Fun With Technology in America

A couple of years ago I bought a CD player with a recording well, with visions of converting lots of my vinyl to CDs. It didn’t happen, at least not on the scale I imagined.

One of the first things I learned is that the CD recorder is incredibly sensitive. It’s prone to errors caused by room vibrations–and sometimes even the vibration of the discs spinning in the recorder itself will cause it to glitch and stop. This ruins non-rewritable CDs, and is annoying as hell even when working with rewritable CDs. In addition, you have to stop the recorder and restart it to create individual tracks on the CD that correspond to tracks on the album. There’s a setting that is supposed to create a new track every time the audio level drops below a certain point, but I have yet to figure out how to make it work consistently–any tick or rumble on the vinyl will keep the feature from working, when it’s not creating extra tracks where you don’t want them. And every stop/restart is another chance to ruin the blank disc; plus, you can’t make the tracks remotely tight except by accident–there will always be a few seconds of silence on the CD track before the music starts. So the few CDs I’ve made from vinyl have one album side per track, which is fine if you always want to listen to the whole album, but lousy if you want to hear or rip just one track.

Since it’s such a hassle, I use the recorder primarily to convert individual tracks to CD, mostly for posting here, and I’ve mostly abandoned the idea of converting entire vinyl albums. So I was interested in a post over the weekend at Soul Sides about converting vinyl to computer files. It turns out that I’m a five-dollar cable away from having the technology to bypass the CD recorder altogether and record straight from turntable and amp to the laptop. And if you have a laptop, you are too. Of course, you also need a turntable, and not everybody’s got one of those anymore.

Recommended Listening: A Plague of Angels has some tracks from the new album by America, Here and Now, their first studio album since 1998. As is often the case with “comebacks” these days, this one is inspired by currently popular musicians who cite the band as an influence–in America’s case, members of Fountains of Wayne and Smashing Pumpkins–and features several star cameos and covers of songs by hot artists-of-the-moment. How’s it sound? Pretty good–if “Work to Do,” written by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, had come out in the 1970s, it would have been Number One for weeks. The album also includes a second disc featuring live performances of some America classics.

Also recommended: In the new movie Black Snake Moan, Samuel L. Jackson gets even cooler than usual, playing a blues singer and delivering a smokin’ (and thoroughly R-rated) performance of “Stack-o-Lee.” Hear it at Salon’s Audiofile.


One response

  1. When I started podcasting, I bought a Radio Shack 4-Channel Stereo Sound Mixer. It’s the best mixer for the money. My mic and any other inputs, including my stereo, are plugged into it then into the line-in in the back of my computer. Recording and editing are done using Propaganda software.

    Impedance is a non-factor. However, all input devices are initially kept at low levels to prevent my sound card from blasting off into outer space.

    My podcasts are published for free at, but can be accessed through links at my website, DivShare allows me to upload up to 100 MB at a time. Most of my podcasts are between 50 and 90 MB published in WMA files ranging from 128 (CD quality) to 320 kps. I can also publish in MP3 up to 56 kps or in WAV at 16- or 32-bit stereo.

    Not including the music and computer, the start-up cost for me to podcast was less than $100. It’s gotten me back to the fringe of radio and replaced golf as my favorite hobby.

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