Audio / Tips and Solutions

How to Record Vinyl Records into a Computer

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Whether you grew up listening to records, or you recently discovered collecting and playing vinyl, the idea of recording your favorite vinyl records into your computer may have crossed your mind. Having a digitized version of your vinyl collection is useful for loading songs into portable devices and for having an archive of your favorite tunes in the digital realm. When captured properly, a digital recording of a vinyl record will sound vastly superior to a compressed MP3 file. Besides, many of the albums that you find in thrift stores and garage sales aren’t even available to purchase as digital downloads.

Most people hope that the vinyl-capturing process is as simple as pushing a single red button. Advances have been made to simplify the process of digitizing vinyl, but so far it's not as easy as pressing a button. Just as the act of playing a vinyl record requires a bit of effort on your part (taking the record out of its sleeve, placing it on the platter, putting the needle in the groove, etc.), the act of digitizing vinyl records requires your attention and care, as well. With a little bit of patience, your entire vinyl collection can be shrunk down to fit into your shirt pocket to travel around with you anywhere you go.

Here are three ways you can capture vinyl into a computer:

1) Using an all-in-one turntable/CD burner;

2) Using a USB turntable;

3) Using an audio interface to connect a turntable to a computer.

The first method (using an all-in-one turntable/CD burner) is probably the easiest way to go. An all-in-one unit features both a turntable and a CD burner in a single device. You simply burn a CD of the vinyl in the unit itself, and then load the burned CD into your computer. Specific models worth checking out are the Teac LP-R550USB and the Crosley Radio CR2413A Memory Master II. Be forewarned that you may not be able to mark individual tracks using this method.

USB turntables can be less expensive than all-in-one units, but they require you to interact with a computer and software in order to digitize your records. The ION Audio Classic LP and the Audio-Technica AT-LP60USB are inexpensive options in this category.

Of the three vinyl-capturing methods mentioned, using an audio interface to connect a turntable to a computer requires the most technical know-how. The plus side is that some audio interfaces can be obtained very inexpensively. If you go this route, you need to understand the difference between a “line-level” signal and a “phono-level” signal.

Some of the turntables available today feature line-level outputs, but many only have phono-level outputs. To convert a phono-level output to line level, a phono preamp is needed. This preamp utilizes the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) equalization curve.  The process of creating vinyl records or “cutting vinyl” employs the RIAA EQ curve to reduce low frequencies and boost high frequencies to prevent distortion and skipping. The phono preamp uses an inverse of the RIAA EQ to decode the audio coming from the vinyl, generating full-frequency, line-level audio. 

If you already have a record player that you plan on using to digitize your vinyl, try to figure out what kind of output it has. If it has an output labeled "Line" or a headphone jack, you can get away with using an inexpensive audio interface. Your setup will look something like this:



 

Some audio interfaces feature special phono inputs specifically for connecting record players. The ART USB Phono Plus is among the most affordable of these devices, and it connects to your computer via USB. The graphic above also illustrates how these devices connect to your computer.

If you’re using an older record player, it's likely that the output is phono level. This means that if you plugged the output of your record player directly into the line-level inputs on a computer audio interface, the signal would not have been compensated for the RIAA EQ curve. One option is to buy a phono preamp, such as the Rolls VP29. Such a setup will look something like this:


If you have a stereo system at your disposal, you may not need an external phono preamp. Look at the back of your stereo receiver. If it has designated inputs for phono, then you're halfway there. Plug your turntable into the phono input. Most stereo receivers have outputs as well. People used to make copies of recordings with external cassette decks. Most stereo receivers were designed to route the audio coming in from a record player and send it to the "tape out" to be recorded by the cassette deck. In this case, instead of recording to a cassette deck, you will be recording to a computer. The setup will look something like this:



 

No matter what method you use to connect a record player to a computer, you’re going to need audio software to record and edit the digital audio. B&H sells a full range of very capable audio production software, but if you’re on a tight budget, there’s a free audio-recording program available for Mac, Windows, and even GNU/Linux, called Audacity. I recently recorded some vinyl into my computer with a turntable using Audacity. Below you will find a few pointers I can share from my experience.

Tips on Using Audacity Software

When you open Audacity for the first time, trying to figure out how the software operates can be a bit confusing. You’re essentially looking at a blank box with a few buttons and controls at the top. If you’re using a USB turntable and it’s plugged into the computer with a USB cable  and powered on, the first thing you want to do is adjust the preferences in Audacity. On a Mac, this is accomplished by clicking on “Audacity” in the top menu bar and selecting Preferences from the dropdown menu.

With Audacity’s Preferences window open, you’re presented with a list of tabs at the top; the first option being Audio I/O. Click on the Audio I/O tab and adjust the Device setting in the Recording area. You need to assign your USB turntable as the input source for the software in the dropdown menu next to Device. Click on the menu options and change this setting from Built-in Input to the USB Turntable setting. In my case, the Audio Technica AT-LP60 showed up on this menu under the somewhat strange name, “USB Audio CODEC.”

If you’re capturing albums that were recorded in stereo (as opposed to mono records), there’s another key setting that you need to adjust in Audacity’s Preferences. Under the Audio I/O tab, in the Recording area, you need to change the Channels setting to: 2 (Stereo). This way when you start recording a new album, Audacity will automatically create a stereo track and start recording the Left and Right stereo channels from the vinyl into the computer.

Below the Recording area of the Audio I/O tab in Audacity’s Preferences there are a number of boxes. For my needs (which involved recording a vinyl record in my cubicle at work with no other home-stereo equipment and just a laptop and a pair of headphones), I checked the boxes for Hardware Playthrough, Software Playthrough, and Do Not Modify Audio Device Settings. Changing these settings enabled me to listen to the vinyl through my computer as it was recording.

With these settings, when you click the Record button on Audacity’s main screen, the program should create a stereo track automatically and start recording the input directly into it. When you get to this stage, start recording in Audacity first, then start the record player and put the needle on the record. I found that I needed to turn up the input gain all the way in Audacity. The input gain is the little slider near the top of the GUI next to the little microphone icon. The volume level still sounded kind of weak while I was recording, but upon playback it sounded better. I also turned up the gain on the stereo track itself during playback. The stereo track’s gain is the little slider on the left side of the screen between the – and + signs. These adjustments really helped the overall volume of the recording and made it sound the way I hoped it would.

Finally, once you're finished recording your record collection into your computer, try to refrain from throwing your albums away in the trash. There are thrift shops and secondhand stores that would gladly accept your records as donations. Why send all of that vinyl to a landfill when someone else (like me) may cherish it?

If you have any more questions about digitizing vinyl records, please submit them in the Comments section, below.

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If I read the transfer methods correctly all I need to record my LP recordings into my computer using my Stranton turntable and Yamaha amplifier is to connect a single audio interface device. Am I correct?. Thanks

Hello, Is it possible to use the USB feature with 2 lp60 turntables through your computer using audacity both USB cables would be connected to the computer .  I'm trying to make a personal mix for myself. 

Hi Matthew - 

Both turntables cannot send USB data streams simultaneously to your computer for processing via the Audacity software.  Transfer your vinyl first, then create the mixes with software.

Great how-to article, trading off cost and complexity.  What seems missing is audio quality.  LP owners are likely to be audiophiles and may be more interested in capturing the quality of vinyl than "carrying their entire collection in a shirt pocket".  I would guess that USB turntables are, if not low-quality, at least undetermined quality.   Using phono outputs direct to computer and doing RIAA EQ in the computer is another option placing the least number of devices in the chain.  Anyway, I'm no expert myself, but would appreciate if any updates to this article included some facts and test data about converting LP tracks to high-quality digital files.  

I have been merrily digitizing my lp's (did cassettes first, about 700, with no issues), using a TEAC LP-R550USB with direct line-in to my computer and Audacity 2.0.0 and saving as MP3 files. I traveled for four months and, when I returned, tried to resume recording, but I'm getting no input (just flat-line). I downloaded a newer version of Audacity (2.1.0), but have the same problem with it. I can't adjust the input slider, as it just slides back to zero; but I've had that problem all along and it never was an issue, because the turntable has a USB recording level switch that seems to override Audacity. Any thoughts or ideas? I have 4,000 lp's to digitize and about 2,500 cd's after that and I'm only on "FE" on the lp's, alphabetically. I bought this unit because it'll transfer cassettes, lp's and cd's as well, which is my next project. I guess it might be the USB cable; but it worked fine before I unplugged it for the four months. Help!

Hi Paul -

Unfortunately, Audacity is freeware and we do not offer suppoprt for it.  contact Audacity directly ot contact TEAC directly.  Replace the cable - this is typically the best, most convenient and quickest solution.  

AUDACITY

Hi,

Transfereing of Vinyl to MP3 files / CD

I am very new to this & have read lots of differing advice. I am considering using a B & O turntable with a Sansui amp which as a variety of inputs & out puts. From one of the outputs, I intend to connect to my PC utilizing the blue 3.5mm audio input via a  top quality RCA ( 2 phono to 3.5mm stereo ) cable.Is this the best way to go, or do I require an audio interface?

Regards,

Julian    

Hi Julian - 

You will need an interface as the phono signal needs to be digitized before it is sent to the computer via USB.

The ART USB Phono Plus is a flexible phono (turntable) preamp with a USB interface and digital connections. The USB Phono Plus is an ideal solution for quality recordings while digitizing old vinyl collections, connecting a turntable to a line input, or as a simple audio interface for your Windows or Mac OS computer. There are optical digital inputs and outputs, S/PDIF input and analog preamp outputs. Also featured is a headphone output, gain control and monitor level adjustment controls. A line / phono input switch allows for line or turntable signals to pass, and a low-cut filter switch eliminates hum, rumble and other low frequency artifacts associated with vinyl recordings.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

 Hi. Really enjoyed your article. What format do you think gives the best play back sound

mp3,wva,wma etc. The albums I recorded sound A little tinny.Also what adjustment is best

for removing clicks and static.

Thanks: Marty

Hi Marty - 

You will need to consider your playback device before digitizing your vinyl.  .WAV files offer CD quality, but MP3 format can work fine and use less storage space on your computer's HDD or your portable device.   I would not recommend archiving your vinyl via .WMA files as there are limited portable playback device choices available.  That format was developed for the Windows OS.

In your example demonstrating using the outputs of a stereo receiver, is it still necessary to have have some kind of interface between the receiver and PC? Can I use an RCA to USB cable directly from my receiver output to the USB on my computer?

Is it preferable to use an RCA to micro plug or RCA to USB cable from my system preamp to my laptop for converting vinyl to a digital file?

Also, is an external sound card better than using the internal card in the laptop.

Will try to use an older Dell laptop for the comversion.

Thanks,

Bill

Hi Bill - 

USB will bypass your laptop's sound card which is typically a good thing.  The USB port is for a digital signal transfer and that is really what you want for the process described in our article. For other tasks, a quality external sound card makes sense.

Trying to use an ION turntable with a USB connection on Windows 10. Get through most of the record than it freezes. Worked better with Windows 7. Any suggestions, short of removing 10 and going back to 7, to get it to work consistently with Windows 10? Have uninstalled and re-installed several times but has not helped the situation.

I have just bought (Jan '17) a new USB turntable - Teac TN 300 and hoped to use it through Audacity software into my Mac Mini but the turntable's output is too high so it is running into clipping distortion. Apple computers do not have any level controls to reduce it, and the guys at Audacity do not have any reasonable solution other than to use the analogue RCA connectors which doesn't help at all,  so do be warned if you intend using a Mac with Audacity you may end up with constant clipping distortion or a useless turntable!

Preparing to move vintage LPs to digital.  Have a technics SL-1510 that was recently tested... 45rpm is constant but 33rpm works its way to speed.  Seeking informed guidance on how to troubleshoot and/or render general maintainance which might remedy the issue...

Hi Jerome - 

Typically this issue is caused by poor electrical contact caused by oxidation, dust, and bad solder joints.   Try cleaning the switches with an electrical  contact cleaner (DeOxit) and checking for continuity with a multi-tester on all switch /speed contacts.

Mark,  I recently set up my old DJ turntable so I could record some of my vinyl onto my computer.   I have been successful using a stereo receiver w/ phono input, line out to a 'mic' line in on my old laptop.  I would really like to use my new laptop, however, it does not have a line in 'mic' jack.  I have seen a USB to mic adapter, just a very inexpensive little jack ($8), but the reviews are not that great.  Any suggestions? 

 

Hi Lori - 

The ART USB Phono Plus is a flexible phono (turntable) preamp with a USB interface and digital connections. The USB Phono Plus is an ideal solution for quality recordings while digitizing old vinyl collections, connecting a turntable to a line input, or as a simple audio interface for your Windows or Mac OS computer. There are optical digital inputs and outputs, S/PDIF input and analog preamp outputs. Also featured is a headphone output, gain control and monitor level adjustment controls. A line / phono input switch allows for line or turntable signals to pass, and a low-cut filter switch eliminates hum, rumble and other low frequency artifacts associated with vinyl recordings.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

The article says "There are thrift shops and secondhand stores that would gladly accept your records as donations." However your right to make backup and alternate copies of the material, according to copyright law, is dependent upon your ownership of the original recording for which you paid. If you give that away, you also give the right to hold those backup or alternate copies to the new owner, and loose that right legally for yourself. Many people of course do cheat on copyright laws, but this is the legal situation as far as I can tell.

Help! i have a crosley usb turntable and i want to record my vinlys to cd's but i keep getting this error 'check ur input settings. help please!  thanks

Hi Carmen -

Not sure I can help you without a model number, but be sure that you have selected the CROSLEY TT as your USB input device prior to recording. You will need to create the file on your computer prior to transferring that file (burning) to your computer's optical drive.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I am looking for a really easy method (for the technically challenged user) to copy my vinyl collection on to a USB stick to play in my car which does not have a CD player. I am using a Technics turntable connected to my new Onkyo TX-NR646 AV receiver via the phono jacks. The only Line-out I can see is marked as "Audio output jack connected to the pre-main amplifier for multi-zone playback in a separate room" however there are a range of HDMI IN/OUT jacks for video/audio signals for connected devices. Of course it also has Phones jack in the front. Is there something I can buy that would allow me to transfer this music directly to a USB stick and if not and I have to do this via my laptop, what do I need and what connections would I be using?

Thanks

Dave L

Hi Dave -

Currently there is no way to convert and transfer audio directly to a USB flash drive.  Best to disconnect the turntable from your receiver and connect it to your laptop using one of the phono interfaces/preamps listed above.  Once the files are converted and transferred to your laptop, you can then transfer selected audio files to the USB flash drive.

Mark, thanks for the help. If I disconnect the turntable from my receiver I presume I will then need to purchase both a preamp and an interface to make this work. Does that mean my receiver is not capable of being connected to an interface directly as in the 3rd example of the options.

Thanks

Dave

Hi Dave -  

Your receiver does not have a LINE out according to you.  If your TT has a built-in preamplifier then you will not need an ouboard preamplifier to equalize its output signal.  This is a quality all-in-one product that will work with just about any configuration:

The ART USB Phono Plus is a flexible phono (turntable) preamp with a USB interface and digital connections. The USB Phono Plus is an ideal solution for quality recordings while digitizing old vinyl collections, connecting a turntable to a line input, or as a simple audio interface for your Windows or Mac OS computer. There are optical digital inputs and outputs, S/PDIF input and analog preamp outputs. Also featured is a headphone output, gain control and monitor level adjustment controls. A line / phono input switch allows for line or turntable signals to pass, and a low-cut filter switch eliminates hum, rumble and other low frequency artifacts associated with vinyl recordings.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

What about the option of just putting a mic (connected directly to the computer) in front of the turntable speakers and using an audio recording app? - does it just produce lousy quality sound files?  Any other pros/cons?

Hi James -

Recording with a microphone from the speakers live (so to speak) is fraught with issues regaring the quality of the mic and speakers, room acoustics and the computer's sound card.  Go direct as described above and save yourself alot of headaches and wasted time and effort.

Did what you suggested earlier today, and recorded into the Computer; however Windows 10 cannot play the files [does not reconise the file format] Can I decide to record a common format to suit Windows Media Player or anothe common player?

Thanks, Reg 

Hi Reg -

Please send us an e-mail describing the issue: 

askbh@bandh.com    

I am a complete novice with this sort of thing.I have laptop and usb port,etc. Am confused by all the jargon.Any ideas how to simplify it?

Then go with a USB turntable.  The process is  virtually plug and play.  

The silver Audio-Technica AT-LP60USB Belt-Drive Turntable is straightforward and completely automatic for vinyl enthusiasts in need of a turntable to complement their existing home-theater and stereo systems. Its fully automatic operation starts the platter when the tone arm is lifted, and brakes when the needle is positioned on its mount. The turntable features phono (turntable level) outputs, however a built-in preamplifier features line-level outputs for connecting to amplifiers without turntable inputs. The ATLP60USB features 33-1/3 and 45 rpm speeds.

The USB output allows you to digitize your vinyl collection directly to software, without an external audio interface

Fully automatic operation with two speeds: 33-1/3 and 45 rpm

Professional aluminum platter

Included cables connect to your stereo or powered speakers

Integral Dual Magnet phono cartridge with replaceable stylus

Switchable built-in pre-amplifier with line-level RCA output cables

Hi, is it possible to accomplish ripping vinyl with a nice home reciever/amp that can output at least 24/192? i rather invest into a nice reciever/amp, rather than buying amp/audion interface and when done ripping hooking the turntable back into my home system. Just seems to be a bit of a waste, but I am new to this so any help would be greatly aprpeciated.

Hi Miguel -

The device required for the USB conversion is far less expensive than the quality amplifier or receiver which are not designed for the conversion required.

Hey there, nice article. I thought I knew all of what you've published here ... but, I have the ART USB Phone Plus, and it has both the phono preamp as well as the RIAA functions built in. I am not clear what the Rolls VP29 function provides in your article. Could you elaborate? Thanks.

HI -

It's a straight, high-quality phono preamp - no frills.

The Rolls VP29 is a phono/turntable preamplifier with provisions for line level output. The VP29 is designed for use with amplifiers, mixers or stereo systems that do not provide turntable inputs.

The preamp features dual RCA phone inputs, ground terminal connection and dual RCA stereo line level outputs. A separate 1/8" stereo line level output is provided for added flexibility. Although the unit is DC powered (AC adapter included), its compact design make it both unobtrusive and portable.

EQ Compensation Curve

The Rolls VP29 features RIAA standard EQ compensation. Counter-EQing during playback compensates for over accentuated high frequencies and low-end frequency loss

RCA and 1/8" Phone Output

In addition to the standard RCA L/R phono outputs provided, a single 1/8" stereo phone output is provided for added flexibility

Compact & Rugged Design

The Rolls VP29 sports a rugged, compact design that is both unobtrusive as well as lightweight and portable

Hi there, great article!

I have just started recording Vinyl records onto my computer via an audio interface.

There is alot of static noise coming through when tracks are not playing.

I have tried a few things but can't seem to get rid of this noise, and so it is 

not worth recording vinyls to my computer.

Can you help me with this?! The audio interdace model is called: Avid Fast Track Duo

I have it

Hi. I'm trying to figure out how to digitize records into the newer laptop computers that don't have a separate 'line in" function.

What I used to do on the older computers was using RCA 3.5" male jacks to transfer sound from the 'tape out' function of my tuner and a non-RCA 3.5" male jack into the "line in" computer function, then recording with Audacity. That worked great.

Since my newer laptop has a USB slot, I bought an Insten converter to facilitate putting the 3.5" non-RCA input plug into the USB slot. But for some reason, the volume in Audacity is super-high (and the sound distorted) even with the slider at 0.0. What do I need to be doing differently? Thanks.

Hi Stu -

 This product is inexpensive and also very serviceable:

The Behringer UCA202 is an ultra-compact, bus-powered interface that can link a Windows or Mac computer with any audio gear. There is no setup or special drivers needed.

The interface provides two analog inputs and outputs, as well as an additional S/PDIF optical output for direct digital conversion. The stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output.

The U-CONTROL download area at Behringer's website offers a huge software package for recording and editing making the interface a complete audio solution, which provides a connection between the analog and digital domain.

Ultra-flexible audio interface connects instruments, mixer etc. with a computer for recording and playback

High-resolution 48kHz converters for high-end audio quality

Works with a PC or Mac - no setup or drivers required

Stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output

Additional S/PDIF optical output for direct digital conversion

Powered via USB bus - no external power supply needed

Free audio recording and editing software downloadable at www.behringer.com

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Thank you for this suggestion!!! I appreciate it.s

Hi Stu -

My pleasure Stu - anytime!

I"ve received the unit I purchased from B&H...unfortunately while the unit records well and is easy to set up, its seems to transfer everything I record into mono. I can't tell from the instructions whether I'm doing anything "wrong"; any ideas? Thanks

Hi Stu -

Check your RCA cable, the sound settings on the computer and the recording software settings.  You should be getting a stereo signal as this Behringer is a stereo device.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hey, Mark, I've done what you suggested and am still not able to record in stereo through the Beringer UCA202. I notice that if I unplug both RCA inputs, there is no sound (understandably). Unplugging the right channel, however, still results in a mono mix of both channels being transferred, through the left channel, into both channels of Audacity. Unplugging the left channel results in nothing at all. Any ideas? Thanks.

Hi Stu -

At this point I would advise you to contact Behringer directly:

Behringer Tel: (702) 800-8290

Website: http://www.behringer.com/

Is there a business thao does this for customers?

Hi Wanda -

I am sure if you search the internet for "Audio conversion services" many options wil be available.

Hi, I went from my Rega RP1 to Bellari VP130 Preamp into Audio in/Optical digital audio in port on the back of my 2010 iMac, then into Garageband. Pretty easy process but everything came out in Mono. Wondering what I did wrong?

Hi Michael -

The culprit product may be whatever device you are using to connect from the preamp to the computer.  Check its settings, cables, and compatibility with your computer. Make sure Garageband is is set to stereo and not mono.

  • Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi, very useful article! I have one question left: how important is the preamp in the chain?

I will be recording records from a Technics SL1200MK2 through a preamp through an audio interface (Roland UA-55 Quad Capture) into my laptop (Audacity).

So before I look into buying a preamp, I would like to know if there's anything I need to pay attention to. I assume there's a lot of difference between different preamps?

I would like high quality recordings as I will be recording rare records plus records that I want to use for sampling in my own productions so I don't mind paying a little extra for a good preamp if necessary.

Hi Niels -

I recommend using a high quality phono preamp like this one:

The Rolls VP29 is a phono/turntable preamplifier with provisions for line level output. The VP29 is designed for use with amplifiers, mixers or stereo systems that do not provide turntable inputs.

  • Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

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