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Which is appropriate equipment to record albums on CD or computer

14 years ago

I posted this on the electronics forum, but got no response. This questions really straddles computers and electronics, so I hope it's okay that I repost it here. I'm also hoping to have an answer to this in time to plan my purchase of a laptop while the back to school specials are available.

I hope I can articulate this clearly. I have endless albums (maybe 10 feet long) - which I'd like to get rid of, after I record some of them on my computer. I'm gathering there are several ways to do this - and I'd love to hear any relatively easy ways I don't know about.

Our audio system is old (my husband got it well before we met 14 years ago), but probably very good for it's time. Pioneer turntable (PL-12D) - with red and white cables running out from the back (not removeable - no jacks to plug into). Onkyo TX 36 amplifier. On the back there are phono in jacks (red and white). Then there's a section for Tape 1 (which has red and white jacks marked record - and another pair of red and white jacks marked play/cd). There is a similar set of input/output jacks under Tape 2. I'm not sure if record is the same as line in - or line out - or if play means one of those.

We also got a JVC cd recorder (probably 5-7 years ago). We were able to make a few recordings of albums (but could never get the process to work for recording from tape). Last time we looked at this recorder, we were overwhelmed by the technology.

Now I know little more - and technology is more advanced and complicated. I want to get the albums recorded. And I have 2 possibly mutually exclusive goals. I do not want to compress the recordings and lose audio data (this project is for my husband and mother - who have wonderful musical ears, though no tech talent - and me - who has a smidge of musical ear and a little more courage to try the technology). Yet I would love to get this music digitized on my computer (with the option to convert formats and load some on my ipod).

One thing I could do is dust off the cd recorder manual and learn how to use it to record the albums on cd. Am I correct that this would be a lossless recording Is this the way to record the full range of audio information on these albums? And then I suppose I could load those cd's on my computer and convert the ones I want to either mp4 or apple lossless format to get it on my ipod.

The other possibility is to record directly from the phonograph into a computer (and just burn cd's of the ones I want on cd). I know I need an amplifier or preamp. Could I use our current Onkyo amplifier and somehow run those red and white cables into a computer or something intermediate that would run into the computer? If I did this, would it be losing musical data - or is there a way to set it to not compress it. (As a side note, it might be nice to use software that removes any cracks and hisses).

Or perhaps I should buy a digital turntable and just plug it into my desktop?

Then the next set of questions - what input jacks do I need on my computer to do this? If I use my current stereo system, I am not going to want to move the whole thing upstairs to my desktop - or move the desktop down to the stereo - or run cables up two floors and run back and forth to coordinate recording. So if I use my current stereo, I think I'll need to record to a laptop. And I'm about to buy a new laptop (and take advantage of back to school specials) - but don't know what inputs I need on a laptop. I haven't found any with line-in audio. Do I need a separate sound card - or can I do this with an integrated sound card. (Oh - and I don't really have any idea what I'm talking about with sound cards - just dimly remembering hearing about them. I could use some enlightment about sound cards as well. Does the quality effect the quality of my recording?).

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