5. Analog To Digital Conversion

Digitizing 101 FINAL Jpeg

A significant part of this project will be collecting out of print albums that are on analog formats (Vinyl and Cassette) and making them available online.  Further more, this website is meant to be a collaborative space, where people from all over Canada can share their now defunct music with others, but how can they share their music if it is trapped on a vinyl record or a cassette? How do you get an album that is on a record or a cassette onto your computer to listen to?  This process is called analog to digital conversion, and it is easy to do! In this post I will show you how you can get music from your records and tapes onto you computer, and then onto the internet. If you do not have any experience with stereo equipment it might be a little frustrating at first, but this tutorial is very straight forward, with poorly drawn (but accurate!) diagrams guiding you through the process.  You’ll be a wiz in no time!

You will need:

  1. A stereo amplifier
  2. A cassette deck/player
  3. A turntable
  4. A pair of headphones
  5. GarageBand Application
  6. A sound card, or digital music interface (More on this later)
  7. An RCA to quarter inch cable. This cable is available at any radio or home audio store, The Source, Circuit City or Future Shop, and usually only costs about five dollars. The quarter inch jack looks like a larger version of the headphone jack.  It is important that you have this larger jack, so be sure that you don’t accidentally buy an RCA to eighth inch (headphone jack) instead.

RCA to Quarter Inch diagram FINAL

Step 1: Setting Up

Now that you have the equipment and cables you need, you need to plug the cables into the right ports.  I’ve made a diagram describing visually how to do this.  Don’t worry if the back of your amplifier doesn’t look exactly like the one shown in the diagram, because all amplifiers are slightly different, they don’t all have the same configurations, but most amplifiers have the ports necessary to digitize music.

Amp Diagram Final Jpeg

Attach the red and white cables from your turntable into the port that says “Phono”.  Plug the red and white RCA jacks of your RCA to quarter inch cable into the “Rec Out” or “Tape Out” ports, and plug the other end of the cable into your sound card or digital music interface.

Digital Music Interface:

A digital music interface, commonly known as a sound card, is a machine that allows your computer to receive information from microphones, electric instruments, and in this case, a stereo amplifier.  There are affordable turntables available that come with USB ports built into them, which makes converting records very easy.  However, if you are like me, and already have two turntables at home, and don’t want to buy another, a digital music interface is the way to go.  For the purposes of digitizing music, a cheap interface is all you will need.  They can be found at most music stores for fifty to one hundred dollars.  This is a diagram of what my set up looks like:

Sound Card Diagram FINAL Jpeg

When you have connected all of the cables into their proper ports, put your headphones on, and connected your sound card to your computer, you are ready for the next step.

Step 2: Recording vinyls and cassettes into GarageBand

Open a new project in GarageBand. Make sure that the track you are going to record onto doesn’t have any effects on it that could alter the sound of the original recording on your vinyl or tape.  Your screen should look like this:

Tutorial 1 Jpeg

Start playing the tape or record you want to convert and make sure that you can hear the music, and that the volume isn’t so loud that the sound is breaking up.

Once you have got the volume where you want it, you can select “record” on GarageBand, and play your cassette tape or record, and watch the song record into the program.

* It is important to note that if you want to digitize every song separately, you will have to record one song into GarageBand at a time, save it as an .mp3, .aif, or .wav file, and then open a new project in garage band and record the next song on the record or tape.

* If you want to digitize each side of the record or tape, you can let it play the whole side into GarageBand, and then converting the entire side into a single file after it has finished playing.

Step 3: Last Step – Saving Recording to a Useable File Format

When you have finished recording the song you want into GarageBand, all you need to do now is send it to itunes and you’re done.  To do this, you need to click on the “Share” menu at the top of the screen in GarageBand, and select “Send Song to iTunes”:

Tutorial 2 Jpeg

Before you send the song to iTunes, you have to decide what file format you want to save the song as.  In the menu that follows, you can choose to compress the file into an AAC or .mp3 file that will take up less space, be of lower quality, but will work on any .mp3 player; or you can choose not to compress the file and send it to iTunes as an uncompressed .aif file, which you can then upload to streaming music sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Convert to .mp3 or AAC:

Tutorial 4 Jpeg

Convert to .aif:

Tutorial 3 Jpeg

When you have selected which file format you want iTunes will open automatically and start playing the song or album you have digitized:

Tutorial 5 Jpeg

You can always save an .mp3 version and an .aif if you’d like so you can have a smaller file that you can share with friends and put on your .mp3 player, and a .aif file you can send to defunct music archives so we can put it online using Bandcamp or Soundcloud.

You have successfully digitized your record and/or cassette! Now you can help make Defunct Music Archives better by sharing these songs with us!

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