Your Questions: What’s The Best Way To Digitise Vinyl?

Lauren Andio
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 5 April, 2018

USB Turntable
In today’s Your Questions, we take a look at three common methods to transfer your vinyl collection onto the digital domain.

Twitter follower Jerry Forbes enquires, “What is the best thing to purchase for transferring your wax to the laptop?”.

Freshly released vinyl are often packaged with CD copies or download codes. In this case, customers get the best of both worlds, but what to do when you’ve amassed a large collection over the years with no download code in sight for some of your records?

Digital DJ Tips says:

To transfer your collection from vinyl to laptop, you will generally come across three options: first is the all-in-one turntable/CD burner. It provides the easiest solution for consumers; just record the album onto CD and import the tracks into your preferred music library. However, this is likely the solution chosen least by DJs, as many will have a more dedicated setup for DJing.

The second way is through a USB turntable, though a bit more technical as it requires navigating software. USB turntables often retail cheaper than all-in-ones, with the Audio-Technica AT-LP60USB coming to mind as a solid option. For software, you can go the free route with Audacity for PC, Linux, and Mac, or for dedicated Apple fans, GarageBand does the job. Although nonessential, some argue that paid options like Pure Vinyl or VinylStudio make life easier.

Lastly, you can use an audio interface hooked up to your computer running a digital audio workstation (DAW). For recording, you need an audio interface if your turntable doesn’t have a USB output and your computer doesn’t provide an ⅛” audio input. An interface is generally an ideal choice for critical listening, producing music, or obtaining the best quality vinyl rips for your digital DJing.

An important distinction to make is the difference between line and phono-level signal, as some turntables only feature phono, particularly on older models. If you run into this, you’ll need to convert it to line with a phono preamp inserted between turntable and audio interface in the signal path.

Some best practices:

  • Although seemingly obvious, try to record somewhere quiet to reduce the chance of vibrations interrupting the recording. Isolation is key
  • No umbrella method exists for recording because it depends entirely on the gear available. Figure out what type of output your turntable has and go from there
  • Clean your vinyl, making sure the needle is in good condition. Any imperfection will hang out on the digital recording
  • The recording happens in real time…as such you’ll need a bit of patience. Think of it as another opportunity to get cosy with your records

How do you go about digitising your collection? Do you think more expensive gear makes a difference in recording quality? Which software do you use, if any? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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