To convert LP records to MP3s or CDs, you'll need a stereo with a working turntable and phono preamp you can plug into your PC via the Mic or line-in jacks, or a USB turntable with a built-in phono amp. You'll also need software designed to convert analog audio to digital and clean it up by removing ticks, pops, and surface noise. We've tried many such tools, yet we've often gone back to Golden Records Vinyl to CD Converter from NCH Software, which also converts tapes and other analog audio sources.
Before installing and setting up Golden Records, make sure your turntable is working, since you'll need your needle to set the sound floor to compensate for the wow, flutter, and rumble that color analog audio. Following the setup wizard, we set minimal signal processing options. The biggest drawback of LP converters is a tendency to do too much, like starting a new track during soft passages or distorting the signal by overprocessing it, so use the filters with care. We opted to record songs as WAV files, which are easier to edit and sound better than MP3s, though we could also specify direct conversion to MP3s, burning to CDs, and other options. The program offers a lot of flexibility for accommodating the widely varying sound quality of LP records. There's even an option to record 33 rpm disks at 45 rpm and 45s at 78 rpm; not for the "Chipmunks" effect" but for fast duplication with normal playback. The main interface is a simple, efficient list view of converted files, while Recording Sessions are managed by another dialog resembling a media player interface. Wizard and Options icons on the main view's toolbar let us reconfigure the software at will.
We transcribed several LP records ranging from audiophile quality to barely playable with Golden Records, achieving excellent, archival-quality results each time. The auto track splitter worked fine on scratchy old platters, though recording tracks in the highest possible quality and then splitting and converting them manually using a WAV editor proved the best method for better-quality discs. The sound files produced by Golden Records Vinyl to CD Converter sounded great, whatever the source.
Editors' note: This is a review of the full version of Golden Records Vinyl to CD Converter 1.72. The trial version is limited to 14 days.