Hi Mr. D,
I'm assuming you have everything you need to connect your turntable to your computer. There are a few tricks to know there.
People generally want several things in vinyl ripping software:
- Recording the Audio
- Making CDs
- Splitting each LP side into tracks
- Tagging files with song titles, album art, etc, preferably automatically over the Internet
- Saving/converting to your favorite format- MP3, FLAC, WAV, OGG
- Removing clicks, pops and hiss
- Normalizing (raising) volume
Audacity is free, Mac, Windows and Linux compatible and accomplishes a surprising number of these things.
The only things in the list it won't do are: Burning CDs, looking up album info on the Internet and inserting album art.
If you've never used Audacity, be prepared to spend some time learning.
There are lots of great programs out there for $50 or less that will do it all and make your life easier. Allen mentioned a couple. Spin It Again and VinylStudio are a couple of more.
As far as formats, for MP3, you don't need to go over 192kbps. For WAV, 44.1 and 16-bit. This is also the same bitrate you need for a CD.
The standard CD quality will outperform even the best turntable/pre-amp/sound card combination. Unless you plan on doing some serious tweaking with your files after you record them, there's no need go higher than CD quality.
If you don't have a turntable, you can always go the USB turntable route. All come with Audacity (it's free anyway). Some come with additional software.
All of the programs that come with these turntables (except Ion and Numark's) can be purchased separately and used with a regular old turntable.
Allen is absolutely right about how much effort is involved in ripping vinyl.
It's not like ripping a CD where you pop it in, press a button and 4 minutes and 30 seconds later you have tagged MP3s with album art.
The equivalent in vinyl ripping will take you the length of the LP plus another 10 minutes if you're very effecient.
Hope that helps.