LP to CD Recording

This project started when I wanted to copy Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" to CD from the LP, which is a three record set. CD-R's are well suited to this, as they will hold 80 min or so of music. Making a recording from a LP can be as simple as using MusicMatch Jukebox to record one song at a time, setting up a songlist, and burning it to disk with the same program. However, it is more practical to record an entire album side as one track, then split it up later. Also, you may wish to remove any pops and scratches that the LP has acquired with use.  All this is possible, and not difficult, however it is time consuming. The quality of the resulting CD will be very good, but in most cased will not match that of digitally remastered releases. If you have more time than money, and are up for a little do-it-yourself, here are the basic steps:

  1. Connect your turntable to your computer.
  2. Record to your computer
  3. Edit your recording
  4. Write to CD-R


All you really need for tools, are a recording, editing, and burning program.   Some programs will do all three chores, or you can use several programs. I have found Polderbits to be an excellent recorder and sound editor that is simple to use.  For cleaning up scratches and pops, Depopper is the best and easiest program I have found. Both have full function free trials, and are inexpensive. Any CD burning software will do. Currently, I am using Nero Burning ROM. For the purpose of this tutorial, these are the programs I will use. The steps will be similar no matter which software you use.

Alternative Tools:

There are many other recording and editing programs available. For a discussion of them, click Here


The first step in making a CD from a LP is to record the LP to your hard drive. To do this, you must connect the output of your turntable to the input of the computer's sound card. The signal from your turntable needs to be preamplified, so it can't be plugged directly into your computer.   Ideally, you will run a patch cord from the 'line out' or 'tape out' on your stereo, to the stereo 'line in' on your computer's sound card. In a pinch, the headphone output can be used, but it may be harder to get a good recording level. The exact type of patch cord you need will depend on the configuration of your stereo's output, and your sound card's input. Typically, your sound card will use a 1/8" stereo mini-plug. The plugs needed for the output from your stereo will vary.   When you have the turntable connected to the computer, you can proceed to the recording section.

here for more details on patch cords and connections.


Before you actually start recording, It is a good idea to clean the dust off your LP. Also, turn off any unnecessary programs that might be running in the background on your computer. Even something as benign as a screensaver kicking in can cause a hiccup in your recording.

Ok....so fire up your recording program. I will be using Polderbits. The first thing you must do is select the input source and set the volume levels. The input source will be 'Line'. If you start playing the LP, you should see some activity on the level meters. The idea here is to get as strong a signal as possible without 'clipping'. Some programs (like Polderbits) include level meters and volume controls. Other programs require you to open your sound card's mixer console to set levels. Monitor the LP to get a representative sample of the loudest passages, and set your volume so that the level meters stay mostly in the green, and always out of the red.


Once you have your levels where you want them, you are ready to record.

Now at this point, you could record each song seperately. This involves starting and stopping your recorder and turntable between each song, and naming and saving the file. I find it easier to record the entire LP then split it up later using Polderbit's sound editor.

Why bother to split the tracks at all? Well if you were to record one whole side of an album, then burn that directly to a CD, There would be no easy way of locating the individual songs......Track 1, Track 2, etc. The CD would just have one long Track1.

Are we ready to record? Press the red 'Record' button and start playing the LP. When the LP is finished, press the black 'Stop' button. This will cause the recording to end, and the sound editor to open.

Back to the top]


If you have chosen to split your recording into tracks, now is the time to do it. The method will depend on which program you are using. Some, like Dart CD Recorder and Audio Companion have an auto-split feature that looks for silences between songs. You set the parameters of how long a silence, and what threshold to search for. Polderbits has an auto-split feature, but also allows manual adjustments to the splits.


To auto-split your tracks with the Polderbits Editor, simply press the 'scissors' button. Below, you can see the tracks in the upper window, and a graphic of the sound waves in the lower window. Use the playback controls in the upper left to preview the splits. By dragging the green and red index lines in the wave window, the start and end points can be adjusted, and fade in and out can be set if desired. Also, just to the left of the green index line, you may notice a small spike in the wave. This is a pop. This can be edited out.


When all the tracks are split as you want them, you can 'Save Changes As...' This will bring up the dialog window shown below. In this window, you can name the tracks, designate where you want them saved, and uncheck any you don't wish to save. Save and exit.


At this point, you could burn to disk, but if there are any scratches and pops in your recording, you might wish to clean them up. Depopper is the program I prefer to use for this task, To use Depopper, simply browse to find your song files, choose your options (big pops, little pops etc.) push start and go grab a cup of joe. When the program is done, you will have two files...your original, and a clean one marked 'new'. Play the new files. Make sure there are no hiccups, and they are of acceptable quality. Now you are ready to burn to disk.

UPDATE: While Depopper is still the weapon of choice for simple depopping, I have found the noise filters in CoolEditPro to be superior. The difference is especially clear on poor, badly scratched recordings. CoolEdit is not as easy to use,but has more options and can give a better result. It is also considerably more expensive. Click HERE to download a comparison of some sample clips processed with each program. (360kb)


Write to CD-R:

So now you have recorded the songs, split them into tracks, and cleaned them up. You can now use your favorite program to write them to a CD-R. At this point, you also have two options.

It doesn't really matter which program you use to burn the CD. Just compile a song list in the order you want, and get ready to enjoy those old tunes for years to come.

Back to the top]

What are Mp3 & .Wav?

What is a .wav file?

When sound is recorded, it is represented electronicly as waves. In order to store this sound on your computer, these waves must be converted to a digital format. This is done by 'sampling' the waves many times per second. The data from this wave sampling is stored in your computer as a .wav file.

In the graphic to the left, the red lines represent samples being taken of a wave. It can be seen that more frequent sampling will give a more accurate representation of the wave. In fact CD quality sampling is done 44,100 times per second. Each one of those 'samples' is 2 bytes in size (16 bits). For stereo music, the left and right channels must both be sampled. If you do the math, (44100 x 2 x 2 x 60) you will find that one minute of music, sampled at CD quality will make a file about 10 MB in size! With the average song being 3 min. long, .wav files have a voracious appetite for hard drive space. Files this large are also difficult to transfer over the internet. If the rate of sampling is lowered, the file size can be reduced at the expense of lower quality sound. (In the graphic, you can see that the lower sample rate misses some of the variations in the wave.) MP3 was developed as a form of compression which will reduce the size of .wav files, with minimal loss of quality.

What is MP3?

MP3, or MPEG layer 3, has become a popular format for reducing the size of audio files. Most of the music available for download off the internet is found in this format. The reduction in file size is accomplished partly by compression, elimination of inaudible data, and the encoding of duplicate data.

Mp3 encoding programs analyze the music, and throw out any data that is above or below the range of the human ear. They also look for quiet sounds that are drowned out during loud passages, and discard them. Also, if there is duplicate data in both left and right channels, data from one channel can be discarded and reconstructed on playback. The result is an audio file that sounds the same, but is not identical to the original. MP3 can be encoded at different bitrates, measured in kilobits per second (kbps). Music encoded at either 128 or 160 kbps will generally be of good quality.

Since MP3 is a lossy format, I prefer to burn my CD's from the original .wav file before converting to MP3.

Back to the top]

How do I connect a tape or LP player to my computer?

To connect an external tape or LP player to your computer, you will need to run a patch cord from the 'output' of your source to the 'input' of your computer's

Headphone Jacks

Headphone jacks can be used as a source for recording, but are generally not preferable to a 'line out'.

Since the signal to your headphones is intended to 'drive' the speakers in headphones, it can be stronger than a 'line out'. Some experimentation is usually necessary to adjust the volume (and tone) correctly. There are several places to make adjustments.

In any case, what you are trying to do is to get the maximum un-distorted signal at each of these controls. If all attempts fail, and your signal is distorting, try a different player. There are also 'attenuated' patch cords which reduce the signal. I got one at Radio Shack a few years back. The bottom line is that a headphone jack is less than perfect as a source for recording......however, it can be made to work.

Back to the top]

Line-in Box

If you are planning to do much recording using the line inputs on your sound card, you may wish to build a line-in box. You can think of this box as an extension cord, which plugs into your sound card and extends the lines in to a more convenient spot.

The exact configuration of the box and connecting cable, will depend on what type of input jacks are on your sound card, and what type of cables you wish to plug in to it.

In my case, I needed a 1/8" mono miniplug for my mic input, and a 1/8"stereo miniplug for my line input to the sound card. At the box, I converted these to more useable 1/4" phone for mic input, and RCA type phono jacks (L & R) for the line input. This makes the mic input compatable with guitar cords, and the line-in with stereo components.

The box itself can be constructed of about anything sturdy. I used luan plywood, but project boxes (and all the jacks & plugs) are readily available at Radio Shack. All the cable must be shielded; it may be easier to buy patch cords with one end that you need, then snip the other and solder it to the jacks in your box. You could just buy the appropriate patch cords, leave them dangling, and forget the box entirely, but that's no fun!

Back to the top]


There are many alternatives to the methods and programs I have used in this tutorial. As of this writing (11/02) I have described my preferred method and tools. No matter which tools you choose to use, the basic steps should be the same as I have described. (The following links were updated 3/04.)