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Tips Section

Note: Tips are just that, opinions and suggestions, and NOT part of the official FAQ

Snarfdude's Cassette to mp3 OR mp3 to Cassette tutorial!!!!!!!
REVISED January 2000
(This tip is presented unedited from the author)

(can also be applied to any analog source besides cassette... like vinyl for instance). written by Scott Snailham for Snarfdude... yeah... he has a ghostwriter...well sorta...

(c) 2000 all rights reserved to do whatever you want with this... though credit would be appreciated if posted anywhere... thks!

This is a GUIDE....nothing here is written in stone... well. except maybe pressing the record button to record... hahaha!!! seriously, experiment with variations of what is said here and do what works best for you. (for best results...PRINT THIS OFF!!!)

well..it's pretty simple...most consumer soundcards have a 1/8th mini 3 conductor (stereo) jack as their in and outputs (also known as the same type of jack you plug a pair of walkman headphones into!) thus you need a plug like your walkman headphones on one end, and two RCA plugs on the other (to plug into your cassette deck!) this type of cable, should be available at better electronic/stereo stores... hey, try radio shack if you have one close to you...VERY likely you'll find it there!!!! you WILL NEED TWO OF THESE..preferably...when you have them, hook them up this way:

LINE OUT OF THE SOUNDCARD INTO LINE IN OF THE DECK
LINE IN OF THE SOUNDCARD INTO LINE OUT OF THE DECK!!!

That is the basic hookup....watch your levels though...especially if your sound card is amplified..as it may run the levels into the deck to the point of distortion, and you may have to disable it, or if the card has a volume control, adjust the level, so that it's not distorted going into the deck, and you can set the deck levels maybe about midway to get a decent recording level (recording into the deck from the computer that is...one cheap way to take your mp3 music elsewhere..I have done this..so while you are concerned about cassette to mp3, this option, should be useful as well!!!) if your cassette deck has a headphone jack...USE IT! as some sound cards... like mine, mute the audio coming in so there won't be feedback..and I myself like to hear the recording going in...so I know when to stop the computer recording...meters are nice, but it's good to hear it!!!

NOW, you have a deck set up for playback, it's a matter of playing the cassette audio into the harddrive. load up your wav recorder
player...(I use cooledit, but sound forge, goldwave, cool edit 2000, they are all quite nice!!!) I strongly recommend ANYTHING BUT what windows gives you... you need something with level meters... anyways... when you record, you want a decent level without going into the digital distortion range (I have had great luck with to -6 to -3 MAX peak recording into the drive!) you can always (depending on your wave editor!!) "normalize" the wave to bring up a more even level,(say up to -1db) though if you can, try to get it in one shot to avoid spending time to normalize. DO NOT..go above ZERO!!!!! as you will get digital distortion..and unlike analog, which you can get away with "hot" levels a bit, you do not want to pound near zero with digital. been there, done that, DON'T DO!!!!! rather a bit low, then too hot!!!!

For sampling rate, if it's music, i'd recommend, if you can, 32k 16 bit stereo, as opposed to 44k 16bit. Reason being, that the frequency range of a cassette (if you can actually hear it!) is very little above 15khz (with a 32k sample..the FR will be 16k) and anything else will add hiss to a wav file..not to mention drive space...fit the source quality to the sample rate is my rule of thumb, which has worked well...if you don't have a option, well, stick with 44k...as a lot of wave editors jump from 22k to 44k..and 22k, for music gets a little "dirty and muddy" for my liking. The Only advantage of doing a 44k dump is to burn to CD...you could also up the 32k sample to 44k for burning to CD, this actually might be beneficial if it's a really hissy cassette...digital quanitzation maybe introduced (digital noise) but to be honest, I've had a hard time trying to hear quantization noise, I won't dispute those who can though, so resampling is totally up to you and your ears.

A important feature for cheaper sound cards (like a SoundBlaster 16) is the DC OFFSET function within your wav editor/recorder. often DC creeps into the AC waveform, and you need to remove this preferably, and center the wav, giving it a zero baseline. Usually, on more reputable editors like Cool Edit and Sound Forge, this is a basic feature...so check the help files for details..and use the DC OFFSET function BEFORE you encode or burn to CD, as glitches, and unexpected results can occur. I find that a auto fade out with a editor can be noisy without the DC OFFSET used, but it's best to experiment for sure. Bottom line? REMOVE the DC OFFSET before you burn to CD or encode to mp3.

As far as encoding rate, that's up for debate, but from, say a good quality analog source, it's a good idea to sample at what you recorded at for example: if you recorded at 32k, keep the same sample frequency for the encoding (NOTE: MOST encoders automatically go with the same frequency as the original wav, only audioactive production studio, as far as i've experienced let's you resample) The Kbps is up for debate. for music, I'd recommend NOT going below 128Kbps. CD sources at 128kbps with any encoder  with the  fraunhofer joint stereo codec (like audioactive production studio, producer pro, etc) tend to yield excellent results! For analog sourcing, like  cassette and vinyl,  the BLADE FREEWARE encoder seems to be quite good at 192kbps.

More and More people seem to be going to higher rates because it's easier to obtain a better quality mp3, which is the main advantage over lower rates. It can often be a "crap shoot" at lower rates, as many factors, including the actual audio being encoded, can influence the quality, however, if you HAVE to do 128kbps, the Fraunhofer joint stereo codec (or software which includes it, like Musicmatch Jukebox) is known to be one of the best. The Blade freeware encoder is a true stereo encoder, which seems to hold up better with analog sources. The fraunhofer encoders are "joint stereo" which take commons parts of both the Left and Right Channels of audio and combine them in a effort to save file size. this can often cause phase problems depending on the source audio, especially with analog, so I recommend AT LEAST 160kbps for analog sourcing, with a preferred 192kbps with a true stereo encoder like Blade, but nothing is written in stone here. I've heard excellent 128bps encodes from numerous different sources...  experimentation is the key.

There can also be a problem with "high end frequencies" with cassette and vinyl encoding with mp3, specifically the lack of in the resulting mp3, causing a muddy, watery sound, with "artifacts". I summise that this is the lack of a "high end crisp sound" which is common with crisp and clean digital sources like CD. if you have this problem, one thing that has been successful to a  degree  with me is to boost the high end frequencies a couble of DB (maybe around 10k and  above) with eithier a external EQ (as you play the cassette into your  computer) or  with a software EQ program within a good wav editor (Cool Edit Pro has this as  well as sound forge) Keep in mind, this won't necessarily always work,  and you have  to be careful not to overdo it, as the resulting mp3 can sound too "bright" but it's one of those things where trial and error is the procedure to seek the best results, and beats the heck outta a "muddy" mp3.

Anyways....that's the basics. I would also suggest trying to hook up a home stereo amp to your sound card...that is my system in a
nutshell...instead of running the inputs and output as previously
mention, I run the computer and cassette deck into the amp....through the 2 tape inputs.......if you choose this, the sound off the soundcard can sound a hell of a lot better than those cheesy speakers that a lot of comps come with.....you can also hook up a pair of speakers, or decent headphones too.... you can also add inputs...like a turntable (or even like me, a two track open reel machine, mini disc recorder)...people have been doing this..and dubbing their records into the drive to mp3's.....connections would go something like this...well I'll use my two tape inputs as a example:

soundcard out...into tape one input of the amp
soundcard in into tape one output of amp
cassette deck out into tape two input of amp
cassette deck in into tape two output of amp!!!

while another amp may have different outputs and inputs, you must remember you need two line inputs (maybe AUX and TAPE) and two line outputs (maybe Y split the ONE tape output on some amps) to do it right!!! remember you always run a output to a input...that way you can figure out how to do it yourself with your amp. I might add DO NOT USE THE PHONO INPUTS!!! these are 10 times as sensitive as line level inputs, and you will overdrive these inputs, and they will distort heavily. you probably won't fry your amp, but may toast the inputs if you continue to do it! you need TWO LINE INPUTS!!! if you have one, consider putting a switch box in for the two inputs!!!! anyways...that's it!!! good luck!!! if I can be more help, drop me a line at:

snarfdude@hotmail.com

and have fun!!!!

this is "FREENOTES" do what you want...to if it actually helped you I would appreciate it if you could drop me a line! thanks!