Converting analogue cassettes to a digital format is a good idea for both preserving and accessing the audio. Analogue cassette tapes are reliant on players that have increasingly become obsolete. The actual tapes inside cassettes are also fragile, and if they are damaged the audio stored on them can be lost forever. Converting analogue to digital is a fairly easy and inexpensive process.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Audio cassette
- Analogue-to-digital converter
- Digital storage device (CD or DVD, external hard drive, server)
- Audio editing software
Check the audio cassette for damage or detrioration. This can include the tape being unevenly wound, dirt or liquid contamination, decomposition residue which can look like white crystals coming off the audio tape, or carrier failure where the tape is broken or stretched.
Shop around for an analogue-to-digital converter. Try to find one that allows for at least a 16 bit/ 44.1 kHz digital audio output, noise reduction options, is compatible with your computer, and has a full auto-stop to save older tapes from breaking.
Install the software that came with the analogue-to-digital converter on your computer.
Insert the audio cassette in the converter and plug it into your computer's USB port.
Download an audio editor if one does not come with the converter. There are free audio editing programs available on the Internet (See Resources).
Rewind the cassette tape to the beginning. Press the "Record" button in your audio editor and then select "Play" on the cassette deck. This will make sure you do not miss any audio in the audio transfer process.
Monitor the audio levels coming into the computer by turning the volume control on the converter up and down.
Export the audio from the editor as an MP3 file. On most converters this can be accomplished by clicking on the "File" button and selecting either "Export as MP3" or "Save As" then selecting MP3 from a drop-down menu.
Tips and warnings
- Save another version of the digital audio file as an uncompressed WAV file as the master backup. An MP3 is a compressed lossy format that loses some of the audio over time. A WAV file is much larger in storage size but is a good preservation format for audio.
- Some converters can be plugged into an external cassette tape player. If you use an external player make sure that it works well so that you don't damage the cassette tape in the process of digital conversion.
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