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  #1  
Old 2004-11-25, 10:15 AM
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How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

seems like a good topic, and since i have about 75 tori amos boots and masters on good ol' cassette tape, i figured i should try to get those converted to the digital world to share.

Please leave suggestions.
I know I will need a better soundcard, but what are some of the best programs out there for this, and maybe share some tips and tricks from experience...

Not just for me, because this thread should become a tutorial on how to properly transfer cassette tapes to .wav (and then to FLAC )
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  #2  
Old 2004-11-25, 01:33 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

The software you use to record is the least important part of the equation. No amount of fancy programs can restore information that was not played back or captured digitally.

Get the best stuff you can afford. If you're a smart shopper, you can find good stuff on the cheap.

Playback hardware is SO important. Look on ebay for a nice cassette deck, the Tascam 122 series is a great deck used in a lot of pro applications, and of course Nakamichi is famous for good reason. You need something that gives the best range of frequency and has the least self-noise, etc. Make sure you have the capability to set the output levels of your analog signal, because if the level goes higher than 0dB you will get digital artifacts/noise.

There's a lot of different ways to take the RCA outs from your nice tape deck and make it a digital signal. You can use a DAT deck to convert the signal to digital, and you can use a CD recorder. You can use the soundcard on your computer but keep in mind that the soundcard that came stock is probably not going to get the most out of your precious master tapes. I would give a call to Sweetwater and see what they've got a special on that will fit your box and budget. They are a great place to buy audio stuff from, they totally give a crap if you are happy with what you buy and will walk you through everything.

http://www.sweetwater.com/

So once you've got your hardware set up, the hard part is done. You connect your tape deck to your recording device of choice. Monitor the playback without recording, to set the levels. When you're sure that you won't go over 0dB, leave some safe room for bursts of appluase and volume swells from the music or changing conditions. Pick your sample rate on your recording device (44.1kHz if you want CD audio, 48kHz if you are doing soundtrack for a DVD or something) and hit the red button and then press play on your tape deck. There will be a monitor in your software that gives you the input level - if it goes red (0dB or higher) you need to trash that file and start again.

Some recording applications will automatically correct the DC offset that is induced by your signal chain, and in others you will have to manually do that. Just select the whole wav file and perform the detection/correction using the DC offset correct function. You may want to do some minor editing to eliminate dead space at the beginning and end of a wav file. Once you've done that, open the wav file in CDWave and cut it into tracks. You can compress with FLAC from CDWave or do it later with the FLAC application software. Try to resist the temptation to mess with the recordings - no one can fault you for leaving things the way they were recorded, in the purest form.

Most important, look and listen. Look at your recording - check for pops, clipped waveforms (the tops flatten), or any other strange stuff. Then listen. Burn a copy and play it in your stereo for a while. See how it sounds, if you messed up anything.

Take your time.
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  #3  
Old 2004-11-25, 02:04 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

^ What he said. When you do the transfer, zoom in on the peaks and do several test transfers at different levels, always looking for those clipped peaks. They'll appear as waves with "flattened tops".
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  #4  
Old 2004-11-25, 02:43 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

The A>D with a dat is a good suggestion - I use my Sony dat with SBM {super bit mapping} for all my A>D. Route your cassette in the DAT analog in and then spdif or optical out to your soundcard. The dat option gives you great metering for levels, too. You can shop for an old sony dat with lots of hours on the head and SBM and just use it for A>D {I've seen them for $50} - just put it in record mode with no tape and it will pass the signal through.

I love a hi gain no dolby cassette sound . . .
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  #5  
Old 2004-11-25, 03:00 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

And check if some of the tapes haven't already been converted. I would be a shame if you put in all the work and you end up with a high gen copy.
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  #6  
Old 2004-11-26, 08:03 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

I'm not an audio guru/engineer, but I had someone give me a piece of advice once that has been helpful, but I'm not sure if the experts here do it or agree with it.

When you have your rig (computer) set up to transfer, use whatever audio software you have to record a minute or so of "dead air", meaning just record with nothing playing (not even the tape deck). Then take that minute of recorded material and amplify it a couple times. You'd be surprised how often there is noise being generated by your computer that can creep into the recording. Could be noise from a fan generating an electrical signal, a bad ground in your system somewhere or maybe you're getting a "dirty" electrical signal that your UPS isn't filtering out (we have that problem in the area I live and my UPS helps but can't cure it), maybe the cables your using...there's different things that can do it. Hopefully you can find the cause and take care of it, but if not you can always use that sample to create a filter so that anytime you record on that computer you just apply that filter in the end to remove/reduce the induced noise.
Along those same lines, you can do the same test on your tape deck. When you have it plugged into your computer hit the play (with no tape in it) then do the same amplification. You can sometimes "see" if there's a problem with the deck motor as you'll see/hear a repeating pattern. The noise can sometimes actually sound a bit like the loop effect that Hendrix used in "Are you experienced" Some tape decks add quit a bit of noise all on their own to a recording. Same idea on creating a filter based upon that (but in the end don't create two separate filters for the computer and deck....just use one based on your final configuration). Just go gentle using them.
...of course the best action would be to find whatever mechanical/electrical problem there is and fix it...
Feel free to comment-
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Last edited by katnapz; 2004-11-26 at 08:09 AM.
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  #7  
Old 2004-11-26, 09:47 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

katnapz is right....many times the analog in on a PC contains noise. Just the fact that there are highspeed motors, high frequency signals, etc inside you PC, it's a very "noisy" environment. Some higher end sound cards do a nice job covering that up, but I think it's a very good test to put a blank tape into your deck, hit play, and record the sound with your analog input just to see how much noise is being generated. Then, put a CD into your ROM drive and watch as that noise spikes up a bit....

The best way to do anything of this nature is to use a high quality deck and record into an external DAT, as it eliminates the noisyness of the PC analog input. Once it's on DAT, trasnfer it through digital coax or optical inputs into the PC....this will be a perfect audio transfer and not add all that PC noise onto it.

Of course, this does require some expensive equipment to be able to do....but does yield the best results. I personally do not record analog stuff to my PC because I do not own a DAT deck, and know that using my analog input card is going to introduce noise onto the system.
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  #8  
Old 2004-11-26, 09:50 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

The other advice here is very good...make sure you set the levels nicely. Even if you're not experiencing clipping as Five described, it is good practive to make sure that the level never rises above 0dB on your recording software, as it will become too hot for playback.
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  #9  
Old 2004-11-26, 10:02 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

Exactly the same reason I've been sitting on a stack of tapes for a long time now. I did some conversions early on with computer,...then read some articles/spoke to people and said, "Crap!!, I didn't know to do that!",...rerecorded, read some more, "Crap! Didn't know that either!" My problem is I'm too much a paranoid perfectionist....got Ferrari dreams on a Yugo budget...
Of course, now my plans are for video and I need to get a good SVHS deck and a video stabilizer to do my vids, but it would have to wait for a good turntable for my LP conversions...then I run into that d*mn computer induced noise during that conversion. Argh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainDawg
Of course, this does require some expensive equipment to be able to do....but does yield the best results. I personally do not record analog stuff to my PC because I do not own a DAT deck, and know that using my analog input card is going to introduce noise onto the system.
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  #10  
Old 2004-11-26, 10:38 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

For videos, I've seen people convert from VHS to one of those nicer standalone DVD recorders just to get it digitzed outside of their noisy PCs. Then, you can take that DVD, rip it to your hard drive, and do any authoring, chapter breaking, menu addtions, etc before seeding.

Video is not as susceptible to noticable artifacts from PC noise as audio is, but when converting from VHS tapes, you still need to get the audio, which means you still have the same problem.

Hey, nothing wrong with being a perfectionist...we admire that around here!
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  #11  
Old 2004-11-26, 10:59 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

Oh?, I thought the standalone DVD recorders were frowned upon by purists. Forget "why" now as the last time I looked at one of them they were still pretty expensive. I haven't checked the doom9 forums on it for awhile. Well, with the death toll of the VCR here, maybe I'll start looking into those for next year.
So how long until kids look at a VCR and say What's that? I had to explain to a kid not too long ago what an 8-track was (and how sometimes you had to jam a folded up match cover in the side to stop if from squeeeeeling), boy did that make me feel old. Just as bad when I have to explain what Quad was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainDawg
For videos, I've seen people convert from VHS to one of those nicer standalone DVD recorders just to get it digitzed outside of their noisy PCs. Then, you can take that DVD, rip it to your hard drive, and do any authoring, chapter breaking, menu addtions, etc before seeding.

Video is not as susceptible to noticable artifacts from PC noise as audio is, but when converting from VHS tapes, you still need to get the audio, which means you still have the same problem.

Hey, nothing wrong with being a perfectionist...we admire that around here!
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  #12  
Old 2004-11-26, 11:02 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

Hmm...I thought there were some pretty amazing standalones out there. I know I frown upon authoring discs with a standalone, as it only give you that lousy generic menu and oftentimes just 5 minute chapter breaks. They should be authored on a PC, but if you get a decent one, I can't see why it would be a bad way to digitize and old VHS tape....
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  #13  
Old 2004-11-26, 11:09 AM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

AH!, you just prodded my memory! I think that's what the problem is/was.
Well, too late for this Xmas, but maybe later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainDawg
Hmm...I thought there were some pretty amazing standalones out there. I know I frown upon authoring discs with a standalone, as it only give you that lousy generic menu and oftentimes just 5 minute chapter breaks. They should be authored on a PC, but if you get a decent one, I can't see why it would be a bad way to digitize and old VHS tape....
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  #14  
Old 2004-11-26, 12:15 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

Quote:
Originally Posted by katnapz
Of course, now my plans are for video and I need to get a good SVHS deck and a video stabilizer to do my vids, but it would have to wait for a good turntable for my LP conversions...then I run into that d*mn computer induced noise during that conversion. Argh!
You need a JVC HR-S9800U VCR. Fantastic deck for playback when capturing. They aren't made anymore but you can find one on ebay for around $300. It has a built-in TBC that isn't as powerful as a dedicated hardware unit but works quite effectively for eliminating VHS artifact and A/V synch issues.

I would recommend using an external hardware converter for your SVHS capture. Standalone DVD recorders are fairly inflexible when it comes to bitrate options and you have very limited ability to edit your final product. Using a DV capture device you capture your tape in DV format (large ucompressed video file), which you can then edit/filter/mask/crop before you render to the compressed mpeg-2 format.

Back to the audio thing, you can probably find a suitable DAT unit for around $100 or even less.
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  #15  
Old 2004-11-26, 12:58 PM
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Re: How do I convert my Master Cassette to FLAC??

Yeah, I think someone else had mentioned to me about a JVC VCR. I've got a text file somewhere around with that info. I'll take a look for it to see if it's the same you mention.

As for an external converter-are you speaking of something like a Canopus unit? I thought you could get away with using software capture if you don't show any frame droppage.
(and sorry, I'm probably getting into a topic that needs a new thread started on but figured I'd throw this question in...can alway post new if it keeps going)

Quote:
Originally Posted by New Homebrew
You need a JVC HR-S9800U VCR. Fantastic deck for playback when capturing. They aren't made anymore but you can find one on ebay for around $300. It has a built-in TBC that isn't as powerful as a dedicated hardware unit but works quite effectively for eliminating VHS artifact and A/V synch issues.

I would recommend using an external hardware converter for your SVHS capture. Standalone DVD recorders are fairly inflexible when it comes to bitrate options and you have very limited ability to edit your final product. Using a DV capture device you capture your tape in DV format (large ucompressed video file), which you can then edit/filter/mask/crop before you render to the compressed mpeg-2 format.

Back to the audio thing, you can probably find a suitable DAT unit for around $100 or even less.
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