Vinyl to CD Transfers - Some Preliminary Considerations
Depending on how extensive your record collection is, and the overall condition of the recordings, it may or may not be practical to pay a service to convert all of it into digital form. Here’s some real-world guidelines to help you make the best choice:
1. Regardless of the size of your record collection, you probably have discs that are dearly loved, others that are generally enjoyable, some that you can take or leave, and others that you no longer have any interest in. Start by sorting through them, picking out the ones that are your very favorites.
2. Now, out of those favorites, how many of them are currently available on CD? You can check by doing a search for the artist and title online, for example at Amazon.com or other CD retailers. The reason is that it will almost always be less expensive to buy the recording on CD if it is still available than paying a service to transfer it to CD for you. Also, if the title is commercially available for purchase, then copyright issues become a factor.
3. At the end of your sort, how many discs are left?
The Straight Scoop
Converting records (or tapes, or any analog media) to digital form is a process that takes place in real time. If an LP record is 45 minutes long, it takes at least 45 minutes to convert to digital. The qualifier “at least” allows that the A-to-D process itself is not the end of the task, but in practice has to be supplemented by:
1. Editing the raw digital master to remove lead-in and lead-out sections of the record, and the time when it’s turned over to play the second side.
2. Apply some software based noise reduction to reduce or eliminate the pops and ticks that afflict the vast majority of records to some degree, without altering the musical content.
3. Creating the track indexes for the CD, a process that can sometimes be automated by software, but not always. If you don’t do this, you can’t access individual songs on the CD except with the fast-forward and fast-reverse buttons on the player, an exceedingly tedious process.
4. Recording (“burning”) the blank CD-R disc, which takes another 5 to 10 minutes.
5. While not essential, many people also like to have a copy of the original album cover(s) made up to fit on the CD jewel box, so it looks like a commercial CD. This adds more time to scan or photograph the album jacket, reduce it in size with photo software, print it out and cut it to fit the jewel case.
And there you have it-- this is why the process costs more than just buying the CD if it’s still available, and why it’s best to limit the number of transfers you do to the most desirable—and normally irreplaceable—recordings in your collection.
Many of the companies that perform these transfers in bulk use very sophisticated, heavy-duty automated equipment to reduce the time involved, but automation has its limits. Records sometimes have problems that automatic systems can’t effectively handle, such as skips, or the ability to always place track markers correctly within the digital file. For the best results, there’s no substitute for a single technician working hands-on, adapting to the needs of the individual recording.
The other option, as mentioned previously, is to get the equipment needed to do the transfers yourself. It isn’t that hard to do, nor terribly expensive, it just takes a fair amount of time. But, there’s no reason you can’t spread the task over months or even years. The basic equipment needed and procedures required are detailed elsewhere on a number of websites, including this one.
If you’re interested in having me do the work for you, I’ll be glad to do so. Send me an e-mail or give me a call, and I can discuss specifics. In the meantime, as to what my normal rates will be, just click the link below.
Care for yet more relentlessly detailed, related info on the past, present and future of analog and digital, including the previously mentioned goodies needed to do A/D conversions yourself? Check out my:
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