In addition to being able to share copies of most discs in my collection, I have also developed a series of custom cds, featuring material never before available on compact disc.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic . . ."
Arthur C. Clarke

The process of transfering analog material to cd is not magical.  It involves five steps:
1.  Preparing the source material
2.  Converting the source to a digital file.
3.  Editing the digital file
4.  Burning the cd
5.  Completing documentation and packaging.

Preparing the Source Material

A successful copying operation requires strong source material.  I record from cassette tapes, dvd audio tracks, and video tape, but most transfer is from vinyl lps.  First, I clean the record thoroughly, using a Nitty Gritty record vacuum:

Next, I play the source material back on some vintage hi-fi equipment:


Converting the source to a digital file

The analog signal is routed out of the receiver's tape monitor 2 via an adapter cable into the line-input jack of the computer's sound card.  Using the recording function of Sonic Forge XP, the analog signal is recorded as .wav file.

I also have the ability to extract audio files directly as digital files using a 48x cd-rom drive.

Editing the digital file

Newly recorded .wav files tend to be very fragmented, so I begin by running a defragmenter (Norton Speed Disk).  Otherwise, the write process can slow down and create underun problems.

Editing the defragmented .wav file has two parts:
1.  Working through the .wav file to remove needle run-in and run-out, gaps between songs, and other elements.  The goal is a file that is clean and under 74 minutes.  I have several  programs that can enhance and modify the .wav file (e.g., Diamond Cut 32), but I try to avoid using them because my goal is to reproduce the source, not recreate it.

2.  Dividing the file into cd tracks.  For this operation, I use CD Architect, a component of the Sonic Foundry package.  In addition to indicating the tracks, I can also subdivide tracks with index markers, if desired.

Burning the cd

Once the .wav file is prepared, it can be transferred to the blank cd-r.  I use a Smart & Friendly 798, Speed Writer Plus,which I believe is a repackaged Teac drive.

Electronic hums and clicks are often the consequence of buffering problems.  To minimize the risk of noise or other write failure during the burn process, I dedicate the computer to no operations other than the cd-r.   For example, I have disabled all screen savers and other tsr programs that might distract my spunky 400mhz processor; I have also selected my system's main use as "server," so  Windows gives priority to hard drive operations.  Finally, I never attempt to multitask during a write operation.  My cd-r drive will write at up to 4x, but CD Architect often chooses a slower speed.

Completing documentation and packaging.

The final stage of the cd process is to record information about the new disk.  At a minimum I always try to indicate each song's title, its number in the track sequence, track time, and overall disk time.  After trying several templates for creating jewel box covers and inserts, I have created my own templates in WordPerfect8.

Oft-Asked Questions

Q: Why invest in a computer-based cdr setup instead of an audio cdr deck that plugs into a hi-fi system?
A:The answer to this question varies from person to person, but here's a glimpse into my reasoning. The computer-based rig offers increased flexibility in several areas: 1) ability to edit the signal before burning the cd; 2) ability to transfer disc information for generating track lists, etc.; 3) ability to record on cheap computer cdr discs instead of the more expensive audio cdr discs.

Q: How much did it cost to convert your computer into a cdr station?
A: I have invested about $220 after rebates: $10 for new cd-rom drive capable of audio extraction; $30 for new sound card; $175 for cdrw drive, which included a large bundle of software; $3 for RCA-miniplug cable to connect stereo and sound card.

Sept. 1999 (rev. 8/2001)