Would you like to record your favorite old LP's and analog tapes to your computer for use in Digital Music Library? Once recorded and added to hard drives music library you can also make audio CDs for playback in your car stereo as well as data CD's to back up and archive your original analog recordings. This involves recording the LP or tape to the computer's hard drive using a stand alone software wave editing program such as Voyetra's AudioSurgeon, Sonic Foundry 's SoundForge Studio 6.0, or Cool Edit 2000 and your soundcard's line input. Several Media Player software packages also offer the ability to record analog sources as part of their built-in programs. MusicMatch JukeBox and Cakewalk Pyro are two packages that offer this capability. If you want to try your hand at Noise Reduction, Cool Edit and SoundForge professional packages offer the greatest assortment of tools, albeit at a higher cost.
Before you dive right into this, be aware it takes time and effort. For that reason I suggest you confine yourself to:
To record an analog tape (or other analog source) to your hard drive you'll need:
What quality should I expect?
The first goal of transcribing an analog medium to digital format is to preserve the best possible copy of the analog source. If your audio tape has hiss, you will be recording the hiss in the digital file. Likewise, on a vinyl record, you will be recording all the pops and crackles that exist on the original record. While all the programs I suggest below do have tools to remove pops and crackles as well as tape hiss, 60 cycle hum, etc. you should always save a pure unfiltered recording of the original. This becomes your MASTER recording and you should cut this to CD and label the CD as a MASTER. Later, you can bring the pure file back into your computer and try the various tools for removing unwanted noise. If you find, as I do, that removing the noise also removes too much of the original high frequencies (such as cymbals), you still have the original digital recording to return to and you can try again, or like me, decide to live with the noise. If your goal is to produce a better sounding copy of the original, be prepared for a lot of experimentation with the filters and transforms available.
What preparations should I take before recording the original source material?
Remember the old adage - "Garbage In - Garbage Out". That being said, there are some simple common sense techniques you can use to achieve the highest possible fidelity on your old analog mediums. Below are some of my tips for getting the most out of your analog recordings.
Special consideration for Reel to Reel Tapes:
How do I record analog tapes to my computer?
NOTE: to use the Windows mixer click on Start ' Programs ' Accessories ' Entertainment ' Volume Control. When the Windows mixer opens click on Options - Properties ' Recording (figures 5-6).
Cakewalk offers a combination media
organizer and audio editor. Its recording features make it convenient
to record vinyl or tapes, split long recordings into individual
tracks, and perform basic noise reduction. Its use of the windows
explore makes navigation easy to learn and it can ripp CD's and
create data and audio CD's. If you don't expect to have a lot
of material and like the idea of using Explorer rather than a
distinct music library, it is a choice worth considering.
MusicMatch does not have a audio editor or noise reduction transforms. You can record and set levels using your soundcard mixer.
Cool Feature - Delayed Recording works much like a VCR. When used in conjunction with Line In recording you can record, as an example, an interesting radio program scheduled for a time when you will not be near a radio.
Figure 12-13 show what it looks like in MMJB.
Recording a Vinyl Record
The output of a typical vinyl record turntable is extremely low and lacks the R.I.A.A. equalization compensation needed to restore bass frequencies to the vinyl recordings' output. When turntables were in use, a phono preamp was built into the preamplifier section of the receiver. With the advent of CD technology, many modern receivers lack a phono input. In such cases the soundcard's Line In will not "see" a hot enough signal to make a good recording and you will get a very "thin" sounding recording. A solution for this is to connect your turntable to a standalone phonograph preamplifier, available from many Internet audio accessory vendors (figure 14). Radio Shack stores are good local, although you may have to order it as many stores don't keep these in stock. You can order directly on-line from www.radioshack.com.
Tip: If you record the whole side of a tape with SoundForge or Cool Edit, you can break it into individual tracks more efficiently by starting at the end of the file and working back until you see the first point of silence. Select / highlight the audio from the end until the first point of silence and use the cut command to remove it from the original. Now open a new 44.1 kHz - 16 bit file and paste the audio you cut into the new file. Name this file and save it. Now when you go back to the original, the file will end on the next to the last song. Continue the process until all the individual tracks have been cut and saved.
Archiving and adding your recordings to your Digital Library
I am going to assume that you are not going to try and de-hiss or de-pop your recordings, although I will give some tips on doing that in the next section. For now, lets assume that you are satisfied with having recorded the analog source to your hard drive and have cut it into tracks and created an audio CD of the tape or vinyl record.
After I make the audio CD in AudioSurgeon, I immediately place the CD back in the drive and let it open AudioStation and then go out to the GraceNote where typically it will not find any information on the CD you created. AudioStation, Pyro, and / or MusicMatch will list the tracks and time but leave the Artist, Album Title, and track titles blank. I enter the information and then submit it to the online service, so that any time I place that audio CD back in the drive, the online service returns the Artist, Album, and track titles I have entered. When I enter the Album name I also use the catalog number that is found on the vinyl records cover. Figures 15 and 16 provide an example:
In addition, now that I have cataloged the new CD with them, the information is ready to be placed in my ID3 tags when I ripp the CD in compressed format to my hard drive. I now print a CD cover listing the CD title, Artist, and track names and place the CD in a CD binder for safe keeping. I have the MP3 tracks on my hard drive to listen to or to compile another audio CD from. If you own a digital camera, you can also take a picture of the front and back cover of the album. With a little photo manipulation you can then add the photo to the ID3 tag of your MP3 files. I resize the photo down to 200 * 200 pixels for this.
Now my digital library also includes a photo of the original cover art as well as the recordings themselves.
So I now have an audio CD, and the tracks on the audio CD have been ripped in MP3 format with all the needed information to my digital library. But I still have the huge wave file on my hard drive. Unless you have unlimited hard drive storage you are going to want to remove this big file from your hard drive so you can repeat the process with another record or tape. Use Roxio Easy CD Creator, Nero, AudioStation or MusicMatch's DATA CD mode and create a data CD of the original wave file. If you did take the extra step of shooting a picture of the album cover, add the original photo to the data CD as well. Print a label and store it right next to the audio CD you created. This data CD can be used later if you want to try your hand at cleaning up the audio, but you'll never have to go through the tedious proves of recording the analog medium again.
We've covered a lot of ground in this article, and I have purposefully left out Noise Reduction as it is a very broad topic. AudioSurgeon and the other programs mentioned all have tools to try and eliminate pops and clicks as well as tape hiss. After you have saved the original file, go ahead and try them out on a copy of the saved file. Just remember never to change the original file, work with a copy so you don't inadvertently save the altered version and lose all your hard work!
|Frank Powers has extensive digital music experience, working for companies like Voyetra Turtle Beach, Inc and Sam Ash Music, as well as composing his own material and running an Internet radio station. Frank is available for digital music consulting and can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more by visiting his website at http://www.franksamericana.com. He also can be heard on the Internet at Frank's Americana(tm) Live365( Internet Radio station at http://www.live365.com/stations/fpowers|