Recording Internet radio with Audacity.

Earlier this week, South Florida’s only classical music station was sold to an outside media company that has already changed the station’s format to contemporary Christian programming. This is a huge loss for fans of classical music throughout South Florida. Alas, all is not lost. Classical music programming can be now accessed online at YourClassical, where you can access live streams of music as well as fine programs such as Performance Today and Pipe Dreams.

While it’s nice to be able to listen to classical music online, I still wouldn’t have anything to listen to during my long bike rides. I would have along my portable radio tuned to Classical South Florida to add a majestic soundtrack to my ride but with that station now gone, I was left to ponder other solutions.

Then it dawned on me that I could record a few hours of the live stream at YourClassical and then put it on my iPod for later listening. The tricky part was finding the right program to do this. Previously I was using Easy Hi-Q Recorder to record off my regular radio through an external sound card. In fact I hadn’t used it since I upgraded to Windows 7 several years ago, and when I tried it out last night, it failed to detect my sound hardware, not even after following the documentation to get it to work with Windows 7.

I tried a few other free Internet radio recorders such as Station Ripper and StreamWriter but they didn’t work for me either. They do pick up other online music streams with no problem, but not the one at YourClassical. I’m thinking that one stream is set up to play only through web browsers. So I was stuck.

The solution happened to lie in a program already installed on my system. Audacity came in handy some years ago when I needed to record my vinyl records to MP3 files, and now it’s come to the rescue to help me record the music stream at YourClassical. The hardest part was configuring it to record directly from the sound card, but I managed to figure that out in a few clicks. Selecting “Windows WASAP” from the sound input menu did the trick, as shown here:


Problem solved. From now on when I want to record the YourClassical stream, I just manually start the stream at the web site, fire up Audacity and record away. I can even schedule it to record the stream during the night while I’m sleeping. When the recording’s finished, I save ito an MP3 file for later transfer to my iPod for some musical enjoyment on my next bike ride. It does sound like a bit of work but I consider this an ideal solution using free software that requires no upgrading to a “pro” version for me to fully utilize its abilities.

Converting vinyl records to MP3.

There is more than one way to convert your vinyl records to MP3, from investing in a USB turntable to using a standard record player hooked up to an external sound card. I’ll describe the latter method here.
I hooked up my record player to my Soundblaster external sound card’s RCA inputs. Then I fired up Audacity and made sure that it was set to use the sound card as its main source. In my case, I selected Line-In for Creative Sound Blaster and made sure the recording input level was set to its maximum setting.
Then I recorded the LP as usual. I found it easier to just record the entire side and then breaking up the one recording into the individual songs. The recording was already loud enough to not require any additional sound level adjustments.
After highlighting each song, I then edited the ID3 tags to fill in the song, artist and album information. A little extra work, yes, but it’s worth it when importing the MP3’s in your favorite media player’s library. The media player will use the ID3 information to download the album artwork.
When all the newly created MP3 files are imported, you can burn them to a CD or put them on your MP3 player for musical enjoyment anywhere, complete with those gentle clicks and scratch sounds to bring back those very fond memories from yesteryear.
This entire process is similar to the approach I used when I converted my music cassettes to MP3.
Here’s one of my vinyl
record conversions in progress as I import Chuck Mangione’s classic Feels So Good album. I didn’t buy it new but got it at a used record store in West Palm Beach. It only cost me a dollar but the music is priceless.

Note how the external sound card serves to receive the torrent of digital data emanating from the record player.

I confess to throwing that last sentence in so this post includes the words “Chuck Mangione”, “Feels So Good”, and “torrent” so this post shows up in Google to confuse those searching for some illegal music downloads. Gotcha. Now hang your head in shame.

Recording radio shows with Audacity.

I just figured out a way to have Audacity automatically record my favorite radio shows at a certain time and have it export the recording to MP3 format, all without my sitting at the computer. All you’ll need to do this is a copy of AutoIt and a few scripts. You’ll also need a sound card with some RCA inputs and a Y-cable with RCA connectors at one end and a 3.5mm stereo plug at the other. This is what I have:

I simply plug the stereo plug into my sound source, which can be my radio or even my police scanner. Then I tune the source to the radio station carrying the program I want to record and leave the radio turned on. It doesn’t hurt to do a few test recordings in Audacity to make sure the volume level is properly set.

Then I set up the Windows Task Scheduler to launch a compiled AutoIt script at a specified time which controls the mouse cursor to move it to the RECORD button and send a left click to start recording. This is the single line from that script, which I named “start recording.au3”.

MouseClick (“left”, 229, 68)

This should work on computers with a desktop resolution of 1280 x 1024, which happens to be the display setting my monitor uses. If this script doesn’t work for you, use the A3Info utility to locate the coordinates for the Record button.
I then go back into Task Scheduler and set up a time for my second compiled script to run, one that moves the mouse to the STOP button to stop recording and save the recording as an MP3 file. It even fills in the ID3 tags for you. Here’s the source code for that script, appropriately named “stop recording.au3”.

; Click the STOP button
MouseClick (“left”,329, 69,1,100)

; Save the MP3 file
MouseClick (“left”, 15, 30,1,100)
MouseClick (“left”,50,250,1,100)
sleep (1000)
Send (“Broadcast – ” & @MON & “-” & @MDAY & “-” & @HOUR & “-” & @MIN & “{ENTER}”)
sleep (1000)

; Fill in ID3 tag fields for MP3 file
MouseClick (“left”,572, 434,1,100)
Send (“Recorded on ” & @MON & “/” & @MDAY & “/” & @YEAR & ” at ” & @HOUR & “:” & @MIN)
MouseClick (“left”,573, 466,1,100)
Send (@UserName)
MouseClick (“left”,760, 578,1,50)

; Select OTHER for genre
send (“o”)
sleep (100)
send (“o”)
MouseClick (“left”,759, 533,50)

; Export recording as MP3
MouseClick (“left”,678, 650)

I’ve given this script a test run and it works well. I will never again miss another broadcast of my favorite radio shows.

Converting music cassette tapes to MP3’s.

I am currently undertaking a rather ambitious project to convert some of my music cassette tapes to MP3 format. It’s a painstakingly slow process but one that allows me to finally digitize my tape collection.
I took my standard dual cassette deck and hooked it up to my computer through my external Sound Blaster card (model SB0270), which has some RCA cables on the back for connecting my tape deck. Here’s what my setup looks like:

I’m using Audacity to convert my tapes to MP3 and it’s really working out well. Since Audacity cannot create MP3 files without the appropriate encoder, I made sure the LAME MP3 encoder was installed. Now I was ready to rock.
The first thing I did was to configure Audacity to use my external sound card as the input. I accessed the Preferences sub-menu from the Edit menu and selected it as my Line-In device. I also made sure Audacity was set to record in stereo.
Some of my tapes were recorded using Dolby noise reduction, so before I record such a tape, I make sure my tape deck’s noise reduction feature was switched on. Otherwise I would leave it switched off.
Now I was ready to start recording. I started recording in Audacity and then pressed PLAY on my tape deck and started recording. When it was finished, I removed the silence from the beginning and ending of the track in Audacity.
I have noticed that the volume level of my recorded input wasn’t very high, so I accessed the Amplify feature from the Effects menu to boost the volume level without distorting the sound. Afterwards I just exported it directly to MP3 format and moved on to the next tape.
I’m sure this is not the only way to export your music tapes to MP3 format but this is what’s worked really well for me. There’s a FAQ entry on Audacity’s web site with further information about using Audacity to digitize your tapes and records.

Awesome sound recorder.

Audacity is a free, open source sound recorder that’s easy to use yet well-suited for power users. You can use it to record live audio and implement various effects such as echo and pitch change. For the advanced user, Audacity can record multiple tracks of music and allows for easy editing on each track. This is a very neat program that’s fun to experiment with for exploring the creative side you never knew you had.