Recommended Software

You need these apps.  Seriously, you do.

1. Click Repair and/or Groove Mechanic

I have yet to find an effective free vinyl recovery app.  No matter - Click Repair and Groove Mechanic are both very affordable and offer free trial periods.  Both programmes are exceptionally easy to use and seem to work on similar principals - by "healing" audio clicks rather than suppressing them.

Both work on .wav formats only; they can rip the initial audio files from your turntable, cassette machine or whatever.   If you need to clean  up other file formats (.mp3; .flac etc) you'll need to convert these to .wav first (see dB Power Amp or Format Factory ).

Click Repair is undoubtedly faster and includes many more adjustable settings; Groove Mechanic is far slower but it does seem to be ever-so-slightly more meticulous in cleaning up audio files.  Groove Mechanic also features a very useful rumble feature and a volume adjustment setting.
Click Repair interface
MP3TAG
 Groove Mechanic interface

2. MP3TAG

Obsessives (such as myself) simply have to attach (and correct)  as much metadata (track information) as they can to every piece of music, in every album, in their libraries.

Whilst there are quite a few apps that claim the ability to complete this task automatically, I prefer to achieve enter such information manually.  The automatic apps often misidentify recording dates, confuse original albums with compilations and classify music in strange and imaginary musical genres . 

MP3TAG is a free application that works across most popular file formats and allows you to tag not just artist, track name and numbers - it can also add metadata such as conductors, composers, genres, bit rates, album covers and much more.  Best of all, it allows batch processing - there's no need to tag just one track at a time.  MP3TAG can also link through to a few databases ( Music Brainz , Discogs , Amazon) to help find the correct information to attach to your music files. 


MP3TAG interface

3. VLC and/or Foobar

VideoLAN's VLC  is a remarkable piece of software that will play seemingly any audio or video file format that you can think of - for example, it will even play DTS suround sound audio discs. Not bad for a free app - especially one that does not repeatedly try to upgrade you to a superior, paid-for version.   It is loaded with hidden features, for example VLC can play video streams from the internet - think YouTube - which can in turn be saved to your hard drive.  If the lip sync in a movie is out, VLC can easily fix that. 

On the down side, the library features are limited and clunky and overall, the interface is not exactly intuitive.

Sound and picture quality are both excellent.  No PC is complete without this app, even if it is just kept in reserve to play files that no other software will go near.

Foobar is a very popular player - like VLC it plays any audio format you can name - including .cue files.  It does not play video files. The layout is highly customisable and the library features are very versatile (even if the library does at times seem to have a mind of its own).   And like VLC, it is a free app.   It claims to be able to tag your music - this feature I have not yet tried. 




VLC interface

4. Other media players...

Apple's iTunes is excellent - and free.  It has the best library features of any player that I have used and allows you to tag your music manually or automatically. But it won't play .flac (or any lossless files other than .wav and Apple Lossless).  So, none of the music for download on this site will play on iTunes without using a file conversion tool (dB Power Amp or Format Factory). 

The Genius feature in iTunes makes the app practically essential - choose a song and Genius will carry on playing tunes in a similar vein.  For those with burgeoning music libraries, it is a tremendous way to explore all of the albums that one is amassing. For example, today I started with Jim Croce's Photographs & Memories - Genius lined up Harry Chapin's Taxi; James Taylor's Shower The People and Cat Stevens' Oh Very Young.  And 21 more songs of that ilk.  Genius compiled some excellent playlists of light classical music which were played at my daughter's wedding. - I couldn't have made a better list of music if I had tried.  You'll need to create an account with Apple to take advantage of this feature. 

Winamp is my default audio player.  It just is.  It hasn't been updated in years and the layout looks old and clumsy.  But the sound quality is very good indeed and it plays all of the lossless audio formats.  It also displays the track information from internet radio stations - very useful when the station in question tends to play a good deal of obscure tracks, such as The Oldies Project .  The software remains free; there has been much chatter on the net regarding an update (or even a complete overhaul) of the programme - but don't hold your breath.

Spotify is the king of all media streaming players.  The paid for version (£9.99/month) is ad free and offers high quality streaming.  It works on your phone, you can log in through your (or somebody else's!) web browser, it will play the mp3 files on your PC. 

By defalt, Spotify sets the same volume level for all songs.  Whatever you do, disable this feature - normalising the volume in this way absolutely kills the sound quality (edit-preferences-advanced settings).  Turn on the high quality tab whilst you're about it - now, do a blindfold test between something on CD and the same song played by this wonderful app.  You might very well be surprised.

On the down side; Spotify deliberately litter their library with thousands of dreadful royalty-free live albums and out-of-copyright recordings.  It can be something of a chore finding the original version of the song that you want to hear.

It is worth mentioning that all of the media players listed above support gapless playback.



5. Audacity

Audacity is something of a Swiss Army penknife of recording tools.  It is fully loaded with tools and effects - it can edit, equalise, crossfade, fade in/out, change tempo., normalise, overdub, multi track, remove vocals as well as - of course - rip and split audio tracks.  Which is a very short list of what the app is capable of.  Astonishingly, Audacity is a free programme .


Audacity interface

6. Nero and/or Roxio

Of the many all round media suites that are available, Nero and Roxio Creator are probably the most popular.  Both are sold in a variety of versions (Pro, Platinum, Ultra - you get the idea); they all aim to be one stop media editing and creating tools. I'm particularly fond of Roxio's LP & Tape Assistant which is perhaps the most foolproof (and quickest) method that I know of ripping audio tracks.  Once the LP is ripped and split, the programme links through to the Gracenote database and adds the appropriate metadata. Nero's rip tool is SoundTrax; it is not quite so intuitive but still works well. Otherwise, both suites allow you to create and manipulate audio, video and image files, and to burn or copy discs.  Neither could claim to be as comprehensive or elaborate as certain/typical specialist editing/creation programmes (Adobe's Audition & Photoshop , VSO's ConvertXToDVD for example) but for projects of simple to medium complexity it is worth trying out either programme via the free trial periods on offer at the respective websites.  You might just find one or the other to be indispensable.
Roxio's LP & Tape Assistant

7. CDBurner XP

Few CD burning tools are as simple and reliable as CDBurner XP .  It is the only app outside of iTunes that I have found that can burn Apple's lossless files to disc.  It can create and burn ISO files; copy discs and burn .cue files to CD.  It is nearly as simple to use as the excellent Burrrn but is far more versatile. 

Both Burrrn and CDBurner XP are freeware; neither of which nag you into buying a paid for version.
CDBurner XP interface

8. dBpoweramp and/or Format Factory

If you intend to rip audio to your PC, it is best done in .wav format i.e. uncompressed.  As stated earlier, the best vinyl repair apps (declick software) only work in .wav format.  Once your files are edited, cleaned up and generally tweaked, you're going to want to convert them to something that takes up less disc space.  FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) seems to be the internet's favourite lossless format - it retains all of the fidelity of the original (as far as I can tell) and works on the majority of media players.  Except iTunes.  FLAC however does not work on any personal music player that I have encountered. 

Apple Lossless works in practically every media app, with the possible exception of Window Media Player (unless one can find a suitable plug in).  As one might expect, it will work on iPods and iPhones. 

Therefore, your lovingly ripped .wav files will need converting to the appropriate format.  dBpoweramp will convert to any audio format that you can name.  It can rip CDs to your PC and tag the tracks as well as adding the album artwork.  The programme has a free trial period, after which registration starts at £28. 

Format Factory can convert audio and video files, and is free.  But be warned - it comes bundled with the potentially unwanted programme (PUP) Open Candy .  Not exactly a virus, but malware nonetheless.  Go ahead and install Format Factory, but sweep your machine with Junkware Removal Tool afterwards
dBpoweramp interface