Tech Talk: Is it worth turning vinyl into digital?

Revive 45: A USB turntable will digitise your old LPs - if you have the patience
Revive 45: A USB turntable will digitise your old LPs - if you have the patience
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IF your house is anything like mine there will be a shelf somewhere full of LP records that you’ve kept to one side because you know that some day you will want to play them again.

My shelf is in an attic room, and the other week I started to kit it out as a listening post, complete with a turntable that would also convert favourite, forgotten tracks to digital MP3 files.

USB turntables are designed for this purpose – and as vinyl records enjoy a comeback, they’re everywhere. They are particularly popular as gifts on occasions such as Father’s Day. But, like smoothie blenders and panini presses, they’re also the gadgets most likely to be used once and then discarded.

The problem – as I was reminded after a single evening’s effort – is that transferring discs to digital is a monumentally tedious process. It takes place in real time, which means nearly an hour for each LP – and that’s before you’ve started to add title, album and artist tags to each track, without which the MP3 files won’t show up in your music library.

Turntables come with software aimed at removing some of the pain but even with the existence of online music databases that can recognise the entire contents of an album from its title, there really is no magic button here.

So the question to ask yourself before you begin is this: how rare are your old LPs? Because unless you’ve amassed a collection of obscure jazz and blues imports, the chances are that they already exist in a global music database.

In my case, it was Spotify that consigned my USB turntable to the top shelf. The online music streaming and sharing service served up instantly most of the arcane album titles I threw at it. I used my iPad to access the music and streamed it from there to my set-top box which in turn is hooked up to my hi-fi.

Spotify’s basic service is free with adverts, or for £10 a month you can upgrade to listen offline on your phone when you’re on the move. Rival services like Rdio and Google Music offer similar deals. The other benefit of these services is the ability to discover favourite music you never owned in the first place.

It’s all a great deal easier and more enlightening than ploughing through your shelf of vinyl. But if you do want to persevere, come back next week for tips on the best turntables and user­friendliest software.