Today I assembled what I believe to be one of the simplest methods for digitally recording old LP records. The above photo shows the hardware required which is described in the steps below. The cost for these various components is fairly high, but the quality of recording is quite good.
1. Audio-Technica turn table, model AT-PL120. This is a special turntable that has clean line output which means it doesn’t need special grounding and shouldn’t produce a hum or other noise when you are recording to a computer or digital recording device.
2. Audio adapter cable. – The turn table has audio output in the form of two male RCA plugs designed to plug directly into a stereo system which would have two RCA female jacks. The plugs are red and white to indicate the right (red) and left (white) audio channels for stereo sound. The audio adapter allows the two male RCA plugs from the record player to be converted into a single stereo 1/8” phono plug. This is the size needed for most computer line input jacks as well as most small digital recording devices. It is partially seen in the photo above on the lower left of the iPod where the Belkin TuneTalk is connected.
3. Belkin TuneTalk. The iPod requires a third party adapter (such as the Belkin TuneTalk) to provide audio recording. The Belkin TuneTalk plugs into the base of the iPod (the docking connector) and provides the following: two microphones for high quality stereo recording, a record start/stop button, a 1/8” stereo jack for microphone/line input, an autogain switch to adjust between microphone and line input, and a
5. USB-A to USB-Mini-B adapter/cable. The USB-A plug is the flat rectangular plug that normally plugs into the back or front of a computer. The USB-Mini-B plug is what plugs into many smaller devices like cameras. It is used to conserve space. The Belkin TuneTalk has a USB-Mini-B female jack that, when connected, allows the iPod to be powered and/or charged. This is very convenient since some recording adapters for the iPod don’t include this and it would result in draining the battery entirely. More about USB can be found on the Wikipedia website. This cable is partially visible on the lower left of the iPod where the Belkin TuneTalk is connected.
6. Apple iPod USB power adapter. This is a power transformer that has a female jack which accepts a USB-A plug such as the one on the cable mentioned in #5 above. The cable can plug into the power adapter and then connect to the iPod to provide additional power for the iPod if needed.
7. Audacity – audio editing software.
The above components are found on the Audio Conversion page of the Resources for Life store. They are listed on the page in the order that the music or audio will travel from the record player, to the adapter cord, to the converter, and into the iPod. The total cost for an 80 gigabyte capacity system is about $630.
The Belkin TuneTalk has an AutoGain switch. When this switch is set to the off position, the TuneTalk can receive a line input such as the line level signal provided by the Audio-Technica AT-PL120 turn table.
The Belkin TuneTalk can accommodate a small USB cable connection which means that the iPod can be powered by an external power source, allowing it to run for extended periods of time while recording.
For additional editing of your recorded audio, an audio editing program such as Audacity can be used. This would be helpful when identifying and independently saving audio tracks from an album.
Assembly and Procedure:
1. Setup turn table / record player.
2. Connect turn table / record player to the audio adapter cable.
3. Connect audio adapter cable to Belkin TuneTalk.
4. Connect Belkin TuneTalk to iPod and ensure that it is set for auto gain off (line in mode).
5. Begin recording on the Belkin TuneTalk.
6. Gently set the phonograph needle down on the record at or just before the point where you would like to begin recording.
7. Monitor the progress and stop recording at the appropriate time.
8. Connect the iPod to your Apple or Windows computer. It should be configured to allow for hard drive usage which means the files on the iPod will be accessible to you once it is plugged in. Find the “Recordings” folder. The files will be in WAV format and their size will be about 600 megabytes per hour of recording.
9. If desired, use an audio editing program like Audacity to further edit the audio.
* Note that for illustrative purposes, the photo above shows the iPod sitting on the turn table. The hard drive in the iPod makes noise and has a slight vibration which can easily transfer to the phonograph needle. So, it is best to place the iPod on a separate surface while performing the audio transfer.