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How to Make Digital Recordings from Vinyl Records

Updated on November 2, 2012
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Save Your Vinyl Records

Anyone who loves old 33 rpm vinyl records know it can sometimes be impossible to find your old favorite records on CD or as MP3 files. Not every record was transferred to digital format, especially classical albums and recordings by obscure bands, groups and performers. Yet these old favorites may be records you cherish. Save your vinyl records and enjoy them as digital records by purchasing and using a USB turntable.

USB turntables are record players that connect both to your existing receiver and stereo equipment and to a typical computer through a USB port. You can use them as a traditional turntable or record player with your existing stereo equipment, or you can connect them to a PC or Mac and use the software included with the turntable to record your old vinyl 33 rpm or 45 rpm records as digital files. While it does take a tiny bit of technical competency to learn the software, once you've gone through the process once, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to save your vinyl records as digital music files.

Choosing a USB Turntable

With so many USB turntables on the market now, choosing the best one is more a question of comparison shopping than anything else. Most include standard features such as a 45 rpm adapter, multiple speeds, etc. Look for:

  • Quality reviews - read quality reviews on the turntable you intend to purchase.
  • Multiple speeds - choose a turntable that includes the speeds for the records you want to save. If you have 78 rpm antique records, you may need to pay more or search longer for a turntable that will do those old favorites justice.
  • Guarantee and warranty - look for at least a 1 year guarantee.
  • Software - many come with a simple CD ROM or disk with the recording program on it. You insert it into your computer and follow the directions to use it. Some cheaper models may not and instead recommend online programs or programs that come with your computer. Look carefully at what is included with your turntable for the price.


Secrets to Making Great Digital Recordings from Old Vinyl Records

Once you've selected your USB turntable and have it in hand, follow the manufacturer's directions for connecting it to your computer. Follow the directions for downloading or installing any software needed to run the program to record your record. Then, use these tips for great recordings:

  • Select your favorite records.
  • Use a record cleaning kit or a soft cloth to gently wipe dust and dirt from the vinyl records.
  • Some programs record all the songs on an album in one continuous file. You may need to stop the turntable in between songs, save the song, and record each song separately if you'd like to use them in various playlists on your digital device. Practice starting and stopping your turntable and software before recording your songs to get a smooth, seamless sound. No rrrrriiiiiiiiiip! sounds from a turntable stopped too suddenly.
  • Save and back up your recordings. After all your hard work, losing your digital files on the computer would be a tragedy. Use a portable backup device or a USB portable hard drive to hold all your digital files.
  • Save your antique records in a dry, cool environment. Stand them upright to prevent warping. While you may not listen to them as frequently as you did before your digital recordings, keep them. Old friends are to be cherished.

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