How do I copy a 78 RPM record to CD?

Connect the components as shown in the diagram using stereo RCA cables to interconnect the turntable to the preamplifier and the preamplifier to the sound card's input connectors. Unfortunately, sound cards often do not have RCA connectors. If this is the case, you will have to either get a cable with the needed connectors or else get a pair of connector adapters. Adapters are available from many suppliers but one of the most extensive collections that I know about is stocked by Parts Express, Inc. in Springboro, Ohio. You can request a copy of their printed catalog by calling 1-800-743-3000 or going online at www.partsexpress.com.

There is a lot of variation in sound card quality with the better cards usually being higher priced. The card that came with your computer or a twenty dollar card from a office supply shop is fine for playing games but not for recording music. Mr. Arnold B. Krueger evaluates sound cards and posts the information on his web site. Oddly (to my thinking) the best cards have the lowest score which is 5 and they have to rate "excellent" in all categories. We use Turtle Beach Santa Cruz cards which have a score of 7 and Waveterminal 192X cards which are not rated (but we have had excellent performance from them). One source for good quality sound cards is www.tracertek.com.

To make the copy, you play the record and copy the sound card output to your hard drive. Start by setting the equalization to RIAA for an LP or RIAA (or FFRR) for a 45. You will probably need to refer to your preamp Manual for this. With the sound card line-in slider set to about 90%, start your computer program with 16-bit stereo, 44.1 kHz sample rate (the CD standard). Play the record through once to set the proper level using the preamp volume control. The program will display a bar graph or other indicator to show the peak level. Adjust the preamp volume control so the maximum peak is about 3 dB below the maximum input. Then, without changing any of the settings, start recording and then start the record playing from the beginning. When the record gets to the end of the first side, press stop (in the program) and then save the file to your hard drive. I usually just name it "side1.wav." Then repeat the above for the other side of the record.

There are a number of programs that you can use to make the recording. Among others, I have and use the following: Cool Edit Pro, Dart XP Pro, DC 6 and DC Millinnium.
Cool Edit Pro was bought by Adobe in 2003 and renamed Adobe Audition. You can find out more about it at www.adobe.com.
Dart XP Pro is a product of DARTech, Inc. You can all them at 1-800-799-1692 or get product info online at www.dartech.com.
DC6 and DC Millinnium are available from Tracertek. Their web address is www.tracertek.com.

New three-speed turntables (33-1/3, 45 and 78 RPM) are primarily DJ equipment. They have short, straight pickup arms and they work very well for listening to or restoring 78s. These records are all more than 50 years old and are often worn or warped. The straight tone arm is very resistant to "skating" which is the tendency for the pickup stylus to jump out of the groove. We use a three-speed Stanton model STR8-80 for copying and restoring 78 music and it works very well. You also need a pickup cartridge and stylus just for 78s because the grooves are wider than on LPs and 45s. Please see our page on buying audio equipment for some suggestions.
Thorens, among others, does make some fine quality three-speed turntables but I hesitate to recommend them for two reasons: first, as I mentioned above, the standard "S-shaped" tone arm is not very resistant to skating. Second, you have to remember to change the pickup cartridge when you shift from the microgroove LPs and 45s to wide groove 78s. Playing a microgroove record with a much wider 78 stylus quickly and permanently damages it. The interchangeable cartridge heads used on modern turntables makes it easy to make the switch, the problem is remembering to do it. All things considered, I still think it's better to use two turntables if you want to play both microgroove and wide groove records.

With a 78 RPM turntable as the music source, your preamp must boost the signal from the pickup cartridge and provide equalization to compensate for the recording method. There were many equalizations used and they varied by record label and year. We have a rather extensive table of them in our models 407 and 408 User Guides. Please click here to download a copy of the model 408 Guide. I'm also suggesting you take a look at our phono preamps for 78s as they offer excellent performance at reasonable prices.

TDL® Model 407 Battery-powered universal
TDL® Model 408 Mains-powered universal


78s are so old there aren't many new preamps that you can set to the proper equalizations, so you may want to consider our model 407 or 408. If you do use a TDL® preamp, connect the cables to the "Input" connectors. Some turntables provide a separate wire that connects to the 'table frame. Connecting this wire to the blue binding post usually results in better performance (by lowering the noise that is picked up.) Reading the Phono section of your preamp User Guide or Owner's Manual is also a good idea! (It may also be helpful to review the information on our Audio restoration page.)

Now that you have two sound files, side1.wav and side2.wav, on your hard drive, what do you do with them? I like to start by running a program named: Wave Corrector. It's very inexpensive and can be ordered online from: www.ganymede.hemscott.net. (Also, updates are free after your initial purchase.) Wave Corrector automatically removes some of the pops and clicks and (usually!) breaks each side into individual tracks. That is, the musical pieces that make up side1 and side 2. You can name them track01.wav, track02.wav, etc. Then using whatever program you used for making the original side 1 and side 2 recordings, open the tracks one at a time and listen to them. They probably won't sound very "clean" so you will have to perform some additional software processing to get a fairly good quality CD. Rather than repeat a lot of information here, please read our section on Audio Restoration. (As this is being written in August 2005, our Restoration page is being rewritten into Chapters with actual restoration "case studies" to make it more useful. One of the Case Studies will be on a 78 "clean up" so keep checking back if this would be useful to you.)

For "burning" the CD, I like Easy CD Creator (version 5 or above). You may already have it as it often comes bundled with a CD or DVD writer. If not, you can order the latest version online from: Roxio. Just insert a blank CD-R in your writer and start the program (it may start automatically). Point to the folder containing your trackxx.wav files and add them to the record list. Then press "record". It's best to choose the lowest recording speed available (2X if possible) as this gives the best quality recording (because it reduces the sample-to-sample time jitter.)

The last step is making a CD label and a label for the jewel case spine. I use CD LabelMaker Easy. It's simple, easy-to-use and free. You can download it from: Memorex. CD labels and an easy-to-use applicator are readily available from any Office Max, Staples or other office supply store.




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