Notes to self (and any interested onlookers) on technology, processes, and playback options:
We are using this pre-amp to connect a turntable and cassette deck to a computer. Their web site is full of cheesy hype, but the hardware and bundled software deliver. We've been able to get pretty clean recordings from less-than-clean sources. It can't work miracles, but it's doing much better than I would have thought. (The software UI has some annoying quirks, but nothing that's a show-stopper.)
After we rip the source and run the clean-up software, we use WavePad (don't have a URL handy) to split the album/tape side up into tracks, fade in/out where needed (particularly an issue with tapes, which still have residual hiss), adjust volume where it's really problematic, and stuff like that. This software can do a lot more (and more still if you pay for the better version; we have the freebie), but I'm a beginner at this stuff and I'm sticking to the basics. At this stage I'm saving both WAV and MP3 files.
After WavePad, we use Tag&Rename (no URL here either) to process the MP3s. We could do that right in iTunes, but we started down the path of tagging first and then importing and it's working well. (The tagger's UI might be a little easier to use, which is a factor when you're doing thousands of files.)
After tagging, we import to iTunes, sanity-check a random track snippet, and add the new imports to a "test" playlist for verification. Once things are verified they move from the "test" playlist to the "verified" playlist, so we never have to answer the question "did each of us assume the other listened through this album?".
Edited to add: We are using the "comments" field for certain kinds of tagging, like "looking for a better recording of this". Currently our tag set is: TAG_REPLACE (we need to replace this somehow), TAG_WEAK (this isn't a good recording but we might not care deeply), and (going in a different direction) TAG_CHILD_#_ for Child ballads. That final '_' is what lets us tell the difference, with iTunes search, between Child 1 and Child 10.
(When we can acquire replacements for our albums/tapes affordably we've been doing that, saving the ripping for the impossible or expensive cases. But there's a lot of that. We got major help from a friend who has much of the same out-of-print music we do who ripped his collection some time ago. But we'll still have ripped stuff from hundreds of tapes/albums by the time we're done.)
Once we have it all in digital form (and have synched our iTunes libraries to account for all this), we'll need a way to play it back. I don't want to listen to music on my computer; I want to listen to it on the stereo in the living room while sitting in the comfy chair with the optional feline installation. We are currently thinking in terms of getting a household iPod to connect to the stereo. (Mine is a Nano, which meets my needs but obviously won't hold our collection.) Another possibility is to broadcast from iTunes using a radio adapter; this means the sound is available via any radio in the house, but we're not sure how much we would use that versus the hassle of running back to the computer to change playlists/albums/etc. (The answer to that is a household web interface, but we don't yet have the internet in our pockets... nor a wireless network in the house, but were that the only barrier we'd fix it.)
Another playback consideration is that sometimes one of us will want to listen to music. So we also want good headphones to be part of this mix. We're currently thinking wireless headphones (those have volume knobs, right?) talking to the stereo; we sampled some (wired) Bose headphones that seemed to meet our needs, so assuming we can find that in wireless, that's a plausible scenario. We also talked about plugging headphones into the iPod (put the iPod in your pocket and you can go anywhere), but the wireless headphones are slightly more versatile and don't require you to carry another device around (which someone will inevitably set down somewhere for "just a minute" and then lose track of). By the way, neither of us can stand earbuds, so the solution that comes with the iPod is a non-starter.
Antepenultimately, for my own reference because this happened to me tonight while we were testing stereo stuff: how to reset a frozen iPod. Because it otherwise never would have occurred to me that (a) this could happen or (b) how the heck you recover from it.
Finally, does anyone know of a good home for no-longer-needed LPs in Pittsburgh?