I’ve had a couple of people ask me about digitizing old vinyl LPs, and so I thought I’d put my experiences down in writing here for your edification and enjoyment.
So you have a stack of old LPs, and you want to get them into iTunes so you can listen to them more conveniently? There are a couple of things you should know before you run out and buy hardware and software, and spend hours doing this.
First, in case you were kidding yourself, this whole process is a royal pain. It’s fiddly, time-consuming, and frustrating. So, you should go through your albums and eliminate as many from the stack as you can. How do you do this? First, if you have a CD copy, then obviously don’t bother with the LP. Next, look on-line to see if anybody else has a digitized MP3 version of this album. Don’t worry about copyright or legality issues; you already own the LP (and the music on it), so getting it in another form for free is perfectly acceptable.
The easiest way I have found to look for such things is using bit-torrent. Go to www.vuze.com and download their free client. It’s really quite good and easy to use. Put in the album name in question, and it will search 4 or 5 torrent sites for this. You’ll get a bunch of results, some of which are not applicable. You can use the filter on the right hand side to select just “Music” entries. Browse through the results and pick one. Important: LOOK AT THE COMMENTS! People post comments on the torrent sites, and if you see comments like “fake: don’t download”, then skip that one. It’s probably a virus or some scam to make money. When you find something that looks decent (really not that hard once you do it a couple of times), download it. This could take a short or a very long time depending on how many sources for this album are out on the net. Be patient!
Of course, you could use this same procedure to download albums you don’t already own, or movies you don’t already own, but that would be illegal, so don’t do that.
You can’t find your album on the net anywhere? Well, then put it in the “digitizing” pile, and continue your process of culling through your albums.
Once you have a smaller pile of albums to digitize, here’s how you do it! There are several companies who sell “USB turntables” these days. These may or may not be a good deal for you. If you already own a decent turntable, then it’s better to invest in an interface box than to buy a cheezy turntable with an interface box built in. Trust me, these USB turntables are inexpensive, and you get what you pay for – no audiophile turntable here!
I already owned a good turntable, so I bought Artcessories “USB Phono Plus”. This box hooks up to your turntable, and has a USB plug for your computer. The software that came with it was pretty horrible, so I ended up purchasing VinylStudio from AlpineSoft. One thing this software does is to break up the tracks for you. So, you put the needle down at the beginning of the record, digitize that entire side, and then the software takes care of it for you. This is a HUGE timesaver. If you had to do it track by track, it would take much longer, and I’d have even less hair. The other neat thing is for a lot of the records I tried, the software will pull the track names from the internet. This reduces your typing chore, though I do recommend proof-reading, as I did find errors sometimes.
If you don’t already own a turntable, then one of the USB turntables out there is probably a good bet for you. Frequently there is software bundled, but try out the freebie version of VinylStudio as it may be worth the investment over the included software.