How to make a CD from an LP
Updated Mar 27, 2012
There are many that have one or more vinyl records that would like to be able to save,
or play the album on a CD or archive the songs. This involves a
number of precise steps to do it correctly and make it sound just like a "store bought" CD.
Basically you must have a "record player" and computer with a CD burner.
More precisely, you need a decent turntable, phono preamp, audio interface to the computer, professional audio recording software, and a CD/DVD recorder. In addition to the software, you should have an excellent pop-click filter program to clean the recording.
There are "packages" sold by big box stores that claim you can easily turn your records into CD's but a lot is left out of the process like track splitting and scratch and noise filtering.
A couple of things you should also note: Your CD cannot be of a quality better than the original recording. Sure you can process, normalize, equalize, and clean up a recording but it cannot be truly better than the original content. Also, it's going to take time to correctly process a single album. Typically about two hours per LP if you're good at it. Also note that many recordings are still copyrighted and royalty protected so don't think you can go into business making CD's of your favorite groups and selling them or taking other's records and copying them for yours or another third party. It is illegal!
This is a more extensive list of items and needs for ripping the LP and making a CD:
1) Use a good turntable. Properly tuned, balanced and isolated from vibrations.
2) Obtain a record cleaning kit. They may be scarce but you can usually find the "Diskwasher" brand on eBay. You want to carefully remove as much dust from the grooves as possible.
3) Obtain a good phono cartridge and needle. The higher the quality, the better.
4) Obtain a good turntable preamp. This will take the low level cartridge signal and provide the necessary RIAA equalization and convert to a level usable to the computer interface. Some retail stores sell a turntable preamp to USB converter that will do everything listed here.
5) You will need a good computer, preferably a PC with enough hard drive space to temporarily store your recordings. I have an old Pentium 1 that still does a decent job.
6) Recording software. Adobe Audition, Cool Edit Pro, Audacity, etc.
7) Software to clean up the pops and clicks. The above programs do have limited filters but there are some excellent after-market options available like Jeff Klein's ClickFix and Ganymede's Wave Corrector.
8) CD burner and software. Any good CD/DVD burner, internal or external. Roxio or Nero burners.
9) Blank CD's and jackets.
The detailed process is as follows:
1) Clean the record as best you can. It is fragile so take care not to scratch or damage the record. Handle records only on the edges.
2) Check for proper weight and tracking of the tone arm. Typically about 3 grams but note the tracking on the cartridge instructions.
3) Set up your recording software to record. Typically 16 bit, 44.1khz, Stereo.
4) Start the recorder and set levels. It is not necessary to reach close to 0DB on the recording because the levels may change or the pops and clicks may cause the recording to saturate. Record at an average level of about -10db.
5) Record the first side. You can leave the recorder running and turn over the record, lightly re-clean the surface and record the second side.
6) When recording is finished, immediately save the raw recording to a filename associated with the record label. Make sure it is saved to a .wav file, 16 bit, 44.1khz, Stereo. The reason for saving now is if something goes wrong or the computer locks up in the editing process, you at least have a starting point rather than re-recording the LP again.
7) At this time you must analyze your recording on the timeline. Look for all your tracks to make sure they are there. Cleaning up the tracks is the most important part of the process. What follows has been time proven by me and is suggested you follow this procedure first. You can make corrections or change procedures once you are comfortable with the process.
a.) Manually edit out any major pops.
b.) Reduce any major silent areas between tracks.
c.) Do an initial normalization of the full recording.
d.) Apply an initial pop and click filter process. You may want to do a save at this time to another backup filename just in case. This way if you make a major mistake you can revert back to the raw recording and start over.
e.) Select (highlight) and cut the first track into a new display.
f.) Normalize the track again.
g.) Strip any silence at the beginning of the track precisely. Make sure you strip off only at the zero crossings otherwise you will hear a pop.
h.) Insert a portion of dead silence at the beginning, usually 0.5 seconds (1/2 second). The reason is most CD's have a lead-in period and this related to a clean start.
i.) Go to the end of the recording. At this time you may have to make a decision as to how to end the track. Some songs have a long fade out and some have a hard stop. If it is a hard stop, strip away everything at the very end and then add two seconds of dead silence. This is typical for most commercial CD's. You don't want one song to end and another to start immediately. If the song fades, you may want to apply a fade from a half to three seconds or so to the end so it fades cleanly. Then add your two seconds.
j.) At this time you might look at the full track and do any necessary cleaning of the track. Audition the track and listen for anything that sounds off and fix it. Also, depending on the content you may want to normalize again. Once you are proficient at this point, save the track to a new filename as defined in the next step. Again, if you want to brighten the track, apply some careful equalization and compression depending on its content. If you mess up, just disregard this edit and use what you have saved. Or you may want to again retry some careful eq and compression or hard limiting to give the song more "energy" but be careful because you can make the recording worse. Just be sure any processing or eq doesn't exceed 0 DB or you will hear clipping in the form of crackling noise.
k.) Once happy with the first track, save it as T1 for track 1. It is not necessary to title it because the title information won't get transferred to the CD anyway. However, some software will allow you to add "cart chunk" data to the header of the track. This may carry over to the recording for "now playing" info. If you will be making a CD sleeve, you may give it the name of the song. Make sure you save all the tracks to an empty folder with a title of the album so it won't get mixed up with other tracks.
l.) Do all the tracks. This can be anywhere from eight to 16 tracks depending on the album.
m.) Confirm that all the tracks are 16 bit, 44.1khz, Stereo, .wav files. Otherwise the CD recorder won't know what to do with the tracks.
n.) Insert a blank CD in the recorder. Start your burning software. Select your tracks to record. Make sure they are in the correct order. T1, T2, T3......T11, T12. Remember, when you select track by highlighting, select the last one first all the way to the first one last. When you import them they should be in the correct order. If not, most recording software will allow you to drag the tracks around to your liking.
o.) Burn the songs as an "Audio CD" and not a data CD.
p.) When finished, mark your CD and place in a CD sleeve or jewel case. There are software burner programs that will allow you to make a custom jacket of your CD if you like.
q.) For archival purposes you may want to save the tracks to a data file format. This way you can reload and edit or convert the songs to .mp3's or other formats without re-ripping the CD. When saved, you will have your tracks named T1.wav, T2.wav, etc. If saving to mp3's you can add Title and Artist info that will appear on MP3 players.
r.) Once you are happy with the CD and backup remember to delete all the files to make space for your next ripping project.
(c) 2011 RickC. Rev .1 Oct 7, 2011
revised and (c) 2012 Rev .2 Mar 27, 2012