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Tech tips

Tech how-to: Convert old CDs, tapes and vinyl to digital

Do you remember the last time you listened to music from a CD? If not, you’re not alone. As we’ve transitioned into the digital age, many of our media staples like discs, tapes and records have gone the way of the dinosaurs in favor of streamed digital files from subscription services.

This has led to both positive and negative effects on the musical landscape. Nobody owns any of their media anymore and we carry an entire library’s worth of audio in a device smaller than a wallet. Tap or click to see which music streaming service is the best.

But what about those of us with expansive libraries of physical media? Nobody wants to pay twice, so how is it possible to condense all those discs and records into digital files? Well, not only is it possible, it’s a great way to preserve your music for years to come. Plus, you’ll still own it. Here’s how to digitize your library.

‘Digitize me, Cap’n!’

Digitizing a music collection is the best way to bring your physical media into the modern age. Not only does digitizing your media save space, it also lets you take your music with you wherever you go. Digital files can be loaded on phones, tablets and computers. They can even be accessed via voice assistants like Alexa.

Whether you have tapes, CDs or vinyl records, there are many ways to get your physical media onto your computer. The trick is knowing which hardware and software is best for the job. Tap or click here to see some of our favorite devices and services for digital media conversion.

Rip those CDs a new one

In terms of conversion difficulty, think of CDs as “easy mode.” This kind of media is already “digital-ready” and is easy to rip to a computer with no devices necessary other than a disc reader.

Many modern computers and laptops are missing these readers, but a USB-powered DVD/Rom drive will work for you.

This Rioddas External disk drive is compatible with Windows, MacOS and Linux, and will read and write both CDs and DVDs. It also features an eject button so there’s no risk of your disc getting stuck inside.

Once you’ve connected your drive to your computer, insert the disc and open your preferred media management software. On Windows, this will likely be Windows Media Player or iTunes. On a Mac, you’ll use the Music app.

Rip a CD on Windows

Open Windows Media Player and make sure the disc shows up in the left-hand panel. Click on it and check on the songs you want to copy to your computer. Then, select Rip settings, scroll down to Format and make sure MP3 is checked. Then, select Rip CD.

Rip a CD on MacOS

On your Mac, open the Music app and insert your disc. A menu will automatically pop up asking if you want to import the tracks from the CD. Click Yes to import the to your library. All you’ll need to do now is plug your iPhone in and sync via the Music app.

Record those tapes

Unlike CDs, tapes can degrade over time. It’s important to back up this media sooner rather than later. But to do so, you’ll need a device capable of converting tapes into digital audio.

This Reshow casette converter is designed to work with Windows PCs and will convert and transfer audio on tapes into device-compatible files. Mac users will need to download a free piece of software called Audacity to make it work. Tap or click here to learn more about Audacity.

It’s always better on vinyl

Music enthusiasts continue to appreciate vinyl records for their warm, retro analog sound. Additionally, many records contain album inserts and bonuses you can’t get anywhere else. And just like cassette tapes, you’ll need a device to transfer them. But unlike cassettes, it’s a much pricier process.

This turntable from Audio Technica will convert analog audio to digital files using a USB connection. At $249, it isn’t cheap, but it’s important to note that this is still a perfectly good record player in addition to a file converter. This lets you continue to enjoy your favorite records even after you’ve ripped them.

So, now you have the files. How about getting them into your phone?

How you get your digital files onto your device will depend on the operating system you use, as well as your media manager. This will typically take the form of Windows Media Player, Google Play and iTunes on a PC, or Music on a Mac.

For PC users

If you have an iPhone, you’ll need to download iTunes to add the music to your device. When you set up iTunes, it’ll ask if you want to automatically import music files to your library. Answer “Yes” and your newly ripped CD will be ready to sync over.

If you have an Android phone, you’ll need to visit Google Play in your web browser. Log in with your account, select the Music from the left pane, and select My music. Choose the Menu button in the upper left hand corner and select Upload Music. You’ll now be able to locate the files on your computer and sync them.

For Mac users

As we mentioned above, you’ll need to open the Music app on your Mac and plug your device in. The program will prompt you if you want to sync your library. Click Yes, but make sure you have enough room to store everything.

For more detailed information on audio quality settings and track information, visit Apple’s support page.

Of course, now that your music is digital, you’ll need a great device to play them on. Since standalone players are on their way out, why not find a smartphone that fits your budget? Tap or click here to find the best smartphones under $400.

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