Distorted Sound When Monitoring

I am trying to record a cassette tape but the sound is very distorted when I monitor the sound but it is perfect on the cassette tape recorder…any ideas?

How are you connecting the tape player ? In what way is the sound distorted ? Is this one of those Super USB Cassette Capture devices: ?

No it is not one of those devices…it is a Roberts C9950 tape recorder connected via line out/line in cable. The sound is just generally distorted at -6Db and below,

Do you actually have a soundcard with line-in? Most laptops only have mic-in which is way to sensitive, lower quality than a line input, and usually mono.

What is a line out/line in cable ? And do you have this connected directly to a microphone/headphone port or to a line in port. Most computers these days do NOT ship with a line in port so you will generally need a USB interface with a line-in port.

I do have a sound card (Creative Soundblaster) and I am on a Windows 10 desktop. When I switch to the Realtech sound card I get the same difference. I also get distortion when using Magimix.

The cable is connected to the line out socket of the tape reorder to a line in socket of the sound card dongle which is connected to the computer via a USB connection. The computer is not new (12 years old!) and I only started to have this trouble when I updated Audacity.

Well that’s weird…

How would you describe the distortion? Does it sound like “regular” clipping-overload distortion, like when something is turned-up too loud? Or is it more “glitchy” like a digital problem?

I don’t really get that either… Are you saying it’s worse at lower levels?

Are you listening the speaker? Maybe the headphone output is bad? Or maybe the headphone-output works better with a “headphone load”?

A couple of things you can try to isolate the problem -

Do you have an adapter cable with RCA connectors?

To test Try something else into your soundcard(s) to test the computer side of things… A CD/DVD player, your TV, your cell phone, etc.

If you have a stereo system, try the cassette player into the stereo to make sure the headphone output is giving a good signal. Or your TV may have analog audio/video inputs and you can just try it with audio. Or you can plug “powered” computer speakers directly into the cassette player.

You mean like this one: ?

I see that DVDdoug and I are on the same schedule. :wink:

Yes…exactly like that

The distortion is like when something is played too loud…it is fairly constant at -6Db and below. Yes I do have RCA connectors and and I will try what you suggest although I would say that music on YouTube is perfect when played through the computer. I shall try powered speakers plugged directly into the cassette player.

So that is likely the problem. This interface gives you a speaker port and a microphone port. Using a microphone port for line in is like using diesel fuel in your car instead of gasoline. It just doesn’t work.

So you need a line-in interface such as the Behringer UCA 202/222 or similar. Some people have reported success with the DIGITNOW USB Audio Capture Card:

I have tried external powered speakers and external headphones plugged into the recorder and the sound is fine. I note the recommendation to get the DIGITNOW USB but how will this affect the Creative software (or do I revert to Realtek?)and how does it connect- at present I have one (green) cable from the tape recorder so which do I connect to or is it trial and error…after all there are only two choices!

Neither. Almost all of these little USB audio devices are “class compliant” and use the drivers that come with your operating system so all you need is Audacity.

Except when I searched “DIGITNOW USB” I found some audio/video capture devices and these usually only work with the supplied software. It’s possible that the audio-only device also comes with it’s own software and it may not work with Audacity…

Hopefully it comes with instructions.

But line-in on your soundcard (usually blue) should also work.

OK, so the Digitnow device is input only, so you will continue to need the Realtek or Creative device for your output. I don’t have personal experience with the Digitnow. Unfortunately, cables come in all colors, so saying your cable is green says nothing. Do you have a photo? From the picture it looks like the Digitnow can be used with either 1/8" stereo plug or the RCA connectors, and it looks like it ships with gender changers, so that is likely to not be an issue.

I believe the Behringer has both input and output.

Thank you both for your help.

The Behringer may be the better option then?

I don’t have one but it’s very popular and most people get good results with it. But a regular soundcard in a desktop/tower computer works for most people too…

The Behringer doesn’t have a recording level control (The DIGITNOW doesn’t either). That occasionally creates problems but you since you’re using a headphone output, you can adjust the cassette player’s volume control.

It’s also “only” 16-bits so not “high resolution” but that’s generally better than human hearing and FAR better than analog cassette (or analog vinyl). As you may know, CDs are 16-bit/44.1kHz. The Behringer can go up to 48kHz.

…Behringer makes higher-end audio interfaces with recording level knobs, and higher resolution.

Indeed, Sample Format - Bit Depth - Audacity Manual says high quality cassette tapes are equivalent to about 12 bits.

Here are two photos showing how I connect the tape recorder to the computer

The Behringer has been around longer so more users have experience with it. But when you add in the price of cables, taking a chance with the less expensive Digitnow seems to be a more appealing option.

Thanks for the photos. I assume the second photo is the tape recorder.

It took me a moment to find the Creative dongle in the first picture. So this agrees with what we have been discussing.