Vinyl to Digital, with éloquence

Blow the cobwebs off your records one last time...

You've searched every CD bin in every music store known to man, scoured the darkest corners of the internet, and still can't find that elusive digital recording of your favourite LP.

Frustrated at not being able to take your record collection with you on your daily jog in the park? Besides having enough music to last 1000 jogs in the park, you'd look pretty daft dragging crate-loads of vinyl behind you.

Whether you're after a digital version of a favourite LP, mobilising your record collection with your iPod or other MP3 player, or simply would like to digitally preserve your entire library of vinyl for eternity; the digital to analogue converter (DAC) module for the éloquence 150i and éloquence 250i integrated amplifiers makes digitising your vinyl a painless process, while providing CD-quality recording.

The little-known feature of the éloquence DAC is the ability to record to your computer via USB, allowing digital recording of any selected input and supporting sample rates up to 48kHz with a maximum word length of 16-bits – ideal for transferring your precious vinyl collection to digital, or recording a radio show that you would like to listen to again or share with friends.

We touch-on digital recording via USB in the éloquence DAC owners manual – although, can you believe we omitted any instructions on how to setup the computer, not to mention the process of recording your source material.

So here's a brief how-to to get you recording to your computer in no time.

These instructions outline how to record with a PC and Windows XP. Sorry Mac users, you will have to wait until the next instalment.

Righto, lets get on with it...

1. Connect Your Amplifier to the Computer

Connect your éloquence integrated amplifier to the computer using the supplied USB cable.

Windows should automatically detect that the amplifier has been connected and change the audio settings accordingly, but in typical Microsoft fashion this may not be the case and it pays to double check.

Open 'Sounds and Audio Devices Properties' (Start->Control Panel->Sounds and Audio Devices), select the 'Audio' tab and make sure that the Sound playback and Sound recording default devices are set to 'USB Audio Codec'.

Sounds and Audio Devices Properties

2. Download and Install Audacity

It seems logical that it would be easiest to use the sound recorder which comes bundled with Windows XP, but by default it only records 60 seconds and the workaround to increase this length requires it's own how-to.

So we've opted to use the awesome sound recording and editing application Audacity – which, by the way, is free making it even tastier. Download Audacity, then run the setup and follow the instructions to install it.

Mac users with a keen eye will notice that a Mac OS X version of Audacity is available for download. You may follow these how-to instructions to record to your Mac, but they are targeted specifically for Windows – a dedicated Mac how-to is to follow.

3. Launch Audacity

Launch the Audacity application, but before beginning a recording project you must set the preferences to ensure the sound source and playback options are set correctly, as well as the sample rate and word length.

4. Set Audacity Playback and Source Preferences

Now you'll tell Audacity which device to play back your audio and which to record it from.

Open 'Audacity Preferences' (Edit->Preferences or Ctrl-P) and select the 'Audio I/O' tab.

From the device drop-down list under Playback select 'USB Audio Codec' to route the output sound through your éloquence amplifier.

Select 'USB Audio Codec' from the Recording device drop-down list to record sound from your éloquence amplifier. Select '2 (Stereo)' from the Channels drop-down list to record a stereo source, alternatively you can select '1 (Mono)' if you wish to record a mono source.

Leave the other checkboxes unchecked.

Audacity Audio I/O Preferences

5. Set Audacity Sound Quality Preferences

This is where you'll set the quality of the audio. The higher the sample rate, the better the quality, although the file size will be larger.

Select the 'Quality' tab of the Audacity Preferences.

For CD quality sound, select '44100 Hz' from the Default Sample Rate drop-down list and '16-bit' from the Default Sample Format drop-down list.

The other settings can be left at their factory defaults.

Press OK to save the preferences.

Audacity Audio Quality Preferences

6. Cue Your Source Material

Now that you are all set to digitally record via USB you need to get your source material ready.

Cue your source, but don't let it play just yet, and select the respective source input on your éloquence amplifier. There's no need to worry about the volume setting, because it has no impact on the record level.

7. Record Baby, Record

Now it's time to hit the Record button in Audacity and set your source material to play. Don't worry about the recorded silence or the needle dropping before the audio starts, we'll delete that later.

Audacity Start Recording

You should see a real-time representation of the recorded audio track appear in the Audacity application.

Once the source material has finished, hit the Stop button in Audacity to stop recording. Don't worry about recorded silence after the source material finishes, as we'll delete this later too.

Audacity Stop Recording

Now you can fit the waveform to the window so you can see the entire recorded audio clip.

Audacity Fit Recorded Clip to Window

8. Save Your Audacity Recording Project

Now it's time to save your progress, so you don't lose your recorded audio if something goes wrong when you delete any unwanted audio at the start and end of the clip.

Save your Audacity project (File->Save Project As), press OK when the warning dialog appears indicating that Audacity project files cannot be opened by other programs (we'll cover exporting audio files soon) and save the file in a location of your choice.

Audacity Save Warning

9. Delete Unwanted Audio

This is where you delete the silence and any unwanted audio from the start and end of your clip.

To delete the unwanted audio from the start of your clip, you need to zoom in and select the audio you would like to delete. Using the Selection Tool, roughly click a few seconds after the source material starts and drag to the start of the clip to select.

Audacity Select Start of Audio

Now fit this selection to the window by pressing the 'Fit selection in window' button on the toolbar.

Audacity Fit Start of Clip Selection to Window

Zoom in on this selection by clicking on the Amplitude scale a few times, until the beginning of the source material is easily discernable.

Audacity Zoom in to Start of Clip Selection

Now set the cursor at the end of the silence by clicking the waveform just before the source material starts. If there is a sharp spike in the waveform and a little bit more silence afterwards, it's likely to be the needle drop and you should set the cursor after it.

Audacity Set Cursor to Start of Audio

Select the silence and unwanted audio by selecting from the start of the clip to the cursor (Edit->Select->Start to Cursor).

Audacity Select Start of Clip to Cursor

Now you can delete the selected silence and unwanted audio (Edit->Delete or Ctrl-K).

Audacity Delete Silence at Start of Clip

Fit the project in the window to see the entire clip by pressing the toolbar button.

Audacity Fit Edited Clip in Window

Repeat the process for the silence at the end of the clip, except select cursor to end of clip (Edit->Select->Cursor to End) when selecting the silence to delete.

Audacity Delete Silence at End of Clip

Now fit the project to the window and right-click on the amplitude axis until you see the waveform in it's entirety. Voila! There's your digitally recorded and edited audio clip.

Audacity Edited Audio Clip

10. Export Your Audio Clip

Now that you have your edited audio clip you're ready to export it as a file format that your iPod, MP3 player or other digital audio device can play.

Audacity can export audio projects as uncompressed audio (wav) and lossy compression formats MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (mp3) and Ogg Vorbis (ogg).

Audacity relies on the LAME library to encode mp3 files, which needs to be downloaded and installed (we'll cover this at a later date) and the Ogg Vorbis format is not yet widely accepted by digital audio devices. So we won't be using these formats, instead we'll focus on the uncompressed audio format, which incidentally has the best sound quality.

Export your audio project as uncompressed audio (File->Export as WAV) and save the file in a location of your choice.

WHEW! We made it. Now, all that's left to do is test the exported file with your iPod, MP3 player or other digital audio device. Good luck...

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