I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a phonograph around. Growing up in my crazy family, we even had our own audio recorders (vinyl, wire, reel-to-reel), and I cut more than my share of records, whether recording family gatherings or just goofing off with my cousin. Today, phonographs have been replaced by digital players, and the challenge now is to move some of the valuable old vinyl records to CD or MP3 player.
In the past, I’ve used an old school-type portable 4-speed turntable, connected via iMic and a patch cable. Recently, Woot.com (one of my favorite bargain sites!) featured an ION Profile LP 2-speed USB turntable at a price I couldn’t pass up. It’s a nice unit for the average person. Plug in the power cord, connect the USB cable and you are set to go.
Software bundled with it is EZ Audio Converter, which imports your audio. It’s basic, and will allow you to split the record into separate tracks, but that’s about it. They recommend Audacity for cleaning up the inevitable pops and crackles, but I went looking for something better. I found it.
I downloaded a demo version of VinylStudio, and liked it enough that I happily paid ($29.95 + tax) for it. It works seamlessly with the ION turntable, importing, then splitting tracks (with a bit of operator help) and cleaning up the extra junk sounds caused by dust and scratches. The test was an LP from 1962, the Detroit Redford High School Annual Spring Concert. It features the choir, glee clubs, vocal ensembles, orchestra and concert band (and yes, I'm in 5 out of 10 tracks). Now, the original recording was done in the school auditorium, not a studio, nobody was miked, so the quality was not award-winning. Still, it’s part of my past that I want to preserve and share with some of my classmates.
First, I recorded it with EZ Audio and used Audacity to clean it up. The results were not bad, but there were still too many pops and clicks to make me happy. I ripped it a second time using nothing but VinylStudio, and while I did have to help it along with the breaks between tracks, it did a superb job of cleaning up the noise. That alone made it worth the price. It burned directly to CD in standard AIFF format, and it also copied the files to iTunes in AAC format.
VinylStudio should also work for transferring audio cassettes, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. For cassettes, I have an old Sony Walkman that I connect to the computer with a Griffin iMic. Works like a charm. Now if anyone happens to be looking for a bargain on an old portable 4-speed rig…