muddy cassette tapes

Hi, I’m brand new to audacity and have downloaded and read the complete user manual for version 1.2. My problem and hence question is as follows. I have perhaps 100 old audio cassette tapes, many that are simply not available on cd format. Because of either their age, or wear and tear, a great many of them sound rather muddy; as though they’re being played in a goldfish bowl full of water. I’d like to be able to restore them to their original crispness, but can’t figure out how. As I said, I’ve downloaded the manual and have been studying it. Since I’m neither an audio nor IT professional, ( I’m an Ironworker). this is somewhat difficult for me as well. Can any of you good people help me out?

You need to be the ironworker. By far the best and possibly the only way to restore the tapes is to make sure the alignment of the heads inside the player conforms perfectly with the music on the tape. Not generally a job for the casual user. Do you have more than one player?

You can try in Audacity with Effect > Equalizer, but chances of success are slim because of system noise. Cassette tapes were noisy/hissy at the best of times and when you start boosting the sparkling highs, the noise is going to get sparkling, too.

When the tool launches, select “Graphic Eq” and that will give you the knobs and sliders like a conventional store-bought sound equalizer. The pitch of the sound goes up left to right. Experiment with the sliders to see what they do.

All this is in Audacity 1.3. Audacity 1.2 is no longer useful and can cause instability.


hanks for the input. You’re right about not wanting to mess around with the heads on the tape deck. I tried to locate the equalizer in Audacity with only limited success. Under effect I found equalization, but it was grayed out. I tried waiting until I was actually recording a track, but found that it, as well as most of the other options in all menues were also grayed out. How do I activate them? Just to see if maybe I was just wasting my time, I put the tape into The deck on the upstairs audio system. I have an old Marantz amp with a built in equalizer on that system. At first it sounded exactly the same, but after adjusting the equalizer a bit, I got the tape to sound pretty fair indeed. Thus, I’m anxious to be able to use the equalizer integral to Audacity.

Thanks for the help,


Audacity’s equalizer can only be used after the tape has been captured (recorded).
Try playing an mp3 recording you already have in Audacity to experiment with the equalizer, (it shouldn’t be greyed out then).

Note: unlike the equalizer on your stereo Audacity’s equalizer cannot be adjusted in real-time.