Converting Vinyl LPs & Audio Tapes to MP3s

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Converting Vinyl LPs & Audio Tapes to MP3s

With the growing popularity of MP3 players, a lot of folks have been asking how to convert their old vinyl LPs and audio cassettes into digital music files. Most PCs nowadays come with sound cards that include a "line-in" jack into which an 1/8" stereo "line-out" plug from your cassette or LP record player can be inserted. The cable normally has two RCA plugs at one end, for the left and right stereo output ports from your phonograph or cassette player, with a single stereo mini-plug at the other.

Not all sound cards have a line-in port, but they all have a "mic" (microphone) input jack. However, using the mic input for anything but a microphone can distort the sound badly. If your sound card doesn't have a line-in port, a new card will be needed. Some come with two line-in ports, in case you want a cassette player and an LP player connected to your computer at the same time.

Sound cards are relatively inexpensive and can be easily installed in most desktop towers. Yes, there are expensive cards available that are often preferred by gamers who want to play special sound effects to their best advantage, and by media enthusiasts who use their PCs in home theater environments.

Sound card ports are normally color-coded, with blue indicating line-in, red meaning mic input, and green for your stereo speakers output.

If your LP music source will be a stand-alone turntable you will need to feed the signal into an amplifier before sending it to your PC's line-in port. If your record player has a built-in amplifier, the two RCA line-out plugs can be used directly. Cassette players always have a built-in amplifier, but sometimes use a single stereo mini-port for speaker output. If so, your cassette player to PC cable will need a stereo mini-plug on each end.

In addition to the above hardware, you will need software that converts the analog sounds generated by your tapes and LPs into digital sound that is recognized by iPods and other MP3 players. Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 and Nero 6.0 Ultra Edition appear to be the most popular commercial products.

When connecting your hardware devices it's best to have them turned OFF, with any volume control knobs or levers set to very low. Before turning on the devices, double-click the speaker icon near the digital clock in your Taskbar. This will display a line-in volume control, with which you will monitor the sound signals coming from your analog players.

Once you've launched your software, you'll be ready to turn on your record or cassette player and start converting analog to digital music. Just as you did when recording music onto audio tapes, you will want to keep the level indicator as high as possible without its frequently jumping into the red zone.

Many of the full-length vocal/orchestral songs on my site are also WAVs and can be downloaded to any PC.

As for downloading songs from this site, detailed instructions are included on the various music pages: Swing Era Popular Songs, Country Standards, Gospel & Patriotic Songs, and LatinAmerican Favorites, among many others.

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