It ain’t easy!

After a week of pain, I finally figured how to transfer my old vinyl records and cassette tapes to my iPod in stereo. If you are not interested in this topic you can safely skip this week’s column, but I wanted to memorialize what I learned because it was so darn hard to learn it!

You would think there would be simple instructions on the web about how to do this, and there are. The problem is that none of them actually worked for me. My venture started a few weeks ago when I switched to the iPhone and became enamored with the iPod feature.

After loading every music CD I could find into my computer (and then on to the iPod) I only had about 500 songs and huge gaps in my music library (See “The music of my life“). It was then that (on the suggestion of a reader) I purchased a USB turntable.

Of course, I did my due diligence and read a number of reviews before settling on a Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB Stereo Turntable for $81 plus $14 shipping at The price was right and I was persuaded by all the users who testified that they had great success with the product. Warnings 1 & 2: You get what you pay for and you can’t believe everything you read on the web!

With great excitement I tracked down the UPS driver in last Wednesday’s snow storm and brought my iBook and a few choice albums to my office to set up my system. 1o hours later I had failed to record anything close to high fidelity. The music sounded horrible!

After a night of pulling my hair out, I finally figured out that I already had everything I needed to transfer my albums with my old turntable and amplifier. All I had to do was plug a special wire from the amplifier’s out plugs directly into the line in on my iBook.

This solved the basic problem of the USB turntable that it didn’t provide a loud enough signal. I promptly packed the turntable back up and sent it back to After deducting my shipping costs, and allowing for some strange math on’s part, the whole adventure set me back about $30.

I was almost there, except that I noticed that my recordings were not transferring separate stereo tracks. I would get sound in both the left and right speakers, but it would be the same. Again, this was contrary to all the users on the Internet who claimed to have no problem transferring stereo.

After another night of googling and experimenting, I finally found someone who told me the problem was that I was using an iBook. Apparently the line in on the iBook (as opposed to desktop Macs) is not capable of separating stereo without the assistance of a little device called an iMic made by Griffin Technology)

Although I could purchase one of those with the $60 refund I got from my turntable I didn’t have to because, again, I already had one! It seems about 5 years ago I had purchased one in an early attempt to transfer vinyl to digital but had given up because the learning curve was too steep.

Now I simply hooked it up in between my stereo and my iBook and “Voila!” I had stereo! Don’t ask me how it works because I don’t know or care, but it does. Now with the help of free Audacity software, I can transfer a record (in stereo!) eliminate the phonographic hisses, pops and cracks, divide and name the tracks of the albums, and load them into my iPod. Bliss!

It ain’t easy, but if you take 5 years you can learn to do anything! Now if I could only figure out how to convert my large wav format files to mp4 so I can put more songs on my iPod. Everybody says it’s simple …

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