Guide To Convert Audio Cassette Tapes To Digital Files
Cassette tapes today are collected more as memorabilia than sources of music. If you’re a collector, or simply have old cassettes that you want to preserve, you should consider converting the tapes to digital. Cassette tapes do deteriorate over time. So, if you leave them as is, you may lose out on some of your favorite old mixtapes. While there is no replacement to a professional audio cassette to digital service, you can do the conversion yourself, and here’s how.
Get A Cassette Player That Works
You’ll need to play the music on your cassette player (also known as a tape deck) to record it onto your computer. If you already have a cassette player, that’s great. If you don’t, you can purchase one online. Before you use your cassette player for recording the tracks, run a quick diagnostic to see if everything is working well. Play a cassette you don’t plan on recording and listen and look out for the following problems.
- Fluctuations in the playback speed
- Fast or slow stable playback speeds
- Excessive hissing from the tape deck
- Wow and flutter
- An eaten cassette (caused by an uneven winding of the cassette)
Adjust The Bias On The Cassette Player
Most cassette players have a bias knob, allowing you to adjust the bias according to the cassette you’re playing. However, if your cassette player doesn’t have a bias button or knob, it may adjust automatically, or the player may be old. Every cassette will mention if it is “normal bias” or “high bias.” Adjusting the bias to the correct setting will ensure that the sound quality is at its best. If your player doesn’t have a bias adjustment knob, test the sound quality of a cassette before proceeding to record.
Download Recording Software On Your Computer
There are various recording software that you can use for this purpose. Some good paid options include Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Logic. However, if you’re not going to be recording music other than in this case, you can consider free software like Audacity. Audacity won’t have a lot of options as compared to paid software, but it works well for this purpose.
Connect The Cassette Player To Your Computer
You’ll need to connect your cassette player directly to your computer to convert the analog audio to digital. How you connect your audio cassette player to your computer will depend on the output port on the player. Here are some cables you can use, depending on the port on your cassette player.
3.5mm Male To Malea Udio Aux Cable
For those of you who aren’t familiar with specific names of cables, the 3.5mm Male to Male Audio Aux Cable has a headphones’ cable jack on both ends. Therefore, one end will go into your computer’s microphone input (most modern PCs and laptops use one headphone port for both audio and microphone). The other end will go into the headphones’ port of your cassette player.
3.5mm To 2 Male RCA Cable
You may need this cable if the headphones port in your cassette player is not a 3.5mm port. The 3.5mm cable will go into your computer, and the other two in the cassette player’s headphones port.
1/4 Inches Male To 3.5mm Male
You’ll need this cable if the headphones port in your cassette player is a 1/4inches/6.35mm jack. You must also note that some cassette players have two 1/4 inches/6.35mm ports in the headphone jack. In that case, you’ll need to purchase a stereo 1/4 inches to 3.5mm audio cable.
If your computer doesn’t have a sound card, you may use a capture card for this purpose. However, it’s highly unlikely that your computer won’t have a sound card.
Test Your Recording On Your Software Of Choice
Converting audio cassette tapes to digital is a relatively simple process. All you’ll need to know about the recording software you’re using is the microphone options. If you’re using Audacity, check the “line in” option for setting the cassette player as the microphone.
Next, play the cassette on the player at about 75% to 80% volume. Recording the music at max volume may cause audio clipping. Audio clipping will ruin the sound quality. If you’re using Audacity, click on the equalizer (a long bar that shows the input volume for both left and right inputs) at the top of the menu. Look at the range in which the input volume is landing. Ideally, the bar should stay in the green area even at the loudest parts of a song. Audio clipping will occur if the bar goes in the red. If the bar is not in the ideal position, adjust the mic volume within Audacity.
Once the settings are perfect, you can record your first song. You have three options when organizing your recordings.
- You can stop recording when one song finishes
- You can record the entire cassette and separate each song later
- Record the entire cassette as one file
Export The File As An MP3 Or Wav File
After recording your tracks, all you have to do is export it as an MP3 file or Wav file, depending on your preferences. Wav files tend to have better audio quality, but the files are much larger. You can export each song as a separate file, or you can export the whole album as one file. If you’re still unhappy with the sound quality, you can consider getting in touch with a tape to digital service for better sound.
Use A USB Cassette To MP3 Converter
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of using a cassette player to convert your cassette audio, you can use a USB cassette to MP3 converter. For this process, all you must do is attach the device to your computer via USB, place the cassette in the device, and use the software provided with the player to begin the conversion. While this process is simple, it won’t reproduce the same high-quality audio from your cassette.
There’s a lot of old music that’s still only available on cassette tapes. If you’ve collected some of those old tracks, you should definitely convert the analog audio to digital before it gets damaged and you lose it forever.
Brandon Harris is the owner of Smooth Photo Scanning Services, a photo & convert vhs to digital service in New Jersey. Prior to that, Brandon owned and operated a small bakery. Other than working to grow and improve his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and family.