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Why did I write it?

I started this project shortly after a friend of mine asked if I could put some of his live Rolling Stones' albums from vinyl to a CD. I figured this wouldn't be much of a trouble, so I said yes. Turned out to be more work than I expected.

First, I have to make a decent recording. With a little trial and error, it's doable to find good volume settings and such, so the wave doesn't clip, and is still at an acceptable volume level.

After recording, I ended up with a 400 MB size recording. I was using the shareware version of Coolwave for the recording. The next task was to locate the song split points, and cut the wave file into smaller pieces. This is a harder task than I figured it would. To correctly split it up, I had to cut on 588 sample (or 2352 byte) borders. This was a lot of typing, calculating and waiting for the program to process its temporary files. I figured I could do better.

Screen Shot

A picture says more than a thousand words...

Screenshot of CDWave in action

From bottom to top, you can see several areas. Each has its own function.

The top part contains the manu and control button from which you can perform most generic functions like opening files, start and stop playback, and many other things.

Directly below the button bar there's a zoomed-in view of the complete file. This view always displays a graphic representation of the full waveform. The colors in the top part indicate the various "songs". A marker (white vertical line) shows the current position in the waveform. Clicking the mouse in this area will move the marker to that spot, and also move the zoomed waveform to center on that location.

The small section below the top waveform indicates the zoom area for the bottom window. The green part of this area is the portion of the top display that is displayed in the bottom view. Clicking or dragging in this part changes the zoomed portion the bottom view.

The major part of the screen is occupied by the bottom waveform. This is a zoomed part of the top display. An indicator here corresponds to the one in the top window. You can move the marker in this part to accurately position within the waveform.

Below this is a panel with several clocks and a split button. A volume meter and some LED indicators also show up here while recording. The split button creates a split point at the marker position.

The bottom of the screen shows a list of songs. Each represents a split point in the file. You can delete split points, rename the songs and choose parts to be saved later in this area.

How to create a CD from a live LP

OK, now you've seen some things of the program, you may wonder: "Now, ok, how does this program enable me to put some vinyl or tape recordings on CDR?" We'll discuss this step by step.

The ingredients

What you need is the following:

Step 1: Wiring it together

If you have a set that offers a line out connector, such as an external tape or video connector, this is quite handy. Just connect the output (rec out/video out) of the set to the line input jack of the soundcard, using a tulip-to-jack cable that is usually supplied with the soundcard. Most computer shops will sell you such a cable too.

If you record from a tuner, tape deck or similar device, you can connect the output of the device directly to the line input of the soundcard. If you record from a turntable, you will usually need a pre-amplifier to be able to connect it. If it's conencted to an amplifier already, use the aplifier's tape or video out connector and leave the turntable attached to the amplifier.

You should be able to hear the sound from the source (turntable or tape deck) through the computer speakers. If not, check if the volumes are set correctly in the Volume Control application in Windows (see also the FAQ section).

Step 2: Determine record levels

This is one of the most important steps in successful audio digitizing. To get a good signal-to-noise ratio, the volume should be as loud as possible. But to prevent clipping, the volume setting is limited. So the optimal setting is to have the sound just hit the clipping level. This is almost impossible to accomplish. In general, if your volume is above half the max level, you’ll lose less than a single bit out of 16, or 6dB S/N of 98 total dB.

A test mode recording. Start CD Wave, and press the record button (red circle) to show the recording setting dialog. The first radio button gives you an option to run a ‘test mode’. This mode will do everything the audio recording would do, except that it will just throw away the sound data after processing, instead of writing it to disk. The other options, like voice-activation and auto-stop, function exactly the same as in a normal recording, so the test mode can also be used to test these settings. After pressing the start button, the soundcard inputs will be enabled and any input will be processed. On screen, you’ll see the min and max levels reached during short 1/3 second intervals. Below the green waveform, you’ll see three LEDs. The green LED indicates that the signal is above ‘silence’. If the audio level raises above the ‘loud’ level (usually about 90%), the yellow LED will flash. The red LED will indicate that clipping has occurred, and the sound volume should be lowered. The red LED can be switched of again by clicking it. Each (horizontal) pixel in the waveform display will represent 1/3 second of audio.

Step 3: Recording the audio

After connecting your equipment, and calibrating volume setting, you are ready to record your precious vinyl album or tape to the harddisk.

Harddisk recording. Press the record button. Switch the destination to file. You can type a filename, or use the browse button to point-and-shoot one. An estimate on available space is given directly below the filename. Hit the record button to start recording. The audio is recorded directly to the file you selected.

Step 4: Creating the splits

After recording, you can place markers in the audio, and split the file into tracks. You can rename, add and delete as many splits as you like.

To quickly position splits you can use the following routine:

  • Use the top window to roughly position to a location near the start of the song.
  • Press play to start playback there
  • Just before the next song starts, hit the "split" button. A split will be inserted at that point.

    To accurately position splits (starting with version 1.57) you can use the following routine:

  • Use the top window to roughly position to a location near the start of the song.
  • Press play to start playback.
  • When the part you want to split is near, click on the bottom waveform where you want to insert the split.
  • You can hold the mouse down and "drag" to pinpoint the exact location.
  • Now, press STOP, and the cursor will return to where you last held the mouse button down.
  • Press the split button to insert a split.

    Step 5: Recording to CDR

    CD Wave cannot record audio CDs on a CD Recorder by itself. You must use another program such as CDRWin, Easy CD Creator, Nero, WinOnCD or one of the many other products to perform this task. Before doing this, you must save your work in one of two formats.

    Most compatible method is to save the tracks as seperate WAV files. The CDR program can convert these to CD Audio tracks and still keep the "live" stream if you record the CDR in DAO mode. To do this, use File, Save... Select a location for the collection of WAV files, and the splits will be put there.

    If you're using CDRWin to do the recording, you can save a CUE sheet instead. The cue sheet is a text file that contains the location (and names) of the track splits. CD Wave can read and write these files. CDRWin can read the cue file, and use the large WAV file to perform the recording. To save a CUE sheet, use File, Save cue sheet... and select a file to save.

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