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Tapes, cassettes, whatever, ripping to mp3.

OK, so ‘ripping’ cassettes using my old AKAI in the shed. Same method works for vinyl.

Verify the below with a run-through.

(1) Get the two ended 3.5mm plug audio cable, one end into stereo output, other into mic input of netbook.
(2) run audacity (2.0.6) and record…
(3) Massively overloads the input, huge distortion
(4) Mic gain inside audacity is greyed out, says ‘use system mixer’
(5) Playing a tape while recording in audacity and fiddling with System → Control Centre → Sound (on MATE). Reduce mic amplification. (Volume control on my stereo is flaky.)
(6) Does affect the loudness. Dropped it back so that it touched the edges of the scale now and again but not repeatedly.
(7) Playback…Sounds ok.
(8) Record output of tape player.
(9) Find where tracks start in Audacity window. Place cursor there and type ‘Ctrl-B’ and type track name. I use the form ‘XX Title’ where XX is 01, 02, 03… (makes for better sorting of filenames).
(10) Highlight whole thing and Go File → Edit Metadata and set the album and artist name.
(11) Use the noise removal under the Effects menu.
(12) File → Export Multiple, choose your file locations and types and away you go.

Notes: I found I got weird buzzing noise in the captured audio stream when my netbook fan turned on, so it worked a lot better on cold days (!).

Noise reduction can affect the ‘feel’ of the result (can kill the high end frequencies a bit) – do a test and undo if desired,

Check settings like balance, equalisation and Dolby on the tape player. Because the input to Audacity is coming from the earphone jack, these things will affect the result.

If the Audacity display is maxing out a lot, the sound will be clipped and distorted. Reduce either input mic gain on the computer or just turn down the volume on the stereo; it is worth starting the recording, looking at the display, adjusting the volume until it touches the maximum now and again but not a lot, then (just leave Audacity recording) rewind the tape and play it at the new volume level. The bit of experimental crap at the start can be snipped off later.

It is best to give the file a name before you start, say /home/username/audacity/projectname.aup. On a Linux system if you don’t it will be written to some tmp folder somewhere (/tmp, /etc/tmp or something), and it can get very big. If you have a root partition with not a lot of free space on it, it can get filled right up (Audacity can generate GB of stuff, especially if you go off and forget it is capturing the audio). When / runs out of space, Linux can behave a little oddly… Don’t let that happen. Set an alarm or something.

Tapes can be highly variable. Wow, hiss, all kinds of issues. A good tape in a good deck gives very worthwhile results. Much the same process can be used to grab audio from vinyl, of course.

Vinyl.