Operation nostalgia: how to convert and listen to old cassettes again

Do you have a precious collection of audiocassette music albums? Don't let time destroy your youth: here are 3 apps to save your memories.

In the era of music streaming apps, old audio cassettes seem like a distant memory. Yet there are those who would still like to continue to enjoy the warm sound of the now obsolete media, to bring back old memories or simply to be able to listen to audio tracks that are no longer available. The question, however, remains the same: how to convert old cassette tapes?

Although cassette tapes have long since been forgotten, many people at home still keep the tapes, out of affection or because they are the guardians of moments to remember. Unfortunately, such media tends to lose quality over time, as well as risk getting stuck in cassette players or portable devices, making it completely impossible to listen to the recorded material again. Fortunately, it is possible to use MP3 converters, such as Audacity, Ocenaudio and WavePad, that can bring the contents of old audio cassettes to your computer (and to any other device that can read this audio format), without further risking the integrity of the media. To do this, all you need is a cassette player with an audio output in 3.5 mm mini jack format, a cable with a mini jack connector on both ends and a computer with an audio input. Connect the two devices via cabling and you're almost done. Alternatively, you can use hardware MP3 converters, which make life a lot easier and cost a few tens of euros.

MP3 converter: Audacity

Audacity is a free cross-platform software, available for Windows, macOS and Linux, that lets you capture incoming audio and transform it into MP3 format. Once selected within the interface the correct audio source (Windows DirectSound on the Microsoft OS and External Microphone on Mac) to tell the computer what sounds to capture (thus avoiding intercepting any system alerts during recording).

Once the correct settings have been selected, simply press the Rec button on the software and, at the same time, the Play button on the audiocassette player, so as to avoid any dead time at the beginning of the file. In any case, should they occur you can always remove them later. If everything is set right, the program will convert the entire audio track until you stop recording by clicking on the Stop button, and in a few moments it will be ready for listening.

MP3 converter: Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio is also a free, cross-platform software that is great for capturing audio from an external source such as cassette tapes. Maintaining the same type of connection, you can in just a few clicks bring to your computer (regardless of the operating system installed) all the old songs or voice recordings present on audio cassettes in mp3 format.

To select the correct audio input you need to access the settings in the File menu and then in the Sound tab. Under the Record Device/Options item you just need to select the correct source according to the connection (in our case Default Device). From the Export Audio menu, also available under the File menu, you can set the values for the MP3 file generated by the recording. For a good quality and a moderate size, the right choice could be a bitrate of 192 kbps.

After these steps, just click on the Rec button in the toolbar at the top and start playing from the cassette player.

MP3 converter: WavePad

Another powerful tool, always free for personal use (for commercial use you need to buy the license) and available for the main operating systems, namely Windows, macOS and Linux as well as Android and iOS, is WavePad. Featuring a simple interface, it's a pretty powerful software that does this kind of tasks very well and more.

Also with WavePad it's important to select the correct audio source. It can be done very quickly via the bar at the top of the interface: from there you select the Home item and click on the last icon, Options. In the tab that appears, you have to enter the Recording tab, where you can find all the settings dedicated to recording.

Under Device, from the drop-down menu you have to click on Default Sound In; to change any level of the settings related to this item, just go down to the next item Input and select Windows Record Mix. Once this is done, just click on Ok to return to the previous screen.

As for the other programs, the recording is started from the Rec button, located in the lower left corner, while to stop the audio capture, just click on Stop. Once completed, you can save everything by selecting Save from the Home tab of the top bar, making sure to choose Mpeg Layer-3 (.mp3) from the Save as type item in the save window and selecting the bitrate before giving the final ok.

MP3 converter hardware: the easiest way

An alternative to the use of these softwares is to use the appropriate MP3 converter hardware, which are nothing more than cassette players with some electronics attached that does the conversion automatically and saves the MP3 files directly to a USB key. They cost a few tens of euros and are very convenient. Here are some, available on Amazon:

DIGITNOW! Wakkman MP3 Converter: 23.99 euros

Rybozen Cassette Player/MP3 Converter: 33.99 euros

LogiLink ua0281 Cassette Digitizer with USB port: 40.99 euros

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