Thanks to site visitor Steve for posing this one: “How do I convert my old audio cassettes into the digital age?”
Old Audio Cassettes?
If, like our team, you have boxes of old audio cassettes stashed away somewhere, you might want to think of finding a way to give them a new lease of life. You might even find some audio gems that you’d forgotten you owned.
With most home stereo systems no longer supporting cassettes, it’s getting harder and harder to enjoy your favourite tunes on this format. Sure, you may still own a trusty old Walkman or have a portable cassette player hanging around, but it’s hardly convenient.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to drag your cassette collection into the digital age: by using your computer to convert cassette tapes to MP3s.
Why convert to MP3
One way to preserve those cassettes is to convert them to the MP3 format, so that you can play then on your computer, laptop, your iPod (other MP3 players exist), or your smartphone.
While tapes are prone to distortion and stretching with repeated plays, due to their digital nature MP3s can be played over and over again with no loss of sound quality. The versatility of the MP3 format makes it an ideal way to archive your recordings, share them, or even make them into an audio podcast.
Another advantage you’ll gain when you convert your cassette tapes to MP3s is the ability to digitally edit and manipulate your music d play your music – you can store literally thousands of tracks on your computer’s hard drive, listen to them on your iPhone or MP3 player, and even burn them to CD to play on your stereo.
Tape is notorious for introducing background noise into recordings, but with digital sound editing software you can quickly and easily remove any hiss and radically improve the sharpness and clarity of your favourite songs.
How to convert
Transferring your cassette tapes to MP3s doesn’t have to be a difficult or complicated process. With the right equipment and software it’s a simple process to make the transition from analogue to digital and breathe a whole new lease of life into your cassette recordings.
Option 1: Your own equipment
If you want to use an existing cassette deck, something like the ION MixMeister could be the answer. Plug one end into your cassette deck using two phono leads, and the other end into a PC. The MixMeister has a volume control so that you can get the audio levels roughly right, and then you can use a free package such as Audacity to tidy the audio and save it as an MP3 file.
Option 2: USB Cassette Player
Potentially a neater solution is to get a dedicated audio cassette player that can connect direct to your computer.
If you have a lot of cassettes to convert, the twin-deck Tape-2-PC, also from ION, is worth a look.
This has two cassette decks, and comes with EZ Tape Converter (for dubbing the cassettes), and Audacity (which is free anyway). With a tape counter, Metal/CR02 and a noise reduction switch, cassette-lovers from the 80s will be at home, and this machine is great for copying those C60 and C90 cassettes to a computer unattended. Like all of the solutions here, you can to copy over the audio in real-time, but with the dual decks, this makes life a lot easier.
If you’re after something a little smaller, or for occasional use, then there’s the USB Tape Express, again from ION. This is about the size of a 1980s Walkman, supports auto-reverse, and connects to a PC’s USB drive. It’s powered either by batteries, or from a computer’s USB socket, although our unit performs much better on batteries – on USB, we’ve experienced some speed issues, causing a little wow and flutter on the audio.