Dragging Your LPs Kicking and Screaming into the
By Jim Bray
Record companies are funny entities or I guess maybe
its the free market.
For some reason, many of the records I loved back when, well, when
you could still buy records, have never been available on digital media. This
despite the fact that since I liked them everyone else must, too, and therefore
youd think theyd have been available on CD for years.
On the other hand, going digital didnt necessarily mean the
best sound quality, despite the hype. Some CDs of material that was on
vinyl originally, sounds lousy on CD, thin and compressed. This usually
happened when the digital discs were still a new medium, and perhaps led to
arguments that vinyl is capable of better sound reproduction than a digital
disc. And many albums really did sound great, assuming you hadnt worn
Wouldnt it be great if you could go back to those original
vinyl recordings you swore youd never give up and bring them into the
You can, of course. Otherwise this column would end here. But you
can easily capture and burn your albums, and I just did exactly that thanks to
a nifty little gadget called Instant Music from ADS Technology.
Instant Music may be a bit of a stretch so far as being
instant is concerned, but this simple little box and its software
makes a wonderful tool you can use to finally experience on compact disc all
those desert island records the music industry was too stupid to release on
Albums such as the original London cast recording of the entire
Man of La Mancha. Id recently seen a production of MOLM and
it reminded me of how much I had enjoyed the record. I searched for it online
and discovered it wasnt available digitally.
Then Instant Music rode to the rescue. The whole system consists
of some software and a little box that hooks into your PC (via USB) and into
which you plug the output from your stereo. The system lets you capture, clean
up, and burn records, cassettes, TV or radio and you can output the
newly-created digital data as a wave file, Windows Media, or MP3.
I have no place to put a turntable in my current home theater, nor
do I miss it 99.5 per cent of the time. But I have an old stereo receiver that
Ive kept around to boost the height of my bedroom TV stand. So I hauled
it into the spare room, hooked up my old turntable (see, it pays to never throw
anything out!) and patched it into my notebook computer. And Presto!
So what if I cant see the TV over my paunch when Im in
Capturing the music is easy. You just run a set of conventional
patch cords from the stereo receiver to the Instant Music, then run a USB cable
to the computer. The software lets you listen to the turntable through the
PCs speakers, so you dont even need speakers hooked into the source
stereo and, in fact, youre only using the stereo as a preamplifier and
Its a wonderful solution.
Once you have the music on your hard drive you can process it,
removing pops, clicks and other record stuff. It works well and is very easy,
but I noticed that sometimes it made the final product sound a bit sterile,
which caused me to rethink some of the cussing I had aimed at those
thin-sounding CDs back in the old days of digital.
In the end, I found that on average if you used the minimum
cleanup settings you got a pretty good compromise.
Heres a list of the ins and outs of Instant Music.
Audio IN: RCA Stereo (Left and Right); SPDIF (Toslink)
Audio Out: RCA Stereo (Left and Right); SPDIF (Toslink)
Power: USB bus power (no external supply needed)
USB: USB 1.1 and
USB 2.0 compatible as a Full Speed Device
Sampling Rate: 8, 11, 16, 22.05, 32 44.1 or 48 kHz
THD+N = 0.01%
- SNR= 89dB
Playback: 16 bit
- Sampling Rate -
32, 44.1, 48 kHz
- THD+N = 0.005%
- SNR = 96dB
The final step in the process is burning the music onto a CD, and
Instant Music comes with Nero software that works well and is easy to use. I
had trouble figuring out how to add my own chapter stops without breaking the
entire album side into individual files, but its easy enough to divvy up
the big audio file into track-sized ones anyway.
And now I have some wonderful-sounding compact discs of some
albums I thought Id never play again.
I have to admit, though, its kind of funny listening to a CD
and hearing that distinctive needle in the groove sound, or thumps
from the speakers as vibrations in the room were transmitted through the needle
and recorded onto my hard drive.
I also used the Instant Music-captured files in
Magix Audio Cleaning Lab and it worked really well.
Audio Cleaning Lab is like the Instant Music software on steroids, and
its easy to put chapter stops wherever you want.
And heres a cute idea that helps make burning old albums
even more fun:
Verbatim has been making blank recordable media for years. I
remember their floppy disks well and I recently used some of their blank
DVDs in testing Freecoms DVD burner.
But perhaps the niftiest or silliest, depending on your
disposition blank media Verbatim has come up with is the Digital Vinyl
CD-R Metal line of blank compact discs. These disks look like records,
including gold and platinum ones, from days gone by. While the business side of
the disks is highly conventional, the top or label side of these 80 minute
discs features fake grooves like youd have found on those golden oldie
records that are so hopelessly obsolete.
Naturally, these disks carry a premium over the bulk blank
CDs you can buy just about anywhere these days. But if you want to
impress your friends with how youve replaced your vinyl with, well,
vinyl, this is a pretty neat way to do it.
They say everything old is new again, but with these cute discs
from Verbatim, maybe they should also be saying that everything new is old
again at least when it comes to helping boomers burn Beatles.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think