How to Digitize Vinyl Records and Tapes

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable.


The process of transferring the contents of a CD to a hard drive is known as 'ripping' because it is done at high speed. The process of converting vinyl LP records and tapes from analog to digital is known as 'digitizing' and is done in real time. Digitizing analog music requires three things: an analog to digital converter, a software application to process and save your music, and a computer hard disk drive to store it on.

In this article, I'll discuss two methods to digitize vinyl records and tapes and store them on a computer hard drive. It's a great way to preserve older recordings and add them to your favorite playlists on your iPod or MP3 player.

Digitizing Vinyl Records & Tapes

The simplest way to convert LP records to digital is with a USB turntable, a special type of record player with a USB digital output for connection to a PC or Mac computer. There are many USB turntable models available from different manufacturers, including the AT-LP2D-USB entry-level model from Audio-Technica. Read my full review here. New models with more features have since augmented the AT-LP2D-USB, but they all can be used as a standard turntable connected to a stereo system or as a USB turntable connected to a computer. Audio-Technica also offers a professional turntable for serious vinyl enthusiasts, the AT-LP120-USB.

Another good way to digitize vinyl records, and line level sources such as tapes, is with a phono/line level preamp with USB output, such as the NAD PP-3 Digital Phono Preamp with analog and USB digital outputs.

This accessory is a great tool for digitizing almost any analog audio source and works with any existing turntable with either a moving magnet or moving coil phono cartridge. If you already have a good turntable, an external preamp, like the NAD PP-3 is probably the best option. An added benefit is the line level inputs provided for tape decks, portable players or other analog audio sources.

Digitizing & Editing Software

To get the music into a computer, you need a software application to record and save the content. Most USB turntables, such as the Audio-Technica line of USB turntables, come with PC and Mac compatible Audacity audio recording and editing software. With the Audacity app and a USB turntable you can convert records to digital files stored on a computer then burn a CD, or import them into iTunes and synch with an iPod or export to an MP3 player.

The NAD PP-3 can be used with VinylStudio Lite, a downloadable app for Windows and Mac computers. Like the Audacity app, VinylStudio Lite permits basic functions such as importing music and more advanced editing functions such as inserting track breaks for LPs, scratch and noise removal, equalizing and others. The NAD PP-3 and VinylStudio Lite is a useful and affordable accessory digitizing LPs, tapes and other analog sources.

USB turntables and digital phono preamps are the best ways to digitize records and tapes and archive favorite recordings and both are affordable.

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