Transcribing Analogue Media to Digital
Whether you don’t have space to store your records anymore, you want to be able to listen to them on the go, you want to share media with your friends or simply want a backup of your collection, transcribing your vinyl can be a very useful process. This article will outline various methods of digitising analogue formats. Although it will focus primarily on recording vinyl, the same methods can be used for recording any type of media.
1. Through your existing system with a soundcard.
If you already have a turntable, amplifier and computer, the cheapest method that will give the best quality recordings is to buy an external soundcard (the process will be explained in detail below). Even if you don’t currently own a turntable, it is still likely to work out cheaper to buy a turntable and soundcard, than an all-in-one recorder. This method is more hands on, but produces better results. It may seem complicated at first, but once you’re set up and have done it once or twice, you’ll find that it’s a simple and enjoyable process. Full details of how to do it this way are below.
We stock various soundcards, starting at £40. Below, the process will be explained using a Cakewalk UA-1G soundcard (£95) as this is both the most popular and best value for money. The method is much the same for different soundcards.
We stock a large variety of new and second-hand turntables. We can always provide a very good quality unit from £125 upwards and cheap ones from as little as £50.
If you don’t have a turntable already and want to keep playing records after transcribing some, a really good bit of kit is the Audio Technica LP120USB which is a high quality deck that also has USB. We do some nice ones from project too.
Alternatively, we are happy to hire all the equipment you will need to transcribe your records. The following charges are per week;
Soundcard – £25
Turntable – £35
Amplifier – £25
We will provide the neccessary leads free of charge.
2. With an Ion LP2CD recorder.
With the Ion LP2CD, you can transfer records from vinyl straight onto a CD. This is by far the easiest method. If you are not confident recording onto a computer, or simply don’t have a computer, then this is a great way to record your vinyl. The LP2CD costs £350, which is a bargain when you consider the fact that it also functions as both a regular CD player and turntable. You can also duplicate your CDs, and it has a line input so you can record from any other device you like.
If required, it can be linked up to a computer (in which case it would be used in much the same way as a soundcard), but the best thing about this product is its internal mode. You simply record the vinyl, the player splits it up into tracks automatically, then insert a CD and burn a copy of it. It really is that simple. Full instructions and specifications can be found here on the Ion website
You will achieve a good quality recording with the LP2CD, however this can be greatly improved by fitting a new cartridge and/or stylus. An Audio Technica AT91, at just £23, will give a marked improvement in sound quality.
3. We offer a transcription service
if you only have a few items to transcribe, it may be cheaper and easier to get us to do the work. We offer a transcription service for most formats. Prices are as follows;
Cassette to CD £25
Vinyl to CD £25
DAT to CD £25
Reel to reel (1/4 inch format) to CD £25
8 track cartridge to CD £25
Minidisc to CD £25
MP3 to WAVE to CD £25
DCC to CD £25
78rpm to CD £30
Acetate to CD (up to 15 inch) £35
VHS to DVD £25
The above prices are for straight transcription, if extra services are needed we will charge on a pro-rata basis. Editing and restoration can also be done on requested.
Recording vinyl through a soundcard
For this method, you will need the following;
- A turntable
- An amplifier or phono preamp
- Cakewalk UA-1G soundcard or similar audio interface.
- A computer
- Recording software (Audacity or similar program)
- 2 phono leads
1. Connect your turntable to the soundcard
Firstly, ensure that your turntable is properly connected to your amplifier. The turntable must be connected to the phono input of your amplifier, and it must be grounded via the earth lead.
Now, run a phono lead from an output on your amplifier (tape out, rec out etc…) to the input on the UA-1G.
2. Installing your soundcard
- Insert the UA-1G CD-ROM into your computer
Double click the UA1GUSBDriver.pkg icon located inside the ‘Drivers’ folder.
Follow the onscreen installation instructions. You will be required to restart your computer once the installation is complete.
Once your computer has restarted, insert the USB cable attached to the soundcard into your computer. Now that the neccesary driver has been installed, your computer will recognise the device and it is ready to use.
Select the ‘driver’ folder on the disc, then select your operating system (Vista/XP). Now click the ‘Setup’ icon and follow the onscreen instructions.
3. Set up the recording software
Countless different programs can be used to record with. One such program, ‘Sonar LE’ is provided with the UA-1G. This, however, can only be used on PCs and not Macs, so I will demonstrate the process using Audacity, a free program for both Mac and PC.
Go to http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/ and download the relevant version of Audacity
Install it as you would with any other program
Double click on the Audacity icon to start the program
First you must ensure that Audacity is set up to record the input from your UA-1G, so go into the preferences (MAC: Audacity – preferences, PC: edit – preferences):
Ensure that your amplifier is turned on and the correct source is selected (i.e. phono if you are recording a record). If your amp has a record selector, make sure that this is also switched to the source you wish to record.
4. Clean your vinyl
You can greatly improve the quality of your recording simply by cleaning the record before recording it. Tips on cleaning your vinyl can be found here.
Press the record button in the top left of Audacity, and play the record. It is advisable to do a test run to make sure that the levels are correct. Adjust the input level on the soundcard. Make sure that the waveform stays within the upper and lower limits, otherwise it will sound distorted. Bare in mind that the piece of music may increase in volume later in the track. It is better to record at a lower volume then ‘normalize’ (explained below) the recording than to end up with a distorted recording. Here is an example of a good recording:
And here is an example of a bad recording;
You can remove the any silence before and after the track by simply using the mouse to highlighting the the section you want to remove and pressing backspace.
Now you are ready to export the recording. For an individual track you can simply go to ‘file’ – ‘export’. A box will appear and you can fill out the information for your recording (Name, Artist etc..)
You will then be required to name the file and choose the location that the file will be saved to.
If you have recorded an entire album and would like to split it into tracks, you can highlight tracks individually then click ‘file’ – ‘export selection’.
Now that the files are saved, you can drag them onto your MP3 player or into a program such as itunes or windows media player.
The Cakewalk UA-1G can also be used to improve the sound quality when playing music from your computer through your hi-fi. Simply run a phono lead, from the output of the UA-1G to a spare line level input on your amplifier (tape, cd, tuner, aux etc… NOT PHONO). Then insure that the UA-1G is being used as the audio output*********
Just arrived is a new device to capture your old 35mm negatives or slides and save them digitally, Film2SD is £119, fantastic for archiving and sharing those boxes of old pictures. If you want us to do it for you check our transcription page.