This page last modified on November 27th, 2001.
How to create a CD from Vinyl
A reasonably fast PC. (150 MHz Pentium class w/Win
95/98/NT) I know, that seems terribly slow in today's world of 1.0 GHz
(and faster) class machines, but considering that I've done this work on an 80MHz 486
machine, 150 MHz will work fine, at least up to 4X or even 8X. If you'll
be burning at 12X, you'll probably want to be over 200 MHz. And make sure
you have 64MB, or more of memory. Again, I started with 16MB, but that
was when memory cost an arm-and-a-leg. Any of today's systems should be
quite adequate for CD recording. I should note that if you're burning from .MP3
files, you'll need a machine faster than 150MHz to burn directly to CD-R, otherwise you'll
have to convert your MP3 files to .WAV files first, because decoding .MP3 files
takes a fair amount of processing power.
Hard disk space, IDE or SCSI, to hold the digitized
music (10 Meg/min. of music) If you set aside a 1 Gig partition to burn
from, you'll be in good shape. If you'll be doing any processing on your
audio files, you'll need at least twice as much space as the music you'll
be working on. Disk space is pretty cheap, so get a multi-gig drive and
set it aside for this work. (If you have the resources, it's quicker to
move files from one drive to another, rather than moving them around on
the same drive, so if you can arrange to process from one physical, not
logical, drive to another, it'll be faster.)
CD Recorder. Take your pick, SCSI or IDE or USB. You'll
read about some people swearing that you should get a SCSI, or some that
you should get an IDE. I'm going to suggest that both interfaces work,
and some people will have trouble with either.
Sound card capable of 'recording' at 44.1Khz stereo.
Here's where you'll find some variability in quality. If you can find one,
I recommend the original Ensoniq Audio PCI card, with the 1370 chip NOT
the Creative Ensoniq AudioPCI card with the 1371 chip. Other people claim
good results with the Creative "Live" card. But try what you have, and
if you're happy with the sound you get, that's what's important.
Stereo Equipment to provide the audio signal
The Connection - to connect your stereo to your PC,
you'll need a "Y" connector that has to "RCA" style plugs at one end, and
a single, stereo 1/8" plug at the other. The RCA plugs connect to
the a "Tape Out" connection on your stereo. The 1/8" plug goes into
the "Line-In" jack on the sound card of your PC. Be careful not
to put it into the Mic. input! Also, if you're coming from a turntable,
the signal must first go through some sort of preamp, which increases the
signal level, and applies the RIAA equalization to the signal. If
you're turntable is already connected to the "Phono" input of your stereo,
you're all set. Don't try to connect the turntable directly
to your sound card. The signal will be too low, and not properly
equalized. If you need to you can go out and by a separate turntable
preamp. Check with Radio Shack, your favorite electronics outlet,
or look at www.tracertek.com for
one of the preamps they sell.
Program to support the sound card for putting the
music on disk (see CDWAV below).
CD-R program (i.e. Easy CD Creator, Gear...)
.WAV file editor for processing the music files before
putting them on CD (again, see CDWAV below).
Mixer Application for controlling your recording volume.
You can start with the default Windows mixer, or whatever came with your
sound card. I've recently found the XG-GS Enhanced
Mixer, which gives much better control. Where the default mixer
gives you 32 steps from 0 to full volume, the XG-GS
Enhanced Mixer gives you 200 steps. You can get this program by
searching at http://www.shareware.com for the keyword mixer. Then
download AMIX266.ZIP. I've also found that using the regular
Windows volume control, you can get better control using the arrow keys. Select
the volume control you want to move by clicking on it, and you'll notice that
it gets outlined. You can now adjust the volume with the arrow keys. It takes
4 up/down arrow key hits to visually see one "bit" of movement on the screen. So
you get 4 times the control using the keyboard than you get using the mouse.
Digitizing the music...
A little background first. Files to be put onto an audio
CD (CD-DA) must be recorded at 44.1Khz, 16 bit, stereo format. This means
that each sample can have a value from -32768 to +32767. If your sound
cards A-to-D converter is 'overloaded', it'll try to put out values beyond
that range. Since it can't, the signal will be clipped, and may cause audible
distortion. To keep this from happening, I record a 'loud' passage of music,
using Mike Looijman's CDWAV
program and watch the clipping indicator. I set the "Loud is above"
setting to 26,000, and set the recording volume so I occasionally light
the yellow 'loud' indicator. This level seems to make the CD's I make 'volume
compatible' with commercial CD's (important if you're mixing them in a
multi-disc player). Easy CD Creator Deluxe includes "Spin Dr.", has an
option to balance the volume of .WAV files which makes this easier. You
can find CDWAV at Mike Richter's CD-R
With the volume level set, you're ready to digitize. System
and disk speed are kind of important here. Any IRQ conflicts, system overhead,
or disk calibration can cause you to lose data. If you have a screen saver
set up, you might want to consider either disabling it, or setting it to
kick in at some time longer than you'll be recording. The disk you're recording
to should be either empty, or defragmented. If your songs all have gaps
between them, you can go ahead and digitize each song individually. If
you have songs with no gaps, record them as one file and split it up later.
Here again, Mike Looijman's CDWAV
program is very useful. (see above)
If you haven't done much digitizing with your system, it's
wise to listen to your .WAV files after creating them. As with the actual
CD recording process, digitizing requires that the data can get to the
hard disk in a steady stream. Any interruptions in the data flow can cause
'skips' in the music. (IRQ conflicts, operating system overhead, background
tasks, can all cause data flow interruptions. Sometimes you'll have several
good minutes of data, then a slight skip. Verify! Verify! Verify!)
Preparing your files...editing
If you've done a careful job of digitizing the songs from
your album, you may not need to do any file editing. If you need to adjust
the beginning or ending silence of your files, now is the time to do it.
Recording an Audio CD (CD-DA) can be done in two ways, Track-At-Once (TAO),
or Disc-At-Once (DAO) mode. TAO takes the first file, puts it on the CD,
writes lead-out blocks of data, then writes lead-in blocks of data as it
starts up the laser to write the next track. These lead-out/lead-in blocks
of data make up a two second gap between songs. If all your songs need
a gap between them, TAO recording is fine for you. If you have songs that
need to be recorded/played back with no gap, you need DAO mode. Not all
CD recorders support DAO mode!
Disc-At-Once mode writes the entire CD in one pass without
ever turning the laser off. This means data needs to keep going to the
CD Recorder without interruption, or you'll make yourself a nice shiny
drink coaster. If you've digitized multiple songs in one file, you need
to split the songs out before putting them on CD if you want the songs
to be indexed. You'll need some sort of .WAV file editor to do this. One
point to keep in mind is how your CD recording software handles partial
block s at the end of a song. CD blocks are 2352 bytes long. I use Easy
CD Creator 3.0, and if I have a song that ends before the end of a block,
Easy CD Creator fills the end of the block with silence and starts the
next song at the beginning of the next block. This could cause a small,
gap of up to 1/75th second between songs. Once again, CDWAV
was written specifically for the task of splitting .WAV files in preparation
for DAO recording. It splits on 2352 byte boundaries. Get it, try it, register
Preparing your files...cleaning
Click to see 129K full screen image.
If you're using some sort of filtering program to remove
clicks and pops, that should be done now. I've been using Roxio's Easy
CD Creator Deluxe for some time now, which comes with a program called
Spin Doctor. Spin Doctor has an option for 'cleaning' your .WAV files.
Below, you can see some screen shots of 'before and after' files, when
they've been run through Spin Doctor's cleaning algorithm. (Spin Doctor
uses Arboretum's "Ray Gun" program. I also use Tracer Tek's, "DART Pro
32" for cleaning up more damaged albums.) The program I used to display
the .WAV files is CDWAV. The top image is
a direct comparison with two copies of CDWAV running. The top part of CDWAV
shows the entire .WAV file, the lower part of the display shows an enlarged
section represented by the green bar separating the two sections. You can
see that there's a pretty loud repetitive click running through the first
part of song, which is visibly (and audibly) reduced, and almost eliminated.
Click to see 97K full screen image.
Click to see 90K full screen image.
For those who doubt how effective the cleaning is, I subtracted,
byte-for-byte, the cleaned file from the original file. What's left is
what was taken out. Believe me, it's a lot of clicks, and barely audible
with the volume all the way up, a little cymbal and music.
Click to see 70K full screen image.
Cutting the CD...
CD Creations Home Page
At this point, your files are all edited and ready to be
put onto CD. It's good practice to make sure the hard drive with your .WAV
files on is defragmented, all screen savers are turned off, and any background
tasks are killed. Easy CD Creator 4.xx and above has improved the reliability of
it's burn engine so you don't have to be as paranoid about interrupting
the data getting to your CD Recorder as much as you used to. I've done
word processing, 'Net surfing, and some gaming, without causing a problem.
If you have questions about setting up and optimizing your PC, you can
check out the archive files of the Easy CD list and the FAQ's at:
Mike Richter's CD-R
Naini's CD-R homepage
Windows 95 Tuning Tips