February 28, 2007
Salvaging my lost music

I still have a fair number of old-fashioned record albums. None of them have been played in at least ten years, which is approximately when I last had a working turntable. Some of these albums have CD equivalents in my collection, but most don't, and a couple may not ever have been released on CD.

I would dearly love to convert these suckers to MP3s, so they can be burned to CD and ripped to my iPod. I see that this is technically possible, though of course I have neither the equipment, the time, or the confidence to try it. I'm sure I could pay someone to do it, but if that guy's rates are any indicator, it won't be cheap. Which isn't surprising, given that it's got to take about an hour per album, since the damn things have to be played in their entirity to get everything into digital format, then cleaned up to remove the popping noises, but it is discouraging. Doing all fifty or so remaining albums would run into some serious money. Of course, finding CD replacements isn't necessarily going to be any cheaper. I suppose I could just shop the iTunes store for individual songs, but that seems like a daunting and time-consuming task, and foists a bunch of DRM-infected music on me, which limits my future MP3 player choices.

So it's a bit of a dilemma. What would you do in my shoes? I'd appreciate any feedback.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 28, 2007 to Music

If I were you? I'd ask Joe Linbeck what to do.

For 50 records, I'd look into a USB turntable and a copy of SOAP.

Posted by: Michael Croft on February 28, 2007 7:35 AM

Or, if you can't be bothered to do it yourself, I'll do it for $5 each. Plus, I'm local!

Posted by: joewhite on February 28, 2007 9:06 AM


My sister bought my dad some sort of usb turntable that allows him to record his old LPs directly to a computer.

I don't fully understand how it does this or how long it takes to record an album, but I'll get some more info on it and let you know.

Posted by: Cincinnatus on February 28, 2007 9:27 AM

I used these folks to convert some cassettes, they did a great job:


Posted by: Skye on February 28, 2007 10:29 AM

I also have a number of albums and have been considering getting the Ion iTTUSB turntable. It hooks directly to your computer through a USB port, no other hardware is needed. The reviews I have read say it is the easiest to use of the several USB turntable out there. It is available at Circuit City and Best Buy as well as online. Link:


Posted by: Bill K on February 28, 2007 10:34 AM

I used these folks to convert some cassettes, they did a great job:


Posted by: Skye on February 28, 2007 10:38 AM

I'm aware of the UBS turntables - that first link talks about them - but I'm not sure about buying something like that for a one-time task. Plus, I'm not sure how well I can do this task, since my home PC has stopped playing sounds.

Joe - I will send you an email. That may be the best offer I get this week. Thanks!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 28, 2007 10:42 AM

As one who is of the opinion that no great bands were formed after 1992, I've hit a wall of sorts for what I can find on CD to nourish the musicoholic within me. As such, I've taken to scouring Infinite Record Convention shows for their more ample vinyl offerings. That makes a USB turntable something of an option for me since I've not had a functioning turntable for at least a decade. Since I see it as a slightly recurring need and a luxury that suits my lifestyle a bit snuggly, it's worth it to me. Feel free to inquire about a partnership since I may ultimately be sharing it with others in a similar situation.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on February 28, 2007 11:15 AM

Hey Kuff, we're about the same age and in the same boat. I have probably 300-400 albums gathering dust in a closet sitting in old orange crates. Remember when oranges came in wooden crates that were the perfect dorm room album storage container? Every dorm room I remember seemed to have a stereo system and album storage built out of some combination of orange crates, stolen milk crates, concrete blocks, and pine boards. And we had MONSTER speakers that you could turn out on the windowsill and provide music for all the endless ultimate frisbee and football games on the lawn.

Of what I have on vinyl it is a lot of Springsteen, Neil Young, the Who, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, the Clash, The Police, Ramones, Yes, Talking Heads, early U2, and a whole lot of stuff I don't even want to admit to.

The only albums that I've duplicated on CD so far are the Neil Young and Springsteen stuff. They rest I haven't played in 20 years.

I still do have a nice NAD turntable that I could pull out but I really don't have anyplace to put it. My music system has evolved to where I have a surround sound receiver and DVD player attached to a 5-1 speaker system in the living room and I play both CDs and DVDs with the same DVD player. There's no room in my TV cabinet for a turntable, much less album storage and I don't even know if my Onkyo home theater receiver has a phono input on the back.

I don't know why I'm even keeping all those old albums at this point. Perhaps wishful vanity that my kids might want them some day or they might be worth something. Is there even a market in used vinyl these days?

Personally my music tastes are evolved to the point that very little of my old vinyl is actually stuff that I would listen to on an iPod or CD. So I'm not stressing about it like you are.

I expect that there are hundreds of thousands of us 40+ types who are still hoarding vinyl for reasons we aren't quite sure of. I still remember how fast the change happened. I graduated from college in 1986 and at that point vinyl was starting to wind down and CD players were getting more common, but still expensive. Most people actually listed to cassette tapes made from their or friends albums because they were easier and usable in the car or walkman.

The record stores still had lots of records but rapidly growing CD collections. And every college town was filled with used record stores. There were at least a half-dozen around the Univ. of Washingon. Then I went into the Peace Corps bringing with me two shoeboxes full of homemade cassette tapes and spent 2 years trading tapes around Guatemala with other volunteers. In Guatemala every market had cassette tape venders with all sorts of black-market copies of Latin and American pop music. You could find some pretty eclectic stuff. When I got back to Seattle in 1989 I was shocked to find that record stores no longer even sold records. It was 100% CDs. At that point I bought a CD player and never looked back.

By the way, I have a fairly high-end stereo system entirely boxed up in the attic. NAD receiver and turntable. Sony tape deck, Mission speakers, and Onkyo CD changer. I probably spend $2 grand on this stuff 25 years ago. I'm wondering if there's even any value to any of it anymore. Anyone know? Does this stuff go on ebay?

Posted by: Kent from Waco on February 28, 2007 11:39 AM

I can't see buying a turntable with USB just to convert them either.

There's got to be a way to co-op or share such things. I smell a social networking site centered around sharing USB turntables. Aging audiophiles, unite!

Posted by: ttrentham on February 28, 2007 3:11 PM

There are a number of vinyl message boards/forums on the net, most of which have buying and selling topics. Google for:

Record Collectors Guild
Vinyl Engine
Audio Karma

I tried those three to successfully sell/give away an old Sansui 5500 amp/receiver last year.

I've got 300 albums I've had since the 1970s and I'm still trying to rehab my old Pioneer PL50A turntable to play them. I did buy a new receiver to replace the Sansui.

I've looked at the Ion USB table. I want something which will burn to CD, not to mp3 format, though, so I've not taken the leap. Money is also a problem, of course.

Posted by: Linkmeister on February 28, 2007 5:50 PM