How to Convert LPs to Digital Files

Finding the Right Turntable

So you've decided to digitize your music collection. The hard part's over, right? Not quite -- you'll have to make decisions at several points in the process. Some of your choices may depend upon what you already have in place. Other decisions may be determined by what you want. Whatever route you choose, you will need a turntable on which to play the albums. This should be a component turntable, not an antique console or child's record player.

There are three main types of turntables available:

  • A turntable/CD burner combination. These all-in-one units are made to digitize LPs. They burn a CD of the record as you play it on the turntable. Then you load the CD into your computer, and do whatever you want with it. The obvious advantage is simplicity and ease. However, they're pricey -- prepare to pay at least $200 for a decent model. If you try to save with a cheaper model, you may sacrifice sound quality.
  • A turntable with a digital output, usually a USB-enabled turntable. This turntable is also made to copy albums. Just set it up, plug the USB into your computer, install the software, and you're good to go. These turntables may run about half the price of a turntable/CD burner combo.
  • A conventional turntable. This approach can be a big advantage if you already have a good-quality turntable, even if you haven't used it in years. Take the trouble to make sure the needle works and that the turntable itself is clean and running smoothly. Aside from using something you already have, the advantage here is the potential for the best quality. The downside is that this approach requires the most technical expertise. You will also need something to get the sound from the turntable into the computer, and the know-how to accomplish this feat.