How to transfer old cassette tapes into my new laptop computer as a digital file?

Lotus100

Honorable
Feb 12, 2012
8
0
10,510
0
I hope I selected the right place on Tom's HW to post this question. If I did not then please tell where it is better posted. Thank you.

After doing some research, I found out from YouTube about a free program called Audacity. I did a number of things. Simply put: I wound up buying a wire from:

UGREEN Slim 3.5mm Stereo Auxiliary Cable with Slim Aluminum Case for Your iPhone, iPad or Smartphones, Tablets, Media Players White, 2m/6ft

The above wire has two 3.5mm plugs, one on each side of the wire. The purpose of using this cable was to connect my Portable Radio, CD, Cassette tape player to my new laptop computer' dual functioning headphone / microphone input/output port.

I now own a new laptop:
Hp Envy Laptop. Product Number: X6V56UA #ABA

According to the YouTube video, all I needed to do was plug the wire into the headphone jack of my portable player and then into my laptop' headphone/microphone jack. The UGREEN wire (above) allowed me to do this. However, when pushing the play button on my portable player to start the sound coming from an old cassette tape (that I owned) and soon after pushing record on the Audacity software (now in my laptop), I expected it would have been recording a digital copy file in my computer of the cassette' soundtrack. It did not do this!

And I don't understand why not? It seems a mystery to me. Why? Because if I plug in an independent microphone into my laptop' headphone/microphone jack then I can record my voice into Audacity. Now, I'm not sure whether or not the independent microphone was picking up my voice or the two laptop microphones at the top of my laptop screen captured my voice. I even tried to figure out how to disable the laptop microphones from my control panel, but I'm not to sure if I actually did this. I wanted to test whether my independent microphone was actually working? I needed to disable my laptop' screen mics in order to test this, but I don't know if I was able to disable them. Nevertheless, I did get my voice into the Audacity software when I tested. Whether my voice was picked up by the laptop' mics or the independent mic--well, I just don't know. I just wish I was a bit more confident in what I was trying to do in disabling the laptop' mics but allowing the independent mic to do the job. I don't know how to make that test happen?

What's confusing to me is this: At the end of my independent microphone is a 3.5mm male plug. This is the same 3.5 mm male plug as the UGREEN wire' 3.5mm male plug. So, I don't get it! Why? Because if I just connect headphones to my portable player, which has the 3.5mm male plug then I hear the sound in the headphones. This tells me that sound is traveling down the wire to the headphones. Yet, when I plug the UGREEN wire into the output headphone jack of the portable player, for some reason the sound isn't captured on the other end of the wire plugged into my laptop computer' laptop' headphone/microphone jack. Duh--this doesn't make sense to me!

Now, UGREEN via Amazon has agreed to refund me the cost of their wire (see above). That's nice of them. Anyway, I've kept them properly informed about what I was trying to do all along. They knew I was going to test things even before I purchased their wire. I'm just amazed and lost to understand why what I was trying to do didn't work.

Okay, so now what do I do? I did more research and found on eBay:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tape-to-USB-Flash-Drive-Cassette-to-MP3-Converter-Audio-Capture-Walkman-Player-/351730938049?_trksid=p2385738.m2548.l4275

However, when I read the Title of this device, I'm a bit confused. Why?
1. Because the title doesn't use commas.
2. Because I understand USB-Flash-Drive. But I don't understand USB-Flash-Drive-Cassette? A Flash Drive is just that: a Flash Drive, not a Flash Drive Cassette.
3. Tape must mean Cassette tape.
4. It just seems confusing the way they title their device.

Anyway, this seems like a possible solution to what I'm trying to accomplish (see above). I don't mind purchasing this device from eBay, but:
1. I can't find a way to ask the vendor a question on eBay.
2. There is no item# in their eBay listing, so I can't fill out the form to send the vendor a short list of questions.
3. I don't know if after successfully transferring sound from my cassette tape to a flash drive using their device, whether my laptop computer will be able to read their digital file?
4. I don't know how complicated their manual is for using their product.
5. I don't know if my laptop computer is going to need some other kind of software to read the digital file created by their device?

So, I'm pretty sure by now, you know why I've taken the time to write this post to you. I am confused about things.

I'm even wondering whether I can get a Line-In to my computer via a USB port? And what kind of a wire I will need to do that if I want to get sound from my portable player into my laptop computer?

I've tried here to be as specific as possible to help whoever reads this post understand my situation and what I am trying to accomplish. I hope I did a good job explaining things. But I would like specific answers to the questions I've posted herein.

Again, if this post is incorrectly placed in this forum or is best put into the Tom's Hardware for Audio Equipment then please advise me accordingly. Or better still if you can just pass it on to whoever would be more appropriate to answer my questions and help me get my head around things then I'd appreciate it.

Thank you

 

If that's this one, it's a plain stereo 3.5mm audio cable.

https://www.amazon.com/Auxiliary-Aluminum-Smartphones-Tablets-Players/dp/B00NQLSG38

to my new laptop computer' dual functioning headphone / microphone input/output port.

I now own a new laptop:
Hp Envy Laptop. Product Number: X6V56UA #ABA
I can't find specs for that particular model laptop, but if it only has a single port for headphones and microphone, then it is a combination port. You cannot plug a stereo cable into it directly. You need a Y-adapter like this:

https://www.amazon.com/UGREEN-Headsets-Separate-Headphone-Microphone/dp/B00Y458NA6

Notice that the socket ends have a picture of a microphone and headphones. In your case you would take the 3.5mm stereo cable, plug one end into your player, plug the other end into the socket with a microphone pic, then plug the Y-adapter's plug into the laptop.

Okay, so now what do I do? I did more research and found on eBay:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tape-to-USB-Flash-Drive-Cassette-to-MP3-Converter-Audio-Capture-Walkman-Player-/351730938049?_trksid=p2385738.m2548.l4275
I wouldn't recommend that. It appears to be a device which does the conversion to MP3 for you. That in itself is not bad, but based on the specs it seems to be limited to 128 kbps. That's an ok bitrate for casual listening, but not if you want something higher quality for archival purposes. Capturing raw audio yourself and converting it with Audacity or a similar program is better (you can pick the final quality).

I'm even wondering whether I can get a Line-In to my computer via a USB port?
Try it on your computer's microphone port first. That should provide good enough audio for most people's purposes.

These dedicated audio-to-USB devices produce cleaner audio. The microphone port on your computer isn't shielded well (or at all), so can pick up electrical noise which degrades the audio quality. Try the laptop's microphone port. if it sounds clean to you, then you're good to go. If you're getting too much hiss or a repeating electrical noise, then you can start thinking about an dedicated USB audio capture device. If you get to this point, come back here and ask for recommendations on a good USB audio capture device.

Edit: You may need to buy an audio-to-USB device to capture stereo audio. Most computer microphone ports are mono.
 

Lotus100

Honorable
Feb 12, 2012
8
0
10,510
0
Thank you for providing some insight Solandri. By the way: Cool dog!

I now own a new laptop:
Hp Envy Laptop. Product Number: X6V56UA #ABA I can't find specs for that particular model laptop, but if it only has a single port for headphones and microphone, then it is a combination port. You cannot plug a stereo cable into it directly. You need a Y-adapter like this:

https://www.amazon.com/UGREEN-Headsets-Separate-Headphone-Microphone/dp/B00Y458NA6

Notice that the socket ends have a picture of a microphone and headphones. In your case you would take the 3.5mm stereo cable, plug one end into your player, plug the other end into the socket with a microphone pic, then plug the Y-adapter's plug into the laptop.
Here are the specs on my laptop:
HP Envy Notebook
Product number: X6V56UA#ABA
Serial number: 5CG6401NFJ
Motherboard ID: 81D1
BIOS: F.28-10/05/2016
It's also got an i7-7500U CPU @ 2.70GHz

That ought to help you know more about my laptop.

Now if I am understanding what you said in your response then:
1. I can still keep the original UGREEN wire I originally purchased. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
2. I can buy the UGREEN "Y" wire which you recommended. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
3. I can then plug one end of the wire I originally purchased (at #1) into my player and the other end of the same wire (at #1) into the new "Y" wire' (at #2) microphone in port and the other end of the new "Y" wire (at #2) into my laptop computer' combo in port for mic and headphone. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
4. If all (1-3) is correct (all "Yeses") then my laptop should then pick up the sound from my player? ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
5. And if (1-4) is correct (all "Yeses") then the Audacity software program, once I learn more about it and how to use it, should allow me to make a digital file of whatever sounds I'm sending to my laptop computer from my player? Which I can then transfer to a CD-R, Flash Drive or MP3 player? Big question (smile)! ( ) Yes or ( ) No?

If anything above is a "No" then why? Please explain.

You see, on the one hand, I have some older music cassettes that I'd like to digitize and put on a CD-R. But more importantly, I have some business lectures on cassettes too that I'd also like to digitize and put on a CD-R. I believe I can also transfer digital files to a Flash Drive. In either case, at least, I can play these CD-R's in my car stereo while stuck in traffic or driving. Surely you can understand.

I just wish I understood what makes these wires so much different in the functions that they can perform?

I wouldn't recommend that. It appears to be a device which does the conversion to MP3 for you. That in itself is not bad, but based on the specs it seems to be limited to 128 kbps. That's an ok bitrate for casual listening, but not if you want something higher quality for archival purposes. Capturing raw audio yourself and converting it with Audacity or a similar program is better (you can pick the final quality).
What does it mean: "...limited to 128 kbps" ? I understand "kbps" means kilo bits per second. But does the "128" indicate a very slow transfer rate? And opposed to what being better?

How's this for a question: Take your average music cassette tape that usually 30 minutes per side--What bitrate is equal to the original recording of the cassette tape? Interesting stuff!

And what exactly do you mean when you say: "...but not if you want something of higher quality for archival purposes."?

I mean if a bitrate of say 256kbps exists (I don't really know much about that) then what advantage does that give me? Is it similar to taping a television program onto a VHS tape at Standard speed or Extended Play speed? I'm using this as an example from something I understood when VHS tapes were used before everything went digital.

You see, a normal VHS tape at Standard speed may have given say 4 hours of recording time but at Extended Play 8 hours of recording time. So, I'm figuring, using this VHS example, Standard speed recorded the TV program at a faster speed for better quality recordings. Where as using Extended speed gave you more recording time on the VHS tape but recorded at a slower speed thus reducing the video quality. If my example is clear and correct then I think it may help me understand what you mean by saying:

but based on the specs it seems to be limited to 128 kbps. That's an ok bitrate for casual listening, but not if you want something higher quality for archival purposes. Capturing raw audio yourself and converting it with Audacity or a similar program is better (you can pick the final quality).
Do I have the right idea here? Please explain.

Actually casual listening for me is okay. Music is music! And business lectures are just that: lectures or learning audio recordings. Sometimes its good to just review and listen again to a training session. I think you know what I am speaking about here.

One more thing:
Will the UGREEN ("Y") wire you recommended transfer stereo sound from a music cassette to my new laptop computer? A cassette that has a training lecture on it to me can play in mono or stereo; it doesn't matter to me. With training or lectures on cassettes, hearing what is being communicated is more important than hearing the same in stereo.

A compliment for those of you at Tom's Hardware:
You people really "Rock On" ! Without you folks at Tom's Hardware, I'd be lost in a forest without a compass. And more than likely wind up in a stream of snakes and alligators. In the cold. All alone. With nothing to eat. My only hope would be to call Bear Grills. And if you've never seen this guy do his thing then you're missing out on learning stuff that can really help ya if you ever get stuck in the wilderness of life.

Thanks for your help. I'd like to see that I can get my audio into the Audacity software. And from there get my digital audio files onto a flash drive, CD-R or MP3 player.


 

I should have clarified. The important "spec" is whether it has two separate 3.5mm ports for headphone and microphone, or if it has a single port for both.

Now if I am understanding what you said in your response then:
1. I can still keep the original UGREEN wire I originally purchased. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
2. I can buy the UGREEN "Y" wire which you recommended. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
3. I can then plug one end of the wire I originally purchased (at #1) into my player and the other end of the same wire (at #1) into the new "Y" wire' (at #2) microphone in port and the other end of the new "Y" wire (at #2) into my laptop computer' combo in port for mic and headphone. ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
4. If all (1-3) is correct (all "Yeses") then my laptop should then pick up the sound from my player? ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
5. And if (1-4) is correct (all "Yeses") then the Audacity software program, once I learn more about it and how to use it, should allow me to make a digital file of whatever sounds I'm sending to my laptop computer from my player? Which I can then transfer to a CD-R, Flash Drive or MP3 player? Big question (smile)! ( ) Yes or ( ) No?
If your laptop has a single port for both headphones and microphone, then the answer to 1-5 is Yes.

You see, on the one hand, I have some older music cassettes that I'd like to digitize and put on a CD-R. But more importantly, I have some business lectures on cassettes too that I'd also like to digitize and put on a CD-R. I believe I can also transfer digital files to a Flash Drive. In either case, at least, I can play these CD-R's in my car stereo while stuck in traffic or driving. Surely you can understand.
I know this isn't exactly kosher, but if you already own the older music on cassette, I'd just download MP3s off a pirate site. The music and movie industry is always stressing that we're buying a license from them, not a product. And since the license is only for private playback, we can't do stuff like play the music at a wedding without paying for a public performance license.

Well if you follow their logic, then you already paid for a personal use license when you bought the original cassettes. So I have no problem with downloading music I already own and paid for. (This isn't legal advice - the law frequently doesn't make logical sense. So I can't guarantee you'll win a court case if the music studios sue you. But from an ethical standpoint, I see no problem.)

I just wish I understood what makes these wires so much different in the functions that they can perform?
The regular 3.5mm cable has 3 conductors - ground, left, and right. If your laptop has a combo port, then it has 4 conductors - ground, left, right, mic.

http://www.cablechick.com.au/resources/image/trrs-diagram2.jpg

The left and right contacts are designed so that a regular 3.5mm audio cable (the middle pic) will work for headphones or speakers if you plug it into a combo port (the right pic).

But a 3.5mm mono microphone cable is configured like the left pic, so it won't work in a combo port. When you plug the regular cable into a combo port, the audio (on the tip of the left pic) is being sent to the left channel headphone output of the combo port (tip of the right pic). Nothing is being sent to the mic conductor (base of the right pic) since that's just ground in the regular 3.5mm cable.

The Y-adapter will correctly re-route that tip carrying the audio to the base of the combo port where the microphone conductor is.

What does it mean: "...limited to 128 kbps" ? I understand "kbps" means kilo bits per second. But does the "128" indicate a very slow transfer rate? And opposed to what being better?
The higher the bitrate, the better the sound quality and the fewer compression artifacts you can hear. 128 kbps is fine for casual listening. But you can usually hear those artifacts if you play it back over headphones or on a stereo system. For that type of playback, 240 or 256 kbps is a better minimum bitrate. For archival purposes, you may want to push it to 480-512 kbps. But honestly if you want to archive audio, you should probably be using lossless FLAC.

That said:
How's this for a question: Take your average music cassette tape that usually 30 minutes per side--What bitrate is equal to the original recording of the cassette tape? Interesting stuff!
If your source is cassette tape, there is probably already a lot of noise in it, so 128 kbps may be sufficient. At the risk of confusing you, cassettes can only record about 6 bits of depth (64 distinct volume levels for a sound). CDs are 16-bit (65,536 different volume levels, though a bunch are wasted due to it being encoded as linear PCM instead of logarithmic - the music studios deliberately made this bad decision early on to limit the capacity of music CDs to about 1 hour). So there's a *lot* less audio info on cassettes for you to capture compared to a CD.

I still wouldn't recommend that device though. It'll be a one-trick pony. It'll work for converting cassette audio, but that's it. If you get the cables, you can capture audio from cassette, CD, DVDs, your TV, camcorder tape videos, phone videos, YouTube videos, etc. and select an appropriate bitrate for the quality of the audio source. (OTOH if you just want something simple for converting cassettes, and that device actually works, then it may be what you want.)

You see, a normal VHS tape at Standard speed
The VHS standard vs extended speed analogy is a good one.

One more thing:
Will the UGREEN ("Y") wire you recommended transfer stereo sound from a music cassette to my new laptop computer? A cassette that has a training lecture on it to me can play in mono or stereo; it doesn't matter to me. With training or lectures on cassettes, hearing what is being communicated is more important than hearing the same in stereo.
As I said, most laptop microphone jacks are mono. I've seen a few with stereo microphones which provide a special adapter (5 conductors on the plug instead of 4). But if your laptop has a regular mono jack, then the stereo cassette music would be converted to mono in the capture process. Not a problem for lectures, but if you want to digitize music I would seriously consider what I said above about just downloading it. Or visit a library, borrow the CDs of the cassette tapes you own, and use Exact Audio Copy to convert them to MP3s. Otherwise you'll need a USB device which can capture stereo audio.
 

Lotus100

Honorable
Feb 12, 2012
8
0
10,510
0
Thank you Solandri.........I know need to purchase the "Y" cable. Then I will report back in the future.
You people are terrific. Thanks for your help.
 
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
N Apps General Discussion 2
M Apps General Discussion 1
B Apps General Discussion 0
J Apps General Discussion 1
O Apps General Discussion 1
R Apps General Discussion 2
M Apps General Discussion 1
D Apps General Discussion 1
K Apps General Discussion 1
D Apps General Discussion 1
S Apps General Discussion 4
T Apps General Discussion 1
A Apps General Discussion 1
MrMario Apps General Discussion 5
F Apps General Discussion 1
D Apps General Discussion 4
J Apps General Discussion 3
O Apps General Discussion 2
T Apps General Discussion 1
C Apps General Discussion 5

Similar threads


ASK THE COMMUNITY