There are a variety of software applications available that can record and encode audio from tape decks, cd players, and live internet streams. The basics of what you need to know is that most music on physical mediums is in an analog format. Computers are digital machines and can only understand data that is converted from analog to digital.
In this blog, I make reference to a software application called WinADR.
It is one of the easiest to use sound recording tools, extremely versatile, and available for a free 30 day trial.
Click here to download and install the software. After installation click the shortcut on your Windows desktop to start the program.
Testing The Connection To The Computer’s Audio Source And Your Audio Input Source
The first step in recording audio into the computer is to test the connection between your application and the audio source being recorded. If everything is hooked up properly then you can play music or audio from a source such as cassette deck, or record player, and the music will play to your computer’s speakers.
Here’s how to make a successful connection between your audio source and computer.
- In general, you need to run an appropriate cable from an “out” jack on the external device (e.g. a tape deck, or an amplifier or receiver connected to a turntable) to the line-in port of the computer. You should not connect a standard turntable directly to a computer – see Special note on connecting a standalone turntable below. A typical cable you might use is a stereo mini-jack (3.5mm) to RCA cable.
- If your device does not have RCA out, the headphone jack is a good “out” jack to choose, since it will allow you to adjust the output level of the source device. If you choose this approach, the most typical setup is to use a cable with a 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) stereo jack at one end (for connecting to the device’s headphone jack), and an identical 1/8 inch stereo jack on the other end (for connecting to the line-in socket on your computer). If the device you are recording from has a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) headphone jack, you will need to get a 1/4 to 1/8 inch adapter. Such an adapter is often included free with most new headphones, or can be purchased separately at any electronics store.
- Some professionals with high-grade equipment would prefer to use the source device’s “aux out”, “tape out”, “line-out” or “record” output (if so equipped), since that approach bypasses an unnecessary stage of (possibly low-quality) amplification, and standardizes the signal at a fixed (non-adjustable) level of approximately 1 – 1.5 volts, resulting in a higher quality recording. If you choose this approach, you will need a cable that has dual RCA red/white plugs at one end (for connecting to the “aux out”, “tape out” or “record” jack of the device) and a stereophonic 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) plug at the other end (for connecting to your computer’s line-in port).
Here is a typical cable you might use (a stereo mini-jack to RCA cable):
The RCA end might connect to the output jacks in the back of your cassette player:
The stereo-mini end should be connected to your computer’s stereo line-in jack, usually found on the back of desktop machines. The line-in is normally colored blue, but check your computer manual.
- Ensure the Mute box has no checkmark in it.
- To adjust the volume level of your PC use this scroll bar. To increase the loudness drag the slider up; to decrease the loudness drag the slider down.
- To adjust the volume balance of your PC use this scroll bar. To have all sounds playback through the speaker situated on the left hand side drag the slider left; to have all sounds playback through the speaker situation on the right hand side drag the slider to the right accordingly.
- At this point, if you’re audio source is hooked up to the PC properly all you need to do is press the Play button on your audio source. If you hear music, then more than likely your volume settings are correct. You can customize the volume based on your own needs and preferences at any time during the audio encoding process.
Here’s how to test the connection between your audio source and the computer:
Configure Winadr Program Settings
The next step is to decide the kind of compression you would like to use when you “rip” or encode your audio. Although you can store uncompressed files and not have to worry about compression, this technique tends to eat up a fair amount of disk space and is very unnecessary if you have a basic understanding of how the MP3 (Mpeg Layer 3) audio compression codec works.
This section will explain how to configure the MP3 options in the WinADR program
The first step to configuring the MP3 options in WinADR is to access the control window that has the options to be configured. If it is not already running, open the WinADR application.
- Left click the Options menu.
- Left click the option Mp3 Format so it shows a check mark.
This section will explain how to configure the MP3 specific attributes for the encoding process.
- Left click the Browse button to select a folder where you would like to store your encoded files. Choose a folder on the subsequent window and left click OK to finalize the changes and return to the main configuration window.
- The Time Limitation option will instruct WinADR to stop recording automatically after a set period of time. This is useful if you need to leave your workstation for a period of time while recording is being done.
- To enable this feature left click the Enable Recording Time Limiatation checkbox and set the value in hours and minutes.
- The Auto Split Into Files Every option will instruct WinADR to split your recordings into different files based on the amount of time specified in these values.
- The MP3 Settings options allow you to set specific values for the encoding process which affect the quality of your output.
Standard settings for recording MP3 audio are listed below:
Channel mode: Stereo.
Sample rate: 44100Hz
Bitrate: 128kbps (anything higher then this value is overkill).
You can also configure the way the MP3 process encodes the audio. There really is no difference between the three modes but you should experiment with all three to find the one that works best for your recordings.
If you are fairly knowledgeable with how the entire recording process works you can instruct the WinADR software to actually record track after track, so you don’t have to sit at your computer waiting for one track to end and another to begin. You simply let the entire tape play. However, this requires a fair bit of knowledge about the ripping techniques used by this software. If you are just starting out into this process, it’s much easier for you to rip one audio track at a time just until you get used to the whole process. Once you learn the basics, ripping all the tracks off an audio track at one time is as simple as customizing the software.
The next step is for you to actually record an audio file. Close the options window. You should have a record button on the WinAVR interface. Before you press it, you’ll have to ensure your audio source is powered on and ready to go.
All you need to do at this point is press play on your audio source and when the music starts playing press the record button on the WinADR interface.
If you are having problems with the software or need more information the following URL’s should help:
- WinADR Support Homepage: http://www.artech365.com/winadr/index.htm
- WinADR Download Page: http://www.artech365.com/winadr/down.htm
Congratulations! You know have a basic understanding of how to encode music with WinADR.