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How to transfer your old vinyl records into digital files

Lynn Wright / 22 February 2016 ( 05 April 2019 )

Don’t leave your record collection gathering dust. Bring them back to life with our guide to digitising your old vinyl records with a turntable.

Pile of records
Make sure your old vinyl records are dust-free and devoid of fingerprints as any debris will affect the recording

Many of us have a collection of vinyl records stashed away in a cupboard or in the loft that we never listen to anymore because we no longer have a turntable or it’s too much hassle to set one up. 

Here’s how to convert vinyl albums to MP3 files for your computer or iPod and even transfer them to a CD for easy listening.

Equipment you need

• A turntable – look for one with an integrated pre-amp and USB output so it can connect directly to your computer. This means you won’t need to use a standalone phono preamp.

• A phono preamp – If your turntable doesn’t include one, you’ll need a standalone phone preamp to convert the analogue signal so that your computer’s sound card can use it. Look for USB preamp so it can be plugged into your computer’s USB port. Otherwise, you’ll need a stereo RCA audio cable and a RCA to 3.5mm (mini-jack) adaptor to connect it to your PC.

• A computer – any will do, as long as it has a line-in port (if you’re not using USB equipment) and enough free hard drive space to store your recorded music.

Recording software – there’s lots of premium software available but free tools, such as Audacity, will be fine for most users.

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How to digitise your vinyl records

1. Make sure your old vinyl records are dust-free and devoid of fingerprints as any debris will affect the recording. Use a micro-fibre brush or a lint-free cloth plus cleaning solution if necessary.

2. If using a USB turntable with a built-in preamp, simply plug the USB cable into the corresponding port on your computer.

If not, connect your turntable to the phono preamp. Then plug the stereo RCA audio cable into the preamp’s monitor output, and the other end into your computer’s line-in port using the RCA-to-3.5mm adaptor.

Take advantage of the Vinyl Revival

3. Open the recording software on your computer – in this example we’re using Audacity. Check that sound will be captured from the correct input by clicking Edit > Preferences and selecting Line-In under the Recording section. Then go to View and select Show Clipping.

4. Click the red Record button and start playing your record on the turntable. It’s generally easier to record the whole record in one go and then split the recording into individual tracks afterwards.

5. Once the record has finished playing, you can use Audacity’s noise removal tools to clean up the recording. To split the recording into separate tracks, click and drag your cursor to highlight the duration of a track, then click Tracks > Add Label At Selection and name the track accordingly.

6. When you’re happy with the final recording, click File > Export Multiple and choose your desired file format – in this case MP3 – and save location before clicking Export. You can now listen to your digitized record in the music player of your choice or burn it to a CD using a free program such as iTunes.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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