Audiophiles, collectors and hipsters have resurrected vinyl from the format graveyard and have given it a new lease on life. For almost a decade, the world has seen vinyl record sales steadily increase. In 2016 the UK saw vinyl sales surpass digital music sales, marking a bona fide vinyl comeback similar to Elvis in 1968.
The appeal of collecting vinyl has a lot to do with the ritual of listening to it. The extra effort that is required can make fans feel more connected to their musical heroes. While there is an undeniable appeal to owning something tangible in a largely digital world, vinyl does pose a significant problem: portability.
Fortunately, there is a solution. And no, it isn’t Audio Technica’s Soundburger from the 1980s. With a little effort you can take your vinyl collection with you anywhere in the form of modern digital files like MP3s. Whether you want to be able to listen to your vinyl on the go or simply want to make a backup, there are a number of “noob-friendly” ways to convert your vinyl to MP3 (or any other digital format).
Note: The methods listed below of converting vinyl to MP3 aren’t the only ways to do it. In fact, many will tell you that there are better ways of conversion that result in superior sound quality. For the purposes of this article we will be covering the easiest, fastest ways to convert your vinyl to MP3.
Vinyl records are analog. In order to convert your vinyl to MP3, you’ll need to change the analog to a series of 1s and 0s. The easiest way to do this is with a USB turntable. USB turntables have all of the necessary components to perform the conversion built in to one convenient package. This means you can spend more time digitizing your vinyl rather than configuring an existing setup.
As their name implies, you can connect the turntable to your PC or Mac via USB. Then run software on your computer to enable you to essentially record your vinyl into a digital medium. Many of the USB turntables available come bundled with this software.
Be aware that if you want individual tracks, you will have to create them manually. You can do this in one of two ways: inn real time as the record is being recorded to your computer or afterwards using audio editing software to chop up the tracks.
Be aware that many of the USB turntables on the market are of the budget variety. They will do the job, but for the discerning listener, or someone who doesn’t want to ruin their vinyl, there are better options. Of course, better quality USB turntables means shelling out more cash, but you get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a USB turntable that will do a good job without breaking the bank, consider the Audio-Technica AT-LP60.
Existing Turntable + Audio Interface
If you already have a turntable, you probably don’t want to buy another one just to make some MP3s. If you want to use your existing turntable, you’ll need something that can capture the sound and convert it into a digital format. This is where an analog-to-digital converter comes in. Instead of plugging the AUX cables into your stereo equipment, you’ll plug them into this little box. This analog-to-digital converter box acts as an interface between your turntable and your computer. Essentially, this allows your existing turntable to have the same functionality as the USB turntables mentioned above.
Once you have your turntable connected to your computer, you’ll need software to do the conversion. Regardless of your OS, snag a copy of Audacity. It is free, open source, and the go-to software for this sort of thing. Mac owners can also use Garageband which comes packaged with macOS.
USB audio interfaces can vary in price and quality dramatically. We recommend doing your research before purchasing. However, if you’re looking for something cheap that will get the job done, have a look at the Behringer U-Phono UFO202. Finally, be aware that like USB turntables, you will have to create individual tracks manually.
Note: This method assumes that your turntable runs through a pre-amp (or has one built-in). Turntables produce a PHONO output signal. A preamp converts this signal to a Line Level/AUX signal. If you’re using an existing setup that plays through speakers, you’re good to go. If you are buying everything from scratch, a preamp is absolutely necessary.
The Vinyl Recorder App
The Vinyl Recorder app was designed to make converting vinyl to MP3 as painless as possible. The app aims to automate some of the most tedious aspects of conversion, namely chopping up your vinyl recordings into individual tracks.
In order to use the app, you must have one of the setups listed above. Instead of connecting the USB to your computer, connect it to your Android phone (sorry iOS) via an OTG cable. Then proceed to record your vinyl in the same way you would with your PC – simply lower the needle and tap the record button in the app.
What sets the app apart is that the app will automatically identify each song via the Gracenote online database. The app then adds the information curated from Gracenote to each individual track. This includes artist name, song title, album title, album artwork, and genre tags. This ensures that all of your digital songs are properly tagged so that they are recognized in computers, media players, etc. The only downside to the app is that there is a service fee; however, it is significantly cheaper than buying a digital copy!
Have you ever converted vinyl to Mp3? If so, what is your preferred method of digitizing your collection? Let us know in the comments!