How to Easily Convert Old Cassette Tapes to Modern MP3 Files

Do you have old cassette tapes but have no way to play them? Luckily for you, there are multiple ways to convert cassette tapes to modern MP3 or other format files that can be stored in your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive, CD disks, stored in the cloud, or even sent to anyone via email.

There are at least two methods of copying cassette tapes to modern digital files. I will call the two methods the easy way and the much easier way.

The Easy Way

First, you need to find a cassette player. Actually, that is not all that difficult. You might find an old one in your closet or at a local yard sale.

While new cassette players are slowly disappearing, there are quite a few still being manufactured. I found a bunch of them available on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2F4MqIP.

Next, purchase an audio-to-digital converter that connects to the earphone jack on a cassette player or other source of audio. The other connector on the audio-to-digital converter plugs into a USB connector on your Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Load the software (many audio recording programs are available and some of them are even available free of charge). Then press PLAY on the cassette player and sit back as the audio is stored in your computer as MP3 audio files or possibly some other audio format. You can later copy the newly-digitized files to any other storage media you wish.

Audio-to-digital converters are not common but you can find several at computer retail stores. Of course, Amazon has them also, ranging from $15 to $25 each. You can find them by starting at: https://amzn.to/2F48zH7.

The Much Easier Way

For only a few dollars more, you can purchase a portable cassette player with a built-in audio-to-digital converter. That solution requires fewer cables, less complexity, and probably fewer problems.

Cassette Player with a USB Connection

Simply place batteries in the new portable cassette player, connect the included USB cable to your computer, load the audio recording software in your computer (many audio recording programs are available and some of them are even available free of charge), click on PLAY in the cassette player and sit back as the audio is stored in your computer as MP3 audio files or possibly some other audio format. You can later copy the newly-digitized files to any other storage media you wish.

Portable cassette players with built-in audio-to-digital converters sell on Amazon (where else?) for $23 to $28. For a selection of such cassette players with built-in conversion to MP3 or other audio file formats, look at: https://amzn.to/2QlQ6H8.

Summation

If your computer’s operating system does not already include audio recording software, look at the very popular and FREE open source Audacity program at: https://www.audacityteam.org/. Audacity has many uses, including it will record audio being sent through the computer’s USB connector and save that audio as a digital MP3 file or in any of several other formats.

MP3 is the most commonly-used format for audio files. I would suggest you use that for your first few recordings. Once you gain a bit of experience with everything, you might want to experiment with other, higher-fidelity file formats.

What are you waiting for? Convert those tapes!

18 Comments

Can we have a similar article for video tapes please ?

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    Yes, please, I second that!

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    I have a simple cassette to mp3 flash drive recorder. My question is will the recording automatically start where there is free space remaining on the flash drive? I dont want to record over music already stored on it. Thanks in advance. Edward.

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My local library recently set up its own “Makerspace” They have a VHS video to DVD burner there. It plays back a VHS tape (whatever the standard speed is, and not one bit faster), displays the show on its screen and converts the video info to a standard DVD format, burning as it goes. Best to use a DVD-RW to do this. First couple of times I tried it, I spoiled DVD-Rs and got nothing usable. When I tried the same VHS on a DVD-RW, I got useful video. Nothing less fun than converting a 4-hour VHS video tape to DVD. That would take 4 hours plus the time to finalize the DVD. I would much prefer a video converter than simply digitizes the video stream & saves it on a USB drive, but the library doesn’t have that.

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I also found a dedicated cassette player / USB converter at a different local library. It looks an awful lot like the one Dick shows in his article. I found that device did not play the tapes very well, the results were not as good as the original tape sounded. Sometimes the tape would simply stop before the cassette was finished. The cassette played fine on other machines, however. The problem I am having with my old cassette tape players is that their mechanisms simple jam as time passes. I have a dual cassette player that was pretty good years ago. However it has jammed in 2 different ways (1) drive 1 has a cassette tape in already. It plays back, rewinds, forwards just fine. However, that mechanism has jammed so that I cannot eject this cassette & put in another (2) drive 2 has a door that opens & closes, allowing me to change cassettes. However that drive won’t play anything, even though it will fast forward & rewind.

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Easier still, you can buy cheap self-contained cassette to mo3 converters online … eg
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/USB-Cassette-Tape-MP3-CD-Converter-Capture-Digital-Audio-Music-Player-UK-/223208722944

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Can we have a similar article for 2×8 film tape please ?

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For Christmas 2017 I told my wife I’d like a converter cassette player to digitize a series of interviews my parents had done with my grandparents and other relatives. She told one of my sons who does freelance recording and quite handy with this kind of thing. He provided something far simpler. He had an old Sony walk-man laying around. He used its regular connection between the headphone jack on the player and the audio connection on the laptop, made a small adjustment to the audio adjustments on my HP laptop to avoid feedback and downloaded audacity for free. It worked like a charm! No special converter cassette player, no special usb connection, no special equipment purchases and all easily acquired, very inexpensive or free. I was able to get the tapes converted to mp3 and have shared them with my family and cousins.

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I’ve used Audacity to convert cassette tapes to digital files and also taped radio programs and then converted them. The big problem I have is that many of my old tapes don’t sound good any more. Some seem to have just slowed down. I don’t know if the tape has physically stretched or if something else is happening. Is there any software that can speed the music up a little to try and restore the quality?

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    Your Audacity program can also be used to adjust the speed of your recordings. Click on the “Effect” drop-down menu, and choose “Change Speed.” Experiment with the adjustments and you should be able to improve the sound. (You might also want to experiment with the “Change Pitch” and “Change Tempo” effects, if needed.) Audacity is a great program.

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I’ve been using a converter cassette from Amazon that stores the mp3 to a thumb drive that attaches to the player, so no computer required. The fidelity is good enough for spoken word. I then plug the drive into my computer to save the files.
I wish there were a similar unit to convert micro-cassettes. Nobody seems to have made any more micro-cassette recorder/players. The ones on Amazon and eBay are used and very expensive; had to return one I bought that didn’t work. Micro-cassette answering machines are available but can’t get one to just play the cassette.

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I have several MC-60 mini cassette tapes, from an interview I did with my mother over 25 years ago. I have been trying to get these converted for several years, and I’m still at a loss as to how to accomplish this.

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    —> I’m still at a loss as to how to accomplish this.

    The difficult part will be to find a micro-cassette player that will play MC-60 mini cassette tapes. I see that Amazon has several available for sale but at high prices, apparently designed for office use, not for consumers. There are others for sale on eBay, mostly used micro-cassette recorder voice dictation devices. Prices for the used ones seem to run about $20 or so.

    If you can find a micro-cassette player, the rest is easy. Follow the instructions in the article above that say, “purchase an audio-to-digital converter that connects to the earphone jack on a cassette player or other source of audio. The other connector on the audio-to-digital converter plugs into a USB connector on your Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer.”

    The micro-cassette recorders usually have the same earphone jacks as regular cassette recorders so the same audio-to-digital converter should work on both.

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    I, too, have mini cassette tapes from an interview with my mother more than 20 years ago!

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Windows 10 “Voice Recorder” program creates M4A files from cassette player out to “mic” in on computer; other programs can convert M4A to MP3, or they can be imported directly into Windows 10 “Photos” program to create slideshows

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i’m wondering how much space a typically cassette album takes up on computer. I have about 50, 1 hour cassettes and wondering if my computer can handle it.

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    —> I have about 50, 1 hour cassettes and wondering if my computer can handle it.

    That will all depend upon how much available space is left in your computer’s hard drive.

    HOWEVER, another (and probably better) method is to save the recordings from the cassette tapes onto flash drives instead of onto your computer’s internal hard drive. You then can save all the 1 hour cassettes you already have plus a lot, lot more. The only constraint will be how many flash drives you own or are willing to purchase. Luckily, flash drives are cheap these days… cheaper than cassette tapes of equivalent storage capacity.

    Of course, you will want to also make backup copies of each one and then store all the copies in some other location not near your computer.

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The sound of nostalgia! I have tapes with me singing at 7 years old. There’s a question. Is your program the only one, which can convert tapes. Can I use some simple converters like https://www.movavi.com/videoconverter/? Thank you for your instructions, Dick

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