While sometimes it may seem as though all of recorded music is available by a quick search on services such as Spotify, Google Play, or iTunes (to name just three), the truth is that a significant amount of recorded music is only available in analog formats, such as cassette tapes. So, whether your interest is in digitizing cassettes from childhood or a mix tape from an old high-school flame, B&H has a range of solutions to help you enjoy your analog music in a convenient digital format.
There are two approaches to digitizing cassette tapes. The first is to buy a cassette player or combination media player that includes a CD burner or USB sound card with software for recording to a computer.
The second approach is to combine an existing cassette player with a USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire (depending on your computer’s I/O) audio interface or with a digital field recorder that accepts the analog line level output of your cassette player.
The easiest way to digitize your cassettes is by purchasing a device such as the ION Audio Tape Express+ Portable Tape-to-MP3 Converter. Not much larger than a cassette itself, the unit is USB bus powered. It comes with ION’s EZ vinyl/Tape Converter software for Mac and windows which provides step by step guidance for transferring you music via iTunes.
For users who prefer a more DIY approach and who already have a working cassette player with a line level output, consider purchasing a simple line level cable for connecting to the line level input and using your computer’s internal sound card. Alternatively, if your computer does not have a line level input on the bus and you do not currently own an audio interface that accepts line level inputs, you can purchase an analog-to-digital-over-USB converter, such as the Griffin Technology iMic USB audio Interface.
A wide variety of paid (Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic), as well as free (Audacity, Garageband for Macs, etc) digital audio workstations (DAW), are available online and from B&H to meet your needs. Depending on what you choose, be sure to follow the software’s help section for setting up your audio interface or soundcard to record to the software.
Alternatively, if you do not want to use a computer and DAW to record, you could consider using a digital field recorder with a line level input such as the Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder. You can then load the tracks into a computer at a later point for editing, labeling, and organizing from the recorder’s microSD/SDHC card.
Connecting your cassette player to your audio interface, field recorder, or internal soundcard will depend on the input and output connectors of the respective devices. These may be stereo 3.5mm line level connectors or a pair of unbalanced RCA connectors. Fortunately, B&H offers an extensive catalog of cables and adapters for connecting your equipment so you can accomplish your goal.