7 Replies Latest reply: Jun 9, 2008 6:00 PM by flommer
camhabib Level 2 Level 2 (195 points)
I have about 200 tapes that I'm looking to convert into MP3's to ultimately burn to DVD's. I have an 2008 MP as well as a cassette player with an optical and analog line out. What's the best way to go about converting these tapes into a digital format? I would ultimately like to get each song on the cassette onto its own MP3 file, but I am fine with just having each tape as a single file. Any help is appreciated.

MacBook Pro 15" (2.16GHz 200GB 7200RPM), Mac OS X (10.5.3)
  • MyKidsDad Level 2 Level 2 (325 points)
    This is a typical route:

    For excellent audio input into the Mac:
    http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/imic

    For recording the audio:
    http://www.rogueamoeba.com/audiohijackpro/

    For audio editing, if you don't have a program:
    http://www.rogueamoeba.com/fission/

    and you'll need one of these cables to get from the deck to the Mac:
    http://www.radioshack.com/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=rca%20to%20mini&origkw=rc a%20to%20mini&sr=1

    Also, there's a January 08 article on Macworld.com that talks about this:
    http://www.macworld.com/article/131449/2008/01/feb08playlist.html
  • camhabib Level 2 Level 2 (195 points)
    Wow, perfect, just what I needed. As for the iMic, how does that differ from the line in thats built into the MP? Is this just a higher quality input or is it amped as well?
  • MyKidsDad Level 2 Level 2 (325 points)
    Well, as you can see by my equipment profile, I don't have a Mac Pro (yet), so unfortunately I can't speak to the quality level of the Mac Pro sound input. Either someone else will have to chime in or you could just give it a shot before buying the iMic. You may well get perfectly acceptable results just plugging straight into the MP's input.

    The iMic is not a powered input; it's basically a conduit with, from what I understand, RIAA specs built into it which should offer better input than the Mac's input. AFAIK, most cassette decks require amplification for proper audio, so yours probably needs an amp inbetween the deck and the Mac/iMic in order to get the signal up to Line level.

    Note that the iMic has a short cord, about 18 inches, and the cable feels a little more delicate than I'd like, so if you're going to use it, be sure it's in a place that's not going to be trafficked (sp?) at all. I don't use mine often, but I've never had a problem with it. (I bought mine because my headphone jack got damaged, and USB audio output from my mac was the only viable option. I've only recorded Vinyl LP using it, but testing mine through my G4's audio in vs. the iMic, the iMic gave me a significantly better recording.)

    BTW, you should also check out other freeware/shareware apps for recording and editing. For example, some swear by Audacity and some simply use GarageBand if they already have iLife. I think the bottom line is that you should try your recordings in the cheapest possible fashion and see if the quality is ok with you, then buy iMic & software if you feel it's warranted.
  • flommer Level 2 Level 2 (170 points)
    Since your cassette player has an optical output, I would suggest that it is probably a high quality unit and you would not benefit from using some other type of input ie. a different analog to digital converter like the iMic. I doubt that anything in these low price ranges would be noticeably better than the converters built into the Mac itself, meaning the line inputs if you were to use the analog outputs from the cassette.. You can spend big bucks on this A/D conversion, but you really have to consider the entire chain... Is the cassette player a HQ unit? Are the tapes themselves in good enough shape to justify spending lots on money on HQ audio gear further down the chain? A high quality A/D converter will not make your tapes sound better, it will only capture them more accurately..

    Since you already have the cassette player, get an optical cable and try it out. I second the recommendation for Audio Hijack.. It has some other very useful features as well. ( I use it to capture mp3s of DVD concerts that I have so I can listen to them on my iPod) I think it costs about $30 so it is a small price to pay to test out your current gear ..
  • Some Dude Level 1 Level 1 (55 points)
    Flommer,

    Great point you make there...I have heard great things about Audio Hijack (or Pro) and think I will take the plunge. You mention concert DVD's, that is also very important to me, have tons of them. I'd like to get good rip's of the music on them for iTunes/iPod usage...so, is Audio Hijack the best way to do that or something like Handbrake? Also, I wonder if you could recommend what to do with actual DVD-Audio discs, I have many of those and of course they don't "rip" the way a standard CD does. Sorry if these are silly questions, but could use some guidance here.

    Cheers!
  • Simon Teale Level 5 Level 5 (4,680 points)
    Excellent help from the others.

    My 2 cents worth is that, I did my whole music cassette library about 2 years ago. Mac Pro will be fine, I did mine on my MDD.

    As the original source is music cassette (MC) I definitely wouldn't worry about the choice of optical or audio in. I went audio in, but I did make sure I used a good quality cable, gold plated contacts.

    I also used CD Spin Doctor, that came with Roxio Toast. Had it record the whole of one side of the tape, and can split the side into individual tracks (90% of the time it gets it right, but sometimes it splits up long tracks during quiet sections.

    Overall, it did a first rate job, saves the files as AIFFs by default, but I just imported them into iTunes and converted to mp3 (from memory). I had to key in track names, artist and album names.

    80 minutes of stereo audio in AIFF is demanding on memory (for an MDD with 2GB anyway), so if you have more than the stock 2GB, it'll only make it easier.

    If you have Toast, try one album and see how you do, I did get a lot quicker the more I did, and I did spend most of my time waiting for the cassette player to finish a tape.
    Quality at the end of it was frighteningly good, probably more down to the CD Spin Doctor software automatically cutting out hiss and all that, rather than good leads and tapes in good condition. I believe for some of my tapes that were damaged beyond use (been in a cupboard for 15 years) I may have just bought the CD, about 2 from 140.
  • flommer Level 2 Level 2 (170 points)
    I'm not familiar with Handbrake.. Just looked at the website and it appears to do a lot of things, possibly including "ripping" the audio from a DVD source.

    Audio Hijack is different.. It "Hijacks" any audio that passes through the OS. This could include streaming audio from the web (Safari would be the hijack source) or other audio applications. There may be limitations on what applications, but I am not aware of what they might be. It saves this audio as a file of the type you specify. In the case of the concert DVD's, DVD Player is the hijack source.. I just opened it up and these are the apps it lists as sources by default:
    Safari
    Default System Input
    DVD Player
    iChat
    iTunes
    Quicktime Player
    RealPlayer

    You can also pull up a list of active applications from the input screen and in my case it currently shows:

    Finder
    Protools
    Safari

    As far as DVD-A goes, I'm not sure ( I have no DVD-A's to experiment on), but if your Mac can play it, it can probably be hijacked. I suspect that DVD-A might play back via DVD Player, so then it would work. It does appear to only work with stereo or mono, so I don't know how it would handle a 5.1 DVD-A... My version of ProTools will handle up to 48 stereo tracks before mixing, and multiple stereo outputs can be defined, but I am not sure what AH would do with all that..

    PS.. I did pay for the Pro version.. I forget what that added, but I must have needed it LOL