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Aha! How I Converted Micro Cassettes to Digital with Equipment I Already Had

So old.
I’ve been on a crusade to turn my mementos digital, thus solving the problem of having way too much clutter due to nostalgic items.

Along the way, I found 5 micro cassette tapes from 2005 – mostly recording my little sister Molly (she’s 13 now – see below) as a baby.

I knew I had them, but kind of ignored them as there didn’t seem to be an easy solution to digitizing them.

Until today! Scanning in some old documents (old notes from my original video tape recordings -yes, I’ve always been thorough it seems)

I found the tapes and decided today was the day!

I searched on the internet, and found a lot of solutions, mostly that cost money and mostly that got 3 stars. :/

On a budget due to an upcoming life adventure (I’ll tell you when it works out next month, haha) I decided to NOT spend anything on this if I could help it. Doing what I do, I figured I have a bunch of hodge-podge equipment and cords, I should be able to finagle SOMETHING.

So! What were my options?

Option 1: After browsing my cords, I found one of these babies. A 3.5mm – 3.5mm cord.
I tried plugging it into my headphone jack on my computer, and the headphone jack on my Sony M-405 micro cassette recorder. I changed the output to “Soundflower” and tried to record into Audacity. It did not recognize anything. No go.

Option 2: I found a cord I bought for my guitar -1/4 to USB, and found a 1/4 to 3.5 mm adapter. I tried the same tactic as above. It LOOKED like something was happening, but nothing was getting recorded.


Option 3: As the literal option 3 on B&H’s website, I saw them using an H1 Zoom recorder plugged into the original tape recorder they had. Aha!

I used the cord I had already found (3.5-3.5), plugged it into the output jack of my Sony tape recorder, plugged the other end into the input of my Zoom recorder, plugged some headphones in to monitor, pressed record and pressed play. HALLELUJAH!  There’s my little sister’s cute babbles and whining! I only had the left channel recording (I think it’s the Zoom’s problem – It’s been around the block) but I can always double it later in Audacity.  The quality is as good as it is on the Sony recorder. Which isn’t saying a WHOLE lot, but there’s only so much you can do when depending on 1) Old tech in general and 2) Old tech that’s been sitting un-used for 13 years in your various closets.

>Two best parts about this solution being the one that worked:

  1. I can listen to the output AS it is happening. Not after the fact when I might have accidentally recorded a lot of silence or had audio volumes too loud and everything peaking and horrible quality.
  2. My computer is NOT out of commission while this is happening. If I had to record the audio through my computer’s channels, I would have had to have NOT been using my computer as any OTHER sound coming from my computer would have been integrated into the recording. Not to mention since I had the output as Soundflower, I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything from my computer anyway.

wo downsides of this method:

  1.  There is an additional step of needing to transfer from the micro-sd card to my computer. (Small potatoes! But there it is.)
  2. If you do not have a H1 Zoom recorder, it does cost $100 to buy one. Looking at the cost of one transfer service – they were charging $19.95 for each tape to be converted… I have 5 tapes… if I didn’t have a recorder, it seriously would have been the same price to have them converted through a service or to buy the H1 and do it myself. Sure, doing it yourself costs time, but I’m busy transferring as I’m typing RIGHT NOW, and, if I didn’t already have the recorder, I would after I was done. And it’s a pretty helpful little bugger. I’ve used it to record people at my best friend’s wedding, I’ve used to to record audio for interviews, and I used it extensively while shooting for the Pool Show and Movie. (which is when I think it got damaged and now only recognizes the left channel).

I’m thinking of recording a how-to to go with this blog. Do we think that would be helpful?

Well, whether it was or not, I did it.



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