Advice on capturing old cassette tapes into Audacity or some other program?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by stanw, May 27, 2015.

  1. stanw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #1
    I have a 2013 iMac that I want to connect an old tape cassette deck (see attached image) so I can digitize some old tapes into Audacity or some other audio program. Do I need some type of device that will convert the analog signal into a digital one before it goes into the iMac? Can I just connect the RCA cables into the back of the tape deck that goes into the mic input on the iMac? Is there even a mic input on the iMac? I'm not at that computer right now...

    Thanks for any info.
     

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  2. DarthMoops macrumors regular

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    Baltimore MD
    #2
    Don't think you can use a straight cable connection, you'd need to convert the analog signal into a digital signal.

    There do seem to be devices for this
    http://www.amazon.com/Handy-Cassette-Player-Digital-Converter/dp/B008ASIZR4
    Don't know if they'll let the link stay.
     
  3. 0d085d macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2015
    #3
    The current iMac doesn't have a microphone port, so at the very least you'll need a USB audio interface.

    Example USB interface

    You can then plug the tape deck in to the mic input and record it using Garageband, Audacity, or Audio Hijack.
     
  4. tillsbury macrumors 65816

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    Dec 24, 2007
    #4
    Needless to say, the audio quality will be infinitely better from your existing proper deck through an adaptor, compared with what it would be on a $17 cassette player :)
     
  5. dyt1983 macrumors 65816

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    May 6, 2014
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    USA USA USA
    #5
    The current iMac (2013, 2014, 2014 5K) does have a microphone input, it is part of the headphone/headset jack. It does not have a stereo line input like the 2012 and earlier models.

    There is a microphone input on the 2013 iMac. However, the tape deck outputs line level signals so they're probably not compatible, and the microphone isn't stereo and your tape deck is... I'm not sure if what you want to record should have the stereo tracks preserved separately. So it's probably not your best bet. The aforementioned USB audio interface is a way around these issues because you probably don't want to use the microphone input, not that the iMac doesn't have one.
     
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #6
    OP:

    Do the cassettes you wish to record contain home-recorded material, or copies of commercially-available songs (etc.)?
     
  7. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #7
    I've done a lot of these kinds of transfers. Be careful about "microphone inputs," because -- as dyt1983 says -- you don't want to be sending line level output from the cassette recorder into a microphone input. It will overload, and there will be nothing you can do about it.

    Your best bet will be to find a USB interface that has line level stereo inputs. Then on the Mac end, Audacity receives the audio and will write out files for you.

    Another option is to use a digital field recorder of some kind, provided it has line level inputs. Presumably you won't want to buy one, but maybe you know somebody who has one, or perhaps you could rent one (assuming this is a one-shot project). With a device like that, you just send your audio to the recorder, where it's converted and stored internally (ideally on a card you can remove). Nothing is connected to your Mac. Then later you transfer the digitized audio (which will be files like any other) to your Mac. Then you point Audacity at them.

    The last time I had to do many cassette tapes, that's the path I chose -- but it was because I had a good recorder, and wanted to set up a recording/transfer station away from my Mac. I would just hit Record on the recorder, Play on the cassette deck, and come back later. That procedure suited me better than doing it on the Mac in real time.

    The tapes I was digitizing were 40 years old. If yours are old, then it would be a good idea to have some spare shells around. These will be held together by screws. If the tapes you have are in "welded" shells, and the tape breaks or gets all tangled or pulls off the hub, you can break open the shell, take the tape out, and drop it into a new shell. If you can't find empty shells, then just buy any kind of cassette that's held together with screws, throw out the new tape, and insert the old one.

    I repaired broken tapes with ordinary sticky tape, because I knew it only had to stay together for one more pass (and it always did). It takes some practice, but it's not that difficult.

    I will say that this last project was a reminder of just how robust magnetic tape is. The tapes were recorded in the South Pacific rain forest, stored without a great deal of care . . . and 40 years later, they were good. Now if I could just find a reel-to-reel half-track mono recorder, I could finish digitizing all my ancient tapes.
     
  8. dwig, May 29, 2015
    Last edited: May 29, 2015

    dwig macrumors 6502

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    Key West FL
    #8
    That particular device and those that are similar will not help. Like the iMac itself, that device as a mono microphone input. What the OP needs is a device with a stereo input and one that can tolerate Aux level signals.

    Aux signals are much higher voltages than Microphone levels and feeding the Aux out from a tape deck or stereo receiver into a Mic input will usually overload the input and cause clipping. At best, you would have to turn the volume way down on the tape to compensate for the increased amplification that the Mic input has which can increase noise.

    The best type of device is ones link this one:
    http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UCA...UTF8&qid=1432918667&sr=8-3&keywords=behringer

    Also, the audio cables can pickup noise from the computer's electronics. If this occurs you can often reduce or eliminate it by using a USB<>USB extension cable between the Analog<>Digital converter so that the audio cables stay some distance away from the computer. The digital USB signal is not susceptible to such interference.
     
  9. b4peace macrumors newbie

    b4peace

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    Aug 4, 2014
    #9
    I have a Mac Powerbook G4 OSX 10.4.11 and need to convert old audio cassettes to digital from my Sony Cassette-Corder. Can I input directly from the cassette-corder to the microphone jack on my Mac or should I get this USB interface - Example USB interface - to make the connection? Thanks for any help.
     
  10. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #10
    When you read through this thread, you probably missed the place where it was pointed out that the USB interface you link to is for microphone input, not line input. So it won't do you any good, because your Powerbook already has a microphone jack.

    Does the cassette-corder have a headphone output (not Line output)? If so, then connecting the headphone output to the microphone input MIGHT work. Whether it works or not has to do with the levels. Mike input expects to see low levels. Line output is high level. Headphone output level might be low enough.

    Or you could just use the link the dwig gave, and get that Behringer.
     
  11. b4peace macrumors newbie

    b4peace

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2014
    #11
    Thanks for your response. The cassette-corder does have a headphone jack. I was wondering about the USB interface because somewhere I read that using it can help cut down 'noise' at input. I will try going direct and see what happens. Mahalo :) (Is it raining in Hilo?)
     
  12. dwig macrumors 6502

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    Key West FL
    #12
    The microphone input on a Mac is monaural and the cassette output is stereo. You can use special cords to connect the two that tie the two channels together, but you will reduce the cassette's stereo information to mono. The USB dongles that have microphone input have the same issue. The Behringer unit I mentioned in an earlier post has stereo line level inputs that work as the same signal levels as the line level outputs on standard Hi-Fi gear.
     
  13. monokakata, Jun 30, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015

    monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #13
    Clearly you've been to Hilo. It's not raining today. Yet.

    When you said "cassette-corder" I was thinking of that old mono portable kind -- the kind I had. If you have that kind, then it's mono. If you have the kind you'd use in a stereo system, then you'll have to do what dwig says.

    My old mono portable one was a tank. It just never quit.

    http://www.use.com/Sony_Cassette_Corder_TC_110_aa46f28fe464b1acb954
     
  14. b4peace macrumors newbie

    b4peace

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    Aug 4, 2014
    #14
    Thanks for the info. The Sony cassette-corder is portable (like a Walkman) - I'm not so worried about mono vs stereo as the cassette recordings are voice only and I'm not looking for super hi-fi quality though I do want it to be good quality.

    So, I should just need a regular RCA jack?
     
  15. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #15
    Hmmm. If the Sony has RCA jacks, then you need RCA. But more likely it has 1/8" (a.k.a. 3.5 mm). Does the Powerbook have RCA inputs? Anyway, there are tons of cable adapters out there so once you know exactly which flavor of jack each component has, you can get cables.

    Remember that on the Mac end you're going to need software to grab the analog audio as it comes in, digitize it, and then save it as WAV or MP3 or whatever you choose. Audacity is popular, effective, and free.
     
  16. b4peace macrumors newbie

    b4peace

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    Aug 4, 2014
    #16
    Mine is portable - Sony Cassette Corder TCM-200DV - I imagine it's mono - so, I'm going to try going direct using a regular RCA cord and see if it works. If not, I'll get the Berhinger suggested by dwig. Thanks again for the help and any other suggestions.

    Btw - I've been to Hilo and used to live on Kauai.
     
  17. b4peace macrumors newbie

    b4peace

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    Aug 4, 2014
    #18
    I'm not a techie - I thought they were both called RCA, but came in two sizes - I'll be using the 1/8" jack and will download Audacity - also heard that Garageband could do the job (?)
     

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