- Audio Cassette Player with a line-out jack or headphones jack
- Computer with a line-in or microphone input jack
- an Audio Cable for connecting them together
(a digital audio editor that supports noise-reduction) - for recording and editing the audio files. GoldWave is not freeware, but there is a fully functional evaluation version if you want to try it out before buying.
(a freeware audio player) - for converting .wav files to .mp3 files (optional; Goldwave can also generate MP3 files, but I like using foobar2000.)
(freeware Tag Editor) - for adding tags to the MP3 files
Note 1: This process records the audio at regular play speeds. If you have 10 hours of audio to convert, it will take at least 10 hours to convert it.
Note 2: If you record from a microphone input jack, you may not get a true stereo recording.
- Hook up the cassette player to the computer using the audio cable. Insert a cassette for test purposes. Set the volume on the player to a medium-low level to begin with, and start playing the cassette.
- Adjust the computer's line-in or microphone levels so that no clipping or distortion will occur (the specific steps for doing this may differ from what is described below, depending on your operating system).
Open the Windows Control Panel and select the "Sound" entry.
On the Recording tab, make sure the entry associated with the line-in or microphone jack is set as the Default Device. Select that entry, open its Properties window, and adjust the settings on the "Levels" tab (more on this below). It may help to temporarily disable any other devices listed on the Recording tab.
On the Playback tab, select the "Speakers" entry and open its Properties window. On the "Levels" tab, if you don't want to listen to the audio while it is being recorded, you can click the speaker icon in the microphone section to mute it. If you don't mind hearing the audio, this doesn't need to be done.
- In Goldwave, click to create a New (empty) file with a length about 40 minutes (greater than the length of the cassette side that you will be recording). The file should be stereo, with a sampling rate of 44100.
- Select "Options - Control Properties" from the menu. On the "Record" tab, set "Record mode" to "Bounded to selection". This will cause recording to automatically stop after 40 minutes (based on the size of the new file). Alternately, you can select "Unbounded", but then you will need to manually press the button to stop recording when the end of the tape is reached. Under "Recording options", select "Monitor input" so that you can see the sound levels of the input. Select "Filter dc offset". The other defaults should be okay to keep as is.
- Select "Tool - Control..." from the menu, to open up a popup window with buttons for starting/stopping the recording, and for playing it back. This window also has a section that displays the input sound levels. This window will likely display a low-level noise even when the audio cassette is not playing. We will remove this noise from the recording later using a noise reduction filter.
- Adjust the cassette player volume and the computer's microphone levels. While the cassette is playing, you want all the sound levels shown in the Control window to be relatively high, yet to always remain below the maximum level. This will avoid clipping.
- After finishing the adjustments, insert the actual cassette you want to record in the player, and if necessary, rewind it to the beginning.
- In Goldwave, right-click in the track window. Choose "All" to display the entire track in the window without horizontal scrolling, and choose "Select All" to select the entire 40 minute track. (If these items are disabled, then they were already selected by default). In the Control window, click the red icon to start the recording.
- Press the Play button on the cassette player.
- Wait for the recording to finish. Then save the file (for temporary backup).
- When viewing the recording's sound envelope, there should be relatively few spikes, or none at all, which extend to the extreme top and bottom of the track window. If there are many such spikes, or if the envelope contains rectangular blocks filling the track window, then the recording likely has clipping and distortion. Re-adjust your microphone and volume settings, and try again.
- Select a small area near the beginning or end of the track where the music was not playing, and copy it to the clipboard. This will be used for noise reduction.
- Select the entire track. From the menu, select "Effect - Filter - Noise Reduction". In the "Reduction Envelope" section, select "Use Clipboard" and click OK. Noise reduction will be applied to the entire track.
- If the recorded track volume ended up too low, select "Effect - Volume - Maximize Volume". After the scan, leave the Maximum (db) setting at 0, and click OK. This should increase the track's volume level as much as is possible without distortion.
- Save the file.
- If desired, edit the track into a separate file for each song. GoldWave's "Cue Points" tool with "Auto Cue" can be used to create cue points in the file in the silent areas between songs, and then to automatically split the file at those points.
- Either save the files as MP3 format in Goldwave, or use Foobar2000 to convert the wav files to mp3.
- If the audio cassettes were commercially produced music albums, you can use MP3Tag to easily tag the tracks with artist/title info. First, search the freedb
website to find the Disc-ID of the album. Then in MP3Tag, select the mp3 files, then select "Tag Sources - freedb" from the menu. Enter the ID, and it should pull back the album info. If you are missing any tracks, or if yours are in a different order, use the "Move Up/Down" buttons to adjust them. Then you can add the tags to all the album's tracks at once.