How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

Do you want to listen to your old music cassettes or vinyl records on your iPod or PC? Well, there’s a easy way to convert all of your precious LPs to MP3 using the free Audacity software!

We have covered Audacity before, to record audio files or create your own MP3 ringtones. Now let’s see how you can use it to convert your audio cassettes and LPs to MP3 files. This article assumes you’re using Audacity on Windows, but you can also do this on Mac/Linux.

What You Need

Equipment

1. Computer with a sound card. Check that your sound card has a LINE IN jack (generally blue), and ensure that you have the latest drivers for your sound card.

soundcard linein   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

2. Cassette Deck/Turntable. This is your audio source. You can use a tape deck, or an amplifier or receiver connected to a turntable. Whatever you use, the audio source should have RCA LINE OUT jacks (preferred) or at least a stereo-mini headphone jack.

Clean the audio head and pinch roller of your tape deck with a clean cloth dabbed in alcohol. Also, forward and rewind your unused cassettes to remove residual moisture and ensure smooth playback. If using records, clean them to reduce clicks.

3. Audio Cable. One end of your cable will be a stereo-mini. Depending on the jack you use on the audio source, the other end should be either RCA or stereo-mini. Use a cable with gold-plated jacks for best results.

rca stereo mini cable   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

Software

1. Download and install Audacity 1.3 (Beta). We use the latest Beta version as it has better noise removal features.

2. Download and install the Lame Encoder. This is required for exporting to MP3 format.

Steps

1. Connect your equipment

Connect the deck’s LINE OUT or PHONES jack to the LINE IN jack on your computer using your audio cable.

2. Setup Audacity

Start Audacity, select Edit-Preferences. In the Audio I/O section, set both playback and recording devices specifically to the sound card in which your cable is plugged. Do NOT use Microsoft Sound Mapper on Windows PCs.

audacity preferences   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

Start playback from your audio source and adjust the volume level in Audacity. Click the down arrow next to the microphone icon and select Start Monitoring. While playing the loudest part of your audio track, adjust the input level slider on the Mixer Toolbar such that the meters almost reach the right end of the scale. If they actually reach the end such that they “˜hold’, reduce the input level to avoid distortion.

volume level   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

3. Record

Create a new project by selecting File-Save Project As. Start recording with the red Record button and start playback from your audio source. Use the blue Pause button between tracks or sides. When finished, press the yellow Stop button and save your project using File-Save Project.

4. Edit

You will probably have unwanted noise in your recording, such as background hum, tape hiss, or vinyl record clicks. For removing noise, select the beginning of your recording where the playback has started with the hum and hiss, but the music is yet to start. To select, simply use the mouse to click and drag at the start of the track.

Select Effect-Noise Removal, and click Get Noise Profile. Now, select the entire track by choosing Edit-Select-All, and choose Effect-Noise Removal again. Set the Noise Reduction (dB) slider to around 10 to 20 depending upon the level of noise in your source, set the other two sliders in the middle, and click OK. You can review the result by playing the track, using Edit-Undo and trying with different noise samples and slider levels.

noise removal   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

If you are using vinyl records as your input, you may want to try using Effect-Click Removal to remove unwanted clicks. Always feel free to experiment and undo as needed to get the best results. When you are satisfied, use File-Save Project to permanently save your edited track.

5. Export

To export a single audio file, use File-Export As.

Most likely, you will have multiple tracks or songs in your recording, and it makes sense to export them as multiple files. Ensure you have all the tracks recorded, using the Fit Project button on the Edit Toolbar. The number of ‘boxes’ or ‘balloons’ should correspond to the number of tracks. Using the zoom controls, click in the gap between songs, choose Tracks-Add Label at Selection. Name the labels as per your song titles.

labelled tracks   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

Select File-Export Multiple, choose MP3 Files as the Export format. Click Options to use the built-in presets to select the quality of the MP3. Higher quality produces larger MP3 files. You can repeat the export several times with different options and check the results. You can also specify metadata tags to make it easier to organize your tracks in iTunes.

export multiple   How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

That’s it, you’re done! You can discard those cassettes/LPs or gift them to your Grampa, now that you’ve got your favorite oldies music on your iPod. Let us know which record or tape albums you created in the comments! If you’re familiar with some other tool that can be used to convert LPs to MP3 please share it with others in comments as well.

(Note: Some images are taken from the Audacity 1.3.7 Beta Manual, available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.)

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8 Comments -

0 votes

Eddie Blick

I have a question. Can you legally give the original tapes and LPs to someone else if you keep the digital versions? I thought copyright law required you to have the original versions for anything you converted to digital format.

0 votes

Joe

Absolutely not! It is legal to make copies of titles you own (for backup). Once you give up ownership of the titles in question, you must destroy the backup copies.

0 votes

TanaG

A couple of years ago I tried to convert an old cassette to MP3 and the result was incredibly bad – old sorts of noises, distortions, hisses, etc. But the cassette itself was pretty worn out, so what else could I expect? :)

0 votes

Mahendra Palsule

@Eddie: Depends on your location. In the US, once you give the original media to someone else, you also transfer the copyright to that person. International law will differ based on your country. I would advise you to check your local/federal laws in any case.

0 votes

IC

Can I use a laptop (mic in) to convert cassettes to MP3?

0 votes

Mahendra Palsule

@IC: You may be able to, but the quality will be bad.

See here and here for more information.

0 votes

prabhat

I want to know if a portable cassette player can also be used to transfer music to pc.If yes,then please tell me as I only have a portable cassette player having only a 3.5 mm headset port.

0 votes

Mahendra Palsule

@Prabhat: Yes, you can. Use a cable with stereo-mini (3.5 mm) at both ends and you’ll be fine.