Recording vinyl to digital

Recording vinyl to digital

record.jpgDan, our Associate Publisher here at Make Magazine says “I’m about to tackle my wife’s vinyl LP collection. I just purchased a PowerWave from Griffin. Now I’m looking at software. I’m sort of leaning toward Peak LE 4.1 and SoundSoap from bias. Thought I’d check in with you. Know anything good/bad or otherwise of these products?”.

In the past I’ve only needed to record a couple things, so I used an Archos under the watchful eye(s) of a couple robots. Anyone have suggestions for Dan? Post them up in the comments!

0 thoughts on “Recording vinyl to digital

  1. Marky says:

    I’ve never had great results ripping vinyl. I still have my 1980 vintage Pioneer turntable, and a receiver that has phono inputs, but the files never sound that good, and noise filtering didn’t do much.

    Also, I really only need to rip about 3-4 albums. While I’m sure the gods of karma will arrange for some to finally be released on CD just after I go to the hassle of copying, I’m also sure 2 will never be “officially” released.

    Anyone have a vinyl ripping service they would recommend?

  2. justinwalgran says:

    If the records are in good shape, just download Audacity and start spinnin’. If the vinyl is not in mint condition, you may want to reconsider. I have about 100 LPs and I decided a while back that I would try to digitize them. The problem is, some were thrift-store gems that would skip every so often. This means that you have to babysit the turntable. If you start recording and go get a bagel, you could come back to an audio file with one minute of music then repeated skipping for 15 minutes. I ripped my 400+ CD collection easily because I could “set and forget.” Vinyl doesn’t offer that luxury. I do think it is worthwhile to get your favorite old albums onto your iPod, but you should pace yourself so you don’t get frustrated and give up (like me). Good luck.

  3. codyh says:

    The Peak/SoundSoap combo you described is about as good as you’re going to get at a non-pro audio level. I’ve done a fair amount of digitizing of vinyl, and here’s the procedure I typically follow:

    1) get a level on the input by finding a loud part of the record to make sure you’re not clipping in the software.
    2) record the album a side at a time.
    3) chop the sides into individual tracks.
    4) track by track, use Peak’s “find peak” command to isolate clicks and pops.
    5) use Peak’s “repair click” command, or, if the pop is short enough, draw it out with the pencil tool.
    6) normalize the track.

    Be advised, this is a time-consuming process, and if you’re after audiophile quality, you may be disappointed. You’ll either end up with tracks that have a distinct vinyl character, with some pops and crackle, or you’ll sacrifice some quality using cleanup plugins. My preference is for the former. I do a podcast ( where I play music from old out-of-print records, and generally speaking I do absolutely no cleanup of the tracks. In fact, I most often just record them directly into GarageBand.

  4. bluefin says:

    Unfortunately Peak is Mac only, so a PC request. I have over a hundred white label 12″s to record. I have a PC, which currently has a cheap soundcard. Is the PowerWave just a convenient preamp and does it add anything I need, as I have a NAD amp with a preamp for my Technics 1210 deck. I can also probably get an old version of Logic Audio from an annoyed former user or should I use Audacity?

  5. bluefin says:

    Unfortunately Peak is Mac only, so a PC request. I have over a hundred white label 12″s to record. I have a PC, which currently has a cheap soundcard. Is the PowerWave just a convenient preamp and does it add anything I need, as I have a NAD amp with a preamp for my Technics 1210 deck. I can also probably get an old version of Logic Audio from an annoyed former user or should I use Audacity?

  6. blatherskyte says:

    FWIW, the Griffin iMic is about $50 cheaper than the Powerwave.

  7. dennis_parrott says:

    I have been ripping vinyl since I got my first Pentium-class box… an HP Pavilion – 166 MHz MMX!! It had a pretty nice sound card and the results sounded better than the cassettes I used to make of my LPs.

    The better the quality of the equipment you use to spin the vinyl, the better the final results. I used to use an old Technics turntable and a Pioneer reciever but both had developed some stray electrical noise. When I went out and replaced them with a nice new Sony turntable and upgraded Pioneer reciever, the noises I recorded on the line-in got much better sounding. GIGO works for audio just like computers.

    I have a ton of software bought since I started ripping and for the average person I would advise staying away from trying to do much with the signal processing stuff to remove clicks and pops and so on. If you are using a consumer-grade tool, it doesn’t give you enough control and you can get some crappy sounding WAV files (after spending a lot of time waiting…); if you buy the pro-grade tools, you will spend a lot of time experimenting to get the effect you want without making the sound equivalent to something played in a toilet bowl.

    If you would sit and listen to the vinyl, simply recording it and putting it on CD will make you happy.

    If you are expecting to digitize the vinyl and get it to sound like what the artist/label can turn a master tape into when remastering the source for CD — noiseless, pure, 16 bit stereo @ 44.1KHz joy — you are expecting far more than you can have given the amount of money we’re talking about investing. Getting a transcription of an analog source of that quality would require more money than most of would want to spend.

    …and then there are the nerds like me who really like the sound of old vinyl (like my 600+ LPs) cuz it reminds them of their childhood…

  8. dennis_parrott says:

    Oh yeah, using an external soundcard device (I use an iMic and Creative USB device) will make you happier, in general, than using a cheapo internal soundcard. The inside of a PC is rife with opportunity to pollute your input signal with stray electrical noise. Moving the A-to-D conversion outside of a PC is generally a better move.

    …and even if your laptop has a line-in jack, don’t bother… get an external converter. Laptops are the worst for internal noise being added to your signal.

    You can get acceptable results from some of the better consumer-grade soundcards (top line SoundBlasters have always worked OK) but if you’re willing to spend a few hundred bucks, you can get pro quality soundcards that will do a bit better job if you have to have a PCI bus solution.

    And for codyh and the problems with “thrift store gems”; I have a great tale to tell about converting a buddy’s treasured Johnny Cash tribute album that was dished, scalloped and skipped like a schoolgirl with St. Vitus’ Dance. It was the most challenging conversion I ever did. Wish I had that LP around so that I could do a tutorial on how to fix complex warpage to get a reasonable sound…

  9. MikeOConnor says:

    I’m a big fan of Enhanced Audio’s DC-Six software. Their main site is here but fersure check out their demo recordings.

    I’ve taken some incredibly old stuff (including a very beat up original version of Benny Goodman’s Carnagie Hall concert) and transmogrified it into listenable stuff with that software. Nope, not free. But a joy to use — many pleasurable geek hours, made all the more fun because the results are so good.

    Even if you don’t want to spend the money, check out those demos. They’re pretty amazing. Scroll down the page and find the first pair of “before and after” links — they’re called ’78 RPM with noise’ and ‘Cleaned 78 RPM’ respectively. The links are formatted to look like headlines, but they’re really links to MP3s. The example that really blew my doors off is the Forensic demo at the end.

    These people are into the Make ethic — check out their writeup of how to clean vinyl in their reading area.

  10. alankilian says:

    I’m going to add my vote for the free-route.

    1) Download Audacity
    2) Rip one-track-per-side.
    3) Listen the way it was intended to be. Pops, crackle and all.

    It appears I actually MEMORIZED those pops.
    When I listen to “After the gold rush” I clearly remember the
    introductory pair of pops. That’s just strange, but really brings
    back the memories.

  11. bloo says:

    I used a turntable with built-in pre-amps (on the advice of a musician friend) to feed into the line-in jack on my PC. Used Easy CD Creator 4 / Spin Doctor to get one .wav per side, then split into tracks laters. I used a second HD because I wanted to keep all the .wavs until I burned to CD. 60GB is holding 70+ albums/cassetttes, YMMV. Do the hiss/pop cleanup during track splitting, not during recording.

    As for “vinyl ripping service” I believe copyright laws in the US prevent anyone from doing it for money.

  12. says:

    I used Audiotols, a cheap (25 USD) Windows application with tons of filters and customization options, and very good track-splitting technology.

  13. philfthy says:

    I have had good results using a program called PolderBits ( It’s a free D/L that is fully featured plus they give you two weeks AND a two week extention. Registering it costs $25 and they have been very prompt answering any questions I had. Good cables from your stereo to an external soundcard like the imic make a world of difference.
    I managed to record almost 100 LP’s during the trial period and while I don’t really consider myself an audiophile, the results have been as good as I would have hoped for.
    Good Luck.

  14. artntek says:

    I also have a PowerWave, and can recommend Griffin’s own software to rip LPs – it’s called Final Vinyl, and can be downloaded free from their website:

    Note that it’s mac only, and doesn’t work unless you have a Griffin PowerWave or iMic plugged into your machine.

    It’s a breeze to use – allows you to record the LP (auto or manual record levels), manually set the track-split markers on the waveform, then export the tracks as separate .wav or .aiff files. After doing this, I just drop them into iTunes to convert to mp3 (when the last step starts getting old, I’ll probably work out how to do this from the command line – necessity is the mother of… etc :-)

    I’d prefer a single-step automated solution that did all this (*and* a CDDB lookup to fill in the track names etc :-), since I still have hundreds of LP’s to rip, but after lots of searching, haven’t yet found anything viable that works with my setup.

  15. cranched says:

    Check out TotalRecorder, It lets you rip streaming audio, but they also just released an embedded audio restoration suite this week. It

  16. cranched says:

    Check out TotalRecorder, It lets you rip streaming audio, but they also just released an embedded audio restoration suite this week. It works like the old SAE 5000, where you can toggle and listen to what’s being filtered out. Cost is $35.00 for Total Recorder Pro and $32.95 for the Audio Restoration suite.

  17. bloo says:

    I did 60 or so LPs with Roxio’s software, version 4 and then 6. It was tedious work, but I’m happy I did it. I didn’t do a _lot_ of cleanup of pops and stuff, but I did separate everything into tracks. I’ve saved the .wav files in case I want to reconvert to something other than MP3, but that may change if I need the space.

    Marky – if you’d post your (obfuscated) e-mail address, someone might offer to rip your vinyl for you…

  18. ReidS says:

    I recently grabbed a Numark TTUSB turntable which has a USB interface in addition to phono output RCA connections. It comes with a copy of Audacity (outdated) so I’m using it to rip some LPs that my uncle stored for years in a shed. (They are actually in remarkably good condition…) However, the pop and click issue has me doing a ton of manual processing, mainly zooming in on the defect in the editor and then converting it to silence.

    The cool thing about the TTUSB paired with Audacity is that you can rip an LP playing at 45 rpm (plus 10% due to a speed adjuster slider on the turntable) and then s-l-o-w down the recorded data using an Audacity effect. The problem with this is that frequency response gets cut off unless you bump up the sample rate.

    I did manage to get Musicmatch 10 Plus to work with it, but it can’t monitor and record at the same time so babysitting this combo was too much trouble.

    One tip on processing skips: These are generally easy to spot due to the fact that a pop causes a spike in the waveform. With Audacity (and probably other tools) you can just find the first and last pop, highlight the waveform between them and delete it. You might also have to trim away the noise that you create when you give the tonearm a little bump to get to the next clean groove ;^)

  19. tommytone says:

    Does anyone know of a company that records to CD from vinyl in the Chicago Illinois area?

  20. MaximilianSchich says:

    Noise reduction in post-processing is always a worse option compared to not producing noise at all.
    For digitizing music from vinyl, I would recommend using a really good turntable, a really good stylus and a professional grade sound card.
    Personally I use a Technics SP-1200 turntable with a Ortofon Concord DJ-E Stylus and the relatively affordable Echo Indigo IO 24-bit laptop sound card. The turntable is connected to a mixer, which in turn is connected to the input-channel of the sound card. In order to avoid additional noise in the system, the output of the sound card is not looped back to the mixer, but connected to headphones directly. If you do no mixing, the mixer might be replaced by a good preamp or receiver.
    The Technics/Ortofon combination has the benefit of being much more tolerant to scratches than a regular home stereo turntable. The 24-bit sound card allows me to record with a higher sampling rate. Subsequently the recording contains more information than the target 16-bit. Therefore normalization results in a reduction of additional information instead of an addition of non-information.
    By using this setup I have identified only one significant remaining source of noise: the power circuit of the laptop I use. In comparison to using the internal sound card, laptop noise is reduced almost completely by using the Indigo device. However the 50Hz noise of the (european) power adapter remains. It can be reduced close to zero by removing or covering the grounding – i.e. the third contact – of the power plug (a piece of paper will do).
    Summing up I am very happy with this setup. Except of normalizing the recording down to 16-bit, I do no post-processing at all. Of course the recordings contain the warmth and other side-effects of vinyl playback.
    If you go for the perfect sound, it may be interesting to hear, what John Cage was told in a zero noise chamber: The low noise is your blood in circulation, the higher one is your nervous system in operation. Wanna suppress that?

  21. jacobalanwhite says:

    I’m using a turntable with a pre-amp, but the audio into my powerbook is still way to low. Should I get a reciever or just a better turntable?

  22. jonpit says:

    I have not tried this with vinyl recordings, but Adobe has a free (for now)Sound editor called Soundbooth ( ) that has some nice extraneous noise reduction capabilities.
    Getting away from digital purity- you can use a tube preamp to cook the audio before digital conversion- which I find nice for music of the vacuum tube era.

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