Finished burning favorites
CDs from all your personal CDs? Now what? Maybe itís time to explore the
world of analog recording. Whatís that you say, what is analog recording?
Simply, it is plugging in any analog sound source (radio, TV, phono, tape
player, mini-disc, etc) to the sound card in your computer, converting
the analog to digital sound in the sound card with an A/D converter, and
using CD recording software to save the digital audio as a wav file on
your hard disk. Then you can run the wav file through a wav editor to filter
and clean up the sound, and burn it to an audio or MP3 CD. You can also
use it to record music from Internet radio stations, satellite music channels,
and literally any sound source you can plug into your sound card.
So what do you need to work this magic?
First, you need some stereo cords to connect the pre-amp level output
on the sound source, with a stereo mini-plug on the other end to plug into
your sound card. If recording from records, the phono output must pass
thru an amplifier since the phono cartridge has a real low level output.
Grounding a phono to the amplifier and to the computer is necessary to
eliminate that hum noise. You can also plug into the headphone output on
most players, but the aux out or tape out connection on an amplifier will
give you cleaner sound. Cassette, CD, and tape players can be plugged directly
into the sound card.
A decent sound card is a must. As a minimum, the Sound Blaster 128 which
is selling for less than $20. Iím currently using a Sound Blaster Live
5.1 (about $30.) waiting for the Audigy to come down in price. The Live
does a good job, but is way too complicated to use. I enjoyed the simplicity
of the 128, and in tests, it actually did better than the newer ones. If
you have lots of coins, the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz is among the top rated
cards. The most important part of the sound card is the A/D (Analog
to Digital) converter.
This is the component that takes analog sound and converts it to the digital
ones and zeros by pulse code modulation. Bad connections or a weak converter
will add noise (we call it artifacts) to the digital sound, that require
heavy duty filters to remove. So, donít skimp on the quality of the sound
A big, fast hard drive is a necessity for working with music. Wav files
average about 10 MB per minute, and a CD will hold about 800 MB, and may
require scads more considering the Windows swap file and an image file,
it doesnít take long to put a hurt on an older hard drive. I feel two 7,200
RPM, (20 & 40 GB) hard drives are better than one 60 GB drive, and
make all my petitions 6 GB or less for ease in defragmenting.
Software is real important in analog recording. First off, most burning
software will not do analog recording. I use Dart4
for ease of use and excellent sound. Feurio
is fast and has a great wav editor. Easy CD Creator5 Platinum has Spin
Doctor hidden in SoundStream, and a decent wav editor. ECDC Basic and Nero
do not have an analog recording capability. Shareware also has some programs
that do analog recording. Audiotools
and LPRipper are crippleware and cost as much as the commercial programs.
The newer MP3 jukeboxes will do analog recording, have filters, and burn
audio CDs in addition to encoding/decoding MP3s.
Volume control is critical to a good recording. Plug your music source
into the sound card. With the source playing at a comfortable level, you
should hear the sound coming from your computer speakers. The source volume
level should not be set to a high volume level as it will distort the sound
in the sound card. The volume in the computer is controlled by clicking
the speaker icon on the systray (lower right of screen). To control the
volume for recording, if the burner software does not have a volume control
slider, double-click the speaker icon, select Options, Properties. Make
sure your sound card software mixer is listed on the mixer line, click
the recording radio button, and check the items you want to control with
a slider, click OK. The recording level control panel will appear. Minimize
it. After you open your software, click the record control to set the volume
level for the analog record. Donít set it too high or you will distort
or clip the recorded sound and nothing will make it sound better.
While setting up to record, you will have to tell the software what
file name to use and where on the hard drive you want it saved. On software
like Dart4, you can set the recording resolution to save space on the hard
drive if the source is an old mono vinyl record (use 22K, mono, 8 bit).
I would definitely record the new wav files to a work folder on the hard
disk rather than straight to CD. Listen to the sound of the new file. It
may take several tries to get the settings right. Then run the pop and
click, noise reduction, and normalize filters on the wav files. From there
on, itís just like burning any audio CD.
There is one more important use for analog recording. If you canít make
a decent archive copy of one of your audio CDs, you can plug your CD player
into the sound card and make a digital/analog/digital copy. Any sound going
thru the sound card is not susceptible to copy protection. Sure, there
is a loss of some quality, but it takes a keen ear to tell the difference.
Think of analog recording as another tool to use with this wonderful device
we affectionately call a CD burner. Have fun.