Music: Golden Oldies to CD
For music buffs like me, unwilling to part with vinyl collections yet frustrated by the lack of an easy way to convert those old-style disks to digital formats, a gadget that makes that transfer easy would be a guaranteed hit. In the quest for such a user-friendly solution, I tried out two new products designed expressly for this purpose, as well as a professional service that will do the job for you. My chosen LP s: a '60s relic, the Mamas and the Papas' Farewell to the First Golden Era, and a classical gem, Jean-Pierre Rampal's 20th-Century Music for Flute .
I began with the budget-priced ADS Technologies' Instant Music box ($49), a slim device slightly larger than an iPod. I installed the software on my PC and connected the gadget to both the computer and my record player--after lugging the record player from one room to another in order to link it to my desktop. All I had to do now was play disk jockey and follow the directions that popped on my computer screen, and-- voila! --I was promised digital music files I could then burn onto a CD.
It would have been easy if there had been better directions for using the software's overwhelming number of options. I spent two frustrating evenings and wasted half-a-dozen blank CD s before calling tech support. I was told to change one of the settings on my computer control panel (a step not mentioned in the on-screen directions). With that issue resolved, I successfully transferred the LP s.
By contrast, transferring on the large-boom-box-size TEAC GF-350 turntable CD recorder ($449) was a cinch. The all-in-one unit plays vinyl albums and CD s, contains a radio, and comes with a remote control. Push a button on the GF-350, and you can burn a CD directly from the record you're spinning.
But there's a catch. Even though I had used digital audio CD s (the unit won't record on regular computer CD s), my newly minted disks would not play back on any other CD player in my home. The trouble, I learned from tech support (again), was the advanced age of my CD players; only newer models, less than three or four years old, could recognize the newer audio CD technology. In addition, I was told, some digital audio disks work better than others. Sure enough, when I switched disk brands--from Sony to TDK--the disks were playable on other machines and sounded fine.
The easiest option--and the priciest, depending on how many albums you wish to convert--is to delegate the job to a professional. Ferris Mastering transferred my two LP s with courteous efficiency (one to two weeks for most orders, or two days with expedited service). For a few dollars more, they also filtered out three decades' worth of needle scratches, pops, and rumbles. Was it worth the $22.50 per disk ($15 without the filtering service), not counting return shipping? All I can say is that the resulting tracks sounded so clear and crisp that you'd hardly guess the record's--or its owner's--age.