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How convert cassette tapes for iTunes, iPod?

#1 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 11 November 2006 - 03:03 AM

What hardware and software would enable one to convert standard tape cassette music and taped voice recordings into a form that would would be be importable by iTunes 7 running on a Dual G5 and, then, on to an iPod? Is this feasible at a modest cost? Your counsel would be very much appreciated.
Edited to Add: My old cassette tape player does not have any jacks so a new hardware device would need to "play" the tape through its own jacks.
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#2 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 11 November 2006 - 04:44 AM

Depends on the equipment you have, Norm. If you have a
tape deck with "line level" outputs, you can do it
almost free. The equipment is a three-dollar Radio Shack
adapter to combine your two RCA plugs into a mini-phono
plug that goes into your Mac's "sound in" port. Then
you need a sound capture app. If you have Toast, CD
Spin Doctor is on the distribution CD. Several folk
make do with that to capture the music, apply filters
to make it sound better, and break the captured file
into individual tracks (saved in AIFF format). Others
like Audacity (freeware). My preference is Amadeus II,
$30 shareware. I like its look-and-feel and the power
it has to deal with a lot of audio formats.
If you don't have a tape deck or only have headphone
outputs, the price goes up. The headphone output doesn't
have enough oomph, so you'd need a pre-amp. I use the
Griffin iMic ($15 to $35). It has a switchable pre-amp
which I turn on when recording from my old turntable
and off for the tape deck. It plugs into a USB port
which can be an improvement the possibly noisy sound-in
jack.
Is this enough to get you started?
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#3 User is offline   Rugby 

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Posted 11 November 2006 - 08:28 AM

if in doubt there is also an "old" MCW tutorial/solution:
MCW LP & Cassette tutorial
personally I have recorded my LPs using a Y connector to my deck and a recording software (in my case Peak, but Amadeus, shareware, is also good at splitting tracks as meentioned by Albloom)
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#4 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 07:22 PM

Thanks very much Al.
Quote:

Depends on the equipment you have, Norm.


HARDWARE
I play tapes in my car's tapedeck and, in the house, on a nostalgia combo CD-record-tape player that does not even have a earphone jack.

But I just pulled off a closet shelf an old single-earphone-port boombox that was in my campus office before I retired. With an earphone attached as I play a music tape, I can detect slightly audible, but not disturbing, static from time to time, which might just be my tinnitus.
1. How would the conversion process from that boombox--via pre-amp hardware--affect the quality of such sound, if at all?
2. Al, with headphone output from a boombox, would Griffin's PowerWave provide the pre-amp you mentioned? I got the PowerWave to enable me to use my old Apple Pro Speakers. Griffin Technology links to its specifications and uses with importing vinyl, Garage Band and other purposes are at:
Griffin links to specs and uses
3. If I wanted to move up from the boombox to another kind of tape player that only would be used as the source for converting tapes to iTunes, would you have any recommendations of a $100- cassette unit? (In browsing web catalogs of standard cassette players, I couldn't even find out how many ports the lower cost models had, let alone figure out whether they would produce better sound than my Sony boombox. Nor could I find anything about audio tape players in several years of Consumer Reports, except in mention as part of a full or mini home theater system.)
SOFTWARE
Thanks for the tip on where to find in my Toast bundle CD Spin Doctor 3.1t.
I also have an old version of Sound Studio--2.2.4, which I used once some years ago to add sound to a slide show. I launched it and found that it works with OS 10.4.8. In checking on the web, it seems that there have been significant improvements in the costly update of Sound Studio to version 3.
And when I checked the Griffin support pages for PowerWave, I found that they had a free download of a PowerWave-compatible Final Vinyl (version 2.0). When I checked in VersionTracker, Final Vinyl also came in a 2.1.x version for use with iMic. I am unclear on whether that would work with the PowerWave device.
I respect your choice of Amadeus II. How intuitive would it be for someone with no understanding whatsoever of sound?
Respectfully, Norm
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#5 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 06:40 AM

Wow! Let's see if I got it all:
1. How would the conversion process from that boombox--via
pre-amp hardware--affect the quality of such sound, if at all?

If you're happy with the sound out of the boombox's headphone jack,
you'll be happy with the amp'd version.
2. Al, with headphone output from a boombox, would Griffin's
PowerWave provide the pre-amp you mentioned?

Yup. Griffin discontinued the PowerWave because iMic does the
same thing, and it's cheaper. But as long as you have it, go
with the Wave.
3. If I wanted to move up from the boombox to another kind of
tape player that only would be used as the source for converting
tapes to iTunes, would you have any recommendations of a $100-
cassette unit?

Cassette tape drives are about as rare as 1-X DVD-Rs these days, but
a quick look at Amazon this morning showed several, including a used
Teac for $77. All the brands shown are reputable. Circuit City has
the Sony I had to buy (Of my three existing drives, one wouldn't spin
up at all, another lasted two weeks, and the third only pretended to
output sound). It can be chancy, but eBay has a bunch in the below
$100 "buy it now" range.
4. Final Vinyl also came in a 2.1.x version for use with iMic. I am
unclear on whether that would work with the PowerWave device.

Should be no problem, mon. They only say iMic because the Wave is
a legacy product. I prefer version 1.
5. How intuitive would Amadeus II be for someone with no
understanding whatsoever of sound?

You're in my boat, Norm. I couldn't figure Audacity out at all.
I use very few of Amadeus' features. I'll amplify a capture so
that the sound is mostly between the two horizontal "halfway"
lines. I'll select an inter-track gap with only noise, choose
Effects/Denoising, tell it to sample that noise, then select
the whole capture and tell Effects/Denoising to suppress noise.
I manually insert the track breaks by clicking just above the
top (left) sound pane. And Amadeus has a lovely undo, so don't
fear to make a mistake. Once I have the track markers, I select
all again, and go to Selection/Split According to Markers. That
gets you a folder with your individual tracks, which you can
drag into a new iTunes playlist and add all the info.
OK, what did I forget or render muddy?
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#6 User is offline   Billman 

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 12:10 PM

I just started this process myself. It's v e r r r y slow but almost free. (Anybody know of a freeware or inexpensive sound recorder that will handle the double-speed output my deck is capable of?)
If you're hearing noise over the headphone jack it's dirty or deteriorated from age, and not going to give you clean output. You can try exercising it by carefully inserting and removing the headphone plug several times, and twisting it in the jack, to see if that helps. The older (and longer disused) the jack, the less likely this will do any good. You can also try cleaning the recording heads. If you are careful and have a steady hand, a Qtip dampened (not wet) with rubbing alcohol, gently applied, does the trick much better and with less wear on the head than cleaning cassettes.
Listening to your new digital versions using headsets can make static or extra hiss even more apparent. Since this is something you really only want to do once, I think it's worth finding a deck with standard RCA in/out jacks. Checking BestBuy just now, a new Sony is only $150. Some people have great luck with pawn shops...a potential advantage over eBay is that you can inspect the unit before buying.
My $4 RadioShack cable plugs into the RCA out jacks on my cassette deck, and into my PowerBook's mic jack as a stereo miniplug. I use the last free version of Sound Studio (web page here) because I like the controls and appearance, and it has some very useful filters. It only saves as AIFF (large files, not compressed) but you can convert your recordings to MP3 using iTunes or Audacity to save space on your iPod.
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#7 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 03:38 AM

Thanks so very much, Al! I really appreciate your thorough, thoughtful responses.
It's good to know that the PowerWave would do the job.
Quote:

Cassette tape drives are about as rare as 1-X DVD-Rs these days, but a quick look at Amazon this morning showed several . . . All the brands shown are reputable. It can be chancy but eBay has a bunch in the below $100 "buy it now" range.

I added the boldfaced, red font because I hesitate to take the risk of buying something that might end up costing far more to repair (or replace).
Quote:

Circuit City has the Sony I had to buy (Of my three existing drives, one wouldn't spin up at all, another lasted two weeks, and the third only pretended to output sound).

Did you have the bad experiences with this model on all three cassette decks? (Link)
Quote:

I use very few of Amadeus' features. I'll amplify a capture so that the sound is mostly between the two horizontal "halfway" lines. I'll select an inter-track gap with only noise, choose Effects/Denoising, tell it to sample that noise, then select the whole capture and tell Effects/Denoising to suppress noise. I manually insert the track breaks by clicking just above the top (left) sound pane. And Amadeus has a lovely undo, so don't fear to make a mistake. Once I have the track markers, I select all again, and go to Selection/Split According to Markers.

Al, what kind of time might be needed with no audio background to learn how to do what you described?
Thanks, again.
Respectfully, Norm
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#8 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 07:49 AM

No, I didn't have the bad experience with the Sony you pointed to.
I had two old tape decks (a pioneer and an I-forget) hooked to our
main stereo system. It had been so long since I'd used them that
the I-forget was frozen solid, and the Pioneer needed a couple
days of start-play-stop before it behaved. That was the one that
lasted two weeks. The third was a Sears in a compact system I
had in the office in olden times (2001). It looked like it was
working, but no sound came out. Silly me, I thought I could do
our tapes with three drives to use.
Since all three drives failed, the Sony is what I ended up buying.
It's a nice low-price unit. If memory serves, I got the best price
via Amazon.com. Just search "Sony Tape Deck."
I neglected to mention that Amadeus can also capture sound from
the iMic/PowerWave USB input. That'd simplify things -- only one
app to learn.
It's pretty simple to get the basics down with Amadeus.
1. On launch it comes up with a blank "Untitled Sound." Do a
cmd-W to close it.
2. Select Sound/Record to New File. Under the Input tab, select
Driver Type: Core Audio, Driver: iMic USB Audio, Source: iMic USB
Audio, and check "Playthrough" so you can hear what's coming in.
For you, it might read PowerWave instead of iMic.
Back to the Record tab. Play your tape for a while. You'll see the
virtual VU meter bounce around. I don't get a lot of volume, so I
set both "amp" sliders to max (31 db). YMMV. When you get a sound
level you're happy with, rewind the tape, press play, and click
the "rec" button. When the side has finished, press "stop."
Close the Record Sound pane.
3. Amadeus' main window now contains the sound file you recorded.
Save it to disk with a real name in AIFF format. Load and save is
real fast in AIFF.
4. Go to Effects/Amplify to get the bulk of the file between the
midway lines without much clipping. If it doesn't look right, go
to Edit and select undo. When it does look right, log the amp level
so it'll be the same on the flip side. Save.
5. Find an inter-track gap. Select it by dragging the cursor. If
your cursor is too low/high in the display, you'll only get one
track. When the correct chunk is hi-lited, press Play. Make sure it
is nothing but noise, else you'll remove sound in the next step.
With the "noise" segment hi-lited, go to Effects/Denoising and
select "sample noise." Then do a cmd-A to select the whole sound
file. Go back to Effects/Denoising and select "suppress noise."
to rid yourself of tape hiss and such. Save.
If the tape was Dolbied, you may be able to skip this step. Not
much background noise comes through Dolby.
6. Now break the whole sound-capture file into tracks. You can
let Amadeus try to do this automatically: Again cmd-A to "Select
All," go to the Selection menu and choose Generate Markers. The
markers are track separators. Unless the tape is in great shape,
Amadeus will put in more or fewer track separators than it should.
Page through the file and remove or add markers as needed. Click
on the arrow just above the track display to select it and choose
delete to get rid of extras. Click where the arrow should be to
add new ones. Save.
After a while I got tired of that and just manually added markers.
I put a marker before the first track (01).
7. Last Amadeus step: Cmd-A to "Select All," go to the Selection
menu and choose "spit according to markers." It will offer you a
default folder name (Split), location (Home), and format (AIFF).
I usually use album-side for name (eg Stones-1) and "Music" for
location. AIFF is OK as a format.
This gets you a folder of tracks with the names Start, Track01,
Track 02, etc. With a marker before the first track, you can
delete the Start file. It's just lead-in.
8. Create a new playlist in iTunes and select it. Drag the whole
folder (Split or whatever) into the iTunes panel. All the tracks
will come in -- in trackname order. Then just cmd-I each track
to identify it as something other than Trackxx.
If this old beaten-down retired professor can do it, so can you.
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#9 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 07:53 AM

Billman, I haven't tried it, but I believe Amadeus II will
take anything you throw at it. Apply an "Effect" to the
captured file (probably "change pitch and speed") to adjust
for the double-speed input.
Try it. Might work.
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#10 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 11:58 PM

Al, as you, I'm a retired professor who may have Peter Principled (for others reading this thread: reached my level of incompetence!) in trying to work with audio conversion applications.
Quote:

1. On launch it comes up with a blank "Untitled Sound." Do a
cmd-W to close it.
2. Select Sound/Record to New File. Under the Input tab, select
Driver Type: Core Audio, Driver: iMic USB Audio, Source: iMic USB
Audio, and check "Playthrough" so you can hear what's coming in.
For you, it might read PowerWave instead of iMic.


So far, so good, Al. But I start running into problems:
Quote:

Back to the Record tab. Play your tape for a while. You'll see the virtual VU meter bounce around.

Sorry, I don't see anything moving and do not know how to bring up a virtual VU meter.
Quote:

I don't get a lot of volume, so I set both "amp" sliders to max (31 db).

My sliders only move between -41 and +O. I selected -31. The sound coming out of my internal speakers is good.
Perhaps part of my problem lies in System Preferences/Sound settings? I've selected "PowerWave Composite" for both Input and Output. One reason I'm not confident about those choices is that the sound outputs through the internal speakers rather than the externals, which are connected to the PowerWave output ports (white plug to "left," red to "right"). The externals normally carry the sound. But while running Amadeus II, they're mute.)
Quote:

When you get a sound level you're happy with, rewind the tape, press play, and click
the "rec" button.

OK.
Quote:

When the side has finished, press "stop."

The tape turned off while I was out of the room but Amedeus was still recording. I pressed "stop."
Quote:

Close the Record Sound pane.

When I did, the window that opened was blank except for horizontal lines, the title of "Untitled sound 2" and an empty boxed area under "Show Whole Sound"
Quote:

3. Amadeus' main window now contains the sound file you recorded. Save it to disk with a real name in AIFF format. Load and save is real fast in AIFF..

I went under Windows and found three choices: Show Navigator, Show Selection, Show Playback. None showed anything to which I could relate. I went back to the "Untitled sound 2" and saved it in a folder I created in the "iTunes Music" folder. I had saved an earlier attempt in iTunes Music and it showed up when I was doing the save-as routine. The titles of both attempts to save an aiff file were there to see, but both were grayed out.
Quote:

4. Go to Effects/Amplify to get the bulk of the file between the midway lines without much clipping. If it doesn't look right, go to Edit and select undo. When it does look right, log the amp level
so it'll be the same on the flip side. Save.

Wups. "Amplify" and nearly all other choices under Effects/ were grayed out. I went back in and re-saved. This time I was able to select Amplify. All that I saw other than the title was a few-seconds filling between the horizontal lines with yellow.
Quote:

5. Find an inter-track gap.

Sorry, all I see are alternating gray and white horizontal sections and a vertical orange line near the left side. And nothing is visible to select for following your the rest of your #5 through #8 instructions. I downloaded Amadeus II but was waiting to see if I could get it to work before registering. Could that be at the root of what I'm running into?
Quote:

If this old beaten-down retired professor can do it, so can you.

I wish!
If nothing else, Al, this is helping stave off Alzheimers by exercising my brain cells. Now that I'm on the other side of the lectern, I'm glad that I found a patient teacher.
Thanks, again. Very much.
Respectfully, Norm
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#11 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 04:51 AM

OK, lets ensure your Mac is getting music. Go to the Sound
Prefpane. My input tab shows built-in audio and iMic USB,
with the iMic hi-lited. The "input level" acts as a VU meter.
Play some tape. If the lozenges don't light up, there's
your problem.
I recall having a problem like that when I started out. But,
memory being an iffy thing at my age, I can't recall what
I did to fix it. Off to the Griffin web site and the Wave's
manual. It sounds like you have the "thru" switch off. Turn
it on to hear what sound is going to the computer. If it is
on and the externals are mute, you have a problem with the
Wave itself, probably just a connection. Since I have a
manual, tell me exactly what you're connecting to which
and how.
My Sound prefpane "output" tab shows "line out built-in audio"
hi-lited. That way I can plug headphones into the Mac's sound
out jack and (1) hear what I'm getting and (2) not bug Leslye
or the dogs too much.
Had I selected the iMic (Wave in your case) for output, it'd
be a problem. Sound would try to come in and go out on the
same line. That could be your problem, too.
Let's get the sound into the machine. Then proceed with
Amadeus's neat stuff.
But I'm curious. What version of Amadeus are you using. Mine
is Amadeus II 3.8.7, 2006. From your description of the "record"
pane, you have something else.
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#12 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 01:24 AM

You are most patient. Thanks, again, Al. Very much!
One small finding: the connector from the line leading from the PowerWave "Speaker: Breakout" to the external speakers had worked itself loose. Firmly seating it gave me clear sound from a Sony Walkman I connected to the PowerWave's microphone-icon port.
But the PowerWave now seems to be serving merely as a direct conduit to the external speakers rather than to the G5. It also serves as a great conduit from iTunes and the internal CD player to the external speakers.
No matter which System Preference/Sound internal or external settings I use, I get nothing from the G5's headphone port when the Walkman plays loudly through the speakers. The G5 headphones only work when I turn on iTunes or use the Mac's internal CD player.
The PowerWave "Thru" switch was and is turned to on. The only rise I get from the VU meter with the Walkman playing is if I move the "Gain" switch from "Line" to "Mac." Then, instead of an illuminated first losenge, the fifth losenge glows. (And the tremendous increase in sound blasts through the house and no volume controls work, except on the radio/tape player.)
The PowerWave was bought for a simple reason: the jack from my Apple Pro Speakers was too small for the port on the back of the G5. The PowerWave serves as an adapter. I've never used it for input before.
It certainly inputs sound to the external speakers, but not the G5, itself.
Here's the configuration:
On the bottom of the PowerWave:
1. the line from the Walkman goes to the microphone-icon port
2. a USB connector from a woofer is plugged into the USB port.
3. Nothing is plugged into the headphone port: when I do, the external speakers make static noise
On the top of the PowerWave:
1. A line from the external ApplePro Speakers goes to the "Speaker: Breakout" port.
2. A line from a second set of external speakers in another room splits into white and red jacks that plug into Left and Right Output. (I probably mixed them up?)
3. Nothing is in the red and white Input ports.
4. A line from a USB port connects the PowerWave to to the G5.
The fact that I am not getting sound from the tape player through the PowerWave into the G5, itself, certainly accounts for my failure to get Amaedus to work.
What also confuses me is that if I connect a radio directly to the input port on the back of the G5, I hear absolutely nothing from the internal G5 speaker or from a headphone plugged into the G5.
/forums/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif
Respectfully, Norm
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#13 User is offline   albloom 

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 05:28 AM

Quote:

On the top of the PowerWave:
4. A line from a USB port connects the PowerWave to to the G5.



Aha! Manuals do come in handy.
The "top" USB port is the "Active USB hub connection: Powered
USB pass-through hub for connecting additional USB devices."
That's the hole that looks like a house, next to the power
jack.
You should connect the "bottom" USB connector (flat rectangle)
to the Mac.
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#14 User is offline   nnager 

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 07:51 PM

Griffin packaged only one USB cable with the PowerWave. At one end is a square-ish connector, at the other a flat connector.
Per Griffin Tech Support, that cable connects the PowerWave "USB (to comp)" square-ish port directly to the G5 USB port.
I was also informed that the headphone port on the G5 will not transmit sound when importing music through the PowerWave.
I was able to use Final Vinyl to bring in sound from the Walkman radio-cassette player, but it produced a very low level of volume when played. I still can't get Amadeus to work.
Did I mention that I may have reached the level of incompetence in trying to work with audio input? /forums/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
Respectfully, Norm
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