PRESERVING YOUR LPs by Peter Phun

If you’re over 40, chances are you have some vinyl records lying around. It’s also a sure bet if those recording artists in your old collection aren’t popular anymore, so you probably haven’t been able to find those same albums on CDs. There’s always exceptions as we all know like in the case of the mercurial and ageless Tony Bennett!This tutorial gives you an idea of how to make your old collection new again with a minimal cost.What hardware you will need will depend in part on which Mac you use.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

For my purposes I used my G3 (Pismo) powerbook because the thought of setting up either my desktop and its monitor next to my home stereo or vice versa was not appealing to me.
Bear in mind this project was going to be ongoing and since I don’t have a big enough desk to hold this setup, using the powerbook made a lot of sense. I also cringed at the thought of my wife discovering this messy project especially if I leave it laying around week after the week regardless of how wonderful the intent of my project. Since my G3 Powerbook doesn’t have an audio-in jack, I needed to buy a little gizmo called an iMic made by Griffin Technology. I believe they cost around $40.when they first came out but can be bought for less now.
I also needed a Y-adapter, stereo to left and right female, Radio Shack part #274-893.
This setup allowed me to plug the output from the amplifier to the mini-jack of the iMic with the minimum fuss. The end of the Y adapter plugs into the headphone jack on the front of the amp
making it a whole lot easier and more accessible than pulling out the amp and connecting through the back where the outputs are.
          As for the software, you will need a sound editing application to record the sound you are
bringing in from the amplifier. Oh, did I mention that one other piece of hardware that you will need that connects to your amplifier? A turntable. Yes, one with a stylus… Remember those?
I bought Roxio’s Toast Titanium. 6. It comes bundled with Spin Doctor --a basic sound editing application—and Discus RE–a design application which allows you to design CD labels and jewel cases. For most folks like me Spin Doctor is fine.

HOOKING IT ALL UP

The premise is quite simple: you will be playing the album like you were listening to it on your turntable and amp, but in this case, you’re going to record the song and will be digitizing them by recording the sound on your Mac into the “.aiff” format.
Once you have your song saved on your computer. It will have the suffix “.aiff, " like so

From there you can either add the song to your iTunes library or you can burn the song directly into a CD. In the “aiff” form, the file is huge and you will need a big hard drive if you’re doing a lot of albums but this is the highest quality sound, hence the huge file.

Before you do anything else you need to connect the hardware together. First the Mac computer end. In my case I plugged in the iMic into the USB port. (Again depending on what computer you have you may or may not need the iMic. Most desktops have an audio input jack which has a mini-jack.) Then you have to select the set up your computer to use iMic . From the Finder>Under the Apple>System Pref>Sound. You will be presented with this dialog box:

screen shot of sound pane in system preference Mac OS 10.3

As you can see, the computer will recognize the iMic, no need to install any driver—just like their ad says. Select the input and output and click the “iMic USB audio system” .Then on to the actual iMic itself.

Look at the two ports on iMic.One has a Microphone icon and the other a Speaker icon.

Since I used the handy dandy Y-adapter from Radio Shack.adapter from Radio Shack it made my connections simpler.Using the adapter from Radio Shack, I used an RCA cable to connect the the Left and Right output to the Line In port of the iMic.

The Y-adapter from Radio Shack is shown on the right. Notice the red and white female RCA wires which plug into the back of the adapter. The larger male end plugs into the headphones jack on the amplifier.

Firing Up the Software

Now that you’re hooked up, if you haven’t already installed Spin Doctor grab your Toast Titanium CD and do so.I have an alias of the applicatioin in my dock. Here’s what the icon looks like:


When you launch Spin Doctor you will be presented with the dialog box on the left . Select “New Recording” and then “Continue"

From this dialog box you get to choose whether you will be working on a "new" or previously digitized file

After you click "Continue" Spin Doctor will generate a waveform file.

Then you put your LP in the turntable and turn on the amplifier. As soon as you place you stylus on the LP and you get audio, you will see the levels on the right of the Microphone icon on the right change colors from dark blue to green to red.

Adjust the volume by moving the slider under the “Input Volume” so that the color doesn’t stay in the red zone or you’ll get distortion. When you have your levels ready, click on the Record button on the top Left.

At this point, you have to ask yourself if you want to try and automate or just digitize one song at a time. If you decide to just record the whole album then remember you will still have to pause your recording and flip the LP over and then resume the recording.

In that scenario you might want to let Spin Doctor auto define the tracks. I didn’t have much luck with that setting but it may be because of the pause between tracks on my particular LP.

When you’re done recording either a single track or the whole album, Spin Doctor generates a wave form and you save that file which is an “.aiff” file. If you see the window, it tells you how much space you have left on your hard drive.

To further customize the sound on your recording click the icon in the middle with the 3 purple circles and that brings up another dialog box which lets you remove pops, crackles and hiss and also lets you enhance the sounds.
Before you apply these settings you can either check the box that sayscreate a copy first or apply it to your original file. Probably a good idea to check that box so that your source recording is not ruined.

The third icon on the right with (the orange arrow) sends that aiff file directly to Toast so that you can burn it to a CD. It’s a good idea to do so since aiff files hog up lots of room on your hard drive. Alternatively you can rip those aiff files to mp3 with iTunes and save yourself some hard drive space.           That’s about the gist of it. This is a very time consuming chore and unless you absolutely have albums that you love and treasure which you can't find on CD, I would just look for those albums on iTunes music store. At a dollar a song, I think your time can be better spent chilling outside surfing the net on your hammock and having a cold one.

Back to Learn Mac Page