OK, you've figured out how to convert your LPs to digital. You've got the files in your computer. Now what? You can listen to them or export them in various forms. You can burn CDs, but part of your goal was probably having your music in a more portable format. And since there are questions about the life span of the CDs you burn, you'll want something that might be more permanent.
One thing you DON'T want to do is leave all that great music in your computer with no backup. You can copy everything into an external hard drive, for starters.
If you are recording large numbers of LPs, you may want to use a compressed lossless output format such as FLAC (Free Lossless Codec) or ALC (Apple lossless). These use about half the space of .WAV or .AIFF output formats. Lossless files are what play on iPods, and their quality is high.
MP3s use lossy files, which take up even less space but lose more data in the compression process. But with copies of old records, most listeners may not be able to tell the difference. One solution is to first record your music as a .WAV file, and store that in your external hard drive. Then also export the music as MP3s that will take up less space in your portable music device.
Increasingly, a popular way to back up your digitized music collection is services that allow you to store it remotely in the cloud, which all but eliminates your need for a hard drive. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Spotify offer free or low-cost (depending on how much you're using) storage of your music and other data.
There may be additional options, such as iTunes Match. For an annual fee, iTunes will let you match any music in your digitized collection to content available in its store. Then you can stream that music free to any of your devices. Once you've matched that music, you can access it in the cloud. This can be a good solution if the MP3s you produced when you copied your old LPs aren't good quality – you can match them and listen to iTunes' higher quality [source: Hunter]. Of course, if you go somewhere with more Internet connectivity, you may have to rely on your own devices.
Now you're ready to copy those old LPs, listen to them wherever you go, and save them for posterity. Happy listening!
Author's Note: How to Convert LPs to Digital Files
My first reaction upon receiving this assignment was to think, "Why me?" I'm hardly a computer expert, and although I have some cool LPs gathering dust somewhere I'm content to listen to today's CDs or tomorrow's latest thing.
But I realize there are a lot of folks who really care about classic LPs, and they would appreciate some insight into the possibility of converting them to digital files. And who better to write for them than someone who has a similar learning curve when she starts the research?
My second reaction was to seek help. With many subjects, if I do thorough research online and in books and other publications, I feel confident writing articles based on my findings. In this case, I knew I would need guidance from real people. Fortunately, I was able to find two experts who were graciously willing to help me make sense of sometimes-conflicting advice on the Internet.
One of the insights I gained is that for most of us, it's not necessary to tackle such a daunting project. Just buy the music in another form or, if you have an irreplaceable LP, pay to have it professionally digitized.
The other is that for people who do want to try, digitizing is possible, and there are several viable approaches. Purists spend lots of money on specialized equipment and software. But lots of other people use freeware and inexpensive equipment to produce results that please them. As one of my experts kept saying, "If you're just trying to copy old rock or beach music albums, you're not going to be able to hear the difference anyway." Rock on.
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- Hunter, Noel. Musician and computer professional. Winston-Salem, N.C. Personal interview, May 21, 2012.
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