This article is from the CD-Recordable FAQ, by Andy McFadden (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
Conversion of cassette tapes and vinyl records is increasingly popular.
Common reasons range from plans for long-term preservation to a desire
to listen to old favorites while driving in a car without a tape player.
There are two basic kinds of CD recorders: those that attach to a computer,
and those that stand alone. The latter, described in detail in section
(5-12), are usually connected to a stereo system. They are easier to work
with, but less flexible.
The first step, regardless of equipment, is figuring out how to physically
connect your tape player, turntable, or wax cylinder player to something
else. You almost always want "line-level" sound. The output from a
turntable is typically not line-level, so it has to be connected to a
receiver or pre-amplifier "phono" input. You then use the outputs from
the receiver or amplifier; if you can find outputs labeled "tape out" or
"preamp out", use those.
(A pre-amplifier raises the voltage level from the phono cartridge up to
"line level" voltage. An amplifier increases the signal from line level
to whatever is needed for your speakers. A pre-amplifier will also
compensate for pre-emphasis in the recorded material.)
You could connect your recorder to the headphone jack on the receiver or
amplifier, but that's not the best way to go. The voltage level coming
out of the headphone jack varies on the volume setting, while line-level
output doesn't. This makes line-level easier to set up. If all you can
find is a headphone jack, you will have to fiddle with the volume control
until the sound is as loud as possible without "clipping". If one of your
devices has little colored bars that bounce up and down according to how
loud the sound is, you need to play something "loud" on your tape player
or turntable, and adjust the volume until the loudest parts rise up just
shy of the maximum.
Connect the output from your tape player, receiver, or amplifier into
the CD recorder (if you have a stand-alone model) or the "line in" on the
sound card on your computer (if you're using that). Continue with section
(3-12-1) if you have a stand-alone model, section (3-12-2) if yours is
attached to a computer.
You can find odd bits of hardware that will play or enhance playback of
older recording formats (78's, LP's, 16" Radio Transcriptions) at Nauck's
Vintage Records (http://www.78rpm.com/).
For those of you wondering what the deal with pre-emphasis is, this
little tidbit is courtesy Mike Richter:
"Preemphasis has been used since the earliest days of commercial recording.
In general, the high-frequency content of the music (or whatever) being
recorded is low and the noise is high. Therefore, treble was boosted and
lows were cut by a preemphasis curve which was removed in playback. The
standard RIAA curve for turnover and rolloff (the amount and frequency
for treble and bass, respectively) was not accepted universally until the
50's, and some fine preamps offered selectable values with presets for
the common curves into the early transistor era."