Rich Warren: Some thoughts on preserving old music digitally

Rich Warren: Some thoughts on preserving old music digitally

Many of us find treasured recordings scattered around the house that no longer play on contemporary music players. That's why a 1921 Victrola remains in my living room.

This reader asks a popular question: "We have four partially filled tapes I would like to have on one CD. Do you know of anyone who does this reasonably and what the cost might be?"

I recommended DVD Memories, a local franchise that converts analog to digital media. But the reader replied she could not afford its rates.

Without passing judgment on its fees, copying analog to digital takes a considerable amount of time. We're so used to downloading an album from the Internet in five minutes or ripping a CD to a computer or iPod in a couple of minutes that we forget that LPs and tapes must be played in real time to properly convert them to digital. First the transcriber must manually load each tape onto the tape player, locate the audio you want transferred, and then play the tape in real time into the computer.

Formatting the tracks, burning the CD and labeling it requires several more minutes. Thus, transferring your hour of material from different tapes could take about two hours.

Before beginning the transfer, the company doing this must buy good equipment to insure professional quality work. Then it must pay a competent person to do the work. The blank CD and jewel box costs about $1. At the end of the process, charging $30-$40 would be reasonable.

If you search the Internet, you'll find companies that offer these services with competitive rates. They may be less than local services, but you must trust UPS, FedEx or the post office with your precious originals and pay for shipping.

Perhaps a cheaper option is to rent a tape deck or search out an inexpensive used tape machine. Some retail stores, such as Glenn Poor's Audio-Video in the Old Farm Shops in Champaign maintain a selection of used equipment. Audio Consultants on Davis Street in Evanston keeps a vast selection of used equipment.

Then you can simply play your tapes into your computer and burn your own CDs. It's amazingly simple.

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After my rant about Target being a less-than-ideal merchant from which to buy an iPad, a reader recommended the computer shop in the Illini Union. She wrote: "As I have always found before, the young people in the store were not only very helpful, but very patient with this grandmother."

This reader also replaced an early generation iPad with the new iPad Air and is very happy with her new tablet.

Another reader comment about the iPad Air: "Thursday's article was good and your comment about upgrading to the Apple Air was consistent with what various Apple News sites have been saying — it probably isn't worth the upgrade if you have anything from 3 on up. I'm afraid I have the Apple disease that you mentioned! I'm thinking about getting the new Air — but my wife also read your article!!!!"

To that, I would say, Dear Abby is in a different section of this paper.

In defense of Target, for most accessories, Target beats Best Buy by a mile when it comes to price. In search of a new 8-foot HDMI cable, I found one on sale at Best Buy for about $40. A nearly identical cable at Target was $27. Electrically, all HDMI cables are identical. However, there are some differences in their physical durability.

Rest assured that buying some fancy brand-name cable for more money than it's worth will not improve your picture and sound quality. Some brand names mean nothing. When you see GE on a cable or accessory, it's not manufactured by the same company that makes refrigerators and jet engines. Similarly, the RCA of a few decades ago no longer exists.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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