Recording Cassette Tapes into a Computer

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While sometimes it may seem as though all of recorded music is available by a quick search on services such as Spotify, Google Play, or iTunes (to name just three), the truth is that a significant amount of recorded music is only available in analog formats, such as cassette tapes. So, whether your interest is in digitizing cassettes from childhood or a mix tape from an old high-school flame, B&H has a range of solutions to help you enjoy your analog music in a convenient digital format.

There are two approaches to digitizing cassette tapes. The first is to buy a cassette player or combination media player that includes a CD burner or USB sound card with software for recording to a computer.

The second approach is to combine an existing cassette player with a USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire (depending on your computer’s I/O) audio interface or with a digital field recorder that accepts the analog line level output of your cassette player.

Approach 1

The easiest way to digitize your cassettes is by purchasing a device such as the ION Audio Tape Express+ Portable Tape-to-MP3 Converter. Not much larger than a cassette itself, the unit is USB bus powered. It comes with ION’s EZ vinyl/Tape Converter software for Mac and windows which provides step by step guidance for transferring you music via iTunes. 

For users interested in also digitizing their cassette collection to CD’s or USB flash media without the need for a computer, take a look at the TEAC AD-RW900-B CD Recorder with Cassette Deck and USB Port.

For users also interested in digitizing their cassette collection to CDs or USB flash media without the need for a computer, take a look at the TEAC AD-RW900-B CD Recorder with Cassette Deck and USB Port.

Approach 2

For users who prefer a more DIY approach and who already have a working cassette player with a line level output, consider purchasing a simple line level cable for connecting to the line level input and using your computer’s internal sound card. Alternatively, if your computer does not have a line level input on the bus and you do not currently own an audio interface that accepts line level inputs, you can purchase an analog-to-digital-over-USB converter, such as the Griffin Technology iMic USB audio Interface.

A wide variety of paid (Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic), as well as free (Audacity, Garageband for Macs, etc) digital audio workstations (DAW), are available online and from B&H to meet your needs. Depending on what you choose, be sure to follow the software’s help section for setting up your audio interface or soundcard to record to the software.  

Alternatively, if you do not want to use a computer and DAW to record, you could consider using a digital field recorder with a line level input such as the Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder. You can then load the tracks into a computer at a later point for editing, labeling, and organizing from the recorder’s microSD/SDHC card. 

Connecting your cassette player to your audio interface, field recorder, or internal soundcard will depend on the input and output connectors of the respective devices. These may be stereo 3.5mm line level connectors or a pair of unbalanced RCA connectors. Fortunately, B&H offers an extensive catalog of cables and adapters for connecting your equipment so you can accomplish your goal.  

Discussion 22

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Sam,

Nothing against the late Mr. Jobs, but Mac doesn't have exclusionary access to audio input ports. Since the Sound Blaster in 1989, which was based on components available a few years earlier for the pre-PC market, sampling analog audio (e.g. cassette input) to digital has been possible. Sound Blaster offered this capability at least a year before the Mac IIsi (the first Mac to have a sound input).

Most if not all PCs, both laptops and desktops sold today, indeed have a microphone input and most also have a line input. To connect that to your tape deck, I would go with a premium 3.5mm stereo male to 2 RCA male cable. Even the gold plated versions go for less than $5 on Amazon. Radio Shack calls it a " 1/8" Stereo to dual phono (RCA) plug Y-Cable" and carries it for less than $10. Many sources on the internet sell this type of cable at various qualities and prices.

Although Windows has a built in audio recorder, I'd use Audacity as it is a free open source software audio recorder of good quality and features. Although I'm no Sony-fanboy at all, I would better still recommend SoundForge Audio Studio or Pro: in this case, "studio" is the consumer version and "Pro" is the full featured version. Although purchased by Sony, the original small and dedicated American team of SoundForge developers and support folk are still at the helm and they produce a great product. It's available here at B&H.

BTW, if you don't have a LINE IN or Line Input and you have a laptop, don't bother with the MIC input, it generally wants a much lower voltage and the sound quality will be terrible without a patch cable. Many desktops however will offer an input that will assign when you plug the device in, regardless what is marked. If you can find an audio in port, often blue, use it (green is usually LINE OUT output and red is MIC).

Sound Forge can take your old audio tapes and automatically chop up the tracks for a CD, but in today's day and age, we all listen to MP3s or other digital source. I'd recommend re-creating your old mix tapes virtually via acquiring the songs digitally then creating playlists. But if you have great quality tapes and you don't want the expense of re-purchasing your music, get the Y-cable mentioned above, load up recording software, and go for it!

For the super frugal, what has become cheaper than the actual cable is some of the "Video to USB" adapters out there. Even with shipping, they can often be ourchased for less than $20 on E-Bay. I can't speak for the quality, but whether or not you use the video aspects, its worth a try at that price. Essentially it is an external sound card (and video input card as well which you can just ignore).

One last word: when setting the sound levels, *never-NEVER* let the levels go to high. You should see the waves of sound with varying levels during the whole recording. If the sound level is too high, it will "clip" and distort terribly. Yes, folks, this is very different from the "old days" of analog magnetic recording where the tape "liked" to be saturated a little, and the louder your recording was, the lower the background tape noise was. Since the signal to noise ration has gone from 20 dB to 70 (or better) dB, getting a loud recording isn't important, getting a clean recording is *much* more important to the quality of the final product. Any recording that is "clipped" will be all but useless as a quality music listening experience.

Good Luck...

Gene

Thank you, Gene.  That worked for me.  i wanted to make cds of a recording a cassette, and with the Audiology software, I was able to plug in the male to male jack [from the headphone jack in the cassette recorder to the microphone jack on my pc], press record on the Audiology software, and violoa, it is recording.  Thank you.  I think if you have the headphone/mincrophone jacks, you can do it with any recording device, right?

What is your goal? I'd recommend that you make them into high quality MP3 recordings, then you can mix them and play them anywhere, and make custom CDs. Male to male adapter can loose a lot if you are sending into a MIC input, it is best to use a LINE-IN port. Almost all PCs have a line in, but I'd be very careful about using a MIC input and a headphone out. You may have to "tweak" the headphone volume control and the mic input control quite a bit before you get anything near good quality. it's best if you can use line-out and line input connections.

I am curious if the method for a cassette player and a Macintosh would also work for a Reel to Reel player/recorder and a Macintosh.  

Hello -

Absolutely!  The method described using an Audio Interface to Connect a Tape Player to a Computer will not change with a reel to reel.  Just be aware that the outputs from your reel to reel machine may require a simple adapter to connect to the inputs on the audio interface.

That's the best asnwer of all time! JMHO

Sam
I am trying to record audio from video on internet to CD Recorder or Cassette Recorder
What cables or equipment is needed to complete this procedure
Once audio is recorded, I will connect Xitel Inport to Desktop/Recorder and record audio with LP Recorder and edit audio with LP Ripper and store in music library for burning compilation CDs
Do you have equipment in your inventory to complete this procedure
Thanks for your assistance

Harvey

I needed to find out how to record cassettes to my Mac, and you concisely told me just what I needed to do. I had purchased a stereo mini-male to stereo mini-male cable at Radio Shack a couple of years ago thinking I would start this project, so now I'm going to put it to good use! I'm using the Garage Band software and adjusted the preferences to line-level input, just as you directed. Thank you so much... I agree with you about the wealth of recordings ***** dormant on cassette tapes, and I have enough to keep me busy all winter! Thank you again!

Sincerely,

Leslie Wolfe

Hello, I have a Marantz PMD 222 that I bought several years back at B&H and am now trying to digitize some voice recordings on my mac I bought an aux audio cable at Apple store, plugged one end into the Mac and the other into the line out on the Marantz. I have garage band set to mono built-in input and set the preference to "built-in input"

When I record however, Garageband is recording not only the cassette but other sounds (like my voice for instance) so it seems not to be recording correctly? I can hear the cassette (not sure if that's supposed to happen).
Any suggestions? I tried changing the input selector on the Marantz (not sure if it should be set to "line" or "mic/tel" . Is the cable incorrect?

The Mac salesman said the cable he gave me would only record in mono; is there a stereo cable I could use? Any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated . Thank you!!!

Dear Sam,

i am looking to digitalize several hundreds of cassette tapes, old radio programs and have been looking around for a fast and efficient way to do this.
From the options you outline in the article which one would be the fasted. Most devices seem to be record one to one, which in my case would take many months, is there an option to speed up digitalization?
The programs have no music in them, which some people suggest would suffer.

Thank you for your help,
felix

Sam,

I don't know if this thread is still open, but here's my situation.

I was able to get a couple of cassette albums into my iMac as a test, using an old Walkman cassette player, a 3.5 to 3.5 cable to my iMac, and QuickTime. It seemed to work pretty well, and when I play back the QuickTime files on the Mac (one file for each side of the album) they sound great.

But when I tried to copy these files onto a CD, using iTunes, I was not able to. I copied the files (just drag and drop and burn) to a CD, and they are there, I can open them and play them on my Mac, like the original files I made. But when I put the CD in my Panasonic CD player in my stereo system, it looks like it is tracking, but no sound comes out. Any ideas?

The TASCAM unit, or the TEAC, sound pretty foolproof, but if I can avoid that expense, that would be even better!

I was able to copy from cassette to my computer and can hear the recorded audio well on my computer. When I try to listen to the audio on other computers the sound is barely audible. I have tried converting to different types of files, like WAV and MP3.

I am seeking a machine to convert Casette tape music and LP to my I Mac. Can I buy Tascam or Teac AD RW 900 ? How much will it cost? Amazon and E bay is asking around $169. Can I buy cheaper? If so, contact me. 

I can cinvert with Behringer with Audacity or Roxio Toast, but the process is long. Can you help?

kamal saha

Hi Kamal -

Please see our current price on the Teac AD-RW900-B CD Recorder with Cassette Deck and USB Port by clicking on the hyperlink.

We may be able to offer a price match:

B&H will consider matching a legitimate price offering from an authorized dealer. We must be able to verify the offer and that the item is in stock. We cannot match phone quotes, coupons or any other promotional incentives. We will need to know the name of the vendor, the item you are interested in and the advertised price.  Please call: 800.606.6969 / 212.444.6615  or e-mail:  SalesBandH.com

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi my name are Guitar *****

 I have been trying to up load my songs  from my  older cassettes player  I just don't know how.  I wants to buy the right type of  player to do so  can you tell me what kind are cassette player i needs.

that's the information i needs.  Do i really needs a Macintosh computers  i have three window xps will that make a different

 Thank you for your information

 Guitar  *****

Hi Guitar ***** -

You can use your Windows PC's  - no problem.  This machine will do a fine job of converting your recorded media to files  that can be stored digitally on your computer:

For dedicated music lovers, the Teac AD-RW900-B CD Recorder with Cassette Deck and USB Port provides a great way to record onto CDs or cassettes, featuring support for CD, CD-R/RW, MP3 and WMA discs. MP3/WMA/PCM recording on PC/Mac via the rear USB port.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hiiiii

Please Ineed some way to learne me how to transefe casseete ot tape to pc Icannt understand any way

Hi Ahmed -

If you already own a cassette player you can use this device:

The U-CONTROL UFO202 from Behringer is a low cost solution for transferring vinyl records and tapes to and from a computer. The USB 1.1 interface is USB bus powered and features 2 analog RCA phono inputs that can be switched between a line source and the phono preamp, and 2 analog RCA phono outputs for connecting active speakers or studio monitors.

A turntable grounding lug is included and headphone monitoring is via a stereo mini jack with a dedicated volume control. No special setup or additional drivers are required and wide computer operating system compatibility is available for both the Mac and Windows platforms.

USB 1.1 audio interface for connecting turntables and tape cassette players with a computer for recording and playback
Phono input with turntable ground lug makes connecting turntables a breeze
The phono input can be switched to allow the interface to accept a line level source
Stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output
Includes energyXT2.5 Behringer Edition music production software, an audio/MIDI sequencer that loads almost instantaneously on all computer platforms
Audacity audio editor for both Mac and Windows available for download
No additional drivers required
Powered via USB - no external power supply needed
 
If you need a cassette player:
 

The TAPE 2 PC from Ion is a high-quality dual cassette deck that allows you to easily convert your favorite tapes to MP3 files for use with your personal media player. Simply connect the TAPE 2 PC to your Mac or Windows computer via USB, and use the included software to convert the tape.

The TAPE 2 PC can also be used as a standard cassette deck in your home entertainment system. Use the included RCA cables to connect to your stereo system for listening in your living room, den, or bedroom.

Note! TAPE 2 PC requires you to download and install Apple iTunes in order to convert your music into MP3 files.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

pl. tell me simply -- How i can transfer voice from cassette to DVD.( My child's voice). i have only 10 senteces . Is it possible by some

company in INDIA??

THANKS

Hi Mahesh -

If you already own a cassette player you can use this device:

The U-CONTROL UFO202 from Behringer is a low cost solution for transferring vinyl records and tapes to and from a computer. The USB 1.1 interface is USB bus powered and features 2 analog RCA phono inputs that can be switched between a line source and the phono preamp, and 2 analog RCA phono outputs for connecting active speakers or studio monitors.

A turntable grounding lug is included and headphone monitoring is via a stereo mini jack with a dedicated volume control. No special setup or additional drivers are required and wide computer operating system compatibility is available for both the Mac and Windows platforms.

USB 1.1 audio interface for connecting turntables and tape cassette players with a computer for recording and playback
Phono input with turntable ground lug makes connecting turntables a breeze
The phono input can be switched to allow the interface to accept a line level source
Stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output
Includes energyXT2.5 Behringer Edition music production software, an audio/MIDI sequencer that loads almost instantaneously on all computer platforms
Audacity audio editor for both Mac and Windows available for download
No additional drivers required
Powered via USB - no external power supply needed

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

After I record the cassette to my laptop, I am prompted to save it. I save it into my music library, but when I go to Windows Explorer to find the file, it is nowhere to be found. What am I missing?

You can also cake a portable cassette player (Walkman for those old enough to now what one is) plug a male to male 3.5 stero cable in (like your headphone cable but has a plug at other end instead of headphones) and plug this into an iPod (that can record, I have iPod classic) hit play on tape deck, record on iPod. once done transfer to PC use Audacity to chop it up to individual files.