BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2003

  

 

BOOT CAMP 276 (20/05/03)

 

LP TO PC TO CD, part 1

 

Nowadays CD-writers or ‘burners’ are an almost standard feature on multimedia PCs and a growing number of laptops and last year, in recognition of the technology’s growing popularity, we ran a series of articles showing how useful they can be for backing up and transporting data. We also dealt briefly with some of the other things you can do with them, including copying music and pictures files, so they can be played on ordinary audio CD and DVD players.

 

Since then we’ve had a steady stream of requests asking for more information so over the next few episodes of Boot Camp we’ll be looking at these two applications in a much more practical, hands-on manner, starting with how to turn your treasured vinyl LP and cassette recordings into audio CDs. Not only will this preserve and protect your original recordings from further wear and tear it also means you’ll be able to create compilations of favourite tracks, listen to them on your hi-fi system, in the car or on a personal player.

 

We are dealing specifically with making recordings from vinyl and shellac records (LP, 45 & 78 rpm etc.) and tape (cassette, open reel and so on) so we won’t be talking about CD-to-CD copies and compilations. This all happens inside the PC, it’s a fairly straightforward job involving transferring digital data from one disc to another and is a basic facility of the software that comes with most CD-writers (usually Roxio CD Maker/Creator or Nero Burning), so consult your program’s instructions or Help file for more details.

 

Copying music from disc or tape to CD is a little more involved but it’s certainly not difficult. There are only two relatively minor problems that need to be overcome. The first is that your PC doesn’t have the facility to play records or audio cassettes, so you will need some means of connecting it to something that does – usually a hi-fi system, cassette deck or personal stereo. Secondly, the incoming audio information is in an analogue form so it has to be converted into digital data and prepared for recording on a blank CD.

 

To accomplish all this you will need two things, in addition to a PC or laptop with a CD-writer. The first is a lead to connect your hi-fi or tape recorder etc. to your computer and the second is some extra software. We’ll be looking at that in more detail next week but the gist of it is the software’s job is to record the audio coming from your record or tape player onto the PC’s hard disc drive as high-quality ‘wav’ files. This allows the files or tracks to be organised and edited – some software will also remove crackles, hiss and pops from the recording  – before it is converted into CD-A files and ‘burnt’ onto a recordable CD along with the data a CD player needs to play the disc. Some software does the conversion ‘on-the-fly’, without going through the recording stage on the PC’s hard disc drive but this is a fairly advanced technique and the results can be variable, especially on older or slower PCs.

 

We’ll round off this week by looking at how to connect your source audio component (record player, tape deck, hi-fi etc.) to your PC. Virtually all multimedia PCs and laptops have two analogue audio inputs, one for a microphone and one for an external or ‘line’ input. The ‘mic’ input is unsuitable for our purposes because it is usually mono and configured for weak high impedance signals. The connection therefore has to be between your hi-fi system’s line or headphone output and the line input on the PC. Unfortunately you cannot directly connect a record deck to a computer, the output signal from the cartridge is not compatible with the PC’s line input so it has to go via a hi-fi system or ‘pre-amplifier’, to amplify the signal to the correct level. By the way, never connect your hi-fi system’s loudspeaker output to your PC’s line input, the signal will be much too powerful and bad things will almost certainly happen to your computer’s audio circuitry! 

  

The cable between your hi-fi, amplifier, tape deck or player and the PC needs to have the right type of connectors. The PC is most likely to have a 3.5mm stereo minijack socket for the line input. Stereo minijacks are also widely used for the line audio and headphone outputs on cassette decks, radio cassettes and personal stereos, in which case you will need a 3.5mm stereo minijack to stereo minijack cable. Plug-in adaptors are available for audio components that have larger ‘standard’ jack headphone sockets. However, it is more likely that your hi-fi system will have phono or RCA type connectors for its line audio output, so in most cases you will need a minijack to stereo phono cable.

 

Both cable types and minijack to standard jack adaptors are widely available in high-street audio-video retailers costing from around £2 upwards; if you have difficulty finding one they can also be purchased from specialist electronic stores like Maplin (www.maplin.co.uk).

 

Finally, don’t stint on length, the cable should be at least 3 to 5 metres long. This will make it easier to set up your PC next to the hi-hi, or the other way around, and it will also keep the two systems well apart as interference generated by the PC could spoil the recording.

 

Next week – LP TO PC TO CD, part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

BURNER

Another name for a CD writer, referring to the way data is recorded, using a laser beam to change the optical properties of chemicals sandwiched between the layers of a recordable disc 

 

CD-A

Compact Disc Audio, the industry standard file format for audio CDs, that will ensure that discs can be played on any CD player

 

WAV

Short for waveform; the file extension .wav denotes high quality digital sound files used by Windows and most Windows games and applications.

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

When you copy vinyl records to CD not only will you get the music, you’ll also capture all of the noise and imperfections so make sure that your records and the record player are in tip-top condition. Clean the discs with a proprietary cleaner and de-fluff the stylus, and if it hasn’t been changed in a while, now might be a good time to replace it, while you can still get them...

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