Q and A: Converting vinyl records to digital tracks
One day I walked into a record store and there were no more records. I remember that day quite clearly. When I asked some mp3-generation teenage clerk behind the store counter where I could find any 45s or long-playing albums, I got a strange bla...
One day I walked into a record store and there were no more records. I remember that day quite clearly. When I asked some mp3-generation teenage clerk behind the store counter where I could find any 45s or long-playing albums, I got a strange blank stare. Welcome to the 21st century.
So the end of the 20th century was also the end of vinyl records and tape recorders. But there are still a lot of us who own vinyl record collections, audio cassettes and yes, even 8-track tapes. But with the ever-increasing difficulty of obtaining phonograph needles and the like to play any sort of record these days, it's probably in one's best interest to convert them into a digital format. Converting them will preserve them for at least until the next storage device technology becomes available. The same holds true with any old movies and photographs you may possess. Digital preservation will make them last so much longer.
We use digital cameras, scanners and software to convert our conventional photographic images into digital memories. Converting old vinyl records requires some hardware and software as well. Connecting a record player to your computer is fairly straight forward. If your turntable is hooked to a stereo amplifier, just take the output from the amplifier to your computer's stereo sound input. Depending on your make, model and platform, that's located on either the sound card or the computer's back panel. Once the physical connection is made, you'll need some kind of recording software.
There are many titles to choose from and you can find many free, shareware and commercial titles. Since you really won't need to do any editing or special processing, transferring music from a recorded source is pretty straight forward so you shouldn't spend very much money. What you will need is something to help clean up the older recordings. After all, vinyl records have things like hiss, clicks and pops. These are little distortion noises that begin to appear after you play a record over and over again. Needles made tiny scratches, dropping the needle makes little pits that result in popping sounds, plus dirt and dust add their own distinctive distortions as well. Some say those sounds add character to the recording, like scratches on a movie film. Still, you want to have the best possible sound and that was how it sounded when it was played the first time.
One of the easiest ways to digitally "wash" your old record recordings is to use special software designed to clean things back to their original pristine condition. One such program is SoundSoap 2 from Bias. SoundSoap 2 lets you instantly reduce most any of the common types of noise and distortion found on old vinyl recordings. This includes tape hiss (from those old cassettes and 8-Track tapes), clicks, pops, scratches along with hum, rumble and buzzing. Running SoundSoap 2 first displays an easy to understand control panel with two large knobs and a Wash Window that displays before and after results. By turning the big Noise Tuner and Noise Reduction knobs, you can tune in any offensive noises you want removed. A Learn Noise button lets SoundSoap 2 automatically profile any noise in your recording and adjusts the Noise Tuner and Noise Reduction knobs to their ideal settings for you.
The Wash Window display lets you see how much noise is being removed. Its split before and after image lets you see just how much your sounds have been washed. Other buttons let you remove rumble, remove hum and let you select the frequency range of the distortions to be removed. A Mode selection lets you listen to the original sound, how it sounds with the distortions removed, or just listen to the distortions themselves. These features can be a real ear opener.
You can also use SoundSoap 2 to clean up your current digital recordings as well. For example, if you had an air conditioner running in the background while you were making your digital movie or recording, you can use SoundSoap 2 to remove the offending air conditioner sound while preserving everything else.
Photographs have products like PhotoShop to make images look better. Now your audio tracks have SoundSoap 2 to help clean up everything you want to hear and preserve for yourself, the next generation, or anyone from the 20th Century.
SoundSoap 2 runs on both Windows and Macintosh OS X. $129.