Vinyl Recording Rules

Nowadays a lot of older music is available to buy in digital format, either on CD or in something like MP3 format. However, not everything my stations play is available in such formats, and as I have an extensive music collection in the old vinyl format I often have to convert old to new!

As a radio DJ with a large vinyl record collection, some of which is not available in any current format, I do have to dip into the collection every now and then for broadcast purposes. Very few radio studios are equipped to play vinyl nowadays so I have to transfer from analogue to digital to enable these wonderful tunes to be played on air.

I have settled on a method of converting which gives decent audio quality and conforms to the broadcasting standards I have to adhere to. The method uses good quality hardware and software and works well. Although it has been a steep learning process with one or two failures along the way. Sadly, hardware such as INport is no longer easily available, but there are some similar items which are easily obtained, just go for the best quality you can afford.

***WARNING ***
You can now buy various glorified music centres which include a low quality turntable, some sort of MP3 recording hardware and usually some way of connecting the music centre to a PC. You’ll often find a CD with the music centre with a copy of the free Audacity audio recording software on it.

At first glance there’s nothing wrong with the above systems, and for general use some of the better quality ones might suffice. However in the majority of cases the turntable and stylus often leave a lot to be desired. The stylus is of the cheaper ceramic variety, not the much better quality magnetic type. The turntable can be of very low quality and wow and flutter will be a major problem. The MP3 recording quality can sometimes be fixed to a lower bitrate quality and you will have no option to record in a much better quality format such as WAV, FLAC or OGG.

My advice is to avoid most of these all-in-one setups, unless you are able to do some test recordings.

Back to my system, which although not top notch is able to deliver good results. Firstly I have a Citronic Performer turntable, not quite the best, but very stable with minimal wow and flutter. Next I use an Ortofon magnetic cartridge with a Pro stylus.

The output of the turntable is fed to a good quality phono pre-amp which boosts the signal which is in turn fed to an INport audio converter. The INport is a very clever gadget that turns the analogue vinyl into a digital signal that can be handled by the PC software. The INport circuitry contains a couple of isolation transformers sitting between the input signal and the INport’s A-to-D hardware. The INport is then coupled to the PC by a USB cable. I use shielded cables to link the equipment together and keep them as short as possible.

I then use a piece of software called LP Recorder to record the vinyl on to the hard drive in WAV format. Once this is done, in real time, I then use the excellent Wave Corrector software to clean up the recording. This eliminates much of the pops, crackles, hisses and rumbles that are present on vinyl, no matter how well you look after them and keep them clean. Incidentally, Wave Corrector is now available free of charge, and is well worth obtaining

Very occasionally I may have to do some extra work on the files, perhaps the bass is too much, or the recording is a bit dull. I will use Magix ACL or Acoustica Mixcraft to do this if required. Both of these programs allow you to edit and manipulate the audio to quite a degree.

The next stage is to import the cleaned up audio file, still in WAV format, into the software that will allow me to split it up into individual tracks and then convert it to MP3 format. I usually use the aforementioned Magix ACL for this stage, but Wave Corrector can also do the job if required. For broadcast use I export the MP3 files in 128Kbps CBR quality. For home use I export them at 320Kbps VBR quality.

Once exported into individual MP3 tracks I will then import them one by one into MediaMonkey where I will name the tracks to reflect the artist and song name. At this stage I will usually tag the MP3 files with album artwork and add any other information that will be useful.

Finally I will upload the MP3 files to the radio station audio library using a program called RadioManager. The same software will be used to add the new files to the station playlist as and when required.

Before long the listener will hear the vinyl being played, but in a new format, and hopefully will enjoy hearing these old tracks again, but minus the clicks and pops that usually accompany them!

Some useful links to the software mentioned above:

LP Recorder

Wave Corrector

Magix ACL

Acoustica Mixcraft


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