I have a nice cassette deck that you would use with a stereo system and there are some old cassette tapes that I have never thrown out. Finally I’ve got around to copying some of these cassettes to files on my hard drive.
Here is a review of some software that I test drove on an old underpowered Windows XP machine: Exact Audio Copy, Wave Repair, and Audacity.
From the output of my cassette deck, I connected a Y cord to the light blue line input on the back of the computer. When I played the tape, it played through the computer speakers, and you can verify the sound quality, track, etc.
Exact Audio Copy:
Exact Audio Copy is mainly designed to copy the tracks from CDs to file with no loss of audio quality. Looking at the webpage, it seems to be created by one person, Andre Wiethoff. Andre has put a LOT of thought and effort into making a product that is highly accurate.
How To Record From Cassette, with Exact Audio Copy:
Test your sound input
Create a filename, Save.
Start the music.
Press Record. The timing is counted in hundredths of a second.
Press Stop at the appropriate time
Recording from CD to WAV file was also very straightforward. Just insert the CD, choose a directory for the files, and click the icon for WAV or COMPRESSed files.
Exact Audio Copy Review:
EAC worked with no major strain on the old box. It seems to be single threaded, as Task Manager showed one CPU at about 75% utilization while recording.
This is a bang on product. It installed with no issues. Although, I did have cygwin already installed on my machine.
It was easy to use. I could figure out how to use it without reading a manual. The audio has only one setting, WAV. So it did not require me to learn all about technical issues such as sampling rates etc.
Wave Repair , by Clive Backham, is a shareware editor specifically designed for the restoration of WAV files that were recorded from vinyl records. It also captures the audio signal.
How To Record From Cassette, Using Wave Repair:
Test your sound input
Input (Record) New WAV File
Choose a file name and location
Get the Recording dialog
Adjust settings if needed
Click Stop at the right time
Wave Repair Review:
Wave Repair has a lot of tools to edit and fix bad sound. The menu drop downs include the common: File, Edit, View, Help.
Other drop downs include: Play/Record, Markers, Blocks, Position, Declicking, Noise Reduction, Other Effects, Cue Points. Each drop down has many functions to click. So there is lots of functionality to edit sound files. On the webpage, there is a long list of features.
It can also create a CD from LP recordings. Although, for my purposes, to get a simple recording, these features were unneeded.
The timing is only accurate to the second. There are no fractions of a second. Probably not a critical issue if you are recording from LPs or cassettes.
It lists a 4 GB file size limit. This of course, applies to all 32 bit operating systems. But, at approximately 10 megs per minute of recording, it would take over 400 minutes to create the 4 gig file, which is longer than any LP or cassette that I know of.
Wave Repair is not freeware, it is shareware. However, for Direct to Hard Disk recording, it is free forever, which works for my purposes.
Wave Repair was also easy to install, figure out, and use in order to record a cassette tape to my hard drive. I did not need to read a long manual. It’s another recommended software.
Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds. Audacity seems to be the most popular open source software for recording. It has the nicest look. And the most functionality. It has been in development since 1994, and has a long list of current and past developers. There are forums for support.
Audacity Prerequisites and Installation:
If you read my blog, you know that I’ve struggled with many software installations, especially Java apps on Linux.
The Audacity install is not as bad as some others I’ve done. But of all the audio recording software I tried here, Audacity was the most complex to install.
Like so much other documentation I’ve had to plow through, the instructions for every operating system and scenario are all on the same page, rather than split up by OS. That makes fast communication and installation much more difficult, wouldn’t you agree?
Audacity on Windows also requires that you download and install the lastest lame.dll file. This was not obvious without plowing through the installation instructions. You need to go to this webpage. Download file: Lame_v3.99.3_for_Windows.exe, and install it. Not FFMpeg or the .zip file.
You might also get the source code for lame from Sourceforge. But, like so much open source software, the webpage has no instructions for compiling the code on your platform. Nor what the prerequisites are, such as which compiler and version I might require to compile it. Really, why are the instructions not found on the same page as the download?
Eventually, I installed the .dll:
Directory of C:\Program Files\LameForAudacity
12/26/2011 03:34 AM 421,888 lame_enc.dll
1 File(s) 421,888 bytes
To Record with Audacity:
Check the sound input
Choose the correct sound input from the drop down
Click the red button to start recording.
When finished, click the square stop button.
Menu, File, Export Audio, set options and save to file.
Audacity has the functionality to make a Project, not just a file. This is something that scares me when I’m trying to do something simple. But if you only want to save the file you just recorded, you just also export to file: Menu, File, Export.
Of the three, it looks the most polished in the look and feel. The controls look like the buttons you might see on a tape deck or CD player.
You can save the audio to many different file formats. I was interested in WAV and MP3.
And, you can also add metadata to the file quite easily, such as the Artist, Album, etc.
You can choose from many input audio sources from the drop down box. Be sure to choose the correct audio source.
You can change a lot of preferences: Menu, Edit, Preferences. This includes the audio sampling rate. However, I just used the default.
It seems that you can mix multiple tracks on top of each other. This could be for the recordings of different instruments, playing on different tracks, to be merged together on one song.
All in all, once Audicity was installed, the recording was simple and intuitive enough.
Exact Audio Copy and Wave Repair are like Unix: do one thing only, and do it very well. Audacity is a bigger application, doing more complex things.
Any of these three of these software packages I would recommend. As long as they are for the functionality that you need. For instance, if you need an MP3 file, don’t work with Exact Audio Copy, because it won’t save to MP3.
It’s such a pleasure when software is built right and works properly!