Software turns records and tapes into CDs
By Ric Manning © The Louisville Courier-Journal 4/10/99
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One of the problems with new technology is, it tends to leave behind a lot of old technology. CD Recorder turns analog relics into digital sound. When camcorders and VCRs arrived, we scrambled
to transfer old home movies from film to tape. Digital photography is getting so popular that many people have begun converting their photo albums to electronic images. Now we're starting to see some options for moving our analog music collections into the digital age.
The shelves and cabinets around my stereo system would be a good place to start. I have a wall of vinyl albums that could be replaced by a couple of shelves of CDs. Boxes of cassette tapes include many live concerts and radio broadcasts that I recorded and tapes of my father's trio that he recorded in the 1960s and '70s.
Dig deep enough and you'll find a reel-to-reel tape of my high school's production of "Brigadoon."
A new program called DART CD-Recorder has the ability to turn all of those analog relics into crisp, clean digital sound. It even promises to remove some of the hiss from that cheap tape I used to record a Phil Ochs concert and take some of the clicks and pops out of dad's old 78's.
The program for Windows 95 or 98 costs about $50 from Dartech Inc. of Minneapolis. A free demo version is available from the company's Web site: www.dartpro.com.
In addition to the software, you'll need a Pentium processor and sound card in your PC, a CD-ROM drive that can record discs and plenty of hard-drive space.
Plug your stereo or tape player into the input jack of your computer's sound card and DART CD-R captures the incoming sound and saves it as a .WAV file. That's where the drive space comes in. A two-minute song will create a file of about 10 megabytes, depending on how you set the sampling
rate. The higher the rate, the better the quality -- and the bigger the file.
A resample option allows you to record a 78-rpm record by playing it on a 33-rpm turntable. The computer then adjusts the file back to the original tempo and pitch.
Once the music is stored in your PC, you can treat it with audio-enhancement programs designed to remove hiss, clicks and other anomalies. The clean-up options won't work magic, but they do have a noticeable effect on old tapes and beat-up records.
The program lets you mix and match source files for your custom CD. For example, you can mix .WAV files recorded from analog sources with digital sources such as MIDI or MP3 files.
Other options let you organize your custom CD. A feature called Unpack lets you break up one long recording -- one side of an LP, for example -- into individual tracks. Other options let you choose the order of your tracks and how much space to put between tracks.
The final version that you create with your recordable CD-ROM can be played on any conventional audio CD player.
Another clever feature of the DART CD-R program is its program timer. If you want to capture a radio program, for example, you can tell the computer when to begin and when to stop recording.
If you want to get really serious about digital recording, Dartech makes a $400 professional version of the DART CD-R program that includes more noise-removal options and an equalizer, filters and a mixer.
The only thing you can't get in the software is more time to make conversions. With all the material I'd like to transfer to CDs, I figure I can get the job done in about two years.