Help me convert my old tapes and records into mp3 format
February 12, 2005 5:04 PM   Subscribe

We were rearranging the shelves in my house today, and we found a bunch of old tapes from my
Dad's friends from when he lived in Spain (he was born there, as was I). His friends mixed
a bunch of bands together to make this very cool-sounding tape, and the thought struck me: Why not
rip this? (edit: also found bunch of old tapes my brother made of a punk radio station. woot!)

Of course, I lack the knowledge required.

So my question essentially is: what sort of process, programs, and materials is one required to
go through to convert these tapes to mp3? Would the machine I'd have to buy also double as a
tape-pl-ayer itself? What about records? I've been wanting a record player for a while, and I've
been wanting to rip some records as well. Are there record-rippers which double as players? Are
there record/tape player/rippers all combined into one machine? How complicated is this process?
How expensive does it have to be? I don't want to end up with really badly ripped files, but I
don't want studio equipment, either. Basically, what do I have to go through to get good
sounding, 192-320 kbps mp3s from my tapes and records that I could then distribute via
BitTorrent? Thanks.
posted by Lockeownzj00 to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cassette? Reel to reel? 8 Track?
posted by fixedgear at 5:10 PM on February 12, 2005

I'm really hoping that no one uselessly complains about the formatting of this question.
posted by interrobang at 5:14 PM on February 12, 2005

Response by poster: ^_^; Casettes. Sorry for the deluge, I guess, but I'm just looking for a springboard.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 5:18 PM on February 12, 2005


I bookmarked this site for when I get around to doing the same thing.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:44 PM on February 12, 2005

Best answer: Step 1: Download Audacity. This is what you will use to record and edit the sound files. You will also need to download an MP3 encoder (such as LAME) in order to convert your WAV files to MP3.

Step 2. Find a casette deck that gives you a stereo RCA output.

Step 3. Get yourself a Stereo RCA to 1/8" phone jack cable.

Step 4. Plug the RCA ends into the "line out" jacks on the casette deck. Plug the 1/8" end into the "line in" jack on your sound card (should be the blue one on most newer sound cards)

Step 5. Press play on your casette deck and adjust the input levels for maximum volume without distortion.

Step 6. Press record in audacity (red button) and then press play on your casette deck. The sound is now recording onto your computer. Press stop when the song is done, trim any noise from the beginning or end of the track and save the project, then export it as an MP3.

Repeat as desired for the rest of your tracks.

Records will require the same basic process, but you will want to include an additional preamplification stage between the turntable and your PC. (think component audio amp using line outs into your PC)

This should get you started, I'm sure others will have more to add, and as the poster above shows, there are a plethora of resources out there to help you through the process.
posted by davey_darling at 5:47 PM on February 12, 2005

Second what davey_darling said. I've also had success just using a 1/8" stereo cable between the headphone line-out on a deck (or receiver in the case of a record) and my computer. This would work if your cassette player has no RCA outputs.
posted by statolith at 5:53 PM on February 12, 2005

For the preamp step you need for records that davey_darling mentioned, you can get a little pre-amp at Radio Shack for around $30 if you don't have access to a component amp with phono in jacks. I'm also pretty sure I've seen software around that can remove hiss and pops from your digital recordings of records, so you might want to look into that.
posted by Emanuel at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2005

You can also buy an RCA-in USB adapter since most 1/8" ins on soundcards are utter shit.
posted by cmonkey at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2005

(Not to be snarky, but hasn't this question been asked about 5 times by now?)
posted by neckro23 at 7:20 PM on February 12, 2005

How the hell did you get your lines so b0rked? On my system they are presented as wrapped
single lines,
most of the words on the first line and a couple more words on the
second line;
then a fresh line presenting the same pattern of a full-width line and a
short line.

Rather like what I just did with considerable effort.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 PM on February 12, 2005

Response by poster: stupidity on my part. i keep my future ask mefi questions in a notepad txt and in order for me to see them i have them spaced as such. i realised too late.

despite difficulties and complaints, i have gotten a ton of information and thank you all.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 8:44 PM on February 12, 2005

five fresh fish - since a best answer has been selected here, do you know how to fix that problem? I have the same issue on Gmail - email that I send always looks like that. Someone suggested using a POP client like Thunderbird or Outlook Express but I can not get that to work.
posted by mlis at 9:34 PM on February 12, 2005

Notepad has a word wrap feature, you know.
posted by abcde at 1:24 AM on February 13, 2005

Returning, more or less, to the original topic... (1) If you rip, say, one entire side of the cassette to a single audio file, will Audacity detect the silences before/after each song and use them to automatically split it into individual song files? It seems to me I've heard that some programs will do this. And (2)... How important is the stereo output? If I just use a 1/8th in. cable to connect the headphone- out-jack to the audio-in on my soundcard (i.e. the statolith method), will I have noticeably poorer sound quality?
posted by Clay201 at 6:30 AM on February 13, 2005

MP3 Direct Cut is the best program I've used for splitting an MP3 into individual tracks. That and others.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2005

I've had pretty horrible luck with USB audio interfaces. I'm using an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 now which I got for $100 which is much higher quality than any of the USB or consumer oriented interfaces I've tried, even higher priced ones.
posted by recursive at 9:52 AM on February 13, 2005

Clay201: The 1/8" headphone out jack will be usable, you'll just have to find a volume level on the master volume of your player that won't cause clipping or distortion on your PC. The main advantage of the RCA output is that it provides a fixed line level source that is untouched by your volume control or EQ settings. If you do go the headphone jack route, you will want to make sure that you have any "bass x-tender" or loudness type features turned off, as well as any EQ controls set flat in order to get the most accurate signal possible into your PC.
posted by davey_darling at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2005

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