Bridging The Vinyl-To-MP3 Divide With Some Cables And Plugs

Jan 26th, 2007 // 7 Comments

numark~~~~~_pt01porta_102b.jpgIn case you’re still wondering how to get all of your Sweet Sensation 12″s into iTunes, here’s a follow-up to our turntable-to-computer post from earlier this week: Oliver Wang of soul sides has written a guide to digitizing vinyl, which contains a mini-guide to non-USB turntables (like the adorable PT-01) and a tip on a $5 Radio Shack item that will help speed along the MP3-recording process. (The comments section of our original post also has a few suggestions, although the idea that hiring an intern was the best way to get the MP3s ripped seems a little cruel to us, especially since it would take time away from their important backrub/coffee duties.)

The Soul-Sides.com Guide to Turntables For Digitizing Vinyl [soul sides]
So You Want To Start An Audioblog… [soul sides]
Earlier: Plug-And-Play Turntables Drop The Needle On Even More Nerdiness

  1. PengIn

    Regarding using the mic input, especially with a laptop, make sure you have a stereo mic input. I spent several days converting my vinyl into crap sounding mono mp3s. Learn from my many, many mistakes.

  2. Jupiter8

    I did some research about this a month ago when I was thinking about buying the Numark w/usb, until I decided I couldn’t get over the fact that it looked cheaper than a Close-N-Play. I still had a good Technics 1200 that I used at home, so rather than going thru an amp, I read I could use the Griffin iMic and a grounding cable (which they no longer made but I was eventually able to find online). It cost me about 25 bucks total but I have yet to set it up–has anyone had any luck with a similar set-up (bypassing amp?)

  3. chaircrusher

    Um you probably want a line input jack, not a microphone jack.

    Since the Soul-Sides guide is pretty sketchy, let me tell you what I know.

    1. Get a decent turntable, with a decent cartridge. You don’t need 1200s (i.e. Technics SL1200 turntable) but you need something where you can mount a P-Mount cartrtidge and adjust the tracking weight. A used turntable is fine, or something like this Numark: http://www.zzounds.com/item–NUMTT1650

    All those turntables with USB or line outs are kind of sketchy — you’re stuck with the sound quality of the components they build in, and if they break you’re screwed. A plain, old fashioned turntable is a motor, a tone arm, a cartridge, and some wire that leads from the cartridge to the phono outputs. Fewer things to break. Plus you have the flexibility to get a nicer preamp, better audio interface etc.

    2. You need a phono preamp. The ART DeeJayPreII is just fine, and their stuff is built like a tank. http://www.zzounds.com/item–ARTDJPREII

    3. You need a decent sound input into your computer. The builtin sound — especially on laptops — are usually crap. Even this $30 Behringer thing is going to be superior: http://www.zzounds.com/item–BEHUCA202

    And it comes with it’s own headphone output, where you’re less likely to hear all the RF noise cheap built-in audio interfaces pick up.

    4. Super double-secret tip — if you use a laptop, use s a 3-prong to 2 prong adapter for the laptop’s power supply if you get a lot of noise when you record or play back audio. There’s a reason laptops need this ‘ground lift’ that has to do with a laptop power supply voltages, but you’ll die of boredom if I explain it.

    If you do lift the ground, you’re theoretically risking electrocution, but it’s unlikely unless you do this while bathing.

    5. You’ll need some software to record and encode with. I prefer Sound Forge, a lot of people like Wavelab, but if you don’t want to either lay out $300 or become a software pirate, Audacity is free, and will do the job just fine:http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

    6. There’s a lot of stuff about setting optimum recording levels, limiting/compression, noise reduction, click and pop removal that’s good to know, but you can google that stuff.

    I’m not affiliated with Zzounds.com, though I have bought things there in the past. I include links there because they have succinct URLs.

  4. pchc_lx

    “This is where the NYT article really got things completely wrong: as long as you have a microphone jack on your computer (and just to be clear: not all have them but most do, including most laptops), you’re good.”

    Umm, actually, that’s where SoulSides is wrong. A microphone is a MONO sound source. Thusly, most microphone inputs are MONO inputs. Most of us listen to our music in, um, STEREO. (sorry phil spector)

    To second the comments above, you need a STEREO line in on you computer – your average microphone input won’t work.

    And I’m pretty sure sound quality will be better if you use a real turntable + a decent audio interface rather than the USB joint. I can only imagine the quality of the preamps inside those things – they sell them at Urban Outfitters for christ’s sake.

  5. odub

    I amended my guide based on the comments I’ve received, including those above. However, if I can point out: these suggestions may work for someone who has the time and interest in investing into a more sophisticated system. Both the NYT and my guide were designed for people who are just looking to get into digitizing vinyl quickly and efficiently. Asking people to buy a separate cartridge, prono pre-amp and commercial software isn’t “quick” nor “efficient” even though I wholly agree: the sound quality will be better. However, if people need advice on what kind of $150 USB turntable they should get…well, I’m not sure they’re ready to take a trip to Guitar Center to swim through the myriad options that are available to them.

    In my experience, using computers with combo mic/stereo line input jacks, it’s perfectly fine digitizing vinyl off inexpensive turntables, using a $5 Radio Shack RCA/mini-jack adapter. Is it the BEST sound possible? No, but it’s a perfectly acceptable place to start unless you’re a more serious audiophile.


    –Oliver Wang
    soul-sides.com

  6. odub

    That said – I do appreciate people correcting my confusion around mic jacks vs. line inputs. Since all the Apple computers I’ve used to digitize sound files have been ones with combo mic/line inputs, I just assumed that was the norm, not realizing that on many other (esp. older) computers, they only came with mono mic jack inputs.

    And that phone amp Chaircrusher mentioned looks interesting. I’ll add that to the guide.

  7. Shelly Slader

    I need to get this for my dad. He has a bunch of vinyls that he loves and I know he would love to have them in digital form. About how much do these run for?
    Shelly Slader | http://mooremusicev.com

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