Digitizing Audio Tapes And Cassettes

Do you have audio cassettes or tapes? Do they contain the best lectures, speeches, concerts, sermons, and everything else that you really want to preserve? Unfortunately, tape deteriorates over time. It is better to put all that data on CDs or DVDs, which are digital and which last much longer.

How do you convert your audio tapes and cassettes to digital?

It’s simple if you use RipEditBurn Plus. You’ll need something to play the tapes or cassettes with and a way to connect your computer to the tape player. Generally you will use the headphone jack out of the tape player. Usually that is a 1/8″ stereo jack, so you’ll need an 1/8″ stereo plug connected to a cable. The other end that plugs into your computer will almost always be another 1/8″ stereo jack, so most of the time you will need a very simple cable with 1/8″ stereo plugs on each end.

You can use either the internal sound card of your computer, or you can get a USB audio unit. USB audio units, because they are on the outside of the computer usually give significantly better sound. The inside of a computer is very noisy electrically and adds significant noise to any signal being recorded. Blaze Audio sells a great USB 5.1 External Sound Card.

USB Audio 5.1

It is very important to set the record device. With RipEditBurn Plus that’s easy- click on Rec Device and choose the Recording Device you want to use from the dropdown menu.

digital Setting the Record Device

Different operating systems may require setting the default record device from system settings.

You will also need to set the record volume. With Record Volume
RipEditBurn Plus, just to the left of the Record and Rec Device buttons there is a slider, and below the Rec Device button you will see a display that shows the volume level for each channel. Start one of the tapes and watch the volume level. You want as much volume as possible, but if the volume goes too high the sound will be distorted. If the orange box above either channel lights up, the level is almost certainly too high.

Once you have the record volume set, go back to the beginning of the tape, hit the “Record” button, and then start the tape playing. When the tape ends (or when the audio ends), hit the Record button again, and recording will stop.

Save a copy of the file. This may not be the version you want to keep, but it’s always a good idea to have the original file in case you make a mistake.

You may want to do some editing of the file you have created- maybe there was a long gap at the beginning, or spots in the middle when the speaker was doing something else. You may also find it worthwhile trying equalizers, noise gates, and other things to get rid of the noise.

Make sure your file names explain exactly what the file is and when it was recorded. If you neglect that step, you may never find that great talk from two years ago that you really wanted to preserve. It’s worth taking a little extra care, and even keeping notes of the recordings you are making in a separate place.

by Tom Jeffries, Chief Blazing Officer at Blaze Audio

Tom is a former professional musician who has been running companies that develop audio software for 34 years. He studied with Charlie Schlueter as principal trumpet Minnesota Orchestra for four years. Charlie Schlueter went on to do 25 years as principal trumpet with the Boston Symphony Orchestraā€ˇ. Tom also played principal trumpet for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and principal trumpet for the San Jose Orchestra.