How to Convert LPs to Digital Files

Save your music collection -- and a little space -- by converting your old records into digital files you can carry anywhere.
Save your music collection -- and a little space -- by converting your old records into digital files you can carry anywhere.
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Are you tired of watching your old albums gather dust in your attic? Did you just find some great old records at a yard sale? Are you sick to death of looking at all those crates of LPs in the corner of your living room? There is a solution -- convert your old vinyl into some form that takes up less space and that won't get warped, scratched or broken. It would be nice to have the music digitally whenever and wherever you like to listen. Here's the big question, though: Is this a reasonable do-it-yourself job?

Before you start gathering the necessary equipment, think about your needs and goals. If you have a few special albums you want to digitize, you're probably better off getting some help or hiring a professional; after all, digitizing old vinyl albums is an exacting and tedious process. If you don't enjoy the technical side of things, or are in a hurry, it might not be worth your while.

You don't have to keep the old record player in the living room corner, though. There are alternatives:

  • Buy the music again in digital form. This can save you a lot of trouble. If you find the same album on an inexpensive, used CD, then you can easily copy the CD onto your computer. You could also buy music online and download it.
  • Sign up for a subscription service such as Spotify or Rhapsody that charges you a monthly fee to play all the music in its library.
  • Pay a pro to digitize the music for you. There are businesses online and maybe even in your city that will make custom CDs, with a separate track for each song, complete with titles and artists' names. Such services may include editing to remove the pops and clicks from old LPs. Then you can rip (copy) the CD that's been made for you and use it in whatever digital form you choose. The service isn't cheap – expect to pay around $35 per album. It might be worth it if you have just one or two special LPs that you can't duplicate otherwise.

But if you have a lot of old albums, buying the music again or paying someone else to copy it might be too expensive.

Some people prefer to copy old albums because they really like the rich, warm old LP sound. If that's your motivation, your do-it-yourself effort might not give you the quality of studio recordings, especially if you're dealing with something such as classical music. But if all you want is to be able to listen to your old rock or beach music records, you can probably accomplish what you want without going to great expense. Here's how.