Tape "blurs"

Hi there,

First, I’d like to apologise if this is a stupid question - I don’t know the proper audio terminology (and haven’t been able to find anything on the boards that matches my problem). I think it’s probably a very common issue with tapes but I don’t know what to call it!

I’m recording from a “taped tape” which is clearly not going to have the same quality as, well, just about anything else. On one side, I’ve managed to record, remove noise, and it is otherwise a fairly decent copy. What I noticed was that the direction of the tape mattered - it is a player that will go forwards on A and then backwards to play B. The first time I tried I got really bad distortion when running forwards on A so I switched directions and after some noise removal the recording seems to be fairly decent.

Side B is my problem now. There are “blurs” (my word) every second or so - probably something having to do with the winding of the tape in the player. The sound drops and it sounds muddy, and it is so cyclical that it is most likely a physical problem with the way the tape is feeding through the player. I’ve tried both directions, and I get the same thing. Is there any way to address this issue, and will you please tell me what this phenomenon is called? I’ve heard it before from taped tapes so there’s probably a word for it. I still need to investigate the end of Side A (which would correspond to the beginning of Side B, right?) to determine if the blurs happen there.

Thanks for any advice - I love Audacity and it’s doing a bang-up job on this particular project, but if I can further tweak the sound file to make it better, I’d like to do so!

Using: 1.3.12-beta

Is this a cassette player?


Can you pop the door open and get a Q-Tip in there to clean the heads and rollers? Dip in Vodka or rubbing alcohol and roll gently over the heads and rollers. Dry afterwards before you put a tape in.

Use a powerful flashlight and see if the rubber pinch rollers are OK.


If they’re cracked or split, that could be where your distortion is coming from.


There’s another possibility. If you’re on a newer Windows machine, Windows could be causing the distortion. How are you plugged into the computer? Like my illustration?


Hi Koz,

I’m suspecting it’s the tape itself… I had limited time to borrow this tape and now only have the Audacity project. Another tape I just tried doesn’t seem to have the same issues, though it is a language tape and if it is a hardware maintenance issue (which it could very well be) might not be as apparent as in music. I just used a mini-stereo cable with two male ends (one to the headphone jack in the stereo, the other to the microphone jack in the laptop).

I’m from the tape generation (well, more specifically from the vinyl era, to be honest!) and I’ve got dim recollections of well-used tapes losing quality… but can’t remember if this was the primary problem in taped-tapes. I will try another music tape to see if the problem comes up again (and I may as well clean the thing afterward, I guess!). If not, I can assume it is something wrong with the tape I used. If so, are there any “fixes” which could be applied to the final product? I might be asking for the moon here, but since the noise reduction worked wonderfully (the Audacity project sounds better than the original tape) it can’t hurt to ask! Thanks for your help!

  • Avocadosandwich

just used a mini-stereo cable with two male ends (one to the headphone jack in the stereo, the other to the microphone jack in the laptop).

And that’s the other thing you can’t do well. Mic-In, unless you have one of the Very Special Laptops, is mono, not stereo, and is expecting a very tiny, delicate, wispy microphone signal, not a robust, powerful, stereo signal from a tape player.

If it’s working for you, then go for it, but we recommend that little box in the middle – the UCA202. We cured some very serious sound problems at work with those things, simple though they are.



if you fast forward then rewind the entire cassette before you attempt to transfer it to computer it will even out the tension on the cassette tape and may cure the variable tape speed / tape misalignment problem(s).

Are you by any chance using a bi-directional tape played which plays side B by reversing the direction oif transport so that you don’t have to “bother” takinng the tape aout and turning it over?

If so then try playing side B by taking it out and using the forward play direction.