We’re digital DJs – we mix with USB sticks and laptops hooked up to controllers, CDJs, and turntables with DVS. We’re all music lovers, and we all have music on our hard drives – but what about your old music collection lurking in your garage or attic? If you’ve always wanted to take your records to a gig, but don’t want the hassle of carrying crates of vinyl or a turntable, here’s how to rip your records (along with any other physical formats, frankly) into Rekordbox.
What is Rekordbox?
Rekordbox is Pioneer DJ’s all-in music library and DJing app. It has two modes: The first is Export mode. You can use it to manage your tunes, create playlists, and then export them to a USB stick, which you can then use on a CDJ – no laptop needed at the gig. The second is Performance Mode, and this is where you connect your laptop to a Pioneer DJ controller or CDJ set, and you can DJ with your laptop ala Serato DJ, Traktor, and Virtual DJ.
Recently, a new “rip” feature has been added to Rekordbox, allowing you to record analogue sources like vinyl straight to your Rekordbox library. This makes it easier for all those old records to be dropped at DJ sets since you’re basically using the same app to both rip and manage your DJ music library.
It becomes even more convenient if you use Rekordbox to export music to a thumb drive for DJing with CDJs, or if you use Rekordbox DJ with a Pioneer DJ controller. Of course, you can still import your ripped records for use in your DJ software of choice.
Like iTunes, Rekordbox is a free download. You don’t need to own Rekordbox-compatible Pioneer DJ gear to “enable” it for ripping your vinyl (you’ll only need Pioneer DJ gear if you plan on DJing with your laptop in Performance Mode, as I’ve explained above). Here’s how to get it:
- Point your browser to the Rekordbox website
- Click the Free Download link at the upper left of the page. You’ll be brought to the download page where you’ll see a large “Free To Download” button. If it doesn’t show you your operating system, you can still find the appropriate installers under the button
- The latest version of Rekordbox should begin downloading
- When done, go to your Downloads folder (or whatever folder you’ve saved it in) and double-click on the file “Install_rekordbox_X_X_X.zip”. Follow the onscreen instructions to install it on your machine
- Double-click on the app icon in your Applications folder (Mac), or Program Files (PC) to launch Rekordbox
You’ll now see the Rekordbox interface. Your tracks, library, and playlist trees will be shown in the lower half of the screen, and waveforms will be on top.
Now let’s get to setting up your gear…
Hooking up your turntable
To record into Rekordbox, you’ll need a way to get the audio from your turntable or cassette player into your computer. You’ve got three ways to do this: First is by using a turntable with a USB output that you can connect to your laptop, such as the Pioneer PLX-500, Audio Technica LP-6o-USB, or the Ion Audio Compact LP.
Second is by connecting your turntable to your DJ controller or mixer that is DVS-ready. Some DJ controllers have phono/line inputs but aren’t DVS-compatible, meaning they aren’t able to send audio into your laptop, which is why you need a DJ controller or mixer that’s DVS-ready. You can also do this with a DVS box like the Denon DS1 (click here for our review).
The last option is to use an external USB sound card like the ART USB Phono Plus – it lets you connect a phono (turntable) or line level (cassette) source, and then it connects to your laptop via USB.
Ripping vinyl in Rekordbox
Whatever option you choose, Rekordbox automatically sets it up as a recording input when you connect it to your laptop for ease of use. Just hit the “Rec” button at the top of the Export Mode screen to bring up the recording interface. It’ll pop up in the middle of your screen with a dropdown – your turntable / DJ controller / DJ mixer / audio interface should show up there.
Now hit Record in Rekordbox, and press play on your turntable, and let it play through the first side. Rekordbox will automatically set track markers after each tune when it detects silence. When one side has played through, stop recording, flip the record, hit record, and press play again. Wash, rinse, and repeat with your other vinyl.
We love our digital DJ gear, but we may still have music in the analogue domain whether for posterity or as keepsakes of days gone by – whatever reason you choose to hold onto your record collection, give them a chance to get some plays by ripping them into Rekordbox and dropping them at your next gig. It’d make for a fun weekend project, plus it’s a chance to get reacquainted with all those songs you used to love (or hate)!
What do you think of Rekordbox’s ripping feature? Do you have a stack of old vinyl and cassettes you want to transfer over? Or are you happy to have them locked away in storage since you’ve got all your songs on your laptop anyway? Share your thoughts with us.