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How to Convert Cassettes to MP3

Updated on January 11, 2011


It is getting increasingly difficult to find cassette players these days. Even if you have a good player, the cassettes that you bought in 1985 are probably very close to being worn out. Many of the songs you enjoyed years ago can still be found on places like but not all of them. Would you like to convert those old cassettes to MP3 while you still can? It is quite easy to do and costs very little.


The first thing you need to do is connect a cassette player to your computer. You will need a line in port on the computer. This is not the same as a microphone port. A desktop computer should have at least three 3.5mm round ports in its soundcard. If you have external speakers they will be plugged in the green port. Another might have a picture of a microphone etched by it and will be pink. The one you are looking for should be blue. For more information you can read this article about soundcards. If you have a laptop like mine that doesn’t have line in then you will have to acquire an external sound device to plug into your USB port. There are many available on the internet for not a lot of money. Just search for external USB sound box. Make sure to select one that has line it.

You will also need, of course, a cassette player. A stereo player will be necessary or the quality of your MP3 will suffer. For the best quality, select a player that has line out. This is not the same as a headphone port. This will be an RCA connection like what you  use to connect your VCR to your TV. If your player does not have line out you can use the headphone port instead and keep the volume level fairly low.

Now you will need to connect it all together. All the connectors and adapters can be obtained at a place like Radio Shack or ordered online. You may have to get some adapters to go from RCA to 3.5mm  depending on the equipment you are using. You need to connect from either the line out or headphone port on your cassette player to the line in on your computer.

Now you have your hardware set up and it is time to select the software. This is the easy part. There are many different programs from which you can choose. I recommend one called Audacity. It is high quality and free. Just download and install it. You may have to adjust some settings to get it to record from line in. From the Audacity window you can get to these settings by clicking Edit and then Preferences.

Once you have this set up you can begin converting your cassettes to MP3. Just click the record button on Audacity and play the cassette and let it run until the cassette is finished. This will have one long track on audacity. You will probably want to cut that into separate tracks for each song. This takes a little bit of time but is not difficult. You can see on the graph where the sound is and where the dead spots between songs are. First click on the dead area right before the first song and then simultaneously press control and B. Type in the name of the first track and press return. Scroll to the next dead zone and repeat the procedure typing in the name of the next track. Continue this until you have all the songs split into separate tracks.

The last step will be to export the recording to MP3. To do this, click File and then Export Multiple. You will be given a chance to input things like title, artist, album, track number, etc… for each track. Then when you are finished it will export each song to a separate MP3 file. Voilà! You are done.

The procedure does take some time for each cassette but to me, it is well worth the effort as I can now play the music from my old cassettes on my mp3 player. This also works for Records, 8-track, or real to real if you have, or can obtain, the equipment. Enjoy!


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