Cassette tape to laptop hardware?

Hi all, I have searched around here but am a bit lost with all the info, I just want a good quality usb convertor for my laptop that I can connect to my casstte deck line out.

What do you recommend? It is my own music recorded on tape with a lot of acoustic guitar and vocal backed by low key synth and percussion at times, there’s a few rock tracks but nothing with a ‘hard’ sound, so I want to capture the fullness of the guitar’s sound as much as possible.

We’ve had good luck with the Behringer UCA202

The unit doesn’t have a volume controls, so you can get into trouble if you recorded your cassettes really hot or high volume.


Thanks for the recommendation Koz I’ll get one -good price.
Any difference between it and the 222 version?

I should be o’k on a fixed level for most recordings, If anything, the volume on some are a bit on the low side.

The closest I could come is the 222 is an “upgrade” of the 202. That’s nice. How up is it? Nobody will say and I’m not going to drudge through the pages of specs to find out. The 202 has almost no latency as it is. I used it for sound-on-sound testing on our MultiTrack/Overdubbing tutorials.


The 222 is pink and Behringer supply proprietary drivers for the 222 which may provide some extra features (I don’t know what extra features if any, or if the proprietary drivers will work with Audacity). Other than that they appear to be the same.

Thanks for the info, seeing as it’s known here I’ll stick to the 202.

I’ve tried the 202 out and all I’m getting is a distorted mess coming through into audacity or other recording softwares. The waveforms aren’t very high in the recording display.

Monitor via headphones on the 202 itself sounds fine, and the source cassettes don’t cause distortion when recorded on my dvd recorder.

I’m wondering why the usb option in the device dropdown called ‘microphone’ usb audio codec?

Using win7 home on an acer laptop.

The USB audio chip that is used in the Behringer is also used in some USB microphones. Windows “sees” the chip (PCM2902), not what the device actually is. Unfortunately this may mean that Windows assumes that it is a microphone and applies a huge amount of gain to the signal (wrongly assuming that the signal will be much smaller than it really is). It may be necessary to go into the Windows Sounds Control Panel and set the recording level really low

(I don’t have Windows 7 but I’ve not had this problem on XP, Vista or Linux)

Thanks steve, I tried it on an xp machine and it worked fine straight off. So then I figured that maybe a software update was required for win7. I found that there is a driver download for ASIO 32 and 64-bit on the the Behringer site. Now the dropdown reads line-in behringer usb and works fine.

download links are down this page.

I’m surprised that the driver didn’t come on a mini-cd with the unit.

(It only seems to work on mme though, the sound comes through all muffled and distorted on directsound.)

The release version of Audacity does not support ASIO (due to licensing reasons), but the driver that you downloaded includes both ASIO and WDM derivers, so Audacity will be using the WDM driver.

Thanks for the feedback - good to know it works OK on Win 7.

Thanks for the help, up and running now and quality seems fine on first impressions.

I have a chrome cassette that seems to have slightly more volume on one channel than the other (it was recorded on a 4-track Fostex and mixed down to stereo in 1985 - I didn’t keep the master because I figured I’d never be able to remix it all the same again :wink: ) what is the easiest way to rectify this, I’ve read lots of detail here about normalisation v amplify but its stil not entirely clear to me.

I’m using a Technics A-Z7 for playback and double checked with a Sony Walkman Pro and on both machines the same channel comes out lower in volume.

You may find it useful to drag the meter toolbar out of its dock position and as wide as possible.

Try turning your headphones round L/R to R/L to check that the imbalance is not in the headphones.

Use the track Pan slider (left side of the track) to adjust the L/R balance. Use both the playback meters and listening to get the pan balance right.
This will be “rendered” when you export the audio track, or you can use “Tracks > Mix and Render” to see the change reflected in the waveform.

The imbalance shows up in both the meters and the waveforms. Thanks for the tip on elongating the meter toolbar.

I would guess that adjusting the slider left or right would be the thing to do on these recordings that are already mixed to stereo. Use ‘mix & render’ for unmixed tracks?

Is it o’k to use the gain slider rather than normalise or amplify to raise the overall volume level a bit once the left/right balance is corrected?

If you have multi-track projects, you may want to adjust the pan position of individual tracks, for example if I have 3 tracks, vocal, guitar, bass, then I might want to pan the guitar a little to one side, the bass a little to the other and the vocal dead centre. I would do this using the track gain sliders.

Yes you can do that, though be careful of the peak level. If it hits 0 dB then you will get clipping when you export.
The advantage of “rendering” the track then using Amplify or Normalize is that you can accurately get the peak level to the level that you want it. Typically I normalize to -1 dB before exporting.

Thanks for your help steve, I’ll play around with various options on some test tracks. Most are multi-tracks already mixed to stereo but I do have some two channel recordings unmixed.

I also have some four channel masters but nothing to play them on - I donated my
Teac deck to charity.

If you play “the other side” of the 4 track tapes, do you get 2 channels playing in reverse? If you do, then you could try the Audacity “Reverse” effect. You may find that the reversed tracks gradually drift out of sync with the non-reversed tracks, but it may be close enough to usable results. Use the Time Shift tool to drag tracks left/right to get them as close in sync as you can.

That’s a great tip steve, aside from the four channel masters, I’ve just found a few long ‘forgotten’ acoustic guitar instrumentals recorded on tracks 3 & 4. I reversed them and they sound fine.

What I’ll do is copy over all my cassettes - about 20 sf46’s - first and then try rebuilding some four tracks using reverse and time shift.

From initial experiments with audacity, I’m finding the configuration of effects like reverb problematic as I’m used to setting them up in real time. I’m old skool, for example when synths first switched from knobs and sliders to menus and values I didn’t get on with them.

I like using Audacity, but is there also software that would allow real time tweaking of effect
plugins once I have everything transferred?

Yes that can be tricky. I find it especially tricky for effects such as Eq, compression, reverb etc.

Most of the effects have “Preview” button, which is some help.
Because of the way that Audacity works it is difficult to implement real time effects without changing the whole nature of the program and losing many of the advantages of “real” editing. However, the developers have been considering the possibility of “real-time preview”. That is, settings can be changed in real time while the “preview” audio is playing. Even this is a non-trivial task to program, but I think it would be a massive improvement.

Unfortunately Nyquist effects do not even have the ability to “preview”. :frowning:

When I need to use real-time effects I switch over to Ardour (Free, open source, Linux and Mac OS X).
On Linux it is possible to use real-time effects with Audacity by routing the audio through “Jack Audio”, but for real-time processing Ardour is more powerful and more convenient.

Similar “DAW” programs are available on Windows and Mac, such as Reaper (Windows - not free but inexpensive and an unlimited trial version), Harrison Mixbus (a commercial product based on Ardour, for Windows, Linux or Mac), Logic (Windows and Mac), Sonar (Windows), Cubase (Windows and Mac), ProTools (Windows and Mac).

Thanks, I like Audacity’s straightforwardness, but later on I’ll try one of the Windows softwares you mentioned for ‘real time’ effects, I haven’t used linux.

I couldn’t resist experimenting with something relatively easy.

On a source cassette, I found a guitar recording on track 2 and then vocals ‘in reverse’ on track 3. So I flipped the vocals and managed to successfully slide them into sync using the timeline tool.

It wasn’t a long piece and they didn’t wander out of time.