How To Record Vinyl To Computer

Wondering how you can get all your records into your digital library without having to purchase them again? Here’s a comprehensive list of how to record vinyl to your computer.
What you’ll need
  1. Will you need an audio interface?
  • Connect your turntable to your computer
  • Configuring Audacity
  • Recording
  • How to Create Individual Tracks
  • File Types
  • Useful Info
  • What you’ll need

    Before you start you’ll need to make sure you have the following

    • A Turntable with stereo audio output (these are usually denoted as a red and white female RCA or the turntable has the stereo audio cable built in) OR Turntable with a USB output
    • A PC or Mac with an audio IN port OR a USB port.
    • Audacity Recording software (a free download can be found here) – if you’re on a Mac then Garage band will work fine too. 
    • Cables – 
      • Depending on the setup you will use to connect your turntable to your computer you may need to use some of the following cables/converters:
        • Stereo RCA to 3.5mm 
        • Stereo to 3.5mm converter
        • USB Male A to USB Male B (this is the most likely cable needed from an audio interface to computer
        • USB Male A to USB Male A

    Will you need an audio interface?

    Depending on what turntable you’re using will determine if you need an audio interface or not. 

    If your turntable does not have a USB output then I would recommend using an audio interface – technically you don’t need one for any computer that has an audio in ⅛” input but i’ve found the sound recording often has some noise if using this method without an audio interface. 

    Connect your turntable to your computer

    If your turntable has a USB output, you simply plug this into a USB port on your computer.

    If your turntable only has a stereo output, I would recommend connecting this to an audio interface before connecting to your computer – with this method, I’d use something that has a pre-amp and an inbuilt analog-to-digital converter with a USB output to then connect straight to your computer.

    Configuring Audacity

    Open Audacity and go to Transport -> rescan Audio Devices. This will get audacity to detect your turntable.

    In the top toolbar of Audacity, look for the second dropdown menu that’s adjacent to “MME”; this dropdown lists all the input devices. Select the appropriate source from this dropdown.

    Recording

    Before you start recording, test-play your record to make sure the input levels do not reach the “red”, and adjust the input volume if necessary. 

    Once you are happy, click “record”, play your record, and then click “stop” when finished.

    How to create individual tracks/songs

    Recording software doesn’t automate the creation of separate tracks, so you will need to do this yourself. 

    You can either record each track individually and save them; or you can record the whole album and then cut the individual tracks. 

    To do this all you need to do is highlight the section you want to cut, and copy and paste it into a new file (similar to how you would do with a word document); and then follow the same process as above to export the audio from the new file. 

    File Types

    There are a couple of different file types and it’s often confusing as to which is the one to use. Below is some information on some of the main ones used:

    MP3

    • This is the most common file type for music and is a compressed file.
    • I’d recommend saving 320 kbps when saving in MP3 format

    WAV and AIFF

    • Both WAV and AIFF files are lossless uncompressed files, and so have a very large file size.
    • This enables the sound quality to be better.

    For general listening purposes, it’s probably wise to save to MP3 due to the reduced disk space required. 

    Useful Info

    Make sure your records are clean – dirt, fluff and even oil from your hands can all have a negative effect on your recording (as well as potentially damaging the record). The easiest way to do this is to use a soft cloth to keep them free of fluff regularly, or use a special record cleaning brush.

    Make sure your needle is free of fluff – your turntable needle is very good at collecting the dust off of records. To make sure your recording is as good as possible, make sure to remove this fluff from your needle before hitting the record button!

    So with all this in mind, you should be well set up to start digitizing your record collection. 

    “My record collection probably tells the story of my life better than I could in words.” – Colleen Murphy

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