BOOT CAMP 195 (04/10/01)




Following on from last week's introduction to using your PC as an audio recorder, in part 2 we're going show you how to use it to make an audio CD from your collection of LPs, 45s 78s and tape cassettes, that you can play back on your home hi-fi or car stereo.


First the all-important list of ingredients. You PC needs to be a reasonably recent Pentium or Pentium class machine, preferably 233MHz or faster with at least 32Mb of RAM, a gigabyte or two or free hard space and most important of all, it needs to be fitted with a CD-Writer. As we explained last week they're not expensive (prices start at around £60) and they are easy to fit (see Boot Camp 158 (18/01/01).


You will also need a lead to connect the audio output of your hi-fi or tape/record deck to your PC's audio 'line input' and a couple of simple software applications, for recording and file conversion/burning. There are literally dozens of programs you could use (see Shareware Machine/Hitsquad link) some of them are very sophisticated, but I think it's a good idea to keep it simple at first so the two recorder programs I suggest are Polderbits and Total Recorder. They're both shareware but the cost of registration is minimal (about £8 in both cases). Polderbits is fully functional but the evaluation period is 2 weeks, Total Recorder is also fully working but the unregistered version will only let you make recordings lasting 40 seconds.


Both programs turn your PC into a high performance audio recorder, they record in the .wav format, which is equivalent in quality to audio CD and more than capable of capturing all of the musical information from LPs and tape cassettes. However, .wav files tend to be quite large (10Mb or more per minute) hence the need for plenty of hard disc space. However, the space can be recycled because once you've created a CD the .wav recordings on your PC can be deleted.


The last item on our shopping list is a program that can convert .wav files in the CD-A format, which your Hi-Fi system can recognise and the programs I'm about to suggest can also take care of the track compilation and 'burning' of the finished recording on CD-R disc. Incidentally, there are several programs that can do the whole thing, from recording to burning, MusicMatch Jukebox (see Links) is one example, but these programs tend to better suited to more advanced users. I suggest using separate programs, at least to begin with.


The first one is MP3 CD Burner, it's shareware and registration costs around £11. The download is fully functional and will let you make seven CDs, after that it starts adding tracks of its choosing. The other one is MP3 Converter, everything works but until it is registered (this costs £13) it will only allow you to record 10 tracks per disc.


Once you've downloaded and installed the programs (I suggest you start with Polderbits and MP3 CD Burner) you are ready to begin. Connect the audio source to your PC and make sure it is working by playing a disc or tape; the sound should be heard through your PC's speakers. If you are having problems try double-clicking on the speaker icon in the System Tray to bring up the PC's audio level control panel and check that the input sliders not been set low or muted.


Next open Windows Explorer and create a new folder where you can store your audio tracks then start the audio recorder program and prepare the first track on your tape deck or record player. You might want to spend a few minutes practising putting your audio deck into pause mode between tracks and familiarising yourself with the controls on the PC recorder. Of course there's nothing to stop you recording an entire side of a disc or tape but this would mean that all of the tracks would be combined into one and you wont be able to use your CD player's track selector functions.


When you have finished recording each track give it a name and save it your newly created folder. If you are recording tracks from different sources it's a good idea to keep a tally of the times, bearing in mind that CD-R discs can normally only hold 74 or 80 minutes worth of recordings. When you have finished you can check the tracks by clicking on the file icons in Windows Explorer, which will open Windows Media Player and play the track. The quality probably won't be very good if you are listening through a pair of cheapie PC speakers but the finished recording should sound fine.


You are now ready to create a CD. Pop a blank disc in the drive and your chosen CD creator/burner program. Locate the tracks (you may have to switch the program's default file setting from MP3 to .wav), select and arrange the ones you want to appear on your CD and click the 'Start' or 'Burn' button. From this point on the process is usually fully automatic, if available it's a good idea to select the 'Test and Burn' option, which will reveal any problems, before you commit to recording the disc. Depending on the speed of your CD writer the burning process can take a few minutes to the full 74 or 80- minutes, be patient and avoid using any other programs whilst it is working. When it has finished the disc will be ejected and all being well your first home made audio CD is ready to play.


Next week – Backing up and transferring Outlook Express





Recordable CD, this type can only be recorded once, i.e. once 'finalised' no further tracks can be added, CD-RW (read-write) discs can be erased and recorded many times



Low impedance analogue audio input connection on a PC -- usually a 3.5mm stereo minijack socket – suitable for connection to audio devices like tape recorders and hi-fi systems



Software programs that you can try, before you buy. If you decide to use it you are obliged to send a payment to the author or publisher. Some programs are automatically disabled when the trial period has expired



Audio recording freeware and shareware



Polderbits Audio Recorder


MP3 CD Burner


Total Recorder


MP3 CD Converter


MusicMatch Jukebox




The quality of your CD recordings is dependent to some extent on the capabilities of your PC's sound card. Sound Card Analyser is a small program the tests the performance of your PC's sound system, measuring frequency response, dynamic range, noise levels, cross talk and distortion. It's simple to use – all you have to do is connect the sound card's input to the output and click the Run Test button – and it generates a comprehensive report, complete with comments and impressive-looking graphs. Sound Card Analyser is freeware, the program's 'zip' file is quite small (454kb) and it can be downloaded from: 

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