Converting Your LPs Into CDs

Turning Vinyl Into Gold

by Winston Willis

Well, folks, I’ve taken the plunge and bitten the bullet. I’ve finally done IT. I have been thinking about doing IT for a long time now. I thought about doing IT back in February of 1999, when I read an article in Mac Addict about HOW to do IT. However, I put it off. I thought about doing IT again in April of 1999, when Jim Alley wrote an article for Mac Monitor about HOW to do IT. I thought to myself, ?that would be a nice summer project,? but I never got around to doing IT. I thought about doing IT again this past year, when I read an article about how to DO IT in the December 2001 issue of Mac World. Shortly before Christmas, I took the plunge and bite the bullet and did IT.

I’m sure that by now, you wonder what in the world I'm taking about? Why, converting my old LPs to CDs, of course! So now that I’ve actually done IT, I’m going to share my reflections with you about doing IT!

Although I’d read all of the above articles on how to do IT, I still didn’t really understand all the ins and outs of how to do IT! Plus, I’m basically a lazy person, and I knew that once I started doing IT, it would consume much of my time.

So what motivated me to finally do IT? As you’re probably aware from my column in Mac Monitor and SMUG DATA, our family took a driving trip to Colonial Williamsburg and the Brandywine Valley, during the Christmas holidays. I thought that it would really be nice to have some good Christmas music to listen to along the way. I have an extensive LP collection, that goes back to the late 1950’s! Some of my favorite Christmas records have never been digitally remastered. I have been lucky in finding many “vintage” recordings that have been digitized via Collectors Choice Music at I found many of my Joan Biaz folk music CDs there. However, I struck out when I went looking for some of my old Christmas favorites.

As I looked through my record albums, I found that I had many Christmas records that would never be reissued on CDs. Therefore, if I wanted them on CD, I would have to do IT myself!

One of my favorite Christmas albums is Joyuex Noel – 12 Noels by Louis Claude Daquin, E. Power Biggs playing the new Flentrop Organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University. Well, the organ was new at the time! It is very unlikely that Columbia is going to reissue this album on a CD! Then there are all of those Christmas albums that I bought each year at the Firestone and Goodyear stores! Do any of you remember those? They were basically promotional LPs which included contributions by the major music artists of the time. Nice albums, plus they were cheap! Again, these will never be reissued.

So now you have the motivation! Perhaps you’re wondering why I haven’t done IT before! Well, I’m glad you’re wondering, because I’m going to tell you.

I do have a working turntable. Back in the early 70’s, I purchased a “state of the art” music system, which included a turntable that would play Quadraphonic records! The Quad and 8 track tape deck has long since died, and can’t be repaired. However, my turntable still works in the “stereo” mode. So you see, I had a major part of the hardware that I needed to do IT, a working turntable.

My first generation G3 Minitower has AV(audio video) capability. That is one thing that made it so expensive when I bought it back in 1997. I’ve never used that AV capability until I did IT!

Lucky, my stereo system and computer are both in the same room. However, one of the reasons I’ve put off doing IT for so long, is the fact that my the stereo system and computer are not near each other in that room. I’m much too lazy to move either one of them. And my computer has numerous SCSI devices connected to it, and they do not like to be moved! So what to do?

On that Saturday morning, before we left on our trip, I took off for the Radio Shack Store! It had occurred to me that I could, perhaps, purchase a really long audio cable, that would allow me to connect the stereo system to the computer, all the way across the room! I purchased a 20 foot audio cable, the longest one that Radio Shack makes! Surely, that would do the job!

Sure enough, it was long enough. Since I do have an AV Mac, all I had to do to get my turntable connected to my computer, was to plug the right and left RCA type plugs into the AUDIO OUT RCA type plugs of my turntable decoder and to the Audio IN RCA type plugs in my Mac! I even managed to get the right and left channels plugged in properly the first time! DUHHH! After all, they are color coded! ;)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, what if I don’t have an AV Mac? How do I connect my computer to my stereo system?” Good question! I’ll get to that. Perhaps, this will even turn into one of those two part articles!

Okay. Now the computer and the stereo are connected to each other. So how does one record the records? Why, using the proper software, of course! One of the things that Jim Alley taught me was that in order to do this properly, I needed to purchase Adaptec Toast Deluxe. I’m no stranger to Toast. I’ve been using it since I purchased my CD-R, many years ago now. However, the version that came with my CD-R was not Deluxe! Therefore, I took Jim’s advice and upgraded to 4.1 Deluxe. The most current version is Toast Titanium by Roxio. I’ve not upgraded to it yet. The Toast Deluxe 4.1 version included an application called CD SpinDoctor.

CD SpinDoctor allows you to record your LPs, and will even define the tracks for you and send them to the Toast software, in order to burn the CDs. But, hey I was in a hurry! I was going on my trip! I didn’t have time to figure all of this out! My wife was not pleased that I’d started another one of my little computer “projects” at the last minute, especially when I should be packing, etc. She knows me all too well. So what to do?

Well, I decided that I would just make the CDs just like the records! At least, almost like the records. I clicked on the record button on CD SpinDoctor, dropped the needle on to the LP, and started to record! When the first side of the record was recorded, I clicked the ?pause? button, turned the record over and clicked on ?pause? again, to resume recording! I opened Toast, selected the Audio CD format, named the CD, and dropped my one big Track AIFF (audio interchange file format) into Toast and burned the CD! I put my new CD into the CD player and pressed play! It worked!

I did several LPs like this, until my wife made me stop! We enjoyed the CDs on our long drive! However, there are certainly drawbacks to the “quick and dirty” method of converting LPs to CDs! You can hear the needle drop on the record! Remember, I had to click on the record button, then run across the room to drop the needle on to the record! I missed a few times, and all of that is recorded on the CDs!

Another disadvantage of recording everything as one track is that the multi-disc CD player, in my wife’s big red Ford Expedition, will not change to the next CD! All of the commercial CDs would advance to the next CD, but not the ones that I made. They just kept playing over and over.

Another disadvantage is that while I was driving up I-95 , playing the “Christmas in Austria” CD, I started hearing this very strange noise, like a mechanical thump of some kind repeating over and over! I thought there was something seriously wrong with the Expedition! It suddenly dawned on me. It wasn’t the vehicle, but the scratches from the record that were making that awful noise! Needless to say, the Willis family was very relieved that it was the CD making that noise and not the Expedition! I decided, right then and there, that I would learn how to edit out the noise, pops, and hums from my LPs. I’m working on that right now, even as I write this article.

There will, therefore, be a part two to this article. In part two, I will go into more detail about the hardware and software issues, and how to go about the editing process. There is additional information that you need to know, if you decide to tackle this kind of project! If you have specific questions that you would like me to address in part two, please send them to me via e-mail.

If enough of you are interested in the subject, perhaps I can do a presentation at a future SMUG meeting. I know I would have liked to have seen IT done, before I did IT!

Go to Part Two.

Winston J. Willis is the Assistant Director of Information Services for the
Macintosh Computers at the Savannah Country Day School, the President and
CD Librarian of the Savannah Macintosh Users Group.