How to Convert Tapes to CD

Need to Know How to Convert Tapes to CD?

If you want to known how to convert tapes to CD, you need to know a few basics about audio recording. After that, converting cassette tapes to compact disc is a matter of getting the right software you need to make conversions. Since the conversion software you need is free, open source and works with a variety of platforms, converting your old tapes to CD has never been easier.

In fact, new methods for how to convert tapes to CD came online as late as 2007, so if you had trouble converting your cassettes from analog to digital in 2006 or before, you’ll find the process is much easier than it was just 4 or 5 years ago. Follow our step by step instructions and all those old magnetic cassettes sitting in the shoebox in the closet or attic won’t be as useless as you might have thought they were. That’s good news for us pack rats.

Guide to Converting Tapes to CD Using Audacity

Here’s the five-step process for converting tapes to CD. Once you get this process down, repeat steps 3-5 to make new recordings of old cassettes.

  1. Plug in Wires from Cassette Headphone to PC
  2. Download and Start Audacity
  3. Press the Record Button on Audacity
  4. Press the Stop Button on Audacity
  5. “Files -> Export as WAV”

I’ll go over each of these steps in detail below. Test out your cassette transfers with 10- to 15-second recordings to begin with, until you’re confident you have the process down pat.

Before we start with our explanation of how to convert tapes to compact disc, let’s define two terms. To understand what’s going on in the conversion process, it helps to knows the difference in “analog” and “digital”. This may not help you in learning how to convert tapes to CD, but understanding the different in analogue and digital explains why we changed from cassette tapes to CDs in the first place. I’ll also offer a definition of “discrete”, because that’s adjective doesn’t sound like the right description, when first hearing it.

  • Analog – Meaning “proportional”, analog or analogue is the type of information storage on cassette tapes. Analogue is a way to convert one type of information, be it sound, temperature, pressure, light or et cetera, to another type of information, specifically electrical signals. Analog recordings were the original way to record sound information and involve recording “continuous signals”, but the process picked up more background noise, was less precise and the technology was harder to design. This last factor made sound recordings more expensive in the past, while all these factors made analog recordings inferior to digital.
  • Digital – Digital is a way to record and represent information at “discrete” levels, rather than “continuous” levels. Digital breaks down the information into discrete packets of information, making digital recordings more precise and less prone to pick up background noise. Digital recording devices, because digital circuits are easier to design than analog circuits. Digital recording device construction can be automated, while analogue circuits have to be hand-made, so digital devices are much cheaper. In the Information Age, people use digital recording techniques to record their own tunes with their home computer, while it required a recording studio or expensive specialized equipment in the past. Compact discs are digital recordings.
  • Discrete – A separate entity or something broken into distinct parts. Another definition is being “separate and distinct”. For music files, discrete information is music broken into numerous separate pieces, called samples. That’s why sampling became a huge part of music after the digital revolution, because it was easier to sample music in a discrete or digitized format.

So a cassette tape is sound information converted into electronic information, but as a continuous signal. A compact disc is sound information converted into electronic information, but as a discrete signal. Therefore, converting cassettes to compact disc is even easier, because you’re converting one type of electronic information (continuous) into another (discrete).

Plug in Headphone Wires

How to Convert Tapes to CDStart with a cassette tape player that has a working headphone jack. If your old boombox doesn’t work, remember that this technology is cheap these days and you can buy a new cassette player for $50 or less at a store near you.

Take a 1/8th inch male-male stereo audio cable and plug one end into the “Line Out” jack on your cassette player, or your player’s headphone. Next, take the other end of the audio cable and plug it into your computer’s sound card microphone. An even better option is to find the computer’s “Line In” jack and plug it into the jack.

This should route the audio information from your cassette player to your computer, converting it from analog to digital audio.

How to Use Audacity Freeware

You’ll need to download the Audacity free audio editor you can download at the link given. Audacity if a free, open source software that is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and GNU. As a reference point for which Audacity software you should use, Audacity 1.3.12 came out in April of 2010.

Learning how to use Audacity Freeware lets you edit and record digital audio across a variety of platforms. The software was developed by a Carnegie Mellon University student, Dominic Mazzoni, who now works at Google. In the way of recommendations, Audacity won the 2007 SourceForge dotnet Community Choice Award for best multimedia project, was voted the 6th most popular download on Source Forge in 2009, and has been downloaded 63 million times to date.

Once you have Audacity downloaded and ready to go, change the input type to either “Microphone” or “Line In”, depending on which method you’re using (See “Plug in Headphone Wires” paragraph 2). Here’s how you select the proper input type.

  • Open the “Edit” Menu
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Use “Device” Selector to Select Input: Audio Jack, Microphone, Sound Card
  • Use “Channels” Selector to Choose “Mono” or “Stereo” Recording

Press the Red Button on Audacity

The red circle is the record button on Audacity, so find the red circle or record button, whichever is easiest for you to find. When you hit this button, also press play on your cassette tape. This begins the records of your cassette information onto the Audacity interface.

Press the Yellow Square on Audacity

The yellow square is akin to the stop button on Audacity. When your tape has finished playing and recording, click on the yellow square display, which stops the recording.

“File -> Export as WAV” Menu

The “File -> Export as WAV” menu is how you save your recording on the Audacity file conversion software. A “WAV file” is what you have saved to your computer. Once you have a WAV file, you can burn this file to CD or convert it into an mp3 file. Also, you’ll be able to cut and paste, as well as add effects to your sound file.

So convert your cassette tape sounds to a WAV file, and you’ll be able to use that sound recording like you would any other sound file on your computer. You now know how to convert tapes to CD. Below are your options, once you have a WAV file.

  • Convert to an mp3 Sound File
  • Upload to your mp3 Player or iPod
  • Rip and Burn to Compact Disc
  • Add Effects to Sound File with Cut-n-Paste Options

Converting Tapes to CD

Once you know how to convert tapes to CDs, you can restore your entire catalog of old cassette tapes to CD. You don’t have to go through the annoying process of buying CD versions of all your old tapes, or buying downloads off of iTunes, Zune or Amazon.

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