Friday, February 15, 2008


Cakewalks through time

I finally bought an Audio-Technica USB-Turntable so I could convert my vinyl LPs to .mp3 files for uploading onto my iPod. The turntable is reasonably high-quality with a built-in preamp (thankfully, since the new audio system amplifiers no longer include dedicated phono inputs). In addition to the amplifier cables there's a USB cable that connects directly to the computer. It did take a little finagling to sort out all the sound-card settings on my computers (it requires using the USB sound codec for recording).

So after a bit of assembly (I had to use a USB cable extension, since my computer station does not sit next to the stereo system), I installed the included Cakewalk Pyro 5 software. It's a lot like Audacity, except it records everything as .wav files and then burns them to CDs. It is quite easy to use. After navigating past a few menu selections, just create a file name, set the needle on the record, and start recording. Like Audacity, the screen displays the waveform for each track. I've only had time to record a few tracks, which were pretty clean - no hisses, crackles or pops, but apparently there's an option to "clean" these type of annoyances from the recordings. An entire album side can be recorded into a single file, which can then be split into individual tracks for saving. Due to lack of storage space I'll probably convert all the .wav files to .mp3 files and delete the originals.

Since the system records at real-time speeds, it's going to take quite some time to convert 250 or so LPs. But it sure is going to be a interesting trip down memory-lane, listening to all my music from the late 60s and early 70s. Within a few bars of each "new" tune, my musical "memory" brings it all back - often accompanied by intense images of where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when I first heard it.

Thanks for the review - I've been thinking about getting something like that. But don't overdo - too much nostalgia in one sitting can be toxic!
I've been thinking of getting something like that too, but we got a regular turntable about a year ago, and I still almost never listen to those records. :-)

And I have not yet mastered the iPod.
I spent a few days attempting to make reasonably "clean" recordings using the Cakewalk software, but it suffers from several flaws - first, using the USB codec (required for the type of turntable I bought), there is no volume control on the recording, so it all comes in LOUD with lots of distortions. Also, the noise reduction plugins are poorly documented and rather complicated to use.

I decided to try the latest version of Audacity - v. 3.0, and was pleased to see an input volume control, and the noise reduction plugins are somewhat more user-friendly.

There is only so much you can do, though, to "improve" the sound.
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