Best settings for audio cassettes.

Hi everybody. I am trying to record my audio cassettes. I red turorials how to connect cassette player to the computer and that worked fine, but what I did not understand is how to set up Audacity 1.3 Beta /Unicode/. The more I read about it, the less I get it. So far, the signal from the cassette player to the computer is OK without any settings whatsoever.
My question is very simple: What is the best settings for audio cassettes on Audacity 1.3 Beta /Unicode/?

Is this a standard cassette deck or a USB model? What computer and operating system do you have?

In Audacity, go to Edit > Preferences (Windows/Linux; Audacity > Preferences on Mac) and click the Devices section.

Select your audio source in the dropdown Device menu in the Recording section.

It’s not a matter of “best” settings, it’s about getting the sound from the computer into Audacity.

– Bill

It also depends to some extend on what you intend to do with the recordings. For example are you planning to make CDs - or music DVDs - both have different formats?


I have a very similar question to what soundman10 has asked, so thought it would be appropriate to place it here.

In my case, I have a USB cassette player which I am going to use to transfer some music to my PC (and some of it will then be put onto CD). My PC is a Compaq with a 1.6 Ghz Intel Celeron Dual Core processor and 1 GB of RAM. It runs with Vista Home Basic SP2 (32 bit). I am also using Audacity 1.3.10 beta to do the recording.

As per the instructions in the manual, I have first checked to see that the sound from the player is coming into the PC. It shows up in the recording devices section of the Sound control panel under “Microphone - USB PnP Audio Device” and says it is working.

After making sure I have the correct settings in the Preferences - Devices section of Audacity, I have done a test recording of a few minutes. I have been able to playback the recording in Audacity, so it seems to be doing the job with little fuss.

What I’m not sure about is that (to keep the recording to the recommended initial max. level of -6db) I have to keep the Input volume slider to the very left (almost zero). If I increase the Input volume to 0.1, a great deal of the recording hits the end (0db mark). This (almost zero) seems to be a low level of input volume to operate at.

Is this ok and is there anything else I should be doing altering to get the best possible recording I can using this USB cassette player ?

@fergus - is there a gain control (volume control) on the USB cassette player?

Which model of USB cassette player do you have?


There is just one knob on the cassette player, for turning on, turning off and adjusting the volume.

Adjusting the volume on the cassette player (regardless of how high or low) has no effect on the Input volume.

I have a Digitech USB cassette player (model no. GE-4052)

when you plug in a USB deck then the USB device takes complete control over the sound input and sound level. You can’t choose any alternative input from the drop-down box and you can’t adjust the input (mic) slider - well not until you unplug the USB TT from your PC.

This normally isn’t a problem as the USB deck should control the level ok without clipping - but obviously not in your case.

There may be a control that you can use however if you are getting an oversaturated signal - if you are lucky your TT may have a gain control which will enable you to control the signal level before it reaches the ADC and USB services of your TT. Some USB TTs have gain controls and others don’t

If you do not have such a control you are out of luck – I hope you have a receipt and a good returns policy from the retailer you purchased from

Have a look at this page in the Wiki - it’s about USB TTs - bit the principle is the same:


That is a very odd looking device! The info says that it has RCA outs for connecting to a stereo. If your computer has a line input you might want to try that instead (although that kind of defeats the purpose of having USB in the first place - the USB connection is there for the many computers these days that do not have line level inputs).

At the Windows sound control panel do you have any options at all for controlling the volume of the USB cassette deck?

– Bill

Thanks for the link to the USB turntable article, wax cylinder.

You may have slightly misunderstood my question (or perhaps I didn’t explain it well). I can actually get a non-clipped recording (at the recommended initial max. level of -6db). It’s just that the Input volume slider has to be kept to the very left (almost at zero) and it only has to be moved to the 0.1 Input volume level to get a saturated signal.

I was questioning whether (to get the non-clipped signal) it was a problem that I have to have the Input level slider at close to zero and whether perhaps there were any other settings I should be altering.

From what you and others have said and from what I have read in the USB turntable article, I’m guessing that the USB cassette player is sending through a high volume signal and therefore having the Input volume level slider at close to zero is not really a problem.

I’m also guessing that there are no other settings I need to alter, as Audacity seems to be recording the signal properly (there is no gain control knob on the USB cassette player).

Would these guesses be correct ?

I do have 2 other quick questions.

  1. Does the Output volume meter need to be set at a particular level when you are recording or is its use for just when you are playing the recording.

  2. billw58 mentioned the RCA outs and line input alternative. Which method (USB or RCA outsline in) gives a better quality recording or are they much the same ?

Sounds right to me

No it should have no impact on the recording level. You may need to use it if you use “software Playthrough” to monitor while recording

Depends on which is the better soundcard - using the USB will use the soundcard in the Digitech and pass a digital signal to your computer - and using the RCA outputs will bypass the Digitech and pass an analog signal to your computer’s on-board soundcard for conversion to digital.

You will need to experiment with some listening tests - and then decide.


OK, as long as the signal is not clipped you’re OK. And it would be worth examining the signal at high magnification and listening closely to make sure that the signal is not being clipped before it gets into Audacity.

– Bill

Thanks for your assistance with my questions, waxcylinder. It has been very helpful.

Thanks for your input also, billw58.