Saturday, April 7, 2012

Converting 45RPM Records to MP3 Format

We have a number of records, mostly 45 RPM singles. Some were bought for our Seeburg Jukebox  which holds 80 records. Some my wife owned and has kept since she was young.

I wanted to convert them to computer format. Earlier this year I looked at USB turntables and bought a Denon DP-200USB. It was an average priced unit, with some cheaper and some more expensive. It supports 33-1/3 and 45 RPM and 7 and 12 inch record sizes (both set independently, so you can play 33-1/3 RPM 7 inch records, for example).

A nice feature is that the turntable records directly to a USB key, so doesn't need a computer connection or any particular software to transfer records to MP3 format.

USB Turntable Converting 45s to MP3 Files
It came with some Windows-based software but I decided to do all my work under Linux, which is my normal desktop environment (usually Ubuntu Linux running the KDE desktop).

After converting the files to MP3 format, they need some editing on the computer. I used the Audacity program to do this. Typically what is needed is to remove any extra silence at the beginning and end of the recording. A few records, such as children's stories, may continue the same material on both sides, and for these it is ideal to combine both sides into a single MP3 file.

Here are screen shots of Audacity before and after editing a track to remove extra silence.

Editing Raw MP3 File with Audacity

After Removing Extra Silence

There are effects in Audacity that can be used to change the sound, but I didn't use any of them. If a record skips it is even possible to edit it out, but it is a little tedious. The most useful effect would be a filter to remove pops and scratches but I haven't found an automated filter that is particularly good at this.

The final step is to add MP3 tags to identify the song and artist. I tried the software that came with the turntable that can do this using the Gracenote service. I didn't have much luck with it, it was unable to identify most tracks, probably because their song database is mostly made from CD tracks and not 45s.

I ended up adding the tags manually from within the Amarok music player. The TrackID program on my Android cell phone was able to identify most tracks, along with the odd Google search using some of the song lyrics.

Audacity MP3 Tags Dialog

I copied just over 200 45 RPM records, mostly just the A sides. I have a total of just over 2000 tracks in my music collection, all of which came from records or CDs that I own. What is amazing is that these can all be easily stored on one tiny 16GB USB key, below:

A Tiny USB Key

I typically have this in my Car's music player, which can play MP3 files on a USB key.

USB Key in Car Audio System 

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