Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Convert Cassette Tapes to CD or MP3

Most of my blog posts are about the internet and various things to be done on there. This post is a little different, but was just too useful for me not to post it. We are going to use the internet for some downloads, though.

Here is what happened: I found an old cassette tape (of music) that I really liked. Yes, I could have probably bought the cd, but I already had the tape, and this example is good for those items on cassette that can't be found anywhere else. For example, my father has a tape of my grandfather telling bed-time stories; that would be something you would want put in a digital format and saved.

So, I had the cassette tape. Now we need a cassette player. They are crazy cheap if you don't have one (check here or check a pawn shop, or check to see if one of your friends has one). You will also need a line-in cord to plug into the back of your computer; I used an audio cable that has two 1/8" connectors and looks like this. You can find it at the local electronics store for very cheap.

I then plugged the audio cable into the cassette player and into the back of the computer in the line-in plug (usually marked and right next to the speaker plug-in).

Now we need software to be able to do this. Don't worry, the one I used and the best one for the job is free: Audacity.

Audacity allows you to select what type of audio input you want. From a drop down box in the main screen, just select "line-in." You may have to adjust the various volume controls to get it to sound like you want.

Oops: first we have to download and install Audacity. Go to here, download it and install it; very easy.

Then, with the cassette player plugged in and ready to go, click the record button on Audacity, play the recorder and you should see the lines of your audio input start to appear. If you don't, check to see that you have the line-in selection picked, you have the cassette player plugged into the right place, like that.

Just record a little bit right now. Stop the recording (and your cassette player) and see what you've created. With Audacity you can adjust the volume of your creation, save it as a .wav file or as an mp3 (with some minor tweaks I'll discuss later) and a wide variety of other things. Amazing stuff.

Ok, now we want to convert the entire cassette tape. Start over again, get the recording going, and then just let it play. You can even listen to it on your computer speakers if you want while the recording is taking place.

Here is what you will end up with: once the cassette is done, you should have one giant audio file, ready for you to do what you want in Audacity. Here is what I did, once I had played the entire cassette and had it all on Audacity.

I went to the very beginning of the recording. I then high-lighted the area that consisted of the first song. After selecting it, I then went to File, then selected "Export Selection as Wave file." This allows me to save the first song as a .wav file (the type of file that is typically found on most regular audio cd's). I then did this for each and every song in my recording. When it was all done, I had about 10 or 12 new .wav files ready for me to do what I wanted to. I then proceeded to create a new cd.

Another option is to export the files as mp3's. Very easy, just select "Export Selection as Mp3." But the first time you do this it will as for a file called something like lame.dll (can't remember exactly). You can download the file from here. Once you get this file, save it somewhere (remember where) open the .zip file, then extract the contents (in this case, the lame file you want) and save it somewhere.

Now, when Audacity asks for this file you can simply browse for where you saved it, then select it and let Audacity take over. Once you do this one time you can save mp3 files and manipulate them as you want.

I use Audacity for this cassette tape conversion process, for converting mp3 to .wav files and vice versa, to make audio files louder, things like that. Very useful software. Enjoy!

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