Recording from Tape/LP to CD R R

Some of us have audio tapes or old phonograph records (LP's) lying around. Compact disks have taken over as the de facto form of storing data these days. LP's sound great when new, but after exposure to dust for some time, they begin to make hissing noise. The noise only gets worse until the record becomes unplayable. CD's on the other hand take a lot of abuse without a noticeable change in sound quality stored on them. In addition they are portable, light weight, and hold more data. What is more, now with the introduction of CD-writers, one can do a lot more with CDs. Because of the enormous advantages presented by CDs, have you ever wished you could transfer the music on your audio tapes and LPs onto Cds? Well, yes you can, and we are going to follow the step by step procedure on how to do that.

What do you need?
  1. You need a computer equipped with a Sound Card. Look at the back of your computer for something that looks like this picture. Wait for image to load That is your soundcard. Note that you will get a better recording quality if you use a pro audio card instead of the soundcard in your computer. Read reviews of audio cards here.

  2. An audio recording program like Sound Forge or Cakewalk (actually any decent audio program will do). This tutorial is mainly for those using win 95/98, so we will use the Windows Sound Recorder. The idea can be applied to other operating systems also.
  3. A cassette tape player or a turntable for playing LP's
  4. Cable with dual plug as the image shows
    Wait for image to load
    Such plugs can be picked up at your local computer/electronics store.

Ok now we have all the materials we need. Next we'll see how to get the computer ready for recording.
  • Your soundcard must be properly installed and fully functional. If you can hear sound through your external speakers, then your soundcard is working properly. To test this, insert an audio CD into your cdrom drive and play some music. If you cannot hear any music playing, then solve the problem with the soundcard first, then return here to continue the tutorial.
  • With your soundcard working properly, next you need to tune win95/98 for recording. On your desktop double click on My Computer, double click on Control Panel, double click on Multimedia. You should get something like the image shown.
Wait for image to load
Under the Recording options, click on the arrow and select your soundcard driver. My soundcard driver is ESS AudioDrive as the picture shows. Yours is likely to be different.
Check Use only preferred devices. Check Show volume control on the taskbar. Click OK.

Look at the bottom right side of your screen. You should see a yellow icon as the red arrow shows. Wait for image to load
Wait for image to load Double click on the yellow icon.
The window on the left should come up.

On the menu bar, click on Options, click on Properties. That should bring up another window similar to the image below.

Under Mixer Device make sure your soundcard driver is showing. If not, change it.

Under Adjust Volume for choose Recording.

Under Show the following volume controls, check Line-in. If line-in is already checked, just click on OK.

Wait for image to load

You should now get a window titled Recording Control. On that window look for Line-In. Check the Select window at the bottom. Now grab the Volume bar and move it to about the middle. This action determines how loud your recording will be.

Just a word of caution about loudness. You don't want to make it too loud, otherwise your recording output will become distorted. Basically, you need to experiment with the recording first and see how the output turns out. Don't worry we will do that later in this tutorial. You can then return and adjust the Line-in volume until you're happy with the clarity and loudness of your recording. To return later and adjust the line-in volume, just start by clicking on the yellow icon, as we did above.

Alright, your computer has been tuned. Before you can begin the actual recording, you need to connect your sound source to your computer. If you want to record from a tape, connect your tape recorder or walkman to the computer. If you want to record from an LP (phonograph record), connect your turntable to the computer. Let's look at both of these in turn.

Connecting a tape recorder or walkman to the computer

  • Take your cable with dual plug Wait for image to load and connect one end of it to the headphone jacks on your player. That is where you would normally plug your heaphone into.
  • Connect the other end to the Line-in of your computer's soundcard. Most sound cards will indicate Line-In in words. But I have seen some soundcards that used symbols and only. Just use common sense to determine the Line-In jacks.

Connecting a turntable to the computer

The sound signal coming from your turntable is very weak. For this reason, you many need a small amplifier.

  • Take your cable with dual plug (see image above) and connect one end of it to the jacks on your turntable. The jacks are likely to be RCA jack, so you'll need the appropriate plugs. In other words, you may need a cable with RCA plugs on one end, and headphone plugs on the other.
  • Connect the other end of the cable to the Line-in of your computer's soundcard.
I mentioned that you might need an amplifier to be able to connect your turntable. The amplifier strengthens the weak signal from your turntable, before it goes into the soundcard. You can stop by your local pawn shop, or Radioshack to pick up a small amplifier at a modest cost. Now if you do get an amplifier, just connect the turntable to the amplifier's Input jacks, and then connect the Output from the amplifier to the Line-in on your computer.

Here's what I mean

 | Your Sound   |               -----------------
 | Source       |----------     |   Amplifier   |        -------------
 ----------------         |     -----------------        | Your      |
                          |     | In |    | Out |        | Computer  |
                          |     ------    -------        -------------  
                          |        |         |                |
                          |        |         |                |
                          ---------          ------------------

Now you have your recording source connected to the computer.

The next step is to install a software that will record whatever you play on your tape recorder or turntable. There are many programs that will do this with price ranging from free to really expensive. Windows 95/98 come with a simple recorder, so let's use this, and then later take a look at other recorders and why you may want to use them instead. To access window's recorder, click on Start/Programs/Accessories/Entertainment/Sound Recorder. This will bring up the window shown below.

Wait for image to load

  • On the window, click on File/Properties. A new window pops up.
  • On the new window, under Format Conversion, click on Convert Now
  • Another window opens up. Here you can select what you want the quality of your recording to be. You have choices between telephone, radio, and CD quality. CD quality will give you the best sound quality, but will also produce a very large file.

    Some tips on choosing sound quality. The following should help you decide the sound quality to choose.

    • If you will record from an audio tape, you probably don't want to choose CD quality output, since the music from the tape itself is not likely to have CD quality.
    • If what you're recording is voice only, without background music, you probably could get by with telephone quality. The output file will be the smallest of the three choices.
    • If your input source is a turntable with the LP still sounding great, then you may decide between radio and CD quality output.
  • Once you've chosen your sound quality, click on OK twice.
  • Click on File/Save As
  • Change to the folder where you want the output file to go.
  • Type in a file name and click on Save

We are now set to begin recording. We will do a test recording first

  • Insert an audio tape into your tape player, or begin playing an LP if using a turntable.
  • Turn the volume on your equipment to about 35%.
  • Now on windows recorder, click on the Record button. This is the button at the bottom right corner with a red dot on it.

  1. As you're recording, pay attention to the graph on the recorder. Make sure the waves are within the window. If the peaks are heavy and outside the window, that is an indication that your recording is distorted.
  2. The recorder will continue to record until you stop it, or until the ouput file reaches a certain size. Since this is a test recording, let it proceed for about 30 seconds, then stop it.
  3. On the recorder, click on File/Save. This saves what you just recorded onto your computer as a .wav file.
  4. Click on the Play button on the recorder to listen to the recording. You can also goto where you saved the file, and use another player on your computer to play it. Just double click on the file.

If the recording is not loud enough, you can turn up the volume on your tape player. Also you can adjust the volume on Windows Sound Recorder, by clicking on Effects and increase volume. Of course you would do the opposite and turn down the volume if the test recording is too loud or if it is distorted.

Editing your Recording

Windows Sound Recorder lets you cut your sound file, eg. to remove blank spaces, or maybe split a single file into tracks.

To delete part of a sound file

  1. Move the slider to the place in the file that you want to cut.
  2. On the Edit menu, click Delete before current position or Delete after current position.
  3. click File/Save.

Other Recording Programs

Windows Sound Recorder comes in handy only for the simplest recording projects you may have. The program has many limitations. For example, once you begin to record, you have no way of telling it to stop after a certain amount of time, or after silence is encountered. You cannot tell it to reduce noise either.

You have no reason to use windows recorder for any serious recording project. For instance if you're planning to record your LP's onto CD, some of the LP's may have undesirable hissing noices. Some recording programs offer you the option to remove such hissing noises.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I have chosen a freeware called Scanner Recorder. This program can be downloaded for free from Thanks to the good folks who brought us this program for free. The site also contains a very good description of how to install and setup the program, and explains all the features. So click on the link and read about scanner recorder.

Some kind of noise reduction software is recommended, to cut down the snap, crackle and pop. Noise reduction software works by taking a sample of the noise by itself (perhaps from a silent passage before or after a song), then removing from a sound file everything that sounds like that noise sample. Sound Forge has an optional noise reduction plugin that works well, and DART is a full-featured dedicated noise reduction package. Digital Audio Restoration Technology, or DART, is designed to be used for the restoration of archived audio recordings. This is a timely tool, as lots of people are starting to cull through their cassettes, LPs and such, saving the gems on disk. DART can get rid of that tape hiss, LP crackle, and even those clicks and pops caused by scratches on your albums. In fact, DART can do more than just noise reduction. It allows you to record and edit audio, and perform spectrum analysis. As advertised, it includes several tools for eliminating both impulsive (clicks n pops) and broadband (hiss n hum) noise.

Be modest with your noise reduction. Too much can make your recordings sound lifeless and artificial. Don't try to get rid of all the tape hiss, just reduce it a moderate amount. If your record has a scratch (or two), you can go in and fix them individually with an editor like Sound Forge.

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