Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Create your own CD from your cassettes or LPs

So, twenty years ago you were a member of your university student choir. You sang tenor. Your group had a few concerts, and you have just come across the cassette containing the recording of one of those memorable evenings.

Or, you have a collection of LPs that are so rare that you do not dare play them for fear you might scratch them. Now you want to preserve the music. You can record it on an analog cassette, which is the easiest way to make a backup. You can do this with your home stereo system, and the result should be very good as long as you use new and high-grade blank cassettes. However, the flexible tape inside the cassette can stretch over time and the recording quality will deteriorate after repeated playbacks.

What about transferring the recording of your group's concert or the content of your collectible LPs into something that you can play back over and over? One solution that comes right to mind is to use an MP3 player such as the popular Nomad Jukebox from Creative Lab. Using the bundled software, you can rip the compact disc (CD) and create an MP3 file for each of the songs in the LPs. There are multiple benefits in using MP3. First, the file is far smaller than that found in a compact disc, so you can cram hundreds of songs onto a single CD. You can play the files back on a variety of devices, including car audio systems. Most of today's cheap VCD players can also play MP3 files. And you can exchange MP3 files over the Internet easily, as long as they are not copyrighted materials.

What if you want to store the music from your own recording or the content of your LP collection on a regular CD so that your Mom can still play it on her ten-year-old CD player? With the help of a PC, that should be easy to do. While some audiophiles religiously believe that LPs still sound better than CDs, at least the CDs can be played over and over again without degradation of audio quality.

One of the tools that you will need is a piece of shareware called GoldWave, and a lot of people have recommended this. You can download it from You can try it for free, but you are expected to pay the author US$40.00 as an appreciation for his hard work. This software can filter the clicks, pops and crackles that you usually hear on a vinyl record. It also enables you to apply special effects, too, including noise reduction, echo and pitch adjustment.

Or, if you want a quick and dirty way of transferring a cassette or LP to a CD, you can use Windows Movie Maker, which is part of Windows Me and later versions of Microsoft Windows. Click on Record under the File menu, and then choose Audio Only.

However, the process is a bit tedious as you will need to record one track, save it in a folder, record another track, save it in the same folder, and do this repeatedly until you have recorded all the tracks.

Remember that you cannot use Sound Recorder, the utility found in Microsoft Windows, because it can only record short audio clips, not a full-length song.

You will need a lot of free hard disk space -- around 10 MB for every minute of audio, or a total of two gigabytes if you want to want to save a copy on the hard disk for later use. You had better "defrag" your hard disk, too, as it has to be in a prime condition to ensure successful CD transfer.

What else do you have to do? Find the output port of your amplifier and connect it, via a pair of good cables, to the Audio Line-In jack on your PC. Do not use the headphone jack of the amplifier and do not connect the record player or cassette deck directly to the PC, as the audio signal should be processed by your amplifier first. Remember that you will want a high quality sound card, too, because a cheap sound card may add noise to your recording.

What about copyright? As long as you use the recording for personal listening, you are allowed to make the backup. Do not sell or trade your backup copies with others, as that will constitute an infringement of property rights.

-- Zatni Arbi