Audacity only recording room noise

Hi. Just starting out here and am wanting to re-record some audio tapes made of my grandmother in the '80’s. Testing on some homemade audio tapes (Journey’s Greatest Hits!) to figure out my process before using the priceless originals of Nana. I cannot get any audio to come through other than room noise, assuming from built in mic from Macbook.

I can’t seem to change to another audio source in the Preferences pane. Any advice on how to disable internal mic and get sound from the tape I’m trying to record?


I’m a Windows guy, but, how is the tape machine connected to the computer?

If you have line-in on your computer (probably not) you can connect line-out or headphone-out from the tape machine.

Otherwise, you need a USB interface with line-in. The [u]Behringer UCA 202[/u] (or UCA 222) is popular and (relatively) inexpensive, but lately it seems to be hard to find. [u]This page[/u] has a couple more suggestions or there are lots of high-end interfaces with switchable mic/line inputs. (There are also cheaper options if cost is a big concern.)

The biggest potential disadvantage of the Behringer is that it doesn’t have an analog recording-level control so there is a chance of clipping (distorting) the analog-to-digital converter if you have a “hot” signal. But it doesn’t seem to be a common problem/complaint. (If you’re using a headphone output on the tape machine there is always a volume control so that’s not a problem.)

These various interfaces have a variety of different connectors so you might need a different cable/adapter than what you have.

Don’t buy a regular-little “USB soundcard”. They are like laptops with only line-in and headphone-out.

I can’t seem to get my computer to recognize the USB input for more than a second. This screen grab shows the inputs available but the bottom one goes away immediately leaving only internal mic as my input option. Any thoughts on why and how to fix? Doesn’t seem it should be this hard.
Screen Shot 2021-09-20 at 2.18.42 PM.png

“USB PnP Audio Device” - that is a big, red flag.

Is this one of those cheapie cassette-to-USB devices? If so, I’m sorry to tell you that no-one we know of has been able to get one of those things to work reliably with Mac. The symptom you describe (“can’t seem to get my computer to recognize the USB input for more than a second”) is typical.

– Bill

It’s literally that and is the software that is recommended to download with the cassette player I bought - Reshow. Is it garbage? Why would Reshow use it then?

The problem is with the cassette device not with Audacity.

– Bill

Thanks. Do you have an alternate suggestion for an inexpensive option for transferring audio from a cassette to MP3 so I can save these recordings digitally?

My suggestion is to get a Behringer UCA-202 or similar audio-to-USB converter, along with a cable that will connect from the headphone output of the cassette deck (probably a 3.5mm stereo mini plug) to the inputs of the Behringer (dual RCA plugs). That way you at least don’t have to buy a different cassette deck.
– Bill

Not something like this though? Does it need to go through the Behringer thingy?

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A 4-pole TRRS jack has stereo headphone out and mono microphone in. Not appropriate for stereo input to the computer.
– Bill