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Topic: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10 (Read 1765 times) previous topic - next topic
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Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Hey HA experts, I've purchased a mediocre "Walkman" which outputs to USB and therefore allows me to record/rip on a computer, I just need to transfer some demos, rehearsals and bootlegs of my 80s band (which went nowhere course) all abysmal quality in the first place, I'm stuck with Windows 10 for this little project and I'm using Audacity, care to help me get it right and make some decent files please?

Here are the first two questions:
  • The device is recognized as a USB mic like this:

    Should I match the device's default format with Audacity's sampling?
  • Should I lower the volume of the source tape until no clipping is detected by Audacity's Recoding Meter Monitor and/or is there a reference level I could use?

Thank a bunch.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.72 -V 100

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #1
Does this tape machine provide specs on its output format? Its default output is probably its best output. The recording program should be set to the same sample rate it is receiving. Ideally the bit depth would be floating point, for the greatest ease of control for cleanup, editing, and mixing. If you don’t intend to do any of that, then 16 bit is adequate.

The output level control, should be set to avoid clipping although if there is only infrequent clipping that is not too extreme, you probably will not be able to notice it.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #2
It's this gizmo: https://www.amazon.it/gp/product/B078W4Y6NS/, no specs of the output format mentioned anywhere, is there a way to determine them please?
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.72 -V 100

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #3
Quote
Should I lower the volume of the source tape until no clipping is detected by Audacity's Recoding Meter Monitor and/or is there a reference level I could use?
It's the analog-to-digital converter (built-into the cassette player) that will clip (distort) if the analog level is too high,    In these devices you can't control the analog level into the ADC so you just have to HOPE it's calibrated properly and leaving plenty of headroom.     You can boost the level after recording but of course lowering the level doesn't remove distortion.

Note that lowering the volume will "hide" the clipping from Audacity...   Audacity is just checking the levels,   It's not looking at the wave shape. 



Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #4
Looks like they have two near-identical models. A search engine gives me claim of mp3 and claim of 44.1/16 or 48/16.

But the AudioLava software is a declicker/de-noiser, right?
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #5
AudioLava also appears to also be a recording application.
https://download.cnet.com/AudioLava/3000-2170_4-10637884.html

The Amazon ad linked to seems to indicate mp3 output from the device. This is not an editable format. If that is all you can get, it would have to be decoded before any program could work on it (except, of course, for the limited operations of programs like mp3DirectCut).

There are various youtube videos on these types of devices. I don't know if this particular one is covered but there may be useful information in some of the how-to presentations.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie6dyZ0P4Rw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOn-vU63A5Y

 If the device only outputs undecoded mp3, recording it as .wav would not produce anything useful. I would capture the mp3 then decode it to wav KEEPING the original file, at least until EVERYTHING you ever might want to do with it is accomplished.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #6
Waitaminute;

I have to apologize for not catching the point here:

The device is recognized as a USB mic like this:

So it seems it is simply a USB microphone yes.  I've never heard of any of those doing stuff like MP3 conversion (I don't think that is a thing in USB-audio?!).

Rather their ADC apparently output straightforward PCM to the USB port - and and might support several sampling rates. In this picture, is the "2 channel, 24 bit, 48000 Hz (Studio Quality)" greyed out, or can you get other options by pulling down? If not, then 48k it is.

However, I see people have run into trouble: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/50396224/how-to-get-audio-formats-supported-by-physical-device-winapi-windows
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #7
So it seems it is simply a USB microphone yes.  I've never heard of any of those doing stuff like MP3 conversion (I don't think that is a thing in USB-audio?!).

Rather their ADC apparently output straightforward PCM to the USB port - and and might support several sampling rates. In this picture, is the "2 channel, 24 bit, 48000 Hz (Studio Quality)" greyed out, or can you get other options by pulling down? If not, then 48k it is.

However, I see people have run into trouble: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/50396224/how-to-get-audio-formats-supported-by-physical-device-winapi-windows
These things record mp3 into USB thumb drives.
https://www.amazon.com/Rybozen-Cassette-Portable-Converter-Recorder/dp/B083VTXT2G

For the Audacity settings, just record in 16-bit, and convert to 32-bit after recording for editing, to reduce initial file size and minimize disk wearing.
X


Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #9
These things record mp3 into USB thumb drives.
https://www.amazon.com/Rybozen-Cassette-Portable-Converter-Recorder/dp/B083VTXT2G
That is a slightly different one, it seems.

That's why I said these things, not this thing. I don't think OP's model can directly output to mp3. The English version of Amazon says "Convert Your Tapes to MP3 only 2 steps" as well.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078W4Y6NS/

If the cassette player is driverless and has no thumb drive connectivity, the only way I can think of to output mp3 to a Windows PC directly is to have built-in storage and expose itself as a disk drive to Windows, like what smartphones do.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #10
It has headphone output. The best thing to do imo would be to connect the walkman's headphone output into your computer's line-in input.
(Do not use the microphone input, you will fry it, ask me how I know lol...)

That way you will bypass the walkman's built-in ADC (probably shitty ADC) and you can record in pure PCM without any compression.

Make sure to reduce the volume to minimum and start increasing it before it starts clipping.
The higher the level, the less noise you will have, but always leave couple of dB of headroom, do not push it.

Be careful, some mixed cassette tapes have music recorded at different level, one song can be quiet, other song can be very loud.
This is not "set and forget" process. You will need to monitor whole recording session.

Once you have finished recording, you will hear that your tapes sound like shit.
Now you will need to play with noise reduction and I highly recommend to use some high frequency enhancers to bring
back your music to life.

If your channels are not balanced (one channel is louder) you can simply amplify it to make it sound equally loud.

If you have cassettes recorded with Dolby NR, I can recommend this program. I had very good results with it.
https://sourceforge.net/projects/dolbybcsoftwaredecode/

I can see that you are doing this as a hobby so do not expect the "CD quality" sound.
Cassette tapes are very hard to work with. I don't even know where to start. From different types, materials, azimuth adjustment and so on...
gold plated toslink fan

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #11
Note that lowering the volume will "hide" the clipping from Audacity...   Audacity is just checking the levels,   It's not looking at the wave shape.
Then should I use the max volume possible or not please?

Besides Audacity's Recoding Meter Monitor detecting clipping the wave is taking up all the available area, it becomes a full blue histogram at high volume.
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #12
But the AudioLava software is a declicker/de-noiser, right?
Just a piss-poor audio converter, I'm not using it.
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #13
Rather their ADC apparently output straightforward PCM to the USB port - and and might support several sampling rates. In this picture, is the "2 channel, 24 bit, 48000 Hz (Studio Quality)" greyed out, or can you get other options by pulling down? If not, then 48k it is.
WavPack 5.4.0 -b384hx6cmv / qaac64 2.72 -V 100


Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #15
It has headphone output. The best thing to do imo would be to connect the walkman's headphone output into your computer's line-in input.
That way you will bypass the walkman's built-in ADC (probably shitty ADC) and you can record in pure PCM without any compression.
I don't have a line-in input and it's very low quality source material, I'm fine with its crappy ADC for this little project, thanks.
Make sure to reduce the volume to minimum and start increasing it before it starts clipping.
The higher the level, the less noise you will have, but always leave couple of dB of headroom, do not push it.
Sounds about right to me, OK.
Be careful, some mixed cassette tapes have music recorded at different level, one song can be quiet, other song can be very loud.
This is not "set and forget" process. You will need to monitor whole recording session.
It's two demos, one rehearsal and two live bootlegs.
Once you have finished recording, you will hear that your tapes sound like shit.
Now you will need to play with noise reduction and I highly recommend to use some high frequency enhancers to bring
back your music to life.
Anything built-in in Audacity I can use or maybe a free plug-in please?
If your channels are not balanced (one channel is louder) you can simply amplify it to make it sound equally loud.
Noted, thanks.
If you have cassettes recorded with Dolby NR, I can recommend this program. I had very good results with it.
https://sourceforge.net/projects/dolbybcsoftwaredecode/
I'm bookmarking this for eventual future use, no Dolby NR here at all on these tapes.
I can see that you are doing this as a hobby so do not expect the "CD quality" sound.
Cassette tapes are very hard to work with. I don't even know where to start. From different types, materials, azimuth adjustment and so on...
I'm turning 50 in a few months and I wanna use my 80s band tunes as the soundtrack to the party, quality as already underlined is very very poor in the first place.

Thank you very much for taking the time to help me out, appreciated.
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #16
Quote
Just a piss-poor audio converter, I'm not using it.

That is not true according to the software itself. It records, it does various kinds of audio transforms for improving the finished product. Those tranforms (noise reduction, declicking, convolutions, etc. probably are of lesser quality than some other programs.
However, for recording uncompressed audio, all programs that are not defective produce exactly the same result (for the bit depths and sample rates they handle). They simply accept samples from the ADC and writing them to disk (generally displaying information about the process as it occurs).

I don't know about the  tape player you have but many  similar tape players clearly contain ADCs and mp3 encoders. There is no other way they could output mp3 to a flash drive as their ads claim (no computer necessary, etc). The required electronics are easily small enough to fit inside. for those that can be used as digital input to a recording program on disk. Their analogue output (via the headphone jack) may be of lesser quality than their ADC output.

While the device probably does not have dolbyB, if it does you should test record some with it turned on vs turned off, even if the original recording did not used dolby. You may be happier with the noise reduction it provides when on.

A bit of test recording, with varying parameters) before you get down to the real project, is always a good idea.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #17
That is not true according to the software itself. It records, it does various kinds of audio transforms for improving the finished product. Those tranforms (noise reduction, declicking, convolutions, etc. probably are of lesser quality than some other programs.
However, for recording uncompressed audio, all programs that are not defective produce exactly the same result (for the bit depths and sample rates they handle). They simply accept samples from the ADC and writing them to disk (generally displaying information about the process as it occurs).
I'm gonna stick to Audacity.
I don't know about the  tape player you have but many  similar tape players clearly contain ADCs and mp3 encoders. There is no other way they could output mp3 to a flash drive as their ads claim (no computer necessary, etc). The required electronics are easily small enough to fit inside. for those that can be used as digital input to a recording program on disk.
This is the one I have https://www.amazon.it/gp/product/B078W4Y6NS/ and conversion to MP3 is done by the software.
Their analogue output (via the headphone jack) may be of lesser quality than their ADC output.
Interesrting.
While the device probably does not have dolbyB, if it does you should test record some with it turned on vs turned off, even if the original recording did not used dolby. You may be happier with the noise reduction it provides when on.
No Dobly NR available.
A bit of test recording, with varying parameters) before you get down to the real project, is always a good idea.
For sure.
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #18
Getting the raw audio is always an advantage. It gives you the greatest leeway in processing whichever way you want.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #19
Any way to tell which is the default ADC output?
The one I see in the recording device properties hence stereo 24-bit 48000 Hz?

Should I acquire at that format or use 32-bit float in case I wanna run some cleanup filters/plugins please?
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #20
Short answer:
Configure Windows for 24-bit / 48 kHz.
Record as 32-bit float in Audacity because you will be editing your files, and all editing is done in 32-bit float internally.
Even if you record at lower bit depth (to save disk space) you will again need to convert it to 32-bit float to do some editing so you actually won't save any space at all.
Make sure to change sampling rate in Audacity in the bottom left corner to 48 kHz before you start recording.

Kinda off-topic:
Sampling rate is a little bit complicated. I do remember having a device that supported lots of different sampling rates
(32, 44, 48, 88, and 96 kHz) but all of them except the 48 produced noise.
Turned out that card worked at 48 kHz natively and all other sampling rates were actually running on (bad) internal resampler.
The reason why I recommended to record using the line-in input is because I have no idea what kind of ADC your walkman has.
Have you ever bought Chinese 64 GB flash drives and then you found out later that real capacity is actually 8 GB?
Maybe the ADC chip is actually 8-bit and it works at 24 or 32 kHz and it was simply masked to show higher specifications?
By using line-in you will bypass all of that except the amplifier stage. Most amplifiers start "cracking" at very loud levels,
but we are not going to use levels that high so there should be no problems.

Don't be afraid by what I posted above. Everything is going to be fine. I just wanted to share my thoughts =D
gold plated toslink fan

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #21
Quote
Any way to tell which is the default ADC output?
That's generally hidden and sometimes the published specs aren't true...   The Windows drivers will re-sample so you can record a 24-bits/192kHz file with a with a cheap soundcard that's really working at 16-bit/44.1kHz.   Similarly, you can play a "high resolution" file on any-old cheap soundcard and Windows never tells you what's going-on... 

The actual hardware is 16 or 24-bits.   By default, Audacity works "internally" at 32-bit-floating point.   There are technical advantages to processing in floating-point.

And with floating point there is essentially no upper (or lower) limit so you can do something like boost the bass to the point where Audacity shows red for (potential) clipping but the waveform isn't actually clipped (yet) so you can simply lower the volume as necessary before exporting.    (You will also clip your DAC if you have a file/data that goes over 0dB and you play it at "full digital volume".)

When you export finished the file, "CD quality" (44.1kHz, 16-bit) is generally better than human hearing so it's good enough for almost anything, and certainly good-enough for analog cassette (or vinyl).     You can use 48kHz if it makes you "feel better" and with uncompressed WAV you'll just get a proportionally-larger file.   And a 24-bit file is 50% larger than a 16-bit file, etc.

If you want to make MP3s it's probably a good idea to "archive" a WAV file.   And if you're doing any noise reduction or EQ, etc., you might want to save an original untouched WAV just in case you want to go-back and start-over.   (You probably don't need to save an Audacity Project.)

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #22
@Markuza97 I don't have a line-in input on that Windows machine.
@DVDdoug I'm going to export CD quality (maybe 48kHz) and compress with WavPack.

Crunch time: USB thingie in Windows set @ 24-bit 48kHz, Audacity with sample rate 48kHz and sample format 32-bit float (it's the default, nothing to configure, right?), OK?
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Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #23
Just as with social media, Windows is now more about you being the product rather than giving you the full power of a computer. It used to be that professional and semi-professional soundcards had drivers that bypassed all the Windows manipulations, letting a recording program receive exactly what the ADC output. I think in Windows7 MS started making that impossible in order to protect their real clients' interests.

I haven't paid attention for some time; I don't know what professionals use now. Possibly recording is mostly done on other systems or stand alone recorders. Once you have the file, I suppose Windows will still do what it is told.

It also used to be that MB ADCs and DACs were mostly poor quality but apparently the technology got so cheap that many board manufactures started using better chips. I still have a couple of older computers using older OS versions with quality soundcards plugged into add-on slots, but I don't know if such cards are even produced these days since MS made it more or less impossible to fully utilize them.

Re: Tape Ripping via USB "Walkman" with Audacity on Win10

Reply #24
Audacity with...32-bit float[/b] (it's the default, nothing to configure, right?)
Right, but if you want to confirm:

Edit > Preferences > Quality > Sampling