muffled sound on some songs

Hi again,
I have Audacity 2.1.4 and Windows 10.

I’ve been converting some of my old out of print cassettes to a digital format.
Recently I transferred an old cassette to MP3, and noticed that there is not only a lot of tape hiss, but also the recording sounds muffled. I obtained the cassette this way. Please note that I do not share these out, these are only for my personal use.

I’m trying to figure out if there is any way to correct the muffled sound. A sample is attached. I’ve tried re-transferring the cassette, but the recording still sounds muffled. Tried working with the equalization but I’m not sure if that would help much. Is there anything I can do? Thank you for all your help.

I can’t listen 'cause I’m at work, but try using [u]Equalization[/u] to boost the higher frequencies. (The higher frequencies are on the right and the bass is on the left.) (For “experimenting”, I find the Graphic EQ mode with the sliders easier than the Draw Curves mode.)

Note that high-frequency boost will boost any existing hiss.

Recently I transferred an old cassette to MP3

MP3 is lossy compression. It’s OK as a distribution format, but it should be avoided during audio production. When you open an MP3 for editing it get’s decompressed. When you re-export as MP3 you are going through a 2nd generation of lossy compression. (The quality loss may not be noticeable, and it’s probably not as bad a analog cassette quality, but it’s “bad practice” to de-compress/re-compress multiple times, and the “damage” does build-up.)

Try the Bass and Treble effect with settings similar to this:
fullwindow-Bass and Treble-000.png
Note that after tweaking the settings to get the sound that you like, it is then necessary to “Apply” the effect, then “Close” the effect.
For more information about this effect, see:

Thanx Steve, those settings really made a difference.

In the future, what format should I save as? I don’t like to use WAV because I have thousands of songs (I’ve been collecting tapes since 1992) and only a limited amount of space on my external drive (about 1.80 TB) - but again, I do not share these with the public. These are simply tapes I’ve purchased or been given for my own personal use.

also the recording sounds muffled.

It sounds muffled compared to you listening to the tape player on headphones? Or muffled compared to the way you remember them?

Windows machines can try to help you with sound transfers. It naturally likes processing voice for conferencing and chat. It doesn’t like music very much.

Did you make any special Windows settings when you set up to do the transfers?

what format should I save as?

Archives should be in WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit, Stereo. That’s music CD format.

You can get a little relief with Lossless Compressed FLAC, but most people want the tiny sizes you can get with MP3 and other compressed formats. You can do that, but those come with restrictions and rules. You have to guarantee you’ll never want to convert the MP3 shows to anything else. Musical damage increases when you edit or convert an MP3. There are some special MP3 editing programs which don’t increase the distortion, but they don’t have very good tools and effects.

For example, if you wanted to create a music mix for a party or gathering, the music from an MP3 archive isn’t going to sound as good as the original tape transfer. It may be good enough, but you need to know it’s going to happen.

There is one compromise. You can create archive MP3s at super high quality, 256 or 320 instead of lower “normal” quality. This quality will degenerate slower if you need post production (but it still gets worse). This is a trick that ACX AudioBook uses for its voice submissions.

You can make a WAV into anything else at any time with little or no decrease in quality. That’s what you get for those large files.


Another contributing factor to the dullness is that sample is mono. If it was captured from a >1992 store-bought tape it’s probably stereo. Check your recording set up to ensure you’ll get stereo if it is there.

Fake stereo can be added , but it’s not as good as the real thing …

No, it sounds muffled compared to other cassettes I’ve transferred.


it sounds muffled compared to other cassettes I’ve transferred.

That doesn’t count. If you have two players and only one of them sounds muffled, then there is a player problem.

Without throwing too much mud in the game, did you write down whether your tapes are made Clean, Dolby B, Dolby C or DBX? That will affect the “brightness” of the show on playback. It is urged strongly you transfer those tapes with the compression technology used to make them. Trying to do it with plain equalizer is at best only going to get half-way. And yes, that will profoundly affect hiss noise.


These were commercially made so I am not sure what compression was used.

I had mixed results with store-bought tapes. Some work OK and many of them don’t. Unfortunately, cassettes are at the bottom of the music pecking order and nobody expects them to sound very good.

That’s usually complete hogwash. I sat through a demonstration of metal tape and strict Dolby compression where they presented a live string quartet against the tape playback and it was terrifically hard to tell which was which. In the middle of a note the players put their bows down and it turns out we were listening to the tape.

However, nobody is racing to the store to pay extra for metal tape and Licensed Dolby compression, so you usually get your muffled, noisy music and that’s how it is.

You can get mechanical errors like tape alignment and head azimuth problems. Those will profoundly affect the open, clear quality of the work. Once again, nobody is racing to buy the alignment kit and specialized tools to adjust a deck for one tape—if you can even do that any more.