Converting your cassette tapes to digital on the cheap

If you’re like me then you’ll have a collection of old cassette tapes, or even vinyl recordings. It’s great to have the original, but it also means that I hardly ever listen to them because it’s so impractical. That is why this article is about how to convert these mediums to digital, so you can play them on your computer.

You might have seen USB record players or tape players that cost £50-£200 and are, in my opinion, a complete waste of money. If you follow my method, you’ll only need a couple of £2 cables at most!
Step one is to find a way to connect your tape player to your computer or laptop. I’ll assume that you have a tape player lying around, any one will do then you’ll need a 3.5mm male-male stereo audio jack (the aforementioned £2 cable).

One end of this cable is plugged into the tape player while the other needs to be connected to your computers’ ‘Line-In’ port. Of course if you’re using a Hi-Fi with red and white L & R audio connectors, you’ll need a different cable, but all of these should be available at your local electronics store… or if not, eBay.

Now that you’re set up, the second step is actually recording the tape on your computer. If you’re using Windows, you could use Windows sound recorder, but this is slightly too basic for my liking. I’d recommend the free ‘Audacity’ software, available for Windows, Mac and Linux. This can be downloaded here:

Once you have it installed, open Audacity and make sure that the ‘Line-In’ port is selected as the recording device. This can be done by navigating through the menu bar at the top (Edit > Preferences… > Recording Device). You’re now ready to record from your tape!

Before you do the final recording, I’d advise you to do a test run to check the sound is at the right level etc. – You don’t want to leave it to record for an hour and find you can’t hear anything. Set the volume midway on your player and hit record, you should see the sound wave appear as your tape’s being recorded. If it’s too small increase the volume and vice versa. If you want to skip bits out, you can edit the track once the tapes run through. When you’re happy with the recording, export it and you’re done, having saved yourself a lot of money.

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