Hardware needed to convert cassettes to .mp3? Also horsepower... [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Drjones
02-04-2011, 16:06
Hi guys.

A client of mine needs to convert a whole lot of audio into .mp3 format.

Most of it is already on CD or in .wav format, so that's easy, but what's necessary to convert cassette tapes and vynil to digital format?

Also, dumb question, but does a high-end sound card make the process go faster, or is that a function of the primary CPU? Where does that processing happen? If a good sound card is necessary or beneficial, please make some recommendations!

We are getting her a new desktop, probably an i5 or i7, so it will be a nice rig, just want to make sure that it will also handle the audio easily & quickly.

Anyhow, if you guys can please recommend hard & software needed to convert cassettes & vynil to .mp3, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks!

kc8ykd
02-04-2011, 20:29
how much audio are we talking?

the conversion process happens independent of the sound card. no sound card is required to convert formats, just to listen.

for converting audio cd's to mp3's, and other formats to mp3's, i like to use Easy CD-DA extractor:
http://www.poikosoft.com/

to do vinyl you'll need a turntable with a usb interface or use the sound card's line input.

the line input would also be used for the cassette tape.

for both, you can use a simple 2x RCA female to 1/8" stereo male connector (available from radioshack).

keep in mind that the process of digitizing vinyl and cassette tapes sucks, since it happens at a 1:1 time ratio. so, if you want to digitize an hour of vinyl, it's going to take an hour to get into the computer.

depending on the audio quality required, i might go with an actual interface, rather than the built-in cards, which tend to be noisy and generally don't support higher audio recording and playback rates.

but, since they're going to mp3's, it really won't make much sense to do that.

a good quality cassette player and a good quality tunable (and needle!), and making the right gain settings will be key. along with making any necessary adjustments to remove tape hiss and ground hum, if present.

you can use Audacity to record the analog sources via the built-in sound card and use it to save the audio files as mp3's.


converting the stuff from cd's (since it's already digital) will be easy and painless (sans having to name and organize the tracks). recording the analog sources won't be, and there's really no easy way to get around it.


an I series processor would be crazy overkill too, so would be more than 3gb of ram.


i guess i should ask, what will be the intended use of these mp3's ?

if it's going to be used professionally, i'd suggest formats other than mp3's for a master archive and some real audio hardware and probably some studio quality headphones or monitors. along with some different software and some plugins.

Drjones
02-06-2011, 23:55
how much audio are we talking?

Church sermons; about 45-60 min. every Sunday, 52 weeks per year for the past 4 years.

I haven't bothered to do the math on it yet....


the conversion process happens independent of the sound card. no sound card is required to convert formats, just to listen.


Gotcha, thanks.


to do vinyl you'll need a turntable with a usb interface or use the sound card's line input.


Ok. The vynil is personal records, so much lower priority than the other stuff...



depending on the audio quality required, i might go with an actual interface, rather than the built-in cards, which tend to be noisy and generally don't support higher audio recording and playback rates.

What do you mean "actual interface"?


but, since they're going to mp3's, it really won't make much sense to do that.

a good quality cassette player and a good quality tunable (and needle!), and making the right gain settings will be key. along with making any necessary adjustments to remove tape hiss and ground hum, if present.

you can use Audacity to record the analog sources via the built-in sound card and use it to save the audio files as mp3's.


So Audacity is a good program for doing the cassette recordings?



converting the stuff from cd's (since it's already digital) will be easy and painless (sans having to name and organize the tracks). recording the analog sources won't be, and there's really no easy way to get around it.

Yep. Don't hate me, but I am going to point them to iTunes to convert CDs to mp3, as iTunes makes it very easy and painless and does a good job, IMO. It's super easy to just load the disc, add all the information you want to the tracks, then rip it to just about whatever format & quality you want....


an I series processor would be crazy overkill too, so would be more than 3gb of ram.

The client needs a nice new computer anyway, and I really like the "i" series....I've also seen what a big difference it makes in processing audio or video...


i guess i should ask, what will be the intended use of these mp3's ?


Just to have them digitized for safekeeping; a digital recording obviously outlives a tape or CD; as well as distributing the digitized recordings on their website.


if it's going to be used professionally, i'd suggest formats other than mp3's for a master archive and some real audio hardware and probably some studio quality headphones or monitors. along with some different software and some plugins.

I thought about some other formats for the master archive, but I think that a well-done 320kbps mp3 is pretty darn good for their purposes.....A lot of the stuff that they already have digitized is in .wav format, which obviously takes up a ton of space.

Space is a bit of a consideration here, and it seems they'd much rather go with quantity over quality; we're not recording Horowitz' last recital here.... ;)

They'd also like to be able to put the recordings on their website to distribute freely to their congregation.

If I had to take a guess, I'd say they'd settle for decent (320-256kbps) mp3s so that they could cut down as much as possible the storage space required, not have to deal with having multiple files (i.e. a master and then smaller file they send out/share) and keep it simple & easy.

Of course I will review all this with them first, but I imagine they are going to want to go the simpler, easier route.

Thank you so much for the detailed reply!

CitizenOfDreams
02-07-2011, 00:29
- High quality tape deck and record player.
- Pretty much any computer newer than 5 years will have enough disk space and CPU power;
- A good semi-professional audio card, or an "audio interface" as they are called in certain circles. You may get away with a regular sound card that's already in the computer, but we are talking about less than 50 bucks. Something like Behringer U-Control series should be perfectly adequate for what you are doing. The software for recording/editing/encoding is bundled with it.

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UFO202.aspx

http://www.behringer.com/EN/images/products/UFO202_P0A12_Front2_web.jpg

kc8ykd
02-07-2011, 12:42
Church sermons; about 45-60 min. every Sunday, 52 weeks per year for the past 4 years.

I haven't bothered to do the math on it yet....


that's not too bad, it's going to be quite the mundane task to rip that audio.


Ok. The vynil is personal records, so much lower priority than the other stuff...


since the vinyl is for personal stuff, you could probably get by with an ION turntable with a usb on it.

that would eliminate having to adjust gain settings and compensating for volume output levels (which are typically higher on record players than other devices) and any possible grounding hum.

http://www.amazon.com/Ion-TTUSB-Turntable-USB-Record/dp/B000BUEMOO

it's not a Technics 1200, but you don't need that kind of quality.




What do you mean "actual interface"?


a high quality internal or external audio interface purpose built for recording (and playing back) audio.

the Behringer that COD linked to is ok, but for your needs, it doesn't have any gain controls, except in the software. having external gain controls make it a lot easier to make changes quickly especially in an environment where you could be using inputs with different volume levels to prevent low input levels as well as prevent clipping.

you won't need more than 2 channels, since you won't be recoding live, but i'd personally go with something from m-audio or e-mu. you gain a lot of things, including input type flexibility (s/pdif, coaxial digital, 1/4", xlr, depending on the model). the digital-audio converters tend to be a higher quality as well, and they'll support higher input recording quality.

a good external interface will also have outputs for monitors and headphones, which will allow your person doing the conversions to detect any possible input setting and quality/processing issues. you'll want some good headphones or monitors. if you want to do it right, i'd budget ~$150 for an interface and at least $60 for quality headphones.



So Audacity is a good program for doing the cassette recordings?


i'd say audacity would be ok for recording things (including cassette and vinyl). personally, i'd prefer something like sony soundforge or even Reaper. mostly due to their user interfaces. all three can utilize plugins, but the analog recording will need to be trimmed and probably have some light eq-ing to remove hiss and maybe some ground hum removal (depending on the setup you choose). reaper and soundforge are pretty much point-click and cut-and-paste easy, audacity is a little more complicated to work with. (it's still good for being free and for quick and dirty recordings).




Yep. Don't hate me, but I am going to point them to iTunes to convert CDs to mp3, as iTunes makes it very easy and painless and does a good job, IMO. It's super easy to just load the disc, add all the information you want to the tracks, then rip it to just about whatever format & quality you want....


never used itunes, but i'd run some tests, and download a copy of easy cdda extractor and compare them. it would suck to get 30 hours into the project to find out the software isn't acting the way you want or to find something that could have saved 5 or 10 hours of work.

easy cdda extractor also has some nice features for getting audio off disks that could be scratched. as well as being able to convert wav to whatever other format you want. along with having incredible control over the encoding settings quality and id3 info and track/directory naming.



The client needs a nice new computer anyway, and I really like the "i" series....I've also seen what a big difference it makes in processing audio or video...


well, don't sell them the I based on that it's going to make their project go faster. they're going to spend hours in front of the thing ripping cd's and recording vinyl and cassette and no amount of processor is going to change that.

the processor really comes into play while processing effects on the audio after it's into the computer, which, you guys won't be doing much of, and even then it will be negligible cpu-load-wise.



Just to have them digitized for safekeeping; a digital recording obviously outlives a tape or CD; as well as distributing the digitized recordings on their website.

I thought about some other formats for the master archive, but I think that a well-done 320kbps mp3 is pretty darn good for their purposes.....A lot of the stuff that they already have digitized is in .wav format, which obviously takes up a ton of space.

Space is a bit of a consideration here, and it seems they'd much rather go with quantity over quality; we're not recording Horowitz' last recital here.... ;)

They'd also like to be able to put the recordings on their website to distribute freely to their congregation.

If I had to take a guess, I'd say they'd settle for decent (320-256kbps) mp3s so that they could cut down as much as possible the storage space required, not have to deal with having multiple files (i.e. a master and then smaller file they send out/share) and keep it simple & easy.

Of course I will review all this with them first, but I imagine they are going to want to go the simpler, easier route.

Thank you so much for the detailed reply!

i would probably digitize stuff at VBR 1 or 2 with the quality set at highest. from there, if they need lower quality versions, they can copy the particular file(s) they need and re-encode it to something more suitable for the web, say vbr 4. then, delete the lower quality version when they're done uploading it. that way, they don't have a bunch of copies of stuff laying around taking up space.

keep in mind, they won't be uploading 256 or 320kbps stuff for web consumption, streaming or download. those files will just be way too big. especially considering they're going to be mostly voice, they would probably want something more like 160k max (if using fixed bit rate), for the web.

remember to consider their potential audience and their technical skill level as well.


if the material is going to be that important, i'd sacrifice cost on the processor and memory for extra internal disk(s) and a backup solution, like an 250-500gb external disk that gets stored somewhere else.

personally, i'd use this:
http://www.zzounds.com/item--MDOMOBILEPREV2
and these:
http://www.zzounds.com/item--SNYMDR7506
and sony soundforge as a minimum to do the analog recording and processing.


remember, recording the analog stuff isn't going to be point and click, it's going to be a process that will need to be monitored and require (hopefully) light editing. if the source material is bad enough, you might thing about some restoration software like Izotope RX (http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/rx/), to remove clicks, hiss's and hum's.

HerrGlock
02-08-2011, 12:21
https://1saleaday.com/
Hype Tape to PC USB Cassette-to-MP3 Converter

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With the Hype Tape to PC Recorder USB Walkman Cassette Player, you can convert all those cassettes into digital MP3 files. Want to experience the music as it actually sounded in the 80s? This nifty gadget can also play cassettes to give you that déjà-vu experience. Offering plug and play compatibility, it’ll be easier than ever to record those tapes onto your PC.

If you’ve got shelves full of old cassettes that have garnered more dust than your first grade spelling bee trophy, it may be time to don the face mask and sift through them. As you uncover hits by The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Pat Benatar, it becomes blatantly obvious that the tapes can’t just go in the trash.

With the Hype Tape to PC Recorder USB Walkman Cassette Player, you can convert all those cassettes into digital MP3 files. Want to experience the music as it actually sounded in the 80s? This nifty gadget can also play cassettes to give you that déjà-vu experience. Offering plug and play compatibility, it’ll be easier than ever to record those tapes onto your PC.

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