Introduction: How to Convert Cassette Tape Audio to a Digital File
In this instructable, you'll learn how to use a tape player and your computer to make a copy of your cassette tapes on your computer, so that you can put them on your iPod or other device, since cassette tapes are obsolete at this point. Let's review the items you'll need to accomplish your goal:
- A CD Player/Walkman capable of playing cassette tapes. Your tape player must have a 3.5 mm audio plug on it for use with headphones.
- A Double-Male End 3.5 mm audio cable. These can be bought for quite cheap at stores like Best Buy or The Source.
- A USB headphone/microphone adapter. I got the one in the picture with my headphones, but I'm sure you can get one at Best Buy. Your computer may also have a sound card in it, which would allow you to plug in headphones and a microphone directly. Look for a set of green and pink circular plugs on your computer.
- Of course, you'll need the tape you want to convert.
That's all of the physical items you'll need for this process. Digital items will be listed in their associated step.
Step 1: Getting the Tape Player Ready
Insert your cassette like you would if you were going to listen to it. If your player has speakers or you have headphones, adjust the volume on your player to a comfortable listening level.
Make sure you rewind the tape. You don't want to miss any of the audio when you record.
Lastly, plug an end of the audio cable into the headphone plug on your player.
Step 2: Getting the Computer Ready
This is the tool you'll use to record the cassette audio. I'll explain how to use it in a later step.
Plug the other end of the audio cable into the microphone plug on your USB adapter. Remember, you might also have a microphone plug built right into your computer, so you can use that instead.
Now you're ready to transfer your cassette tapes to your computer. Let's begin!
Step 3: Making Sure Audacity Is Set Up Correctly
Look for the microphone icon with the listing beside it in Audacity. This selects which microphone Audacity is going to record from. Find the one you've plugged your audio cable into. Since my USB adapter came with my headphones, Audacity thinks that I'm recording from my headphones. Also, make sure that it's set to record in stereo, as seen in the first image of this step.
Now that you have that step up, it's time to test the recording. Press play on your tape player, then click the red circular "record" button in Audacity. Audacity will begin to receive the sound from your player and record it.
Record just a few seconds of the first song on your tape. While you're recording the tape, you'll hear the full volume of the player through your headphones/speakers connected to your computer. You'll probably want to adjust the volume of the recording itself, so look for the microphone icon with the slider next to it, as seen in the second image. Keeping the slider all the way to the right will make the recording sound exactly the same as you hear it while you're recording. Moving the slider left will reduce the volume of the recording. Play back the audio you recorded in Audacity, adjusting the slider to what you think a comfortable listening volume will be. If it's too loud or too quiet, rewind your tape, adjust the slider, and try again and again until you've found the sweet spot.
Step 4: Recording the Audio
Now that you've found the right volume to record at, you can begin recording the audio.
Make sure you rewind your tape all the way, and press play on your player. Then, click the record button in Audacity.
Let the first side of the tape play all the way through without stopping. (First image) You'll then need to export the audio to a file. Click "File" in Audacity, and in the menu that comes up from there, click "Export". (Second image)
The window seen in the third image will appear. Select your audio file format from the menu at the bottom, give the file a name, and save it somewhere. You don't need to bother with the "Album name/Title/Artist name/etc." window that pops up, so just click OK.
Now, do the same steps for the other side of the tape.
Step 5: Making Files of Individual Songs
If you're going to put the audio onto your iPod, or just listen to it on your computer, you'll probably want to have the songs separated so that you can pick the song you want to start on, and skip over songs you don't feel like listening to.
Open the first audio file you saved back in Audacity. In between the songs, there are periods where the line is flat. (First image) Using the I-shaped "selector" tool (seen selected in the second image), click and hold in the period where the line is flat between the first song and the second. Then, drag your mouse to the left, to the start of the first song (third image). Now that you've selected your song, click on "Edit" in Audacity, then click "Copy". (Fourth image)
Open a new Audacity window (File menu -> click "New", fifth image) and then click "Edit" in that window. Click "Paste" (sixth image) from the menu that appears. Now you'll have the first song separate from the rest. Export it the same way as you did with the two large audio files.
Keep selecting different songs and performing the same process with them (New window -> paste in -> export).
When you have all your songs separated, you're done! Now you can put them on your iPod, or just enjoy them on your computer.