MAKING DIGITAL MUSIC

Audito Technica's "AT-LP2D-USB LP-to-Digital Recording System"

Audio Technica's "LP-to-Digital Recording System"

It started on eBay. Joy bought what she thought was a long-lost Simon and Garfunkel CD on eBay but it turned out to be an old vinyl record. We had no way to play that, so we bought a phonograph.

You might think these players weren’t made anymore – and for a few years you never saw them advertised. But they are still made, and they’re much cheaper than they were back in the days when high fidelity equipment was all the rage. We started out by buying one from IONaudio.com. It promised to convert any old vinyl record to a digital file that could be turned into a CD, but it was awkward to use and the quality was mediocre.  We gave that away and bought a $130 Audio-Technica “LP-to-Digital Recording System.”  Like the earlier ION player, it plays records, but the conversion to digital is much easier.

Once you have a record player, you have to find some records. We got a great collection by buying them for $1 each from local thrift stores. Ironically, we don’t even care about digitizing them anymore, since the music sounds better on the turntable.

It turns out we’re not alone in the preference for old vinyl records instead of CDs.  Many major recording artists, included folk-rock star Bob Dylan, have complained about the “cold sound” of CDs and DVDs. There is an ongoing revival of vinyl record sales. About two million new vinyl records were sold in 2009, an increase of 35 percent according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Another problem with music on CDs and DVDs is that not all earlier recordings have been converted to digital. There is a lost treasure trove of great records, like Harry Belafonte’s ”Carnegie Hall” recording and Alan Sherman’s hilarious folk song parodies in “My Son the Nut.”

The AARP magazine recently published a partial list of old records that never made it to CD, and you can find it at aarpmagazine.org/lifestyle/vinyl. Unfortunately, you just get a 40 second album sample with some commentary; you have to find the records yourself.  Be aware that much of the commentary on this site is dead wrong.  For example, the famous “My Son the Nut” record by Allan Sherman is said to be unavailable except as a $138 boxed set of CDs. But we found you can get it as an MP3 download at Amazon.com’s MP3 store for $10. You can get individual songs like “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” or “The Painless Dentist” for 99 cents.

The newest version of the Audio Technica turntable can handle old 78 RPM records, 33 RPM (LPs) and the seldom seen 45s. It’s more rugged than the older version and has special features for Disk Jockeys. It’s $229 from audio-technica.com.

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