Recording from a vintage tape deck

Hi folks,

I’m new on the forum but have been using this great software quite a bit over the years but I’m still a pretty basic user.

My question has surely been discussed before, but searching for “cassette” yielded over 500 hits and the tutorials albeit extremely detailed still left me a little unsure. Apologies in advance if I’m rehashing a topic that’s been discussed to death before.

I got a vintage Teac tape deck and lots of rare tapes I want to record to WAV using Audacity on my Win10 PC. I got it working fine, I just want to be sure I’m using the correct/best method.

Here’s my settings on Audacity:

  • Audio host: Wasapi
  • Recording Device: Line In (Realtek HD Audio). The tape deck is connected to the realtek HD line-in on the pc.
  • Recording Channels: 2 (Stereo) Recording Channels

I believe got all the Realtek settings set up correctly following the tutorials.

As said, all this is working fine. Here are my questions:

  1. Is Wasapi best suited for this task or MME? Tutorial says Wasapi is the better choice for recording PC sound, but I’m not sure Line In is considered PC sound…

  2. Would I be better off getting some better external soundcard than the basic Realtek one? I’m not interested in spending hundreds of dollars on some audiophile soundcard. Amazon has tons of very cheap External Sound Cards which appear to be some sort of USB adapters. Anyway, I’d love to get a pointer on this matter.

thanks in advance!

You’re doing everything correctly!

  • Recording Channels: 2 (Stereo) Recording Channels

Windows also has a mono/stereo setting so unplug one channel at a time to make sure left & right are getting recorded correctly (I assume your cassette deck has separate left & right RCA connections)

MME, Direct Sound, and WASAPI are basically protocols that determine how applications communicate with drivers. There’s usually not an audio-quality difference. MME is the oldest and WASAPI is the newest.

Tutorial says Wasapi is the better choice for recording PC sound,

That’s only for WASAPI “loopback”. It’s for recording/capturing the digital audio stream going to the playback-side of your soundcard. Some drivers have “What-U-Hear” for Direct Sound (and maybe MME) and WASAPI loopback replaces that capability. It’s most commonly used to record streaming audio.

In your case WASAPI is fine but you should be recording line-in (which you are) not loopback.

  1. Would I be better off getting some better external soundcard than the basic Realtek one?

Your soundcard is probably fine. If you’re getting “excessive” noise in your recordings a USB audio interface would probably be better. (There is always some noise.) But in most cases it’s not an issue, and tape hiss from a cassette is usually worse anyway. Frequency response & distortion are almost always better than human hearing with any soundcard.

Most laptops don’t have line-inputs (only mic-in and headphone-out) so people with laptops need a USB audio interface. Or if you are recording from microphones an audio interface and “proper” microphones will make big improvement.

Thank you very much for your reply! It’s very reassuring to hear I’m doing it right :slight_smile:
I’ve already started this project a few times and I wanted to make sure I’m not messing up something. The more I play the tapes the more they deteriorate not to mention it’s very time consuming, so it was important to get it right.
I started off doing it with a classic Sony Pro WM-D6C that was not touched in ages but plays fine, but I discovered on a few tapes it was a bit too close to the PC which added a tiny hum + it has a known design flow resulting in a slight hum at 1083kz. I’ve serviced my non working Teac deck and starting it yet again. Getting slight inconsistencies with the runtimes when recording on the Teac vs the Sony, so I’m guessing at least one of them is playing too fast or too slow. It’s between 2%-5% difference. Not played enough with that.

Figured I’d inspect the whole process to make sure I get it right. Updated the RT drivers to the 2018 ones as windows insisted the 2010 drivers are the latest…no updates in win update or in device manager update drivers. I had to reconfigure some setting that have been reset after the update.

Thanks for explaining the purpose of these cheap USB sound cards. I guess I’m fine with what I’m using then!

I’m attaching some pics of the RT settings + Audacity recording and quality settings for extra confirmation I’m doing it right.