converting LPs to MP3s

I have almost every album Rush has put out…on LP, including a pristine 1975 Fly By Night. I have signed copies of several albums now considered “Classic Rock”, including a Black Sabbath Album signed by Ronnie James Dio (the singer who took Ozzy’s place, and led Rainbow…remember them, kids?), plus copies of albums that are hard to find on CD or iTunes (remember Riot’s album Narita?).

As of last night, I have my old Fly By Night album on my new iPod.

And I am slowly but surely getting many of my LPs moved to MP3 and onto my iPod, through a USB Turntable and software called Audacity, one of the coolest geek gifts my wife has gotten for me. The turntable is from ION; setup and use is a breeze; this type of technology has been around for a while, but because of how simple this configuration is, I highly recommend it.

The setup is (more in-depth setup instructions can be found at the Audacity Wiki):

  • plug the turntable into your USB port;
  • install Audacity software;
  • download LAME MP3 encoder (if you want to export MP3’s);
  • start the Audacity software;
  • go to Edit/Preferences/Audio IO;
  • select your Playback device (usually the coumputer’s sound card, such as “SB Audigy Audio”;
  • select your Recoding device (USB Audio Codec) and Channels (2 for stero)

To record, put your cherished LP on the turntable and hit the big red record button. I’ve been recording one side to each Audacity “Project”; to do this, after that side of the album has ended, hit the stop button and click File/SaveProjectAs and name your file (“FlyByNightSideA”).

I’ve got in a routine of doing three clean-up steps before I export:

  • delete the dead spaces at the beginning, end and in between tracks if they are too long (you do this by selecting them with your cursor and hitting delete);
  • remove the clicks:
    • select the entire recording by Edit/Select/All;
    • run the Click Removal effect (Effect/Click Removal/Remove Clicks);
    • I have not needed to change the threshold on this effect;
  • remove the noise
    • select a segment of the recording where you hear hiss or background noise;
    • select Effect/Noise Removal/Get Noise Profile
    • close the Noise Removal effect
    • select the entire recording by Edit/Select/All
    • run the Noise Removal effect(Effect/Noise Removal/Remove Noise
  • save the project (File/Save Project)

To export, I’ve been closely following the steps in the Audacity Wiki to export to separate tracks:

  • add Labels
    • use the cursor to select the area on the audio file between tracks;
    • select Project/AddLabelAtSelection or ctrl-B;
    • type the name of the track;
  • export to multiple tracks (File/ExportMultiple);
  • I have not had much success with the “Silence Finder” method described in the Wiki, where the program will find the spaces for labels by looking for the silence in the tracks;

To pull these into iTunes for my iPod, within iTunes you select File/AddFolderToLibrary and select the folder where you Exported the MP3 files.
Audacity creates a lot of disc space. For the conversion of Fly By Night, 2.56GBytes are taken up for both sides; only 33.9MB of that is for the actual MP3s that I will keep, so a lot (2GB) is for working files…if you ever want to go back and play with the editing, you would need to retain or re-record those files.

Off to record my old Jazz albums now!

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