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How to digitize cassette tapes
To copy your tapes to your PC for digital archiving, you'll need three things:
1. A cassette player.
You can use a Walkman which works ok or you could also use a tape deck.
2. A Stereo Patch Cord.
Specifically, you need a cable that connects your Walkman's headphone jack to your sound card's line-in jack. You can get one a local music store or audio retailer. If you're connecting a tape deck, you may need an adapter to accommodate its larger headphone jack.
3. Software to do it
Audacity, an open-source, cross-platform program that makes simple work of recording and editing audio. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you plan to turn your tapes into MP3 files, make sure to get the LAME MP3 encoder as well; there's a link to it on the Audacity download page.
To keep things as simple as possible for you, lets get going...
After installing Audacity, you'll need to tweak a few settings. First, visit Preferences (accessible under the Edit menu) and make sure Channels is set to two. In the same window, hit the File Formats tab and configure Audacity for use with the LAME MP3 encoder you downloaded.
Click the Find Library button, then navigate to the folder on your hard drive containing the file lame_enc.dll
Finally, choose a bit rate for your recordings. 128Kbps is more than ample for audiobooks, but for music I recommend doubling it to 256Kbps.
Now it's time to check your line-in connection and audio levels. Put a tape in your Walkman and start it playing; you should hear sound coming from your PC's speakers.
Click the input level meter and enable Start Monitoring to see a live meter. Then you can adjust the input volume using the slider to the right.
Keeping in mind that your first recording may require some trial and error, rewind your tape to the beginning, press Record in Audacity, then start the tape. If it's music, you needn't record each song individually, starting and stopping your tape deck along the way.
Instead, let Audacity record the whole side. Then, use the Selection tool to highlight a song (you'll be able to tell where it ends by the few seconds of flatline, which indicate silence) and save the selection as an MP3 (or whatever file format you choose).
If it's a book on tape, you might want to divide the recording into, say, 10-minute segments so it's easier to navigate. This makes organization a bit more complicated, as you'll need to name and tag your MP3s so they'll play sequentially;
I recommend something along the lines of
01-Stephen King-The Stand.mp3
02-Stephen King-The Stand.mp3, and so on.
After you've saved your MP3s, you can use your favorite music manager (I recommend Media Monkey) to apply tags and add album art.
Install Audacity Program & Lame MP3 encoder - Click Here
Media Monkey - Click Here