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What Happens in a Record Conversion Project  (April 2017, updated September 2022)


The devil is in the details, as they say.  There are a lot of steps involved in converting a record to digital format and creating a music CD from the recording, and I thought readers might be interested in seeing the steps.  Most of these are routine actions, and I pretty much follow the script described below.  If a project involves noise reduction or waveform editing, those processes are inserted before the production steps.


Project Initiation with the Customer

  • Discuss what the customer wants for deliverable media, including audio file format, type of media, jewel cases, album art, etc.

  • Assess the physical condition and handling history of the records.  Besides checking for obvious cracks, warp, and scratches, this conversation may suggest:

    • how much and what kind of noise will be found in the recording and how much it will benefit from noise reduction and waveform editing;

    • whether records were handled with fingers on the grooves or only on the rim and label;

    • what kind of equipment was used for playing the records;

    • whether records were played individually or stacked and dropped; and

    • how were records stored.

  • Describe to the customer what will be done, what anomalies might be discovered, and whether the additional noise reduction and waveform editing services might be needed.  Determine what additional services the customer wants, or whether the decision regarding those services should be deferred until after the recording is examined for noise.

  • Provide project cost and time estimates, and obtain the customer’s signature on the Customer Agreement and Project Initiation Worksheet.



  • Set volume and recording levels to allow ~6 dB of “headroom” (the difference between the loudest portion of the recording and the maximum level that a digital system can capture).

  • Play and capture the record, listening to catch and correct skips and to note when the audio track might provide challenges for noise reduction software.

  • After recording has finished, delete periods of silence at the beginning and end of the recording and during the period when the record was turned over, preserving all lead-in and lead-out noise (which can be used later by noise reduction software).

  • Remove any noise originating from my conversion system’s signal chain.

  • Remove “DC offset,” an aberration in the wave form that can stress and even damage speakers.

  • Remove any extremely low and high frequencies that should not be part of the recording’s content.  Frequencies above 22 KHz cannot be reproduced by most sound systems, but fragments of those frequencies can appear in the audible range—a phenomenon known as “aliasing.”

  • Adjust the recording’s volume if indicated and remove possible DC offset—a phenomenon where the sound waves aren’t centered vertically on the crossover point (the middle of the scale corresponding to 0 V. or -∞ dB, depending on the scale) and which, if left uncorrected, can lead to speaker damage.

  • Inspect the entire audio file to ensure that no “clipping” occurred (where the volume being recorded exceeded the maximum level possible in a digital system, abruptly flattening the peaks of the sound waves, and causing noticeable and unpleasant distortion).  If clipping is detected, redo the conversion, this time with lower volume and/or recording levels.



  • Remove excess noise from the start and end of the recording and between the sides, apply fade-ins to the first track of each side and fade-outs to the last track of each side, and adjust the timing of the lead-in for the first track of each side and of the lead-out of the last track of each side.

  • Enter the album title and artist information to be inserted into the CD-Text (album metadata, see Labeling Music CDs:  CD-Text) or ID3 tags (track metadata, see Labeling MP3 Tracks:  ID3 Tags).  Add markers in the audio file to indicate where tracks are to be split.  For each track, enter the track title to be inserted into the CD-Text or ID3 tag, and export the track into a separate audio file.

  • For MP3 compilations, convert the WAV files into MP3 files.

  • Burn the CD or DVD, and create jewel case inserts.

  • Listen to the audio tracks to assess their quality and test that the CD, DVD, or collection of MP3 files is playable.


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