A few years ago I had had enough of dragging around my LPs and I got rid of most of my vinyl. I held on to some LPs and 45s (and a few cassettes) either for sentimental reasons or because I didn't have a digital copy of them. Over time I've acquired digital versions of most of them, but just recently I decided to try once more to make good digital copies of my vinyl and cassettes. I've tried digitizing music in the past but my rips never sounded particularly good. I couldn't get rid of the background hum and the recordings just sounded too "thin"--too little on the low end and my efforts to boost the bass just made everything sound muffled. This time around, however, I've had much better results and because of that I've started buying vinyl again. I thought I'd use this blog to talk about my experiences checking out record stores and ripping vinyl and cassettes.
In the past I had tried recording by connecting the output of my stereo to the line-in on my computer, but this time around I bought a turntable and a cassette player that you plug directly into the USB port of the computer. I bought a Sony USB turntable (Sony PS-LX300USB). I paid $115 for it but you can get it for less if you order it online. For cassettes I got the Grace Digital GDI-Tape2USB200 USB Tape Player, which I got from Amazon for about $75. For software I use Audacity, which works really well. And it's free, which blows me away.
It took me a while to find the right settings to make good recordings. For some reason the input volume setting on Audacity has no effect, which was a drag because the signal from the turntable is loud and resulted in way too much clipping. After a little googling, I discovered that you can set the input volume for the USB device using the Windows control panel. I had to lower the input volume level all the way down to 15 (on a scale of 100) to avoid the excessive clipping. You can also check the box that says "Listen to this device" in the control panel so that you can hear what you are recording--although that doesn't work on my desktop computer for whatever reason, but it does work on my laptop.
I found I had to use my desktop computer to record cassettes because the signal from the cassette player overwhelmed my laptop. When I tried to record cassettes with my laptop, I noticed that Audacity was having a hard time keeping up with the recording, and finally it just crashed (getting the "blue screen of death" is always a little unnerving). So I switched to my desktop computer, which has no problem recording from the cassette player. As I said before, the "Listen to this device" setting has no effect on my desktop computer, but luckily the Grace tape player has its own speaker so you can hear what you are recording. The tape player also has a volume control for the USB output so you don't have to worry as much about setting the input volume level properly on the computer.
I'm not an audiophile (is there such a thing as a garage rock audiophile?), but the rips I've been making sound good to my ears. Audacity has a couple of features specifically designed for ripping LPs and cassettes. One effect, "Click Removal..." enables you to get rid of clicks and pops caused by scratches on the surface of records. Another feature makes it possible to remove tape hiss. To do this you highlight a section of the recording that contains only the tape hiss, select "Noise Removal..." and click on the button that reads "Get Noise Profile". Once you have a profile of the noise you want to remove, you select the full duration of the recording, select "Noise Removal..." again but this time click "OK". The whole process of recording, noise removal and adjusting the volume can be a little time-consuming but it goes pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.
Another nice thing about doing this now is that it's been great to discover that record stores are experiencing some resurgent popularity. I live in DC and I've been checking out the record stores in the area. I also traveled to Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago and managed to get to a couple of my favorite record stores there.
One way to hear my rips is to tune in to Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio on Live365 (http://www.live365.com/stations/turnmeondeadman