How to Convert Vinyl Records to CD
Converting your vinyl record collection into CDs can be a time-consuming process, but is a better alternative than having to buy the entire collection again in a different format. It is probably also preferable to having a professional do the work for you, which can be costly depending on the condition of the record. If you are relatively unconcerned about perfect audio quality, doing the conversion yourself can be accomplished with equipment that you may already have in your home or that is relatively cheap to purchase.
Things You'll Need
- Computer with a sound card and a CD-RW drive installed
- Phono turntable pre-amp
- RCA cables
- Blank CDs
- Software to digitize the music and burn CDs
How to convert Vinyl Records to CD
Connect your preamplifier and turntable using a standard stereo RCA cable with two connectors on each end. An inexpensive pre-amp and cables can be purchased at any store that sells electronic equipment.
Use an RCA to RCA-mini cable (3.5mm on one end) to connect from the pre-amp's auxiliary outputs to the computer's sound card "Line in" jack. On many cards, the this jack will be light blue. You should not confuse this with the headphone "Line out" jack, which is normally lime green.
Download software for recording and editing sounds. Programs like Audacity, Wavosaur or Wavepad Sound Editor all work on many computer operating systems and are all free, plus they have the necessary functions, which sound recorders that come with many computers lack. See the Resources section for links to download these programs.
Click the "Record" button in your sound editor and drop the turntable's needle onto the vinyl record to start playing the selected song. Once the recording is finished, click the "Stop" button on the recording and then stop playing the vinyl record on the turntable.
Save your track on your sound editing software by clicking "File" and then "Save Project" or "Save Project As." Much like saving a document on a computer, you should create or choose a folder where you are likely to store music and is easily identifiable, either by artist name or the name of the album you are recording. At this point, do NOT close the project.
Save the project a second time by clicking "File" and then "Export," choosing the MP3 option in the menu. Once you click "Save," you will most likely be asked to fill in relevant metadata on your project, including the artist name, track title and album title. Audacity uses this method to save all projects, while the other programs allow users to save tracks as MP3s without filling in metadata.
Finish the conversion by burning the MP3 onto a CD using software that came with the computer. Alternatively, you can download programs online meant for authoring CDs or other digital files. Windows Media Player is a free, user-friendly option that comes with the Windows operating system; it has a "Burn" option built into the main menu that allows the user to drop and drag files directly into a list. If you decide to use Wavepad Sound Editor, it comes with an option to burn CDs.
Insert a blank CD into the CD-RW drive and click "Start Burn" in Windows Media player or on your preferred software. When the disc is done burning, the computer will automatically eject it from the disk drive.
Tips & Warnings
- The audio editors mentioned in this article all have the same general interface, though you may find one more user-friendly than the next. For the purpose of this article, the author used Audacity to complete the process of converting a vinyl record to CD.
- Your phono pre-amp may not come with a ground wire. in this case you can likely reduce any hum by attaching the turntable ground wire to one of the phono amp case screws to reduce or eliminate buzzing noise.
- Make sure the "Line in" check box is checked in your computer's audio mixer before starting the conversion process. (Hint: In Windows, double-click the speaker icon in your system tray to access the audio mixer).
- It may take a few tries to get the audio levels at the desired level on output. It is best to test audio levels, then record, save and burn at least one track as a test before continuing to convert your entire vinyl collection.