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Topic: Tape to Lossless File (Read 1451 times) previous topic - next topic
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Tape to Lossless File

Sine it was just € 20 I've just purchased this gizmo, I gotta transfer some already pretty beat demo tapes so source quality is definitely low but will be encoding to WavPack lossless anyway.

Any pointers to do the deed properly please? Thanks.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #1
Step 1: buying proper casette deck. Not that piece of junk.
Step 2: connect it to PC with audio cable of adequate quality, find loudest part on tape and set the recording level to be in range of -6 to -3 dB on that part. Also, check if tape was recorded with specific noise reduction, and turn it on.
Step 3: record the tape while monitoring recording level. If it goes over 0 dB, reduce the recording level and start again
Step 4: To the best of your abilities, clean the noise from the tape, cut the songs, save them to the format of your choice.
Step 5: as it is source of low quality, you can process the files with lossywav processor and save the FLAC files, it will reduce bitrate drastically while not noticeably reducing quality.

Yes, I've done it before. It's fun to do if you have the right equipment and software.
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Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #2
If you do get a regular analog cassette player you'll need computer with a regular soundcard and line-in, or a USB interface with line-inputs.    (Most laptops have only mic-in and headphone-out.)   The line-output from a component tape deck will work, or the headphone output will also work into line-in. 

Quote
Step 2: connect it to PC with audio cable of adequate quality, find loudest part on tape and set the recording level to be in range of -6 to -3 dB on that part.
The important thing is the analog level into the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) because it's the ADC that will clip (distort) if you try to go over 0dB.     That cassette player's volume control might not have any effect.   

Otherwise, digital recording levels are not that critical.  If you remember analog tape, you wanted a "hot" signal to overcome tape noise, and tape tends to soft-clip so it was OK to go occasionally "into the red".    But with digital there is no tape noise so low levels are not a problem, but it will hard-clip at exactly 0dB.

Try some (digital) noise reduction but listen for artifacts (side effects).    If the tape hiss (or other noise) is bad, the cure can be worse than the disease.   And if the tape is "dull sounding" you can boost the highs with EQ, but that will also increase tape hiss.

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #3
As per my original post I have no use for a real tape deck so it doesn't make any sense for me to waste money on one.

I want to convert to digital my band demo and some rehearsals, plus a coupla pals' bands' demos too, low quality stuff from the early 80s.

I'll be using that little thingie purchased from Amazon via USB interface and prolly Audacity since the gizmo's drivers apparently exist for Windows and not Linux (I don't have a Mac), also I always encode to WavPack and won't be using any other CODEC.

I meant suggestions in regards to doing it with this setup, thanks.

WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #4
I'd guess that device presents itself to Linux as a USB sound card so you should be able to use it with Audacity from your distro's repo.

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #5
Having digitised 100s of tapes, one of the most important and impactful things you can do is adjust the azimuth of the tape deck to elicit the best quality from the cassette tape. It doesn't look like that gizmo offers such functionality. The difference between a correctly adjusted azimuth compared to an imperfect one - even on an expensive tape deck - is quite profound.

I wrote this many years ago that details the process of cassette tape transfer.

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #6
I meant suggestions in regards to doing it with this setup, thanks.

Basically the same - but there is one problem, and I've noticed it with gramophones which have USB audio output - if the recording is a bit hotter, it will clip the output, as it probably has fixed gain before entering ADC stage.
That is why I've suggested getting proper deck - you can borrow one, or buy cheaper one used, I see these gizmos cost around 30 €, here you can buy good condition, used decks like JVC TD-X201, or SONY TC-S7. Dolby B or C, better audio quality. For playback purposes it's OK, and you can digitize tapes for people and earn a bit of cash, learning in the process.
You connect it, select audio input in the recording program, adjust recording level, record, cut later (or create cue sheet, whichever you like better) and encode to the codec of your choice. It's really not that difficult.
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Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #7
Since you are anyway encoding to WavPack, it probably doesn't hurt to use floating-point at first go. Even if things are seventy dB off it could easily be corrected. This of course assumes that the input doesn't limit or clip it first.

Then afterwards you can convert the entire pack [pun intended] to something that takes a bit less space.
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Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #8
I meant suggestions in regards to doing it with this setup, thanks.
So long as Windows installs the driver, the device will be an input option in Audacity.  When recording, set levels via the playback device output volume if possible rather than use the software recording level control in Audacity.  The latter will reduce available bits (though it shouldn't matter with this source which will probably not exceed a 50dB dynamic range).  Set your recording peaks around -10dB to keep clear of clipping.  You can use Audacity to amp it up later if you want.  Good luck.

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #9
I'd guess that device presents itself to Linux as a USB sound card so you should be able to use it with Audacity from your distro's repo.
It'll be in my hands next Sat and I'll check with my openSUSE and Manjaro notebooks.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #10
Having digitised 100s of tapes, one of the most important and impactful things you can do is adjust the azimuth of the tape deck to elicit the best quality from the cassette tape. It doesn't look like that gizmo offers such functionality. The difference between a correctly adjusted azimuth compared to an imperfect one - even on an expensive tape deck - is quite profound.

I wrote this many years ago that details the process of cassette tape transfer.
Noted, thanks.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #11
Basically the same - but there is one problem, and I've noticed it with gramophones which have USB audio output - if the recording is a bit hotter, it will clip the output, as it probably has fixed gain before entering ADC stage.
That is why I've suggested getting proper deck - you can borrow one, or buy cheaper one used, I see these gizmos cost around 30 €, here you can buy good condition, used decks like JVC TD-X201, or SONY TC-S7. Dolby B or C, better audio quality. For playback purposes it's OK, and you can digitize tapes for people and earn a bit of cash, learning in the process.
You connect it, select audio input in the recording program, adjust recording level, record, cut later (or create cue sheet, whichever you like better) and encode to the codec of your choice. It's really not that difficult.
If the quality of the little USB "Walkman" turns out to be crap I'll reconsider.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #12
Since you are anyway encoding to WavPack, it probably doesn't hurt to use floating-point at first go. Even if things are seventy dB off it could easily be corrected. This of course assumes that the input doesn't limit or clip it first.

Then afterwards you can convert the entire pack [pun intended] to something that takes a bit less space.
Duly noted, space isn't an issue and we're talking about a coupla dozen songs max.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

Re: Tape to Lossless File

Reply #13
So long as Windows installs the driver, the device will be an input option in Audacity.  When recording, set levels via the playback device output volume if possible rather than use the software recording level control in Audacity.  The latter will reduce available bits (though it shouldn't matter with this source which will probably not exceed a 50dB dynamic range).  Set your recording peaks around -10dB to keep clear of clipping.  You can use Audacity to amp it up later if you want.  Good luck.
Thanks for this pointer.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.71 -V 100

 
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