Whether you recently discovered playing vinyl and record collecting or you grew up playing records, learning how to record records to a computer is an easy way to enjoy your favorite records wherever you go.
Having a digitized version of your record collection allows you to load all your music into a portable device or you can archive your favorite music in the digital realm. When done correctly, digital recordings of vinyl records can also sound much better compared to a compressed MP3. Additionally, many records that you’ll come across aren’t even available to purchase as a digital download.
Most audiophiles hope that this process is as simple as pushing a single button, and there have been advances made that can simplify the process, but so far, it’s a little more complicated than some people would like and can be a difficult process if you aren’t very tech savvy. But with a little practice and patience, you can capture your entire record collection, shrink it down to size and carry it with you wherever you go.
There are a few popular ways to go about this process, and surprisingly, the easiest method is probably the most affordable.
Digitizing Your Record Collection
Here are a few ways you can go about transferring your vinyl to your PC:
- You can use an all in one turntable and CD burner
- USB turntable
- Use an audio interface to connect your PC and turntable
The first method will involve using a turntable and CD burner and it’s probably the easiest option. An all in one model features both a CD burner and turntable. All you have to do is burn a CD of the record, then load the burned CD onto your PC. Just keep in mind that with this method you probably won’t be able to mark individual tracks.
Compared to an all in one turntable and CD burner, a USB turntable can be a more affordable option. However, a USB turntable will require the user to interact with their PC and software in order to digitize their vinyl.
Out of the few recording options we mentioned, using an audio interface will allow you to connect your record player to your PC, but it requires the most know-how. On the plus side, some models of audio interfaces are priced affordably.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to understand the difference between a phono-level signal and a line-level signal.
Some types of modern record players will come equipped with line-level outputs, however, many will only have phono outputs. In order to convert the phono output to a line-level, you’ll need a phono preamp. The preamp utilizes the RIAA equalization curve, which works to boost high frequencies and reduces low frequencies in order to prevent skipping and distortion. A phono preamp will flip the script on the RIAA EQ in order to decode the incoming audio from the vinyl in order to generate line-level, full frequency audio.
If you have a turntable that you plan to use to digitize your record collection, try to determine what type of output it has. If it has an output that’s labeled headphone jack or line, you’ll be able to get away with using a cheap interface.
Some models of audio interfaces will come equipped with special phono inputs that are designed specifically for connecting to turntables. If you’re using an older turntable, more than likely it has a phono level output. This means that if the out of the turntable was plugged directly into the line-level inputs on a PC audio interface, the signal wouldn’t have been compensated for the RIAA EQ curve. In cases such as these, you can purchase a phono preamp.
Using Your Stereo System
If you have a stereo system, you may not need to use an external phono preamp. Check out your stereo system and see if the back of the receiver has designated phono inputs. Plug your record player into the input. Most models of receivers also have outputs as well. People used to make copies of recordings using cassettes. Back in the day, most types of receivers were designed to route the audio that came from the turntable, sending it to the cassette deck for recording. But these days, instead of sending the signal to the cassette deck, the receiver can route it to your PC.
Software Programs for Vinyl Recording
Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll need to use audio software in order to edit and record the digital audio. There are several programs to choose from, just keep in mind, the more expensive the program, the harder and more complex it’ll be to use. You can find free recording programs online that are pretty simple and intuitive to use. Of course, if you’re an audiophile you’ll want only the best recording options, so you may want to check out the free trials offered for some of the top, higher priced programs.
Once you’ve finished the tiresome process of converting your vinyl collection to MP3 files, don’t throw your record collection out. As we mentioned, many older albums aren’t available for purchase online, so your vinyl can work as a hard copy for some of the rarer tracks out there.
If you have a large collection we recommend taking your time with this process, especially if you plan on editing the tracks for sound clarity.
Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that it can be a trial and error process, especially if you’re not very handy with computers. But in the end, converting your music will be worth it, especially if you have a large collection. Vinyl can be easily damaged if it’s stored incorrectly, and over time, vinyl begins to degrade. Adding your record collection your MP3 library is one way to ensure you enjoy your collection for many years to come.
But while digitizing your record collection will make it easier to enjoy some of your favorite music, it simply can’t take the place of the classic sound you can enjoy from vinyl.