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How to convert LP's to CD

Tip by Vic Dura, comments by Clif

Download Vic's time utilitycomment on this article?


Notes from Clif

While corresponding with Vic one day, he mentioned that he converted his entire phonograph record collection over to CD. I was very interested in finding out his methods because my father has an extensive Jazz collection that I'd like to help him convert. Vic wrote me this back and it's far to good to leave in email.


Vic's tips on converting old LP's to CD

This was a project I did last winter. We had about 250 LP albums and 350 old 45rpm "singles" taking up space on a shelf but they weren't being listened to because they were just too inconvenient to play. Particularly the 45s. Here's the procedure I used:


1) Connect the turntable to the audio/aux input of the computer sound card.


2) While playing the record through the computer speakers, use software to capture the output from the sound card and convert it to a wav file on disk. I used TotalRecorder from http ://www.highcriteria.com/ which is shareware, but there are several freeware options out there (Clif recommends Audacity). This will produce one wav file per record side. That's fine for the 45s which have only one "song" per side, but it is a problem for most 33LPs which usually have several songs or pieces per side.


3) If copying 45s, you can now just rename the two wav files to whatever you like. If you are copying an LP, you have two wav files that correspond to the two sides. Of course, you can just burn those to an audio CD, but then you can't access the individual songs/pieces as individual tracks. The solution is to use a wav editor to extract the individual pieces and save them as separate files.


They have software that tries to do this, but I was never able to find any freeware that worked reliably. The problem seems to be that the software tries to identify tracks by the periods of relative "silence" between the pieces i.e. the track breaks, or inter-track gaps. That works fairly well for popular/rock/jazz type music that is mostly vocal/music, but it doesn't work well for classical pieces. Many classical pieces have relatively long periods of "quiet" music that the freeware auto-splitters took to be track breaks. I would guess that some expensive commercial signal processing software would do a better job but I thought of a way to do the splits just using a wav-file editor and that was the key to making the project possible.


The problem is, that you just can't bring a large wav file with several tracks into an editor and easily find the track gaps without listening to the whole record again. I did that once to record the wav file, and I didn't want to do it again to find the track breaks. You can't just look at the wave-form on the screen, because you can't see anything with 25-min of music spread across 17" of screen, and if you stretch it out to something like 1-min per screen width, yes you can see the quite spots, but you still have to listen to it to be sure it's really a gap and not just the conductor resting.


4) The solution is to keep a running cumulative total of the track playing times. For example if Side-A of the LP has six tracks:



then the running cumulative total would be:








The cumulative time above shows where each track ends in the single large wav file containing all the tracks. For example, track 2 starts at 2:31 and ends at 7:47; track 4 starts at 9:36 and ends at 12:39.



The individual track times are almost always on the LP album jacket. While playing the LP into the computer I would enter the individual track times into a small quick-and-dirty win32 console program I wrote to produce the running cumulative totals shown above (doing base-60 arithmetic by hand for 500 LP-sides is painful). That little program is the crux of the solution. Even using a hand calculator that does base-60 math is too slow and cumbersome. Besides, I wanted to be able to copy/paste the times onto the CD labels I made for each transcribed LP.


5) Once you have the running cumulative times, it's simple to find each track in the large wav file, and then extract it to a single separate small wav file using a wav editor giving the individual wav file track the appropriate name. Note that the track times copied from the album jacket do not take into account the inter-track gap which is usually about 2 seconds. You can account for the mentally, or add it to the individual track times which I didn't want to do since that would cause the label times on the CD to not match the times on the LP album.


The LP transcription project was fun for me to do. It was a great cold winter-night and week-end project when it was too cold to go outside. I would do 1 or 2 albums a night and maybe a dozen on the week end. It was a great trip down memory lane, listening to music I have not heard in 30 years. I also reduced my music storage volume by about 80% and now have a list of all my CDs/tracks on the computer.