How to Digitize a Cassette
This tutorial will guide you through making a digital copy of an audio cassette. Keep in mind that audio capture happens in real time. This means if you have one hour of audio, it will take you at least one hour to capture it. You must use media station 3 to digitize cassettes.
Items Necessary to Use This Station
- Cassette you wish to digitize
- A pair of headphones (may be checked out at the circulation desk)
- A preamp and its associated cords (may be checked out at the equipment checkout desk)
- Removable media to take your file away (flash drive, DVD, hard drive)
- Time: your audio captures in real time. If you have an hour of audio an hour is required to capture it.
Setting Up the Equipment
The preamp comes with a USB cable and an RCA stereo audio cable, with a red and a white plug on each end.
Use the red and white cables to connect the tape deck and the preamp. Look at the back of the tape deck and find the input marked "LEFT" in the "OUT" column of the LINE box. Plug the cable's white connector into this input. The red plug goes into the RIGHT input underneath. Plug the other ends of the cable into the back of the preamp where it says "Preamp Phono Line In," matching the red cable with the red slot and the white with the white.
Next, find the USB cord, and attach it to the preamp where it's marked, "USB OUT TO PC." Connect the other end to the USB port in the computer.
Now look at the front of the preamp. Make sure that the "POWER" button is in the button out position. You should see a blue light.
Make sure the "INPUT" button is in the out position (the light on the button should not be illuminated). The "FILTER" button should be pushed in and the yellow light of that button should be on.
To hear what you record, plug headphones into the preamp. Set the "GAIN TRIM" on the preamp to zero.
Digitizing Your Cassette
The preamp is now set up and digitization can begin. Open the sound editing software "AUDACITY," which will record digital copies of your cassette.
On a Mac, click on the "APPLICATIONS" folder in the dock. Scroll down to the "AUDACITY" folder and double-click to open it. Then double-click the Audacity Headphones icon.
If you're using a PC, you'll click the "START" button, and select "AUDACITY" within the list of programs. Click "OK" if you get a message from Audacity when you open the program.
If you're on a Mac, on the top menu, click on Audacity and then "PREFERENCES." Make sure the "PLAYBACK" menu is set to "USB AUDIO CODEC." If you're on a PC, then you would go to "EDIT" and "PREFERENCES."
The "DEVICE" option in the "PLAYBACK" and "RECORDING" sections should be set to "USB AUDIO CODEC".
Now select "RECORDING" on the left menu. Check the boxes beside "OVERDUB," "HARDWARE PLAYTHROUGH" and "SOFTWARE PLAYTHROUGH." These playthrough options will allow you to hear what you're recording as you're recording it. Now click "OK."
Push the power button to turn the tape player on (make sure it's plugged in), then press the eject button to open the deck. Now place a cassette in the player.
In Audacity, click the red circle, the "RECORD" button, then press play on the cassette player.
The "CLIP SIGNAL" on the preamp should be green. If the light is solid red or alternating between green and red, turn the "GAIN TRIM" counterclockwise. Adjust the volume to get the green light steady.
You should now see the sound input represented by a wave form in the Audacity software. The recording takes place in real time, so you'll need to wait while the music you want to record plays. Once you're ready to stop the recording, press the "STOP" button, which is represented by a yellow box.
Click "FILE" and choose "EXPORT." Type the name of your file in the "SAVE AS" box, and choose the destination — "DESKTOP," for example. Choose the audio format you want to save this file in. For a high-quality recording (with a large file size), be sure that "WAV" is selected as the format. Click "SAVE." Type information about your recording under "VALUES" on the "EDIT METADATA" screen if you like. If you're trying to save this file as an MP3, you may now get an error message saying you need a "LAME MP3 Encoder" to save the file in an MP3 format. Simply click "DOWNLOAD" and follow the directions on Audacity's website.
The last step is to transport the file from the desktop to UT Webspace, to a flash drive, or burn it to a CD. Don't forget to return the preamp and cords to the equipment checkout desk and the headphones to the circulation desk.