Capturing vinyl with LP Recorder

Recording 33, 45 and 78rpm vinyl, tapes, radio or even audio from a VHS cassette into your computer for future safeguarding can all be undertaken with LP Recorder, found on April's cover CD. We've also included a trial version of LP Ripper, which is used to automatically separate the individual songs or tracks recorded from the entire side of a record and save them as WAV or MP3 files. As a trial version, LP Ripper will only output the first 30 seconds of each track. While LP Ripper will indeed save you time and energy, the same task can be performed with any wave editing program by simply (albeit more laboriously) copying and saving each segment of the recording as a new file.

GETTING STARTED

When recording in the uncompressed WAV format at CD Quality (16-bit, 44KHz), you'll need about 200MB of hard disk space for every 30 minutes you record. Processor muscle and the amount of RAM will also have an impact on performance. Your sound card will need a line-in jack (as apposed to a microphone jack) and, ideally, as little hiss and interference as you can manage. If you are using turntables, you'll need to connect them to an amplifier or a pre-amplifier mixer. The outputs of your amp or mixer should then go to your computer sound card's line-in - you may even need a special converter (such as a stereo RCA to 3.5mm jack); if so, try shops like Dick Smith or Tandy.

LP RECORDER

After loading LP Recorder, specify the file name (make sure you add the .wav extension) and directory where you want to store your recording. Select Line-In from the drop down box then untick Mute and Autostart/Stop but tick Auto Level. Next, play one of the louder parts of your record so you can adjust LP Recorder's volume level, with the aim of having the level meter in the high green, low yellow range. If you see too much red then you are likely to record distortions. Click the Record button, which will turn green, signifying that recording has started. In the time area you can view the amount of time recorded so far and the amount of time available for recording on your hard disk. When you're done, click Stop and then the Player tab at the top of the program. You can now click Play to hear what you've just recorded - this last step is also a good way of testing your recording levels before you begin.

RECORDING 78RPM RECORDS

It is possible to record older 78rpm records without the need for a specialised 78rpm player. You can purchase older-style needles that are designed for more recent turntables (the advantage being less background noise), but I was able to get fairly faithful results with a standard needle. All I did was record the 78rpm record at 45rpm into the computer using LP Recorder. It may sound like you've recorded a demonic orchestra, but it won't for long.

Open your WAV file in a trial version of Cool Edit 2000, selecting options 1 (Saving Enabled) and 3 (Time Shifting) upon startup. Select Time/Pitch-Stretch from the Transform menu and set the ratio to 57.5. Lastly, select Resample from the stretching mode options and click OK. You should now be able to hear your 78 playing back at proper speed, ready to burn to CD. Well, not quite - there's still a bit too much background noise and hiss.

REMOVING NOISE

Save your file and re-open it in Cool Edit, selecting the Save (1) and Noise Reduction (4) features. Open your now proper speed 78 WAV file and, using the mouse, highlight a portion of the waveform that is mostly background hiss with no musical information. The best place to look is often at the start and end of a recording. Press the spacebar to hear what you've selected - you should only hear the noise you want removed. Select Transform-Noise Reduction-Noise Reduction. Click Get Profile from Selection. Click Close.

This procedure allows Cool Edit to distinguish between the background hiss in your sound selection and what it needs to remove; this is called setting a noise floor. To remove hiss from the entire file, press -A to highlight the whole waveform then go back to Transform-Noise Reduction-Noise Reduction. This time, click OK. You should now be able to hear less background noise - but if you hear an underwater type of effect, this may mean that you selected some musical information when setting the noise floor. If so, simply go back and try again.

Wave editing programs such as Cool Edit (www.syntrillium.com) and Sound Forge (www.sonicfoundry.com) are great for easily adjusting the overall volume of a low-level recording and, as you've seen, also feature built-in tools to help reduce inevitable impurities in a vinyl recording such as hiss, crackles or pops. There are also dedicated specialised audio restoration programs such as Steinberg's Clean! (www.steinberg.net), Dart Pro (www.dartpro.com) and Diamond Cut (www.enhancedaudio.com).

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Danny Allen

PC World
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