Tutorial: Cassette to MP3/WAV

A lot of people seem stumped when it comes to converting tape recordings to the MP3 format. 'What software should I use?' and 'how do I connect my cassette player to the PC?' are two of the most common questions we receive.


For the purpose of this article, we're going to keep it SIMPLE. You want to make an MP3 today, not next week.

1. Connect the tape player to the LINE-IN input plug on your sound card. My cassette player is an old Walkman. You may prefer to use a stereo system. I use a 1/8" mini-jack to go from player to PC. Confused? Just go to an electronics store.

2. Make sure you have got the Line Source selected. On my system it is found via Control Panel/Multimedia/Multi-media Properties/Devices.

3. I turn down the player, but hit play. If all works correctly, I get the music playing out of my PC speakers.

4. If you're an absolute beginner with a PC, that's OK. You can use MusicMatch Jukebox as an efficient means of recording from LINE-IN. Simply hit play on the cassette player and hit record on the jukebox. What you should end up with is a WAV file that is around 10 MB in size for every minute of recording.

5. If you're a little more advanced, you may want to substitute MusicMatch for an audio editor. I use Cool Edit 2000 as it is pretty easy to operate and I've got audio restoration plug-ins that work quite well with it. Boot up the audio editor and make sure you have set your recording parameters to 44.1 khz, stereo and 16 bit. The resulting WAV file will be of 'CD quality'.

6. To convert the WAV to MP3, there are a lot of choices. If you're a beginner, you may want to download an all-in-one package that offers an MP3 encoder, decoder and player. See the MP3 section of this site. When you go to encode remember that the higher the bit-rate, the higher the audible quality of the music. An MP3 file in stereo at 128Kbps is the standard, but you can go much higher if you want.

This is a shortened version of the tutorial that appears in the June edition of Music Software Monthly.

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