How to Preserve Vinyl Records On CD

Recording vinyl records onto a CD is easy – and worth it

Listening to vinyl records at home is enjoyable, but you would also like to listen to your vinyl in other places around the house or in the car. One option is to copy vinyl records onto CDs.

There are three methods to copy vinyl records to CD.

  • Use a PC.
  • Use a standalone CD Recorder.
  • Use a Turntable/CD Recorder Combination.
A vinyl LP on a turntable
 Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Turntable Connections

Before you start to copy vinyl records to CD, you need to be familiar with the types of connections a turntable might include. 

Depending on the Turntable brand or model, it might include one or more of the following connection options. 

Audio Out with Ground or Audio Out with Built-in Equalizer/Preamp.

Denon DP-400 Turntable Connection Options Spotlighted
Denon

A turntable that only has the audio out with ground option will need an external preamp/equalizer to connect the turntable to standard RCA audio inputs on a PC or CD recorder if they don't have a corresponding audio input/ground connection option.

Pro-Ject Phono Box MM – Phono Preamp
Pro-Ject

USB Output

A growing number of turntables come equipped with a USB port. In most cases, this allows the connection of the turntable directly to a PC. However, for some turntables, the USB port may only allow direct copy from the turntable to a USB flash drive. 

Ion Audio LP 2 CD Turntable with USB Port

Select Turntables with a USB port may also come with audio editing software.

Using a PC or Laptop with a CD burner

Using a PC with a CD-burner combined with a turntable connected to an analog-to-digital USB audio converter or a turntable with a USB output are ways to get started.

  • If your turntable doesn't have a USB output, but your PC has analog audio inputs, you might need an additional phono preamp to connect the turntable to a PC's sound card line input.
  • You might also require other software.
Asus DRW-24B1ST DVD/CD-R Drive
Amazon

PC Advantages

PC Disadvantages

  • Transferring music from vinyl records to a PC hard drive, burning them to CDs, then deleting the files off the hard drive afterward (depending on how much hard drive space you have), and repeating this process takes extra time.

Check out some additional tips and steps when using the PC method.

Using a Standalone CD Recorder

Another way to copy vinyl records is with a standalone audio CD recorder. You can make CD copies of vinyl records, as well as play other CDs you might have.

Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Front and Rear Views

CD-Recorder Availability

CD recorders are getting rare, but there are still several brands and models available.

Use The Right Discs

Use blank CDs marked "Digital Audio" or "For Audio Use Only," some CD data discs may not be compatible. Disc compatibility information should be in the CD recorder user manual. You can also choose between CD-R discs (record once - best for straight dubbing) or CD-RW discs (re-writable and erasable).

Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Status Display

Setup Considerations

Setting up most CD recorders is not tricky, but your turntable might not connect directly to your CD recorder unless it has a built-in phono preamp/equalizer. You have three connection options:

  1. You can get an external phono preamp that you place between the turntable and the CD recorder's audio input.
  2. Get a turntable that has a built-in phono preamp.
  3. For a stereo or home theater receiver with dedicated phono inputs that you are already using to listen to your vinyl records, select the turntable as your source and send its audio to the CD recorder via the receiver's tape or preamp outputs for recording.
Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Analog Audio Connections

Monitoring Your Recording

If the CD recorder has a headphone jack, there may be a monitor function that allows you to listen to your vinyl record as you record. As you listen to the incoming signal, you can use the CD recorder's level control (there may also be a balance control) to set your copy's most comfortable sound levels. If the CD recorder has LED level meters, you will see if the incoming signal is too loud.

Ensure that your loudest peaks do not reach the red "over" indicator on the level meters, which will distort your recording.

Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Left Side Controls - Monitor Highlighted

Recording Both Sides

One issue recording from a vinyl record to a CD is how to record both sides of the record without having to manually pause and start the CD recording at the proper time. In many cases, you have to pause and restart the recording manually.

However, If your CD recorder has a Synchro feature, recording two sides of a record is more straightforward.

You can automatically record just one cut at a time or the entire side of a record, stopping and starting at the correct time.

  • The Synchro feature senses the sound that the tonearm cartridge makes when hitting the record's surface and stops when the cartridge lifts off. The recorder can pause between cuts and still "kick in" just as the music starts.
  • When the recorder pauses after playing one side of a record, you have time to flip the record. The CD recording will restart on the second side when the recorder "hears" the stylus drop again on the record.
  • The Synchro feature is a time saver as you can start the recording, do something else, then come back to flip the record.
Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Right Side Controls – Synchro Highlighted

The Silence Threshold

Another feature you may find on a CD recorder is the silence threshold setting, which fine-tunes the Synchro's effectiveness and any Auto Track recording feature. Since vinyl records have surface noise, unlike digital sources, such as commercial CDs, the CD recorder may not recognize the space between cuts as silence. It might not number the recorded tracks correctly. If you wish to have accurate track numbering on your CD copy, you can set the -dB levels of the silence threshold.

Fades and Text

Some CD recorders allow you to create fade-ins and fade-outs between cuts. Some also have CD-Text capability, enabling you to label a CD and each of its cuts. This information can be read by CD or CD/DVD players and CD/DVD-Rom drives, with text reading capability. You can usually enter text with the keypad on the remote control, but some high-end and professional CD recorders might connect to a Windows-style keyboard.

Finalization

Once you finish, you can't just take your created CD and play it in any CD player; you must go through a finalization process. This process labels the number of cuts on the CD and makes the file structure on the disc compatible for play on any CD player. To finalize, press the Finalize button on the recorder or the remote control. The estimated finalization time and its progress should appear on some CD recorders' front panel status display. 

Pioneer PDR-609 CD Recorder – Left Side Controls - Finalize Highlighted

Once you finalize a CD-R disc, you cannot record anything else on it, even if you have space.

Using Turntable/CD Recorder Combos

Another method of copying vinyl records to CD is with a Turntable/CD Recorder combo. 

Similar in concept to a VCR/DVD recorder combo, since both the turntable and CD recorder are in the same component, you don't have to use separate connecting cables or connect an external phono preamp. 

Depending on brand and model, you can copy your records to CD with a one-button push. However, you may have the flexibility to set levels and fades. 

Unlike a PC or standalone CD recorder, you might not have the option to edit, add text, or perform additional tweaks that can help optimize the recording's quality. Also, the turntables included with such combos may not provide the best sound quality for your records.

Teac LPR550-USB CD Recorder with Cassette and Turntable
Images provided TEAC

The Bottom Line

While many audio enthusiasts consider copying vinyl records onto CD less than desirable in converting that warm analog sound to CD, it is a convenient way to enjoy the music in your office or car, where a turntable may not be available.

If you are importing your vinyl record content into a PC, you can also put it onto a USB flash drive, memory card, or upload it to the cloud, enabling access across multiple digital playback devices.

Before copying your vinyl records to CD using a PC or CD recorder, be sure they are as clean as possible.

Since essential records in your collection may no longer be in print or even available on CD, it is worth preserving them if your turntable malfunctions or the records become damaged, warped, or otherwise unplayable.