How to digitize music - Part 1.
You will need:
1. A good sound card (Soundblaster 16 or better) 2. A good record Deck and a [pre]amplifier with a record-deck input. 3. Some recording software (CoolEdit is a good one - $30 / shareware) 4. At least 1GB of free disk space. 5. Patience (optional).
If you haven't already got one, go out an buy a record deck. You can find these in junk shops or garage sales real cheap; typically $30 or less. Because the signal coming out of a record deck is quiet compared to say a CD player, you have to put it through a preamplifier. Most older amplifiers will have an input for a record deck, but if you haven't got one, y o can buy a separate preamplfier for about $25 (I use a btech one which is ok).
1. Setting up =============
1.1) Plug the record deck into the preamplifier. If you are using a hi-fi amplifier, plug it into the "phono" input. You will need an RCA male-to-male stereo cable for this.
1.2) Now plug the output from the amplifier (usually marked "tape-out") into the line input socket of the sound card. You will need a male RCA to mini stereo jack plug for this. Now you are all set.
2. Setting The Levels =====================
2.1) Put a record on the deck and start it playing.
2.2) Click on Start> Programs>Accessories>Entertainment>Volume Control (or click the Yellow Speaker icon in the System Tray).
2.3) Bring up the Volume Control and click on Options>Properties>check the recording box. This shows all the inputs you can have. Check the "line input" box. This tells the sound card to listen on the correct input socket.
2.4) This is the hardest part. Start Cool Edit and hit the Record button (accept the default settings for 44 khz and so on). You should see a red bar moving across the bottom as the record plays. Adjust this until it peaks at about -5db by adjusting the slider on the Windows volume control "line-input". If you can't hear anything, adjust the output volume on the Windows volume control (Bring up the Volume Control and click on Options>Properties>check the playback box). Make sure you haven't got the "mute" - box checked.
2.5) Now stop the recording and throw away the file (close). Start playing the record and start recording in Cool Edit. Let the entire side of the record play. When it has finished stop Cool Edit recording. You now have a huge unprocessed .wav file. You will need to chop this up into tracks, but first you need to do some reprocessing.
3. Post Processing ===================
Cool Edit is a complicated program so we'll just cover the basics here.
3.1) Normalizing The Level. This is useful if you have recorded too quietly. First select all the wave-form, making sure you have selected both channels. Then select the Transform menu>amplify>normalize. Normalize to 90% and press OK. This will take some time, depending on the speed of your processor.
3.2) Cutting Out The Tracks. This is done using "cut and paste" in the usual Windows way, except you can paste to a new file in Cool Edit.
3.3) Processing Individual Tracks. The two most common things to do are removing pops and crackles and fading in and out the track.
For removing hiss, pops and crackles, I recommend that you buy the de-pop filter plug-in. This is a brilliant little program - well worth the extra cost. Bad pops can be removed manually by zooming in on the wave-form and simply deleting them. You'll be amazed how the human brain doesn't notice!
For fading in and out, use transform>amplify>fade-in/out. Easy but remember you have to highlight the bit you want faded in or out.
4. Other Tips ==============
If you have a record which is badly scuffed and has a lot of surface noise, try playing it "wet". Simply spray with warm water from a plant sprayer and play in the normal way. This is the last resort as the record cannot be played dry thereafter, although I have friends who always play records wet anyway because they sound better.
If you have to do a lot of post processing, such as de-hissing or removing pops and crackles, do it on the entire album at once. This takes longer but at least you can go and have a cup of coffee (or depending on the speed of your processor, go on vacation!) while it is processing.