Mass Media & Technology

Best Way to Digitise Cassette Tapes.

JB
JasonB London London
I have a couple of D90's that I want to salvage and digitise and record to PC. I did try an attempt a few years back which involved putting a load of wires together and I kept getting lost in them. What sort of equipment is out there these days to do this with not so much hassle?
Have you washed your hands?
NJ
Neil Jones Founding member Central (West) Midlands Today
Last time I did this I have a half knackered midi hifi system that the tape player still works on (the CD unit packed up ages ago), so I just used a 3.5mm audio lead from the headphone socket to the line in on the computer (I had to use a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter but YMMV) and just transferred it that way. Recorded it straight into Audacity as one big file and then chopped it up into chunks for each "track", saved as individual WAV files and then just made an audio CD from those.

I dare say any tape player with a headphone output is the easiest way, just connect to line in on a PC (not laptop should it have one, they'll make a hash of it) and do a test recording to ensure your recording level is right.
BH
BillyH Founding member London London
I used Audacity too when I backed up all my old tapes in the late 2000s, a tape player connected using a headphone socket as mentioned above. Oddly there were some volume issues I couldn’t solve - the levels kept trying to auto adjust meaning during loud/quiet sections the volume would go up and down with an equivalent increase/decrease of tape hiss, and despite going through various settings it seemed unavoidable. My tape player was a fairly modern one from the mid-2000s so maybe it was some fancy auto-adjustment feature built in and an older one would have worked better.
Member since 26 May 2001
NJ
Neil Jones Founding member Central (West) Midlands Today
I used Audacity too when I backed up all my old tapes in the late 2000s, a tape player connected using a headphone socket as mentioned above. Oddly there were some volume issues I couldn’t solve - the levels kept trying to auto adjust meaning during loud/quiet sections the volume would go up and down with an equivalent increase/decrease of tape hiss, and despite going through various settings it seemed unavoidable. My tape player was a fairly modern one from the mid-2000s so maybe it was some fancy auto-adjustment feature built in and an older one would have worked better.


This may have been a feature of your sound card, a lot of Realtek onboard sound cards (and maybe others) have an option for what they call "Loudness Equalisation", and with that option enabled it will have the side effect of trying to boost something that's not there and it will amplify inputs, which will include tape hiss. In other words its trying to be clever, and failing miserably.

It's a similar effect to what you see in Skype and Zoom, with their "auto adjust microphone settings", the idea being that if you're too far away it boosts the gain and/or volume (which also boosts the background noise/hiss in the process).
JB
JasonB London London
Looks like it is easier than I thought. I'll give the 3.5mm audio jack a go. I just need to find a working device though. I've got two players. One tape player sounds as if the heads need cleaning/fixing as it's sounds like it's in gibberish/slow motion mode and the one that does play properly the rewind and fast forward button don't work!
Have you washed your hands?
NJ
Neil Jones Founding member Central (West) Midlands Today
Looks like it is easier than I thought. I'll give the 3.5mm audio jack a go. I just need to find a working device though. I've got two players. One tape player sounds as if the heads need cleaning/fixing as it's sounds like it's in gibberish/slow motion mode and the one that does play properly the rewind and fast forward button don't work!


The slow motion is usually because the tension in the tape is wrong. You can usually rectify this by fast forwarding to the end and back again.

Rewind and fast forward buttons not working can be circumvented by a pen or pencil Wink Or an appropriate sized drill bit (according to somebody on Reddit). I pass no comment.
JB
JasonB London London
Looks like it is easier than I thought. I'll give the 3.5mm audio jack a go. I just need to find a working device though. I've got two players. One tape player sounds as if the heads need cleaning/fixing as it's sounds like it's in gibberish/slow motion mode and the one that does play properly the rewind and fast forward button don't work!


The slow motion is usually because the tension in the tape is wrong. You can usually rectify this by fast forwarding to the end and back again.


I tried this just now and still no luck. I was ready to digitise with that one. Best keep looking round the house to see if I have any more players that do function properly still!
Have you washed your hands?
NJ
Neil Jones Founding member Central (West) Midlands Today
Looks like it is easier than I thought. I'll give the 3.5mm audio jack a go. I just need to find a working device though. I've got two players. One tape player sounds as if the heads need cleaning/fixing as it's sounds like it's in gibberish/slow motion mode and the one that does play properly the rewind and fast forward button don't work!


The slow motion is usually because the tension in the tape is wrong. You can usually rectify this by fast forwarding to the end and back again.


I tried this just now and still no luck. I was ready to digitise with that one. Best keep looking round the house to see if I have any more players that do function properly still!


Boomboxes with cassette decks and headphone out will do the job. Or a Walkman if you still have one. Boombox may be better value if afterwards you use it as a CD player/radio/tape player, as otherwise they're bit expensive for a one off digitisation of a tape.

There are plenty of kits on Amazon, "MP3 converter", which is probably code for "I come with a crappy MiniCD with a shareware trial of <some overpriced piece of junk with the manufacturer's name on it that does about three tasks, all of which you can do yourself in Audacity in half the time>". Smile
JB
JasonB London London

The slow motion is usually because the tension in the tape is wrong. You can usually rectify this by fast forwarding to the end and back again.


I tried this just now and still no luck. I was ready to digitise with that one. Best keep looking round the house to see if I have any more players that do function properly still!


Boomboxes with cassette decks and headphone out will do the job. Or a Walkman if you still have one. Boombox may be better value if afterwards you use it as a CD player/radio/tape player, as otherwise they're bit expensive for a one off digitisation of a tape.

There are plenty of kits on Amazon, "MP3 converter", which is probably code for "I come with a crappy MiniCD with a shareware trial of <some overpriced piece of junk with the manufacturer's name on it that does about three tasks, all of which you can do yourself in Audacity in half the time>". Smile


I had a few Walkman's over the years as a teenager so I'm bound to find one and try and figure out why I stopped using it. A lot of the stuff on this particular cassette has been recorded from TV which I also have on VHS and if like the ones at home are anything to go by, those have probably grown mouldy in storage too.
Have you washed your hands?

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