How to convert analogue vinyl records to digital CD / mp3 etc

You don’t need to spend a fortune on equipment for this, but go for the best you can afford. This is what I have:

Turntable: Nad 533 with Rega tonearm.
Amp: Old 1970s Technics SU-Z1.
Soundcard: M-Audio Delta.
Software: Adobe Audition 2.

How much of this you want to do really depends on what you want to achieve. If you just want something that sounds exactly like your record does now you can skip sections 7 to 11. Those are about improving the results, but it’s a trade off between noise and quality. Use a very light touch with the filters, if you over do it you will end up with mush. But do have a play with them using the settings given, you’ll be surprised at the results.

1. Start with a good source. Let’s face it, any record you love enough to want to digitise it is likely to have been played to death when you were young. So get to Ebay, Gemm, or wherever else you get your records from and buy a new one in the best stated condition you can find.

2. Connect your amp output to your computer soundcard. Mine uses standard (large) phono cables, but most use a Walkman size jack, you will need a phono to Walkman adapter for those (about £3).

3. Clean the record. I use an antistatic cleaning fluid from Acc-Sees, but there’s plenty of others. Then play the record a couple of times to clear out any gunk the cleaning leaves behind.

4. While it’s playing, open Adobe Audition and create a new waveform. Go for 32 bit float resolution with the highest sample rate your soundcard supports (mine is 96,000). This is to get as much of the output from the amp as you can, and leave room for filtering later. Press F10 to get the recording level monitors. Check they don’t max out into the red, aim for an average of -15db. If you need to adjust the recording level you do that in your soundcard’s app. Press F10 again when you’ve got it right.

5. Time to start recording. Click on record in Audition, then play the record. When side 1 has finished, leave it recording and play side 2. When that’s finished, stop the recording and save the file. Copy that file somewhere else so that you can start again if you mess up.

6. Zoom in to the beginning of the wav, and delete everything from the first thunk of the stylus going down to the left. Do the same with the end, and the part in the middle where you flipped the record over. Leave the lead-in grooves alone for now, you will need them later.

7. Zoom out to see the full wav, then reverse it (effects menu / reverse). This is for the click filtering, a click looks and sounds the same whether it’s reversed or not, but normal sounds that might fool the filter (handclaps, drum machines, etc) don’t.

8. Open the click/pop eliminator filter and use these settings (save them as a preset for later use):



When that’s finished, reverse the wav again.

9. Zoom into the start of the file and find where the music starts (marked with an arrow in the example).



Then select the part to the left of that point, this is to use as a noiseprint for the noise reduction filter. Open that filter and click on capture profile, then click on select entire file. Click on preview to hear what the end result is likely to sound like. Don’t over do this one, it can seriously mess up the sound. Play around with the noise reduction level slider, but don’t be tempted to go anywhere above 25, lower is better. Click on ‘keep only noise’ to hear what you are throwing away, but don’t forget to go back to ‘remove noise’ before you click okay.

10. Open the multiband compressor filter. This is another one that can seriously mess up the sound, so use it with caution. The setting to use with this will vary depending on your equipment and the type of music, so the image below is a guide only. Only change the settings that are circled, and only change them by small increments. If you get lost, choose full reset from the effect preset menu and start again. Listen to the preview until you find some settings that you like, then click on okay.



11. Listen to your new wav file for any loud clicks that the filters missed. Headphones are good for this part. When you hear one, zoom into that part of the file and choose spectral frequency display from the view menu. Where the click is you should see something like this:



See that vertical line just above the number 65 in the example? That’s your click. Get as close to it as you can by zooming in, then select just that part of the file. With the click selected, use the click/pop eliminator again but use ‘fill single click now’. Do the same for any other clicks you hear. If you have trouble seeing a click, try one of the other spectral views until it stands out better. Here it is again from another view:



12a. To convert the finished file for CD or mp3 use, zoom out to the entire wav and from the edit menu choose convert sample type. Use 16bit with a 44,100 sampling rate and save it as a new file.  If you want, you can also use copy/paste to split it into separate tracks. Use amplify/fade to fade in and out at the beginning and end if you need to.

12b. If you would rather keep as much quality as you can, skip 12a above and use save as, clicking on the options button before you save it and choosing 24-bit packed int (type 1, 24-bit). This is the closest you will get to vinyl quality, but a whole album will be about 1.5 gig and you will need to play it through your computer.



About Marcus Blakeston

Ex-shouting poet, ex-fanzine writer, ex-angry young man (now growing old disgracefully). Living in sunny Yorkshire with his wife, children and motorcycle, Marcus still has a healthy distrust of all forms of authority.
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