How to record a vinyl LP to MP3

How do you set up Audacity to record vinyl LPs and cassettes to MP3 on a Windows 11 laptop? The laptop has three inputs; USB-3, USB-C, and a microphone/headphone 3.5mm jack. None of these inputs are listed as a recording device. All that is listed is MS Sound Mapper and Microphone Array. I have an RCA to 3.5 mm stereo cable I could run from the receiver’s RCA tape out to the mic input and an RCA to USB-C adaptor. Nothing seems to work.

The RCA to USB adapter should work. Right-click the Windows speaker/volume icon and see if it shows-up as an input/recording device. If Windows finds it, Audacity should find it.

Check your Privacy Settings.

With Listen To This Device you should be able to hear the turntable without Audacity or any application running.

While you’re at it, turn OFF Windows “enhancements”. (They can foul-up the sound.)

There are some tutorials in the Audacity manual.

The mic input won’t work properly. The line-level tape-out signal is about 100 times stronger than a microphone signal, and the mic input is mono. And if your laptop has a combination mic/headphone jack, it requires a special 4-contact plug to make the microphone connection.

Thanks, I will try all of the above. I do have an RCA to 4-contact 3.5 mm jack. Do you think if I connect my turntable that has no preamp to the microphone/headphone input on the laptop it would work? Would the tape deck work using the same for the contact 3.5 mm jack setup? There are RCA to USB adapter cables as well, with hooking up the turntable for the cassette player directly to the USB work. To get this to work I have to go out and buy a used Stereo receiver that will work with a turntable with no preamp and one that would have a tape out.

Can you give some details about the equipment you have?

Not properly. Records have RIAA Equalization which drastically boosts the highs and cuts the bass before the record is cut. The phono preamp (1) applies complementary playback equalization.

And there’s an in impedance mismatch. Standard phono preamps have an input impedance of 47k Ohms. The mic input on a computer is about 1k. That will weaken the (already weak) signal and foul-up the tone.

Plus, the mic input is mono.

“Tape Out” or “Record-Out” on the receiver should be the same as with the turntable. The direct RCA outputs on a tape deck (or CD player, DVD player, or TV) is also the same. They are all Line Level.

A headphone output is in the same (voltage) ballpark and it will work into a line-input. But, it’s capable of driving headphones (lower impedance) and headphone outputs always have a volume control.

From what you said, I thought you already had one. It should work with a line-level signal. (A tape output or the output from a separate phono preamp.)

I thought you already had that too…

…The old receiver I’ve been using (for occasionally digitizing vinyl) recently died so I bought the ART USB Phono Pus. It’s got switchable phono/line inputs and it has a recording level control. It’s sometimes important to control the analog level, because if you are clipping (overloading and distorting) the analog-to digital converter, lowering the digital level later doesn’t remove the distortion.

(1) “High fidelity” phono cartridges are magnetic and they use a standard phono preamp, which was built-into older receivers (less common today). Cheaper “record players” used a ceramic cartridge which needs little or no preamplification. If you have a flip-over stylus for playing 78’s, it’s ceramic. Ceramic cartridges are very-high impedance and their electro-mechanical characteristics automatically approximate the RIAA equalization. These days, it would be hard to find something that works properly with a ceramic cartridge.

I have a Denon DRW-55 tape deck and a Realistic (Radio Shack) LAB-500 turntable. The RCA to 4-contact plug is smaller than 3.5 mm so I can’t use it anyway. What devices do they work with?

The tape deck is connected from the tape deck’s out via an RCA to stereo 3.5 mm jack and a 3.5 mm to USB-C adaptor. All I get from the laptop (HP Spectre 360 running Windows 11) speakers is a lot of noise that sounds like distorted feedback. The only record input is the Intel digital mic input.

I thought I could use an old Sony STR DH-770 surround sound but it has no phono inputs or record outputs. I am looking at two stereo receivers on Craigslist, an old (1990) Kenwood KR-A3060 receiver ($50) that the owner says will take a turntable with no preamp or a Realistic STA-64 Stereo Receiver ($150) of the same vintage (1977?). I am thinking of getting the Realistic receiver because I had one of them when I bought the turntable. Aside from price, is there any significant difference between the Kenwood and the STA-64?

Would the ART work with the Denon tapedeck? Could I keep the turntable and the tape deck connected all thge time and switch inputs as needed?ART USB Phono Pus

I’d try to get the tape deck working first because it eliminates any complications with the phono preamp.

Windows doesn’t always know if you’re using a USB microphone or some other USB audio device but normally it should say “USB… something” and you should also see your laptop’s built-in microphone as a recording option.

And it should disappear when the USB device is unplugged.

If Windows isn’t seeing it, it’s not going to work with Audacity.

And of course, if it’s a Windows (or Audacity) configuration issue, a different USB audio device won’t work either.

Maybe your USB gizmo is defective, or maybe you have a bad USB cable or bad USB port? (That won’t cause distortion but it could cause it not to be found by Windows.)

…You really never know what the problem is until it’s solved. :frowning:

If it’s recording from the microphone, of course it should pick-up any noise in the room so you can easily check that by talking or clapping your hands, etc.

You can get internal feedback & echo if you select one of the “loopback” recording options instead of the particular input because it’s capturing/recording the output from the soundcard.

But if all you see is “digital microphone”, that’s not the issue.

Or you can get regular-old acoustic feedback if you are using the microphone & speakers at the same time. (It’s usually a little different from regular feedback-squeal because there is a delay through the computer.)

You might also get overload distortion with Microphone Boost which may, or may not show-up for your USB device.

Anything with phono-in and tape-out or record-out should work. One could have better sound quality than the other, but usually the weak link is the record itself.

Yes. It has a switch for phono/line.

No. It only has one pair of RCA connectors.

Nothing seems to work. I bought a Yamaha R-S202 receiver and connected the line out it to the laptops USB-C input via an RCA to USB-C cable. The laptop still doesn’t see the USB-C as an input. I am going to try an older desktop running Windows 10 with a built-in sound card but am told the 3.5 mm line in is usually mono. If it is mono I will buy a new sound card. Any recommendation on a sound card that will take stereo audio from turntables (no preamp), a cassette deck, and video from a VHS deck? Will the $100 device you mentioned earlier do all of the above?

That’s certainly worth trying. The line input (usually color-coded blue) should be stereo. (You may have to check Windows and Audacity to make sure they are configured for stereo.)

Yes. But, if there’s something wrong on the “computer side”, my fear is that no USB device will work (until/unless that’s corrected).

The Behringer UFO 202 is less expensive and it also has a switchable phono/line input, but it doesn’t have a recording level control. (And we still don’t know if you have a USB configuration issue.)

Well, well, well. All is right in Denmark. I could not get Audacity to work on the new Windows 11 laptop but was able to make a test recording from a cassette hooked up to the stereo “line-in” on the old Windows 10 desktop sound card. The next step is to see if the turntable RCA outputs (I need to buy two RCA couplers) will work connected directly to the sound card line-in.

Unfortunately RCA connectors are unlikely to work with a simple turntable where the leads just output the cartridge signal. RCA is a plug/socket standard used for many different signal levels. Often consumer "line"level which is much higher and what your laptop input could be if not mic.

You’d need a phono or RIAA pre amp suitable for moving magnet or moving wire cartridge. The key point is records mess with the EQ in big way to reduce scratch noise and make the groves waggle less for bass. My audio interface does this as an option but many don’t.

Unless that us, your deck is one of the newer ones with built in pre amp and A/D converter so it has usb connections.

When it comes to recording, you can record each side in one, add labels and use audacity to split out tracks using the cable names to name the files.

There are complete guides on the interwebs. I’ll try to find one

Ps windows has a horrid habit of turning on extra processing for inputs that you REALLY want to turn off.

Hi MaineMan, Had the same problem. Had some very old reel to reel and cassettes of live music that was recorded and going straight into my laptop with no interface just didn’t work. Being an old guy, I had an audio buff explain it all to me in simple terms, so excuse the step by step simple style info. I bought a real cheap Behringer UNC204HD on amazon. ($159.) Somehow Audacity recognized the program/driver quickly and from there it was very easy. So from your Turntable to your receiver/amp, then use the line out and into the Behringer. From there use the Behringer USB out straight into your PC and voila when you open audacity it sees the Behringer driver right away. Then try a trial recording into audacity to get your levels and then start again and it should all work great. BTW converting old tapes and vinyl in DAW or other digital files, well worth the time. As it makes it all worth while and way more easy to access to fav tunes. Good Luck! BK

Thanks. I couldn’t get Audacity to work with the laptop so switched to a desktop with a sound card. It worked for the cassette but not a turntable with no preamp. Adding a Behringer UFO202 with preamp, RCA inputs and a USB output worked. Will try using this Behringer setup for the cassette and turntable plugged into the laptop USB port and see what happens. Will try recording VHS tapes using a video capture card with a USB output connected to the laptop and see what happens.

Thanks Stevelee. I bought the Behringer UFO202 that has a phono preamp, RCA inputs, and a USB out and it worked on a desktop USB port. The cassette deck worked plugged directly into the desktops sound card via an RCA to 3.5mm jack. Will try using the Behringer setup for the turntable and the cassette (it has a line-level switch when using a line-level device such as a cassette deck) connected to the laptops USB input and see what happens. The next step is to hook up a VHS tape deck via a video capture card with a USB output.

Homemade VHS tapes are OK but commercial tapes have copy protection. There is something on the tape to trigger a “protection” signal. Most video recording & capture device manufactures “play along” (they are legally required to), pick-up the signal and scramble the picture.

Good luck. I had real problems recording my tapes. They where “home made” in NTSC and though both my platyer and two interfaces claimed to support both NTSC and UK’s native PAL I got hopeless results audio and video. I meant to try buying an Interface from the USA but never got round to it

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