Cannot get any input to Audacity

I am running Audacity 2.0.0 and have the following anomalies:

I am attempting to record from GRACE DIGITAL AUDIO TAPE2USB II via US 3.0/2.0 port (tried both).

My computer is an Alienware Laptop M18x w/Windows 7 SP1;

The software seems to recognize the cassette player i/o via USB as USB Audio Controller output (Speakers USB Audio Controller) and USB Audio Controller input (Microphone Array USB Audio controller). I am also able to select 2 (stereo) input channels.

When I start playing the cassette tape there is absolutely no input signal sensed via meters when either simply monitoring or recording with Audacity and with the above i/o channels selected and configured above.

I am unable to configure the sample rate for the USB input (recording) devices) to anything other than 48000 Hz in the windows “Audio” configuration. I am able to set Audacity to 44100 Hz but if I start to record it simply opens up stereo tracks at 48000 Hz. If I then open up the stereo tracks drop down menu labeled “Audio Track” by default the menu line items “Mono”, “Left”, “Right” and “Make Stereo track” are all grayed out with “Left” apparently chosen (check mark).

I am able to load miscellaneous wave files and play them back through the laptop’s speakers via Audacity.

If I select the computers sound card as playback vs. USB Audio Controller I get what sounds like feedback however it does not grow until saturation it just produces a high frequency tone at a steady level.

I am an Electrical Engineer (MSEE) so feel free to get as in depth as you are comfortable with doing.

I am not an electrical engineer, but I can talk about my own experience digitizing my old cassette tapes.

I first bought hardware similar to “GRACE DIGITAL AUDIO TAPE2USB”. It was built in China, and turned out to be really sub-standard hardware.

I still tried to make it work with Audacity.

No luck at all.

I had the same kind of troubles you’ve been exposing, and that has been exposed many times on this very forum.

At the time I thought of buying maybe a better “TAPE2USB” device.

I then went to one of the major electronics wholesalers in my area. I knew I would get good and sound professional advice and products there.

The seasoned electronics engineer who answered my query did not mince words about this:

“All such “TAPE2USB” devices are “Chinese rubbish”. Forget about them. In any case, they are not the right kind of hardware: you will never get the right (quality) output to your PC. Simply get hold of a decent cassette desk through a friend, or buy one second-hand. Then use a proper cord to plug the cassette deck “line-out” to your PC sound card “line-in”.”

As I had no friend who still had a tape deck, I searched through the local papers for ads about cassette desks. I was lucky enough to find a girl selling a “Marantz Stereo Double Cassette Deck SD 415” for $30. This is top-notch stereo hi-fi equipment.

After that, all was plain sailing. And the results were astoundingly beautiful.

I exported the Audacity “Project” files as FLAC sound files (my cassettes were classical music and I wanted the best rendering).

My cassette music now plays with the highest quality on my PC through Foobar.


Just a word of caution here: some laptops do not have a separate “line in” jack. They have only a “mic in”. @Mr_DBJordan, check what input jacks your laptop has before committing yourself to this route.

Here is from

All laptops come standard with sound nowadays, and most manufacturers won’t tell you what chip they are using. You’ll want to pay attention mainly to the audio connection ports available. Most laptops will come with a built-in microphone to enable Internet telephony and videoconferencing. If you want the best of all worlds, get a laptop that has line output and line input jacks so that you can easily connect it to external speakers or a home stereo. The line input will guarantee that you can pull sounds in from any source as well, making life easier in many scenarios, especially if you work in an audio-related field or enjoy editing sounds or music as a hobby. Most laptops come only with a headphone jack, which isn’t as clean as a line-out. If you’re looking at high-end media laptops, you can find some that feature outputs for surround sound. Nowadays, USB and FireWire ports can offer a digital alternative to requiring specialized audio ports. Sound features are not really emphasized in most laptops.

And from

This is a tutorial on getting your Audio (“Audio Midi Setup” Utility) working correctly, especially Apple laptop owners - that have surface mics on their flat screens - and are having problems with picking up sound from their “surface” mic, when they want to be sourcing sound via either their “Line Input” mic jack or via other connected Firewire digital converter.

You might also want to have a look at This external sound card does have a specific line-in jack. It is only $25.99.


Thank you for your responses. They are all useful data. I will look into all of it as possible. The unit itself is very solid with a good feel to the buttons and dials. It doesn’t seem like it is cheaply (believe me I have seen many of those). I don’t say this off the top of my head. When I determine a definitive answer I will post to clearly provide my understanding of what the problem actually was. I too am a very seasoned engineer with all kinds of experience in various aspects of digital hardware and software design, testing, implementation and production phases.

Once again thank for responding with ssssssome additional resources to research.

The default sample rate for Audacity is set in Preferences:
“Edit menu > Preferences > Quality”

Similarly the default number of channels is in “Edit > Preferences > Devices”.
The number of channels may also be set in the Device Toolbar:

Check that the settings in Audacity match with those set in the Windows Sounds control panel:

Maybe I did not express myself clearly enough.

3 points:

  1. I wasn’t talking about the solid feel of the “Tape2USB” unit or of its buttons (at least not primarily). I was talking about the kind of sound output you can expect from a given unit. Of course, you are aware that 2 stereo hi-fi units might output very different sounds in terms of sound quality. There is “hi-fi”, and there is “hi-fi”. Some units output junk sound in terms of hi-fi quality. The same holds for “Tape2USB” units. Does yours output optimum “hi-fi” sound? If it doesn’t, the digitized sound will only be as good as the unit output was. In the best of scenarios.

  2. Headphone jacks are not electronically as clean as line-out/line-in jacks. This is a fact.

  3. I am personally not sure that a USB connection will give you the same hi-fi sound that you would get from a line-out/line-in jack set-up. In any case, it all depends on the quality of output you can expect from the USB unit. Will your Tape2USB2 unit give you as good a sound output as you would get from a top-notch hi-fi cassette deck? That is the question.

Oh it certainly can but not from the integrated packaged units describe in this thread which are usually designed down to a budget and suffer from compromises along the way.

When I converted my tapes I had my trusty old Nakamichi deck professionally serviced first. I ran the output through my Edirol UA-1EX USB soundcard bought originally for my LP conversions. I listen to the results on my high-end hi-fi electrostatic speakers (QUAD ELS-57) and I can assure you the result is definitely hi-fi (at least to my ageing ears …) subject to the limitations of the physics of tape recording onto narrow tape at relatively low speeds.

The Edirol that I use is no longer manufactured (though some do still seem to be available). The sticky thread that I pointed to earlier gives examples/reviews of soundcards tha we know work well with Audacity.

BTW it’s not the USB data transfer services that are the limiting factor with the packaged USB devices (or an onboard soundcard come to that) - rather it is the quality of the ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) chip used. The ones in the better external soundcards are usually better ADCs than those used in the packaged devices or on-board soundcards tha are delivered with the computer. The other problem with an onboard soundcard is that the inside of a computer, particularly a lapto, can be an electrically noisy envirionment - you can ameliorate this by using a sensibly postioned external card.


I would suggest you to start a project in the right way to avoid loop holes and headaches even a nuclear engineer couldn’t find the solution for.
You should buy a second hand hi-fi audio cassette player (as I did) from your local markets, internet second hand stuff or even E-bay.
You will find (100%) a very good hi-fi for a price starting from around $50 up to $100 and on.
Then you connect it to your Alienware line in or microphone and you’re ready to troubleshoot your recordings (if any).