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From LP to mp3: Bringing Your Record Collection into the 21st Century

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Like most couples of a certain age, my husband and I grew up spending our allowance, and then paychecks buying records (and eventually, cassettes). By the time we got married in the early 1980s our combined record collection totaled approximately 1,000 albums, taking up several bookcase shelves in our living room. CDs soon took the place of the LPs and cassettes as more bookcases were cluttered with another thousand (smaller and shinier) disks. Jewel cases seemed to proliferate in all the nooks and crannies of our home.

But our vinyl collection sat collecting dust as we, reluctant to fork out cash to replace our outdated and broken turntable, wondered how to once again enjoy our classic rock, folk, Broadway, classical and jazz recordings (many of which were long out of print)  that never made the leap into the digital age. Library of Congress recordings of Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy; Introducing the Beatles; The Compleat Tom Paxton. Even favorites that had been digitally re-released: A Night at the Opera (Queen); my husband's Hendrix, Clapton, Johnny and Edgar Winter collection, my original Broadway cast recording of The Music Man ("borrowed" from my parents on a visit home years earlier) lay dormant as we refused to re-purchase CD versions of recordings already in our library on vinyl. We opted to spend our music dollars on new tracks, assuring ourselves that one day, our one-of-kind 1957 Tom Lehrer album—a priceless auction buy–would once again sing to us.

And then the iPod thing happened, and mp3 players of every breed propagated on retail shelves, removing us by yet one more technological generation from our beloved record albums. “If only,” we cried, “if only there was a way to stuff those glorious tracks into our iPods;” if only.

I searched the oracle of the Internet, invoking the appropriately syntaxed keywords into a Google search and I found there my answer. At least I thought I did.  As I dove into dozens of “how-to” articles written in cryptic techno-ese that I, a non-audiophile, could not decipher, I lost hope. Until I stumbled upon a device called a USB Turntable. Hmmm. Seems easy enough, I mused, glancing through the instructions and descriptions I found online. Plug the turntable's USB cable into the computer's USB port. Place album on turntable, start recording software, start turntable. Recording made. (Well, of course you have to flip the record when it reaches the end of side one, but you knew that, right?) Cool. Of course, nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems when you are reading a product review or looking at a user guide without the product actually in hand.

However, I was convinced that this was, indeed, do-able. I went out and purchased a turntable. Several manufacturers make USB turntables, including ION and Numark, which can be had for about $150.00. We settled on the Numark TT-USB because it seemed very sturdy and easy to use. And the price was right.

The turntable is plugged directly into computer's USB port; using the computer’s speakers to hear and monitor the recording. And, after a few false starts (I have to learn to actually READ  “quick start guides” before I start playing with my toys), we got the turntable up and working. And thus began a multi-year project (still ongoing) to convert every one of our 1,000 LPs to digital, and upload them into our iPods. That's approximately 20,000 tracks, making me awfully grateful for our 80 gigabyte iPods. 

The turntables come packaged with basic recording software, but its worthwhile to buy an upgraded LP to digital transfer software package. There are several out there, including CFB Software’s “LP Recorder” and “LP Ripper.” Nero also includes an LP converter in several of its recording packages. Acoustica is another good package, but is slightly more complicated to use (in my opinion), although it has a lot of cool features.  You can create .wav files or mp3 files.  I suggest first creating a .wav file, the highest quality recording you can create.  Unfortunately .wav files are huge and take up way too much hard drive space to keep forever; and they would obliterate your mp3 player's storage very, very quickly.  Fortunately you will be able to delete the .wav file once you have completed the conversion process. 

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Cool Article…

    Though, might I suggest that once you convert LP to .wav that you take those files & burn a CD. Because then you can rip that CD whenever you want(i use dBpoweramp) into mp3s.

    Actually, if you want to keep those .wav files on your computer, here’s what you can do:

    1.Purchase a 500GB external harddrive for $99-$169(I prefer Western Digital)
    2.Convert .wav files to .flac using dBpoweramp.
    a)Setup destination folders via conversion program.
    b)you can use the in program ID tag setup to label files how ever you want(which finds initial information using Freedb or All Media Guide)

    You still retain the quality of said .wav files because .flac is a lossless container unlike Mp3.
    Think of WinRAR for music….

  • http://simpleguideconvertinglps2mp3.blogspot.com/ Scott Oberst

    It’s amazing how technology has changed over the past 30 years. When I was a child I thought the 8 track was a antique compared to the cassette deck. Now I couldn’t even imagine listening to music on a cassette player. I thought the CD was the coolest thing because of the laser head. Makes me wonder what we will be listening to music on in the next 20 years.

  • Theodore and Penny Girinsky

    Many thanks for this article!!
    We have been thinking about it for years for we also have a thousand LPs which we can rarely listen to. Now we will enjoy them on our Ipod