket as an output instead – this typically means buying a cable with 3.5mm jack sockets on both ends.
Another possible problem is that some record decks can’t output directly to a PC’s sound card without a pre-amplifier to boost the signal. Stereo phono pre-amps can be bought for £21 from Maplin.
Choose your software
Next, you’ll need some software that can record sound from the PC’s input and save it as a digital audio file. All computers come with a basic program called Windows Sound Recorder but its abilities are very limited, so consider seeking an alternative.
Magix Rescue Your Vinyl & Tapes (£60), comes with software tools dedicated to capturing and cleaning up audio from LPs and cassettes and has the added bonus of including a pre-amp in the box.
However, we’ll be using a free program called Audacity. Audacity’s support page suggests Windows 7 is not fully supported but we’ve had no problems with it.
Audacity has the requisite recording and editing tools, but it needs a plug-in to convert the results to MP3 - click here to read the ‘All users’ section for details.
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