If you were born before the mid 90s, you likely grew up listening to music with your treasured Walkman or Portable Stereo equivalent. Meaning you probably have piles of old cassette tapes stored away in drawers or boxes up the loft.
Maybe they’re home recordings, demo tapes from your old teenage band that never seemed to make it to Spotify. No matter what the tapes are, if you’ve been unable to throw them away, now is the time to transfer your cassettes to CD or digital format before they disintegrate.
Like all analogue formats, cassette tapes were never built to last. No matter how hard you try to preserve them, your vintage tapes will begin to degrade over time – stretching, becoming brittle and making repairs difficult and playback near impossible.
Thankfully, there are a few ways that you can convert cassettes to digital format and continue to enjoy them for years to come. And it’s nowhere near as hard as converting other analogue formats like VHS tapes.
How to Convert Cassette to CD or Digital?
There are a few different ways to transfer cassettes to CD or digital, some being trickier than others. Our top 3 methods are:
- A professional audio conversion service
- A USB cassette converter
- A tape deck
A Professional Audio Conversion Service
The easiest way to convert cassette tapes to CD or digital is to simply let someone else do the hard work for you. It’s a great option for those who don’t have the time to set up conversion software or don’t want to risk corrupting their much-loved tapes. Plus, it’s not as expensive as you might think.
As an added bonus, a good professional should be able to repair your tape if it is broken or has started to become brittle with either a splicing or baking service.
At Transfermagic, we offer all of this and more from as little as £15. With over 30 years of experience, you can be assured that we’ll handle your vintage tapes with care, restoring them to their original quality where possible and even enhancing them with our audio restoration service. We use top quality playback machines and if necessary, we can bake and clean your tapes if they’ve become brittle or damp and master the recordings.
Visit us in Edinburgh or online to check in with us in regard to copyright for tapes that aren’t your own and get started with preserving your recordings today!
A USB Cassette Converter
If you’re determined to convert your tapes at home, a USB cassette converter is the easiest way to do it.
There aren’t many steps involved with this process. Simply, buy a USB cassette converter and download the accompanying software to your PC or laptop. The converter will usually come with a software download disc, or you should be able to download it straight from the company website.
Next, put your chosen tape into the converter and plug your converter into your computer. Open your newly downloaded software, follow the software instructions and that’s it! You’ve just converted your tapes into digital format.
To then transfer the digital files onto a CD, simply insert a blank CD into your computer and burn the files over to it.
As we said, this is a relatively easy process. However, it doesn’t produce the highest quality results. If you want high quality audio conversion results at home, you will need a more expensive tape deck. Which brings us on to the final method…
Outside of a professional transfer service, a tape deck will provide the highest quality audio tape conversion results. If you don’t already have one, you can buy some second-hand ones on eBay or a new one on Amazon.
Once you have your tape deck, make sure that it works, particularly if you have bought a second-hand deck. Common issues to look out for are hissing, playback issues or any sort of warped noises.
Once you know that your tape deck is working, you need to download an audio editor software. Audacity is a free and easy to use software, check out this handy guide for setting it up.
The next step is to set up your desk, how you do so will depend on the cassette tape that you want to convert. Check your tape to see whether it says ‘high bias’ or ‘normal bias’ and then adjust the bias knob or button on your deck according. Many tape decks will also have a button for different tape types and Dolby settings so check your tape again to see if it is chrome or metal and adjust accordingly.
Now that your tape deck is set up, you can connect your tape deck to your computer. How you do this will depend on what deck and computer you have, and you may need to buy some cables. Check both outputs to see what you need. Common cables used are:
- Stereo RCA phono cable to 3.5mm jack cable
- A capture card that plugs into the USB port of your computer
Once that’s set up, open up Ableton or your audio capture software of choice and choose your audio input. Press play on your audio cassette and Ableton will record the tape. You can then play around with Ableton’s editing options until you get the right sound. You will then have a digital file of the recording and can burn it onto a CD if you desire.
And that’s how you convert cassette to digital and CD. Let us know if you try out any of these methods or download our order form to get your tapes professionally transferred today.
Photo Credit: Florian Schmetz