How to Convert Your Vinyl to a Digital Format

It doesn’t matter one bit if your vinyl collection consists of a single milk carton or you fill multiple Ikea Kallax shelves and are slowly taking over your home; We all agree that there is something about vinyl.

Maybe it’s the warm, uncompressed sound flowing through a sweet classic system, or the feeling of holding a physical work of art in your hands as the record spins; it’s a special experience that has regained much of its glory in a world dominated by digital broadcasting. . The problem is that the discs are fragile and the boxes full of them do not fit in your back pocket.

So why not digitize them? Converting your vinyl records to a digital music format will not only preserve that rare Beatles UK first beat that you are afraid to remove from its sleeve and protect it from further wear and tear, but you will also have portable versions of your favorite records. – including those you just can’t find on streaming services – for you to enjoy anywhere.

Transferring your precious slotted platters to sound waves is easier than you might think. From USB turntables and digital audio converters to the various software options and how to use them, in this article we’ll walk you through all the steps you need to go digital.


audio technica at lp120 usb lifestyle

Unfortunately, there is no general method for digitizing your vinyl collection, and the exact process depends on the type of equipment you have. Some turntables come with built-in phono preamps – electronic components that boost the typically low signal produced by the stylus and cartridge before sending it to the receiver or powered speaker array. Turntables without preamps will rely on a receiver with a phono input or a separate phono preamplifier, or phono stage as they are also known. Many modern turntables feature a built-in preamp and USB output, allowing you to quickly and efficiently convert that moldy copy of Steely Dan’s I can’t buy a thrill with little effort.

That’s not to say you can’t convert your vinyl to digital without a built-in USB output, but opting for a turntable built with such an output makes the process a lot easier. Below is one of the turntables we recommend. If this doesn’t work for you, check out our roundup of the best turntables under $ 500.

The turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

If you are deeply interested in a large collection of vinyl records, a high-quality player like the Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB might be worth your money. A popular turntable with beginners and mid-level vinyl heads, the AT-LP120XUSB is equipped with a professional grade anti-resonance aluminum platter for positioning your records, a balanced S-shaped arm, and variable tone control with a lock. speed quartz.

The included Audio Technica cartridge is fully capable and sounds great, but one of the best things about this platform is that it can also be easily upgraded to higher quality cartridges and heads. The LP120XUSB’s direct-drive motor may not be as quiet as belt-driven turntables, but it is one-button-operated and can shift between 45 and 33 1/3 RPM without changing or moving a belt in an annoying way. But obviously it’s the built-in USB output that makes it great for transferring your wax to zeros and ones.

at lp120xusb closeup lifestyle

The software

Getting the signal from your turntable to your computer is just the first step. The second part of the process is finding the right software application to record the audio. Although there are several premium applications designed to help you extract audio from your turntable, such as Pure Vinyl and Vinyl Studio, the open Audacity is the best option for most users. This freemium app may not offer dedicated tools for converting vinyl to more accessible formats, but you can still record at sample rates up to 192 kHz and export the resulting audio files as MP3, AIFF, FLAC, or WAV for serial playback. . of popular platforms. The interface may not be polished either, but the software works with Windows, Mac, and Linux-based machines.

Regardless of the software you use, we recommend that you record at a minimum of 16 bits sampled at 44.1 kHz. You can always create a compressed copy from a lossless one, but you can’t improve the quality of your audio files without going through the burning process again. If you have a large library of vinyl, which seems likely, given that it’s here, it’s a serious time commitment.

audacity in dark theme

The process

Once you have the necessary equipment and software in place, it’s time to start the scanning process. Although you can digitize your vinyl wherever you see fit, we recommend that you choose a space that is relatively quiet and free from external vibrations, i.e. passing trains, stomping children, which can cause noise or an unwanted needle jump. Remember, for all intents and purposes, this is a live recording. Everything that the stylus picks up from your turntable will appear in the digital file. This brings us to the first step of the process even before recording …

Step 1: Clean your vinyl:Vinyl records have the ability to get dirty. If you’ve ever seen a microscopic image of what it looks like inside a record groove, it’s like a chasm between two mountain ranges – dust builds up over time, fingers leave behind oils and other dirt, and all of this can be picked up. by the pencil, so it is better to clean your albums. Any imperfections, whether from scratches or simple dust, will be recorded when scanning. Consider buying at least a simple bristle or microfiber brush and some cleaning solution if you haven’t already, or something a bit more complicated like a Spin Clean disc washer for under $ 100.

Step 2: Connect your devices: If you are using a turntable with a built-in USB output, plug the USB cable into the corresponding USB port on your computer. For newer computers, especially Macs, you may need a USC-A to USB-C adapter.

If you’re using a turntable with no USB output, things get a bit tricky, but stick with us. A turntable with a built-in preamp can be connected directly to your computer’s “line-in” headphone port with an RCA to 3.5mm “Y” audio cable. But hear us out: on cheaper turntables these phono preamps are sometimes not the best, so you may want to hook up to a better quality preamp or A / V receiver anyway before it goes to your computer using the same one. RCA to 3.5mm Cable.

Lastly, however, if you want to go a step further and are concerned about having more control over input and sound quality, you should consider connecting your turntable to a separate Analog Digital Converter (ADC), such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. , which has higher quality digital conversion and connects to your computer via USB. You can even use it to record your own music, podcasts, or whatever else you want to connect.

turntable usb port

Step 3: Launch of Audacity: Open Audacity, or your favorite audio recording software, on your Mac or PC. You will first need to select the appropriate input (be it your USB turntable, ADC, or direct line input) from the system preferences panel or a similar setup panel in the program. If you use Audacity, click Edit > System preferences before selecting “Line Input” from the drop-down menu within the Recording section of the Devices crystal. On a Mac, it will be Audacity > preferences > Devices. Note that you may need to additionally select the input from your computer’s main sound panel.

audacity input select

Stage 4: Record: Click on the Record and play your entire disc, one side at a time, to capture each song on each side. You can stop recording after the side is finished and resume it again after flipping it over, or just keep recording. You are going to separate all the audio tracks after anyway and you can edit the space.

While recording from the selected , keep an eye on it to adjust input levels and reduce clipping and post distortion when necessary.

audacity recording screenshot 02

Step 5: Divide the clues: If you’re like most people, you probably prefer to divide the entire record into individual tracks. If you’re using Audacity, click and drag to highlight the duration of a particular track. Then click on the Edit option within the toolbar, then click Labels, then select Add label to selection in the resulting drop-down menu and give the track a name. There are better tools for this process than Audacity (see: Perfect Tunes), but Audacity is free, which is good.

audacity split tracks 03

Step 6: To export: Once you have divided and named each track, click Archive inside the toolbar and select Export multiple from the drop-down menu. Then choose the desired file format, save the location, and enter the missing metadata in the resulting pop-up menu before clicking the To export in the lower right corner.

audacity recording export multiple

Step 7: Enjoy!: Once you’ve finished converting, enjoy your newly digitized music on the media player of your choice!

There are definitely more ways to convert your records to digital format, including other recording software like GarageBand, Pro Tools, and Logic, but we don’t suggest using them unless you’re experienced with them. For our money (for free!), Audacity has proven over the years to be the best and easiest way to do it. If you have little extra money to spend, Vinyl Studio is a bit easier and dedicated to extracting vinyl, but the process is basically the same. Also, you can try it for free first, with some savings restrictions. Happy conversion!

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Above article is first published by the link. We curated and re-published.

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