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Ask Max: Transferring music from cassette to computer

Asked on 02/27/2007:

I'm wanting to begin transferring music from cassette to computer. I have an eMac (we purchased from you a few years ago) with a sound-in port. I took my cassette deck and hooked it up (got the RCA jack that combines the red and white). I went into system preferences and clicked on "line in" and checked all volumes for both input and output and got nothing out of the speakers. I don't have external speakers, just the internal. The input level bar for the audio line in port is registering the music from the cassette. It jumps around while there is a song and stops between songs and at the end of a side. It is going in, but I'm not getting any sound. We have OS 10.3.3. Do I need additional software (I realize I probably do in order to add the songs to iTunes) to just get sound? I've heard of external devices that transfer analog to digital and plug into a USB port. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Any specific software you recommend? Thanks.


You're most of the way there in your recording project. Audio sources plugged into the line-in jack are not automatically played through the speakers. Apple blocks that because people are often plugging in microphones, and if the mic is live you could hear that high pitched reverb sound, which is caused by the microphone picking up its own sound being played through the speakers. The sound builds on top of itself until the speakers max out. That is why most recording studios make people wear headphones when they are in the same room as the microphone. Because you are not using a microphone, you will not have that problem, and that's why it is muted. All you will need to record the audio coming in is a program that will listen to the line-in and record it. Apple's GarageBand is a great application for this kind of audio work, particularly because you can clean up the audio levels and clip songs to their proper length. GarageBand is part of the iLife suite and you may have a copy of it already on your computer. If you do not, you can always buy a copy (iLife 06). A newer version should be out any day, so call in to check for the latest version or any deals on older software.If you are on a budget or just do not want all the other iLife applications, you can download Audacity (Audacity). Audacity is a free audio recording and editing program. Give it a try and see if it meets your needs. It has fewer features then a paid program, but it may be just enough to get your tapes converted to MP3.Hope you like it.

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