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Title: How to convert a record and tape collection into MP3 format. Skill Level Required: Beginner
Categories: Multimedia
How To Guides
Author: Michael J. Casimir Date Created: November 9, 2006
Pages: 1 Last Modified: August 10, 2013
 
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overview of the problem Define symptoms of the problem. Define computer specifications document was created on. Define key terms associated with this article. Define all solutions to the problem. Defind links that related to this document elsewhere on the Internet and locally.  
 
 
Problem:
I would like to convert my cassette music collection into digital MP3 files then make DVD's out of them. I have been using Nero 6 Ultra Edition for burning CDs from the Internet and copying disks but cannot figure out how to burn my old record and tape collection into computer format.
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Symptoms:

This problem is caused by:

  • Lack of knowledge on subject matter.
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COMPUTER SPECIFICATIONS:
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RELATED LINKS:

The following links will help you get the most out of this computer troubleshooting document:

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(i)

This URL links to a picture of a standard 3.5 mm audio cable: http://www.vanemery.com/Linux/Rip/cord.jpg

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(ii)

Analog Ripping How To - http://www.vanemery.com/Linux/Rip/rip-analog.html

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(iii)
PC World Article "Rip Your Records" - http://www.pcworld.com/howto/article/0,aid,117810,00.asp
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(iv)
Tutorial On How To Use WinADR Software - http://www.artech365.com/winadr/tutorial.htm
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(v)
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SOLUTIONS:

I've dabbled a fair bit into the entire process of converting audio cassettes into a digital format. Although converting analog audio to digital format is an easy process, there's actually a lot more to it then simply burning DVDs. I will try to explain in plain English what you need to do and learn in order to get started converting your audio cassettes.

General Computer Requirements

Encoding music does not have to be an expensive undertaking nor does the process require that you own any type of heavy duty computer system. The system you are using now is probably sufficienct enough to get the job done, provided it's equipped with a Pentium II based processor and stocked full of memory.

You can either use a desktop or laptop based computer provided that it's equipped with a sound card. For notebook computers you can either use the built in sound card that is equipped with your sytem, or you can use an external USB sound card might provide better performance. For desktop PC's a standard sound card equipped with a five channel audio processor is sufficient.

Table 1.3 listed below summarizes the requirements and associated specifications required to comfortably build your digital music library. This table is provided as a general reference only. Of course with any computing task the faster your computer runs, the faster you'll be able to rip, burn, and playback audio files.

Here is a checklist to confirm that you have the neccessary cables and equipment to start the conversion process. You will need the following items:

Y-adapter used to convert dual channel stereo signal into single input understood by a computer's sound card. Y-adapter used to convert dual channel stereo signal into single input understood by a computer's sound card.  
Dual Channel Stereo Y-Adapter (approximate retail cost $7.99) 2 RCA Male / 2 RCA Male, Audio Cable (approximate retail cost $7.99).  
Y-adapter used to convert dual channel stereo signal into single input understood by a computer's sound card. Y-adapter used to convert dual channel stereo signal into single input understood by a computer's sound card.  
Cassette Player (approximate retail cost $varies based on product.) USB Record Player
Plays 33,45 RPM Records (approximate retail cost $39.99.
 

Table 1.1 - Summary Of Hardware Components Required For Creating a Digital Music Collection
Type Description Minimum Recommended
CPU
  • It's the primary responsibility of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) to complete the processing of your audio files.
  • Since it is the brain of a computer, you'll want to ensure it's fast enough to conform to a PII or higher standard.
  • Pentium II 400 mHz
  • Pentium III 733 mHz
Memory
  • Memory is where everything gets stored before the audio is actually saved to files.
  • A large amount of memory inside the computer means more audio can be encoded at one time without slow downs in the PC's performance.
  • 64 MB
  • SDRAM is sufficient.
  • 128 MB
  • SDRAM is sufficient.
Hard
Drive
Space
  • The hard disk is where all your audio files are stored after they are processed.
  • A larger hard drive means more audio files can be stored inside the computer.
  • You will want to allocate at least one MB of drive space for each minute of music you encode.
  • 1000 MB or 1 GB of MP3 files is the equivalent of 1000 minutes of compressed music files.
  • The sound card is the second most imporant aspect of any PC as this device dictates how your music sounds after its encoded.
  • Avoid old ISA sound cards as they do not provide the higher quality sound like PCI based sound cards do.
  • Creative Labs 16 Bit PCI SoundBlaster Compatible
  • SoundBlaster PCI Live 128
Optical
Drives & Media
  • A CD or DVD writer will permit you to store even more music offline.
  • This is ideal if you are low on disk space or prefer to have your music files stored on a long lasting high quality medium.
  • Of course this option is not as convienient as storing songs on your hard drive, since you have to constantly swap discs to find the audio files you want to play.
  • 24X CD-R or CDRW
  • 1 CD-R/CDRW disc can store 650 MB of music or 650 minutes.
  • 4X DVD-R
  • 1 DVD/DVDRW disc can accomodate up to six times the amount of data a standard CD-R can hold.
Table 1.1 - An At-A-Glance Look At The System Requirements For Building A Digital Music Library

Sound Card Requirements

To encode digital music a decent sound card is required. Although you can get by with a minimum of a 16 Bit PCI based sound card, it's highly advisable to use a higher quality sound card such as the one pictured in Figure 1.1 below.

Creative Labs Audigy 2 Sound Card
Figure 1.1 - Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy 2 Computer Sound Card

A better sound card improves the quality of your music files especially with analog based recordings. Using a higher quality sound card ensures that your audio files are encoded at the best rate your PC can support. Although the system requirements are fairly low to rip and encode audio, I'd advise you to use at SoundBlaster PCI 128 Creative Labs based sound card. Although generic sound cards are available on the PC market they are not guanteed to give you the best output.


Software Requirements

CD Ripping Software:

To bring audio into a computer through standard audio CD's you will need to get a CD Ripping program or software that facilitates the process of creating uncompressed music files on a hard disk.

Winamp Pro, Windows Media Player, and a wide variety of freeware utilities are available for you to use to rip the tracks off an audio CD.

CD Burning Software:

If you decide that you want to store the music files you encode on an optical medium such as CD or DVD, you will need to install CD burning software that facilitates the process of taking data files from your hard drive and storing them on a writable CD or DVD storage device.

There is an abundance of freeware CD burning utilities available. Some work better than others, and most can be downloaded for free test drives. Here's a list of the most common CD Burning programs:

Commerical And Freeware CD Burning Software:

Program Name Download URL:
RealNetworks http://www.realnetworks.com/
BurnerSoft http://www.burnersoft.com/
Amorsoft http://www.zealot-soft.com/
EZB Systems http://www.ezbsystems.com/
Okoker Software http://www.okoker.com/
Nero http://nero.com/
Alcohol Software http://www.alcohol-soft.com/
EZB Systems http://www.ezbsystems.com/
Ashampoo http://www.ashampoo.com/
Table 1.7 - Various CD Burning Programs And Respective Manufacturer URLs

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Encoding Software:

To encode digital music you will need software that facilitates the process of bringing audio into a computer and converting it into a digital format that it can understand. One of my favorite applications for completing this task is called WinADR offered by Artech365 available for free 30 day evaluation. This software makes the process of converting raw audio signals into a digital format simple. You simply select the source of audio you want to record from, press the play button on your tape deck, and press the record button on the WinADR software. You will have to play around with the software a fair bit so that it suits your needs, but it also gives you the ability to compress audio files to MP3 format directly through the software. The software is available as trialware in which you can test out the features free for 30 days.

To to take music off audio CDs and encode them into a digital format, you will need CD ripping software. Winamp Pro allows you to rip music tracks off a standard audio CD and encode them as MP3 files in one step. Winamp Pro can encode tracks in a variety of compression formats including MP3, and all preferences can be fine tuned to meet the demands of the end-user. The free version of Winamp limits ripping to a speed of 4X but you can purchase the pro version which enables ripping at speeds up to 16X or faster.

Windows Media Player, a free media player offered by Microsoft offers an encoding feature but is not able to encode to the MP3 format. It uses the WMA (Windows Media Audio) format to encode music files, a format developed by Microsoft.

You will also need an MP3 encoder to encode digital music. There are a variety of freeware based codecs such as the Fraunhofer MPEG Layer-3 Audio Decoder

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You will also need software that actually records the audio signals traveling from your tape deck to your computer. One of my favorite applications for completing this task is called WinADR offered by Artech365 (http://www.artech365.com/winadr/index.htm). This software makes the process of converting raw audio signals into a digital format simple. You simply select the source of audio you want to record from, press the play button on your tape deck, and press the record button on the WinADR software. You will have to play around with the software a fair bit so that it suits your needs, but it also gives you the ability to compress audio files to MP3 format directly through the software. The website listed previously gives you a 30 day trial to the software.

If you are fairly knowledgeable with how the entire recording process works you can instruct the WinADR software to actually record track after track, so you don't have to sit at your computer waiting for one track to end and another to begin. You simply let the entire tape play. However, this requires a fair bit of knowledge about the ripping techniques used by this software. If you are just starting out into this process, it's much easier for you to rip one audio track at a time just until you get used to the whole process. Once you learn the basics, ripping all the tracks off an audio track at one time is as simple as customizing the software.

So you know understand the basics of ripping audio cassette tracks into a computer format. The software does all the compression and actually takes the data and converts it into the MP3 format. Once in the MP3 format, you can use your favorite CD burning software to construct music compilations and burn custom CD's based on your audio recordings.

 

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