Personal Digitalization, or Converting Cassettes and LPs

While I’ve been off work recovering from surgery this fall, I’ve been trying to spend some time on digitizing my audio cassettes and LP records.  I’ve been working on cassettes for a while before this (and not quite in time for some of them; flexible magnetic tape has a finite life span and some cassettes didn’t make it).  Since then, I’ve been adding more.

The catch was, my poor old turntable did not hold up well to having a 13 pound cat jump up on it while it was trying to play. (Don’t ask.)  There went that piece of hardware.  (Oh, well, going by LOL Cats, I’m not the only one … )

Receiver/Amplifiers built lately (like 21st century, I think) don’t often have a pre-amp for use with turntables, generally speaking, and my old one (circa 1970s) was pretty much out of service as well.  Well, once you get past 30-some years old….

I got the package from DAK which includes a high-quality turntable, a pre-amp mixer, and software called Audio Workshop.  I also got a converter to send the sound through a USB connection, rather than struggling with the microphone connection on my all-in-one desktop, for better sound.

So, I tried the Audio Workshop, which worked well for recording, noise reduction, and creating MP3 files.  For singles.  When I tried it with an entire album, however, it got complicated.

When you record an entire side of, say, six songs, and ask the Audio Workshop to divide it up, I couldn’t find a setting that got me less than 42 divisions.  That’s a LOT of editing.  And I still had to input the MP3 information such as song title, artist, the album… you get the idea.

I’d seen a recommendation on Amazon for a different turntable, from somebody who was using software called VinylStudio.  The functions are there, but VinylStudio is better about dividing because it allows you to download the album info from Amazon or other sources, so it knows how many divisions you should have, and fills in much of the info and album cover.  Of course, it’s actually using the CD version since that’s what Amazon or another source shows with a complete track listing, but as long as it is close enough, I have all the information I need.

It works just fine with the turntable, etc.

I “create” a record for an album, I check the levels to set the mixer at, and then start recording.  I pause it to turn the record over, and then resume.  While that’s going on, I can look up the tracks and the album cover (from different sources, if necessary), and import them.

Based on the downloaded track listing, VinylStudio tries to set track breaks based on the listing and its guess at where the tracks separate.

bad track guess


The flat part is the silence between tracks.  As you can see from the vertical line, the software tends to be close but never hits the mark.








So, I move the line over to where the silence begins.

corrected track split



From here, I hold down the Shift key and start with the green arrow at the top.  I drag the line over, creating a complete track split.







created track break



The diagonal slashes show that the software acknowledges this part as the split between tracks and will not include it when saved.

I repeat this for all the tracks, which doesn’t really take that long.

There may be a way to adjust for this more accurately, but I haven’t experimented with it as yet.




There’s a click reduction feature, which is actually pretty sensitive to things like percussion and such, so it seems to do pretty well at cutting down on noise, at least from LP records.  I haven’t tried it on any cassette yet but there’s also a hiss reduction to try on those.

click analysis

Here’s an example of the click analysis.  The fact that percussion and brass are accounted for and not repaired seems fairly impressive, and the results have been good.




So, while I don’t officially endorse the equipment or software, this is how it worked out for me.  It’s going to be a loooonnnnggg project, because I’ve got a lot of old albums and cassettes.  Since this is ONLY for my personal use, and I continue to own the originals, I am not stepping on any copyrights.

Side note: recently saw the movie “The Martian” — remember the complaining about the commander’s addiction to disco music?  At one point her husband holds up a vintage record album he found for her in a garage sale or someplace.  I had just digitized that one a few days before!