Business-like, isn't he?



Burning CDs from LPs and Tapes

by Alan Zisman (c) 2003

Part 3 Ready to Record (Mac)

    You'll need some software to record on your computer. Classic OS Macs include basic recording software. SimpleSound  is usable, if no-frills. When it opens, you'll see a list of System Alert Sounds-- go to the Sound menu to select CD Quality, then the File/New menu to record a new sound. Click the Record button, and away you go! When you're done, you can save the file with the name and location of your choice. SimpleSound records in uncompressed AIFF format, which can be later converted to CD Audio by your CD burning application.

    Classic Mac Simple Sound

    There's no equivalent to Simple Sound built-into OS X. Better, though is the free Audio Recorder, a simple recording application that saves in either uncompressed AIFF (use this if making audio CDs) or compressed MP3 format.

    Whether using OSX or the classic Mac OS, you will want a more sophisticated recording program. There are lots of options, many of which can be downloaded-- though in most cases, users will need to buy a product code to continue to use a program after a trial period. On the Internet, you may want to go to someplace like and search for recording. Doing so  got me 131 Windows hits and 17 Mac hits-- though many are for CD burning, 'ripping' audio from CDs inserted into your computer, or other things that while interesting, may not be what you want to do right now.

    Well worth checking out: Audacity, a very capable and free recording program, available in versions for Windows, Mac (both classic and OS X) and Linux.Unix. Plug-ins (to the free, open-sounce Lame) are required to save in the popular MP3 format; these are available for most (but not all) versions on the site. Development of the classic Mac version has stopped with the 1.0 version release; OS X development is continuing.

    The current versions for Audacity now have VU meters, making this a very usable-- and free program. Check it out!

    Among other programs worth checking out are:

    • Peak LE is the lite version (US$99) of the full Bias Peak (US$199-699) application. There are downloadable 14-day trial versions of both. I like Peak LE for recording on the Mac. The new 3.0 version is OS X-native.
    • Coaster is a free recorder with a good set of options.
    • Amadeus II runs under both Mac OS 8.6 and up or natively under OS X; it's a US$25 program that includes recording functions, sound repairing functions, MP3 support and more. 15-day free trial version.
    • Sound Studio (free trial-- US$50 to buy). Lets users record and edit AIFF sound files on a Mac under OS X or OS 8.5 or later. Designed to record from a stereo system to computer, digitize cassette tapes, LP, on-air radio, or live performances. It includes filters and effects like fades, reverb, and graphic EQ. (I've purchased this one to use on my Mac-- it's very good!)
    • SndSampler (shareware, US$30 to buy) has both classic Mac (OS 8.5+) and OS X versions... lots of power but a somewhat geeky interface.
    • Analogue Ripper(Mac OS X: $29) is for recording from LP, cassette, etc-- any analog(ue) source. Includes editing and playback tools for splitting long recordings into tracks. A nice feature lets you record 33 1/3 rpm recordings at 45 or 78 to shorten recording time, then slow them down once they're on your computer. You can also use this (in reverse) to record 78 rpm recordings at 33 (or 45) using a turntable that lacks 78 rpm support.

    Griffin Technology, makers of the Mac-audio add-ons iMic and PowerWave has a free program: Final Vinyl specifically for recording LPs and cassettes-- it requires that you be using one of their products to operate, but if so, is simple and powerful. It allows you to connect a turntable directly to your Mac (via the iMic or PowerWave), without needing the rest of your stereo connected (though it can also be used with your stereo as described earlier in this tutorial).

    A good place to check for audio-software is Harmony Central , with resources and news for Windows, Mac, DOS, Atari, Amiga, BeOS, and Unix. Or check with brief reviews and links for a range of downloadable Mac recording programs.

    The one I use is Sound Studio... I'm still using version 2.2.4; there's a new version 3 which I haven't tried (2.2.4 is still available for download). I find Sound Studio simple and reliable with some features that make it work very quickly, especially if you've recorded entire sides of a tape or LP and are splitting it into individual tracks. Highly recommended! (My second choice is the free Audacity).

    By now, you should be hooked up to your audio hardware, and have software up and running. It's time to put the vinyl on the turntable or the cassette tape in the tape deck (or just turn on the radio), and load up your chosen recording software.

    When you get ready to record, you may be asked what quality to make your recording... if you aren't asked about this, check your software's Preferences or settings to make sure they're what you want. Here's the Sound Quality dialogue for Sound Studio:

    Sound Studio sound quality settings

    These choices-- a 44.100 kHz sample rate, 16-bit sample size, stereo, will provide CD-quality recordings. Figure on needing about 1 MB of drive space for each minute recorded.

    Check your levels

    Do a test-run, recording something, just to make sure everything is connected properly and your levels are at reasonable. 20 seconds or so of music ought to do it (unless your music has very quiet and very loud portions, in which case, you should check some of each)... Stop and play it back on your computer. Hopefully, it worked and sounds good... if not, keep fiddling with the level controls, both on your audio gear and on your computer until you find that happy medium.

    When you've got your levels set, you're ready for Part 4: Making the recording

    Last updated: April 25, 2006

    The complete Burning CDs from LPs and Tapes series:
    Printer-friendly versions: Mac or Windows

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan