If you are a music enthusiastic of high fidelity sound reproduction, if you enjoy listening in a good stereo system each nuance of a musical interpretation, either jazz, rock or classical music, surely you have a large collection of CD and some important part of it on vinyl. Probably these are historical recordings or highly valued and they have not been reprinted in CD format.
Without going into the discussion in which some purists argue that the sound of vinyl LP, the analog sound, sounds better than the digital recordings, the truth is that the clean sound, the great dynamic range and the comfortable format of the CDs has relegated the vinyl LPs of to the past and the disuse. Then we need to convert these vinyl recordings to CD format, that is more practical and easy to handle.
But what we seek is something more than just the transfer of an LP to digital format. We need that defects and deficiencies of vinyl and its deterioration by the use disappear or at least be minimized and, eventually, to recover a part of the lost dynamic range of the original recording. For that purpose, there are companies that do this work, but the cost may be too high if they are too many disks to convert, or the quality of the final product delivered by the company is not satisfactory or, simply, we do not want risk that they harassed or damaged an LP that we have saved with affection.
Then, the more attractive alternative is to do this job as your own. If we do the work in a meticulously way, we will achieve professional results really surprising. For this we need, of course, quality software and also patience. In each of the following stages is indispensable to hear the full disk and every detail, with much attention, until to be satisfied with the result before moving to the next stage (it is advisable to use quality headphones).
Stage 1: Transfer to digital format.
The objective at this stage is to achieve a record reproduction as clean as possible of each LP at the time of recording it in the computer. This will save a great amount of cleaning work in digital format and we will also obtain a higher quality final result.
If the vinyl record is very dirty it will be necessary to submerge it in water with a drop of dishwasher and keep it in this solution by one hour or two. This will release the dirt accumulated. From time to time, sweep the disk in the direction of the path, with a soft brush and rinse the disk in the cleaning solution. If you want to keep the label it should be protected from water with polyethylene or some other impermeable material fastened with adhesive tape. The wash process with water and detergent does not damage the vinyl.
If the disk is in fine condition, a formula that gives good result is as follows: 65% of distilled water, 30% of ethyl alcohol, 5% of isopropyl and a few drops of liquid detergent. Alcohol must be pure, industrial, without any additive. To clean the disk you can rotate it in the turntable and clean it with a soft brush dampened in the resolution. Finally dry with absorbent paper.
In both cases, leave the disk to dry by at least one hour, or better, throughout the day. It is not recommended to play it wet. Apparently this technique, seemingly useful to reduce friction of the stylus to mitigate the background noise, produces more harm than benefits in the vinyl because it spreads the dirt in the groove and, subsequently, it needs to be played always wet to sound acceptable.
The necessary adjustments for recording sound from the stereo system to the PC are simple. The cable from the stereo (plugged into the Tape record jack) must be connected to the Line-In input in the sound card (light blue color). It is necessary to set up the Windows Mixer for the audio input (double-click the icon of the speaker in the bottom right of the screen).Once the audio mixer is open, click on the menu options-Properties, select the Recording radio button and mark the checkbox Line In of the selected volume controls. Make sure that the checkbox Line-In is selected. Reopen the Windows Mixer and be sure that the Line-In is not muted because there will be no sound entering the PC. Adjust the volume level to about 70%.
With these adjustments we can now record sound from the stereo system. For doing this any basic software for sound recording will be fine. The file generated must be in WAV format, 16-bit, 44100 Hz, CD-quality. It is convenient that the recording remains in a single file and at the end of the side one press pause and then continue recording. This will enable us to subsequently implement the digital filters to the entire LP and not track by track.
It is recommended not to save the compressed file in MP3 since its quality would be lowered because part of the sound will be lost in the compression. If you wish to save space compress the file in a not destructive format as FLAC or APE.
This first part of the process is simple and does not require experience to achieve good results. To eliminate the clicks, pops and the background noise of the LP you will need a little more skill that will be acquired with the practice. Therefore keep these recordings as a backup because, it is very likely that, after and with more knowledge you probably wish to reprocess these files to achieve better results.