1. Vinyl record. Preferably mint or never before played.
2. Turntable. Make sure it has a good stereo balance, you may have to repair the connector cables if it doesn’t. Also, buy the most expensive needle you can find
3. Phono Preamp. A phono preamp is basically the part of a receiver that makes your record loud enough for your speakers, inside a tiny case. Make sure the one you buy includes an RCA > 1/8th converter, or you will have to get one at Radioshack, or wherever electronic components are sold. The adapter will let you connect your preamp to your computers line-in jack.
4. Audacity. Audacity is a very easy to use, open source audio editor. You can download it here for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Audacity will be recording your vinyl to WAV.
5. FLAC codec. FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. It is the best audio compression algorithm available for a few reasons. One: Open Source, no licensing things, so “the man” won’t get your money. Two: No quality loss. Three: Wide support among operating systems. You can download FLAC here.
Now that we have all this stuff together, we need to hook everything up.
1. Plug in your turntable, put record on turntable. Hook it up to the IN jacks of your phono preamp.
2. Plug in your phono preamp, Hook it up to the line-in jack of your computer.
3. Open Audacity. Set the drop down box under the Fast-Foward button to “Line In”.
Now for the soundcheck.
1. Drop the needle onto a loud spot on the record, and press record in Audacity. Adjust the input levels in audacity, and in your computers volume control application until the waveform has dynamic range (If the waveform is just blue, your music will sound flat and distorted). The waveform should not go past the window it is inside. If so, you have to lower levels and should soundcheck again. The waveform should be close to the edges of the window, but it is better safe than sorry. You can always Amplify a mid level waveform, but clipping is an uneditable sin. Play back the track to test quality. If there is a lot of crackling, this can remedied by cleaning the vinyl. If the vinyl is old it probably has dust, so you should clean it as well. To clean the vinyl, wet a Kleenex with rubbing alcohol and wipe the record in a circular motion. Then dry it off. This will remove dust.
2. Now x out of the “test track”. Place the needle on the outer edge of the record, and press record in Audacity.
3. Once the side is done playing, press stop, and remove excess gaps at the beginning and end.
You have a few options at this point.
a) If the album side is one track, just export it as a WAV, by clicking File > Export As WAV…
b) If the album side has individual tracks, select the track, and click File > Export Selection As WAV… You will need to repeat this step for each track.
c) If the album is a one track flows into the next type deal, export it as one track, and generate a cue file for it. (this will be covered later)
Repeat this step for each side.
DON’T use Noise Reduction. I’ve heard it on some bootlegs and let me tell you, it’s awful. Your best bet is to use mint vinyl.
Now that you have your files, convert them to FLAC. Using FLAC front end found here. In the extract the FLAC front end exe to a folder then take the flac.exe we downloaded earlier in the same folder. Run FLAC front end drag in your files and encode. If you ripped a side with multiple songs to one big file, you will need to split files, or generate a cue sheet. This can done with a variety of programs. A good and free one is Medieval CUE Splitter. You can also generate a cue file indirectly by using Audacity labels and a 3rd-party, open-source java applet. You can use the cue file with one large file or, Audacity can also break the audio into separate tracks.