Digitizing Your Vinyl on a Budget

Lets face it, even record collectors sometimes get lazy. Maybe getting up to select a record, put it on the turntable and drop the needle isn’t really your idea of relaxing all of the time– especially when it comes time to flip that record. In today’s digital world, many of us have gotten used to music at the click of a button. Convenience is everything. I’m not going to lie, I get lazy with my records too and I will frequently opt to just throw itunes on, maybe even on shuffle (gasp!) instead of filing through my collection for that perfect full-length album. Fortunately for us record collectors out there, basic and very affordable technology exists, which can enable you to turn your record collection into a digital masterpiece. And yes, you can also use shuffle (gasp!).

Instead of  keeping the music of your record collection bound to the tiny, plastic grooves in which they were cut, you can instead digitize it, liberate it, preserve it and make a killer digital music library with that classic vinyl sound, all for much less than you expect.

Numark offers a very cool, portable vinyl archiving turntable called the PT-01USB. This is the most popular USB turntable on the market. This handy device used to sell for a little under $200, but it is now available through a number of third party retailers for anywhere between $75 and $100.

Numark PT-01USB

Numark PT-01USB

“This rugged, portable turntable can run on either wall or battery power and even has an internal speaker for total mobility. Using the included recording software, no special drivers are needed to connect the turntable to any Mac or PC via USB and transfer music from vinyl to your hard drive. EZ Vinyl Converter 2 (PC) and EZ Audio Converter (Mac) software are included to make recording and importing audio simple. EZ Vinyl Converter 2 imports your songs directly into your iTunes library, automatically separating tracks, and with a free download of Gracenote MusicID, it can even automatically name your tracks. The PT-01USB turntable also comes with Audacity software for editing your tracks, which can even help to reduce clicks, pops, and other noises from your recordings to restore the full quality of your vinyl.”

-testfeaks.com (http://www.testfreaks.com/turntables/numark-pt-01usb/)

Although this may be the most popular USB turntable, it certainly isn’t the only one. Audio Technica, a trusted and long-time player in the vinyl business also offers their own USB turntable, the AT-LP2D-USB, which can be picked up for around $80-$100.

Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB LP-to-Digital Recording System Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB LP-to-Digital Recording System Turntable

And Sony, also offers their own USB turntable, the PS LX300USB, which costs around $150.

Sony PS LX300USB Turntable

Sony PS LX300USB Turntable

“But For the Record, I don’t have $75-150!” I know what you’re thinking. Times are tough and we all can’t afford snazzy digital turntables with that newfangled “USB” technology to rip our vinyl onto our hard disks. Luckily, there is a very simple DIY method to get exactly the same results. This will cost you around $5. That’s right: Five Dollars.

"I'm broke! (But I still have a few dollars to support my record collecting hobby)"

"I'm broke! (But I still have a few dollars to support my record collecting hobby)"

All you need is a turntable and a stereo with a set of “record out” ports, or at least a headphone output.

Get an RCA to 3.5 mm cable, connect the RCA end to the “record out” ports on your stereo and the 3.5 mm end to the “sound in” port on your computer. If your stereo doesn’t have “record out” ports (also may be labeled as “cassette out” or “tape out”) then you can get a phono to 3.5 mm cable and connect it from your stereo’s headphone output to your computer’s “sound in” port.

These cables are highly inexpensive and can be picked up for around (drumroll please) $2-5 at Radioshack or cablesdirect.com

You’ll also need some type of software to record the actual audio from your records. I know that the full version of Nero comes with decent audio recording software. Instead of getting Nero 9, the most recent version of the popular digital media suite, you could easily settle for Nero 8, 7, or 6, which will work just the same and will put less of a dent in your wallet.

If you don’t want to pay for software at all, you can simply download Audacity for free. If you want to record the albums as MP3 files (which I think makes the most sense), you’ll also need MP3 codecs if you don’t have those installed already. Lame is a good one.

This whole process will take more time than money, depending on how many records you choose to put on your hard drive, but it is definitely worth it. A record will never sound as good as it did the first time you played it because of the wear factor that comes with running a diamond-tipped needle through a groove of plastic. You can now digitally preserve the music from your records for good. No more worrying about wear and tear (We’ll save that for another post). Now you can put records on your ipod, use them as ringtones, “shuffle” them and whatever overly technologically-oriented music-listening activity you choose to partake in. Hell, you can even email them. Go ahead, give your dusty records a new lease on life and digitize them for good. If they could, they’d thank you– for the record.


2 Responses

  1. Awesome – thanks for posting this! My mom wants to archive all her old records so I may pick up one of these

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you (or your mom) have any questions, just email me at dcioffi@mac.com and I’ll be happy to help.

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