There are two typical ways of getting MP3s onto your computer. You either download them from some website, or you get them from a regular (store-bought or borrowed) CD. But wait! there's a third way, and it's great if you have a ton of old vinyl sitting around unplayed, and you want to take those old scratchy classics along with your iPod.
Here's how you can convert your vinyl-to-MP3:
If you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of old albums sitting around collecting dust. Or maybe you’ve got several dozen cassette collections from the 70s, 80s or early 90s. You hardly every get them out, unless you’re totally bored or you have an old song busting through your head, like "She's A Lover" by the Pretty Things, Grand Funk Railroad's "T.N.U.C." or "Baby Talks Dirty" by The Knack and you just gotta hear it. Now.
So you pull out the album, play the song and stick it back in. Now wouldn’t it be easier if the song was just sitting on your computer as an MP3, and you just had to click a mouse a few times?
All you really need to accompany your computer and sound card is a line-in recording device and a piece of software to accompany it.
Equipment-wise, you’ll need an RCA to 1/8” headphone jack cable and an MP3 encoder that gives you the option of recording any audio from your line-in. Check out Musicmatch or RealOne Rhapsody. They’re sufficient, although if you want to do any more serious recording with some spiffier controls and options, you’ll want to look into something like Cool Edit Pro 2.0 (now Adobe’s Audition) or Sound Forge.
Still, the low-end versions will accomplish what you want – getting the audio into your computer to convert that old vinyl-to-MP3.
Connect the output of your stereo amplifier to the back of your computer. And again, if you’re looking at doing this more than casually, you’ll want to look at getting a small mixing board, such as a Mackie Mixer for around $240. It gives you a number of inputs, and more control over your volume, balance, bass, treble, etc.
If all you have is your cassette deck, for instance, just hook the output of that into the sound card of your computer.
In MusicMatch, select the desired bitrate for your MP3s. For most uses, the near CD-quality of 128 Kbps will work. If you're like me, and want to make it a little higher quality – in case The Knack means that much to you – try 160bps or 192bps. It’ll take up a little more room, but hard drives are so cheap, don’t hold back on account of scrimping for space. Hey, these are precious recordings!
Now, browse your menu (most likely under options), and set the recorder source to Line In. To set your recording level, play the cassette or record and open up your computer’s Recording Control. (You’ll find that under Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices). Drag your mouse up or down on the slider to adjust the recording volume. You’ll have to listen back to the recording to check out the volume before you’re satisfied that it’s not too quiet or overmodulated (recorded so loud the sound distorts).
One of the tricks at this point in playing back your test recording is to find the darn song! I always have a little trouble finding it. To see where it landed on your hard drive, go to Options > Settings > Recorder and check the Tracks Directory. This way you can see the path and sub-paths to where the song is stored on your hard drive. To listen, navigate to File > Open and go to the directory where your song or test is recorded.
Once you’ve decided you like it the sound level and quality, go back and start another recording. You’re well on your way to creating MP3s of your vintage vinyl tidbits and precious and rare recordings. Then your records will be safe while the digitized version can be played over and over, shared with friends, or taken with you on your portable MP3 device.
Even if you aren’t into The Pretty Things.