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    Old 21st January 2019, 04:09   #1  |  Link
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    Decent USB-based audio capture device for PC?

    I am trying to help someone convert some old cassette tapes to CD. I figured the best way to do this would be to plug the headphone jack of their cassette player into their laptop and use Audacity to capture them.

    Issue is, the audio sounds HORRIBLE on the PC. It's not the laptop's speakers as I tried headphones, and it's not the source as from the cassette player itself it sounds fine. I tried messing with the sound device settings to adjust gain and volume as well as sample rate but it didn't help.

    I assume the laptop's audio input is just poor quality, especially since it's intended for microphones, not music. So I figured a good bet would be to get a USB based audio capture device/sound card.

    So I wanted to ask if anyone had any recommendations. I am looking for something cheap, I saw hundreds in the $10-20 range, and while I know that those aren't going to be the best of quality, again, the source are old cassette tapes that were recorded at home, so I don't really need something of amazing or high-end quality as it would just be overkill and expensive. Is there anything in a decent price range that would take an audio input in stereo for the sake of recording it at decent quality?
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    Old 21st January 2019, 09:25   #2  |  Link
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    The headphone jack is sending way too much gain to the poor input jack of the laptop.
    If you have a volume knob for the headphone jack turn it way down low and try again.
    Why dont you just use the RCA cinch jacks at the back of the cassette player?
    They should deliver the correct current for your needs.
    And sometimes you have to switch from microphone to line levels in the audio controlcenter of the laptop.
    Hope that helps...
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    Old 21st January 2019, 17:20   #3  |  Link
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    The cheapest and IMHO the best solution is to buy a standalone CD-recorder with a CD-RW Audio (unrestricted) and do one side, then rip the CD, erase it, do another side and so on...
    Cleaning and adjusting the cassette deck is a must, otherwise GIGO (garbage in...).

    Instead of the cheap nowadays CD-Recorder one can use Tascam, Sony, Zoom or Olympus portables which have a super-quality but use SD or CF cards instead of CD-R/W with more space (no need to erase). They also record at other than 44k1 sampling rates.

    Yet another solution is to use a standalone DAT deck in pass-through mode (ADC) and receive the SPDIF stream into the computer. A DAT recorder is better than a CD recorder (except for pro units), and it also can use the 48k sampling rate.

    A good site with such info, in particular the setup of a cassette deck for digitisation, is tapeheads.net. It is accessible also without a registration (like doom9).

    I repeat, if the deck is not up to the game, then the deck.headphone.output->laptop.mic.input would NOT be the limiting factor.
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    Old 21st January 2019, 21:16   #4  |  Link
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Taurus View Post
    The headphone jack is sending way too much gain to the poor input jack of the laptop.
    I know that a microphone jack is generally not intended to be connected to a headphone input, issue is that the laptop has no other audio inputs.

    Quote:
    Why dont you just use the RCA cinch jacks at the back of the cassette player?
    It doesn't have any, the cassette deck just has a headphone output.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ghitulescu View Post
    The cheapest and IMHO the best solution is to buy a standalone CD-recorder with a CD-RW Audio (unrestricted) and do one side, then rip the CD, erase it, do another side and so on...
    That would be a mess to try to split the tracks that way, I am planning to cut the recording into separate tracks once it is captured.

    Quote:
    Instead of the cheap nowadays CD-Recorder one can use Tascam, Sony, Zoom or Olympus portables which have a super-quality but use SD or CF cards instead of CD-R/W with more space (no need to erase). They also record at other than 44k1 sampling rates.
    Wouldn't those be much more expensive than the device I am looking for? Again, the source already isn't high quality, I am not trying to capture studio quality here.

    I was completely lost on the DAT thing, that also sounds like insane overkill just to capture some old home cassette recordings.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 09:12   #5  |  Link
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cyber Akuma View Post
    That would be a mess to try to split the tracks that way, I am planning to cut the recording into separate tracks once it is captured.
    Well, no.
    A most used cassette has 90min (2x45) which duration would not fit onto a 80min CD-R/W. An old C60 (2x30=60min) would fit, however.
    This is why I said do one side (45min) then reuse the CD-RW. You can do however both sides of a C60 on the same CD-RW.
    Splitting into songs can be done later. Or can be done during the actual recording (most recorders start a new track after a PAUSE release or simply at each REC press and some can even be set to insert a new startid at a preset level, say at -40dB), so you can rip individual songs. Very flexible I would say.

    A CD recorder is cheaper than a new USB interface of a similar quality.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 14:22   #6  |  Link
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    So you want me to buy a standalone CD burner, record to cd, then rip that so I can split the tracks, and burn that to CD again?

    Recording it from cassette to laptop honestly sounds like a better way to go. I also have no idea if there is more than 80 minutes of recording on the cassette.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 16:19   #7  |  Link
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    You could try this 70$ Creative 70SB109500000 5.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz USB Interface X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro : https://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...82E16829102035

    It has separate line-in and microphone, so you can set headphones output to a reasonable level, and then record at 24bit 48kHz in FLAC (lossless, good for archival or batch converting later to other formats)or opus or other formats.

    A cheaper option that still has line-in and mic would be this 32$ StarTech ICUSBAUDIO7D 7.1 Channels 16-bit 48KHz USB Interface Audio Adapter External Sound Card : https://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...82E16829128010
    Also has separate line-in and mic inputs. Just went through the (edit: datasheet of) C-Media CM6206 chip it's based on, and it'd decent, good value for the money.

    Last edited by mariush; 22nd January 2019 at 16:49.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 17:59   #8  |  Link
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    Hmm.... I haven't had good experiences with StarTech.... I did have this one recommended to me though, is this one any good? https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-U-C...dp/B000KW2YEI/

    I also had people recommend something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Cassette-Conv...dp/B07MJ7S5XG/

    At first I thought it recorded directly to SDCard or a USB drive, but then I saw that you still need to plug it into a computer to use it. Which makes me wonder if it's nothing more than the previously mentioned devices just embedded in a cassette player, an if it is, if the quality is any good.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 18:08   #9  |  Link
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cyber Akuma View Post
    So you want me to buy a standalone CD burner, record to cd, then rip that so I can split the tracks, and burn that to CD again?
    Read again:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ghitulescu View Post
    Splitting into songs [...] Or can be done during the actual recording (most recorders start a new track after a PAUSE release or simply at each REC press and some can even be set to insert a new startid at a preset level, say at -40dB), so you can rip individual songs. Very flexible I would say.
    In other words, if you're confident, you can even record directly on the CD-R.


    There are people that are more comfortable with a true device than to rely on computer assisted things whose success chances are highly dependent on many variables.

    All 3 solutions involved an external computer-independent device, many of those being rather cheap (and within USA even half of this "cheap").

    In any case, the choice of the deck and the recording skills are essential.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 18:09   #10  |  Link
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    Avoid any Creative thing newer than AWE64
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 18:12   #11  |  Link
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    In reply to Cyber Akuma:

    Yeah that should also work, I was only looking at Newegg because it's easier to filter categories compared to Amazon.

    The Behringer one uses a relatively cheap codec PCM2902 from TI ( //www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/pcm2900.pdf ) but seems to have slightly better specs than the C-media IC ... though it's understandable, this one only has one stereo input and a stereo output on a chip, while that other one is 7.1 out and a bunch of other things (can be linked to a microcontroller and other things), so it packs more things in the chip, which can lower the audio quality slightly.
    It will do the job. Here's a review of the product if you didn't already find it : //nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/...02-review.html

    Behringer is a good brand - I generally don't like it because they have the tendency to use good chips but bottom of the barrel capacitors (often chinese unknown brands) which can cause reliability issues in products of their that have built in power supplies or dc-dc converters.

    In this particular type or product, the audio chip is powered directly from 5v from USB, so there's no power supplies or high frequency stuff or things where could capacitor quality could really affect things much, so even if they use cheap capacitors the audio quality is unlikely to be affected, at least for the first year or so of usage.

    @Ghitulescu : some of their recent stuff is actually quite nice. The drivers were a big problem of Creative products... in the case of their usb products which doesn't require drivers, you have the significant issue gone.

    Last edited by mariush; 22nd January 2019 at 18:16.
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    Old 22nd January 2019, 18:21   #12  |  Link
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    The USB walkman is not a serious tool, although it does its job OK for the unpretending user. I am not sure it can record WAV as I remember doing only MP3. Which is not bad at all considering the MP3 algorithm has nothing important left to destroy anyway....
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