For anyone over 40 (or maybe 30), having a music collection probably means that, in addition to racks of CDs and ridiculous piles of MP3s, youâ€™re also sitting on bookshelves (or â€œborrowedâ€ milk crates) full of vinyl LPs. Hundreds of pounds of space-consuming, damage-prone vinyl. LPs were music you could touch, with glorious full-color 12â€³ album art, meandering liner notes, and the practical involvement of lowering needle to plastic. Long-playing records represent an era when music was less disposable â€“ we actually sat down to listen, rather than treating music as a backdrop to the rest of life. Dragging a rock through vinyl was not some kind of nostalgic love affair with the past â€“ it was just the way things were. The cost of admission was pops and scratches, warped discs, having to get up in the middle of an album to flip the disc, cleaning the grooves from time to time, and getting hernias every time you moved to a new apartment.
Digitizing LPs has almost nothing in common with ripping CDs. Itâ€™s a slow process, and a lot of work. But it can be incredibly rewarding, and going through the process puts you back in touch with music the way it used to be played (i.e. itâ€™s a great nostalgia trip). Over at birdhouse.org, I’ve written up a guide which I hope will thorougly cover the process of prepping your gear, cleaning your records, and capturing as much of the essence of those old LPs as possible, so you can enjoy them in the context of your digital life.