Convert your music to digital

Got a few tapes or vinyl LPs tucked away in a corner? Why not convert them to digital format.
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  • Updated:15 Jun 2006

01.What you'll need

Please note: this information was current as of June 2006 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Your computer will need a bit of equipment before it's audio capable.

  • Soundcard line inSoundcard with line-in (usually coloured blue). Your computer may already have this, but if not you can buy a dedicated internal soundcard for about $70-$200 or an external card for $150-$300.
  • A cassette player or turntable. As long as it has a line-out socket or a headphone jack, it will be suitable.
  • You'll also need a cable or cables. These are to connect the tape deck or turntable to the computer. The type of cables will depend on the way you connect. If you connect from the headphone socket of a cassette player or turntable, you'll need a cable that has an audio mini-jack at both ends. To connect from the line-out sockets, you'll need a cable with connectors for the line out port(s) at one end, and a mini-jack at the other to plug into your soundcard.
  • Software to record audio to the hard drive as digitally converted sound. We've used Audacity, because it's free and compatible with both Mac and PC. It’s available from

Do I need?

Pre ampTurntables produce very weak signals that usually need some kind of amplification before you can record them to digital format.

  • If your turntable is part of a hi-fi system that includes an amplifier, you may not need any other amplification.
  • A phono pre-amp is your best bet, otherwise. It costs $200 or more but some high-end soundcards and turntables include one.
Tip: Check the output levels before you shell out for extra equipment — see Make music.

Excess noise may mean your equipment may not be grounded effectively.

You can try to ground it by attaching everything to the same power socket. Alternatively, some turntables have a grounding wire that you can use to ground the turntable through either the pre-amp or computer case. If this doesn't solve the problem, a signal isolator may help – most pre-amps contain a signal isolator.

It's also worth noting that the inside of a computer is quite noisy when it comes to audio signals, and an external soundcard may also help reduce the noise.



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