A friend in New Hampshire recently asked me how to record LPs directly to CD. My answer was “don’t.” By recording directly to a CD, you may find yourself retracing your steps later, ripping the same tracks again and importing them to a digital library to play in a portable device. Although you very well may want to burn everything to CD so you can listen to it in the car or keep a backup, you should consider importing your tracks into your iTunes library first.
However, just as you don’t want to go right to full-quality CDs, nor do you want to simply save everything as MP3s. The best solution is to save your master AIFF files on an external drive, or to archive them on a DVD or other high-capacity disc, and to also save individual tracks to iTunes. While MP3 or AAC is dandy, Apple Lossless will give you better quality without sacrificing too much disc space. Better yet, since it’s a lossless format, unlike MP3 or AAC, you can always expand it later and get the exact qual-ity of the original AIFF recording.
The RIAA curve
If you want to import audio directly from a turntable, you need to make sure you’re cool with the RIAA. No, I’m not talking about copyright violation (it’s generally considered fair use to convert vinyl you own to digital files)—rather, you need to make sure that the audio has its RIAA curve corrected. Records are made with low frequencies reduced and high ones enhanced.
When they’re played back through a phono amplifier (some phono amps are built into turntables or AV receivers, but typically they’re not), this frequency is adjusted and corrected. In order for you to capture audio from a record, you need to make sure the signal has been RIAA-corrected first. A USB turntable will take care of this for you, as will Griffin’s iMic. Otherwise, you’re going to need a preamp.
[Mathew Honan is a contributing editor at Wired magazine and an avid record collector.]