Copy Cassettes to Digital? - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
  • 1 Post By Dr.Dave
  • 3 Post By ExDilbert
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-28, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
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Copy Cassettes to Digital?

I recently dug a box full of old cassettes out of storage (about 200) and would like to copy some of the music off them before I throw them out. They were bought and pay for, so I might as well keep the music.

However, I don't know how to do it, or if it is even possible.

Is it possible to copy music from cassettes to a digital format, so the music can be backed up onto a USB?
If so, how? What hardware is required? Is special software also necessary?

Any direction/advice is appreciated.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-29, 12:35 AM
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It can be done but I would think you will find the quality of the audio is really quite terrible compared to what you are used to listening to today. The last time I played any of my old cassettes (from the early 80s) I was really horrified at just how bad they sounded. That was about 20 years ago!

If you paid for them then you don't have to feel bad about finding a digital copy online and downloading it. I might be wrong but I think you only have to pay for a song once in order to 'own a copy' of it. Maybe there is someone here who can tell us different but I don't think you would be breaking any laws and the quality will be so much better.

If you really want to try recording them, you could likely find a good tutorial on YouTube on how to do it. Obviously a cassette player with left and right audio outs, usually they were RCA jacks, will be needed along with a cable to go from the player to your computer. Most computers with a sound card will have a 1/8" mini jack so a Stereo RCA to Mini plug cable is likely what you will need. Beyond that, the rest is dependent on the software you use. If you are a PC user, Windows has built in recording software and I'm quite certain Apple (I've already dated myself) has the same as they are always touted as being 'multi-media friendly'.

Google is likely your friend and would make the task much easier and provide substantially better audio quality, depending on the source.

If you can then do rather than not. You're your own worst enemy. They're parking their car over there.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-29, 09:46 AM
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I made copies of Analogue audio cassettes to digital once. The only thing that I dislike about doing this you can't speed up the process, you have to play the audio cassette and record it in real time, so if its a 60 minute cassette, it will take you minimum 60 mins to record the stream to digital. so times that by how many cassettes you have in your box and that's how long it will take you.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-29, 09:58 AM
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Here is some free open-source software that will make things easier. The documentation even includes instructions how to hook up a cable to your tape deck and a sample work flow. If you have more than one tape deck, use the best quality one. The sound quality won't be as good if you use a cheap portable.

Documentation | Audacity®
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-29, 10:55 AM
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I spent some hours doing this for my wife, copying her audiobooks to MP3 format.
A cassette deck ( a good Yamaha one) that was part of an early '80s stereo, a RCA to minijack cable and Audacity. Put the cassette deck under my PC monitor and played solitaire while it was going on. Quite successful I think as the resultant MP3 files were to be played in a car

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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-30, 04:37 PM
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I agree that recording from audio cassette might not be worthwhile for the results obtained. That's especially true of prerecorded music tapes. It will take a long time and the quality will be very poor when compared to modern CDs or streaming services.

As for copyright, the only rights conferred are for the recording on the actual media that is purchased. It does not transfer to other copies, such as those on a friend's CD or files downloaded from the internet. That is still a violation of copyright law.

As to how it is done, Dr.Dave covered it. All that is required is a modern PC with HD audio that has audio in and a good piece of recording software, such as Audacity.

In the long run, it may be better to look for other ways to obtain the music. Used CD stores are one option. Many discs can be purchased through independent discount music sellers on Amazon. eBay has listings for many CDs, some in bulk lots for under a dollar a disc. I would'nt count on finding a lot of favorites in those bulk lots though. Another option is a music streaming service. Most of the music, and much more, will be available on services such as Deezer and Spotify.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-30, 05:18 PM
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There is a tax on blank CDs that pays for permission to copy music CDs. However, I don't know that it applies to copying from other media. Also, once you own a CD, you are allowed to make an "archive", which might be a MP3 file, as you have already paid for the performance.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-30, 06:20 PM
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There is a tax on blank CDs that pays for permission to copy music CDs.
Not exactly. It does not grant permission to copy music or CDs. The tax was implemented to compensate musicians for alleged copying done by CD buyers. At the time the tax was implemented, I had never copied a song or CD using blanks CDs. I still had to pay the blank CD tax and it didn't give me permission to copy music either. That's why I hate Canadian musicians. They seem to think that Canadian consumers and taxpayers should compensate them for problems with their own business model. They should look in their own back yard (the corrupt music industry) to get compensation.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-31, 09:39 AM
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The Copyright Act was updated in 2012 to allow people to legally copy music they own as long as they don't break any digital locks. This allows "format shifting" or making a backup copy. What the OP is attempting to do is completely legal.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 2016-08-31, 05:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Copying copyrighted material that is personally owned for personal use has always been legal. It's covered under fair use which also allows for quoting text and using small portions of music or film for educational or editorial use. The original version of the 2012 Copyright Act (as proposed by media company lawyers) attempted to take away fair use and make decryption illegal. Fair use was restored but criminalizing decryption was left in. It also placed limits on liability for copying music and video. The limits were moot by then since media companies had pretty much stopped pursuing large lawsuits against individuals who download material. The emphasis now is going after the original uploader (for torrents or download sites) and people or companies who knowingly host copyrighted files for download (such as Much of the current emphasis is in serving legal notices to have copyrighted materials removed from web sites and to stop individuals from downloading copyrighted material illegally.
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