converting reel-to-reel tapes to digital - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 06-05-2010, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Friends,
I have a collection of reel-to-reel tapes as well as some cassette tapes that I would like to convert, as painlessly and quickly as possible, to digital. I am planning to use a Sonos system in my new home, and would like to be able to have the music from these old tapes on the system.

Could you please suggest software that you think is easy to use and does a reasonably good job? The music will be for background, so sound quality is not critical. I have players for both formats of tape.

Gratefully, Richard

Richard, Santa Cruz, CA
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post #2 of 26 Old 06-06-2010, 03:59 AM
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You can just plug the reel-to-reel tape deck's line output into your PC's audio line input, and use the built-in Windows Sound Recorder software. That works just fine for low to medium quality stuff. The A/D converter in your PC probably isn't great, but it's up to background music quality, anyway.

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post #3 of 26 Old 06-06-2010, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardorser View Post

Could you please suggest software that you think is easy to use and does a reasonably good job?

I agree with Terry, no need to over think this. However, newer on-board or low-cost sound cards are capable of perfectly fine quality, far better than just "background" music.

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post #4 of 26 Old 06-06-2010, 07:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you Terry. What versions of Windows (I have XP, Vista and 9) can do what you suggest?

Richard, Santa Cruz, CA
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post #5 of 26 Old 06-06-2010, 07:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

I agree with Terry, no need to over think this. However, newer on-board or low-cost sound cards are capable of perfectly fine quality, far better than just "background" music.

--Ethan

So, I may not have to buy anything? That is great.
What is the Windows program I am looking to use for this? I have Windows 9 on the computer I want to use.
Thanks, R

Richard, Santa Cruz, CA
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post #6 of 26 Old 06-07-2010, 04:21 AM
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Shouldn't matter which OS you use. You should find Sound Recorder under "All Programs-Accessories."

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post #7 of 26 Old 06-07-2010, 08:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, that is a pretty simple program. I don't see that there are any settings at all; is that right? There are no sampling/quality settings? I just plug in the player and start recording?

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post #8 of 26 Old 06-07-2010, 03:56 PM
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Some other software ideas here.
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post #9 of 26 Old 06-07-2010, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

Some other software ideas here.

Great resource. Thank you very much. I think I will give Audacity a look.

Gratefully, Richard
PS
Anyone here at AVS know anything about Audacity or has used it??

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post #10 of 26 Old 06-08-2010, 03:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardorser View Post

as painlessly and quickly as possible

I’ve transferred a significant amout of music from analog (mostly cassette; some vinyl; no reel-to-reel) to digital. I got good results using various versions of Nero. (See ‘Note’ below.)

I’m glad I’ve done it and I will do some more but, I did stop way short of what I originally had in mind. Why? Two reasons…..

First, foremost and something that doesn’t get said enough – There isn’t any way to transfer a large analog collection to digital “painlessly and quickly”. Unless you’re willing to pay someone else to do it for you ($$$), it’s going to get painful and consume a lot of time.

Secondly, surprisingly and actually more than a little disconcerting – A lot of those “old favs” aren’t nearly as compelling as they used to be. – Especially considering that there really is good new music available and every bit of it is already digitized.

Not trying to talk you out of it, Actually, I think you should go for it. Just get the stuff you know you’ll really want hear done first.

Good Luck and Good Listening.
Dave

Note: If you have a Fry’s nearby, keep an eye on Nero. Maybe twice a year, Fry’s has the whole Nero suite of programs on sale for free after rebate plus “upgrade” rebate.
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post #11 of 26 Old 06-08-2010, 06:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Absolutely Excellent and Practical Advice Dave,
Thank you very much. I can see what you are getting at, and can see myself easily spending oodles of time on a project with not the usefulness I first envisioned.
I do live near a Fry's and will keep my eye open for the Nero sale.
Thank you for sharing your experience; I have taken it to heart,
Richard

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post #12 of 26 Old 08-01-2010, 09:02 PM - Thread Starter
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You gave me some good advice about digitizing my reel to reel tapes Dave. I am using Audacity, and just beginning.
I'm hoping you can suggest what format to choose for the file. There are many options/codecs. My ultimate goal is to be able to play these digital files using Sonos.
I am recording whole tapes and forgetting the individual song labeling. I took your warning to heart.

Thanks,
Richard

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post #13 of 26 Old 08-06-2010, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardorser View Post

You gave me some good advice about digitizing my reel to reel tapes Dave. I am using Audacity, and just beginning.
I'm hoping you can suggest what format to choose for the file. There are many options/codecs. My ultimate goal is to be able to play these digital files using Sonos.
I am recording whole tapes and forgetting the individual song labeling. I took your warning to heart.

Thanks,
Richard

I don't know if Sonos supports it, but a "cue sheet" would allow you to get the "individual song labeling" from the "whole tape" file without requiring you to split it up. If Sonos doesn't support it, you may be able to use another program to automatically split the large file up given the cue sheet as input.... Just something to think about should you decide later you want to be able to quickly navigate songs.
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post #14 of 26 Old 08-06-2010, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamWarrior View Post

I don't know if Sonos supports it, but a "cue sheet" would allow you to get the "individual song labeling" from the "whole tape" file without requiring you to split it up. If Sonos doesn't support it, you may be able to use another program to automatically split the large file up given the cue sheet as input.... Just something to think about should you decide later you want to be able to quickly navigate songs.

Good idea. I may have on one reel-to-reel tape, 6 or 8 artists performing 40 song tracks. I do not want to spend tons of time getting this stuff Sonos-ready, but, it would be nice to be able to locate a group of tracks by one artist by searching for that artist in Sonos. I do not care about individual song titles, but, it would be nice to find a group of songs by a certain artist. How much effort are we talking about with "individual song labeling" using a cue sheet? I'm afraid I do not understand the concept.
Thanks for taking the time to give me a hand,
Richard

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post #15 of 26 Old 08-06-2010, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardorser View Post

Good idea. I may have on one reel-to-reel tape, 6 or 8 artists performing 40 song tracks. I do not want to spend tons of time getting this stuff Sonos-ready, but, it would be nice to be able to locate a group of tracks by one artist by searching for that artist in Sonos. I do not care about individual song titles, but, it would be nice to find a group of songs by a certain artist. How much effort are we talking about with "individual song labeling" using a cue sheet? I'm afraid I do not understand the concept.
Thanks for taking the time to give me a hand,
Richard

Admitedly, I am not well-versed on the tools available to create cue sheets. However, the concept is simply that the cue sheet contains the track title and artist and then it contains the starting and ending time codes for the track. It is typically put in the same location as the large file (I presume you're recording to .wav files) with the extention (.cue). So, if your file was "reel1.wav" your cue would be "reel1.cue" and it'd contain each track in reel1.wav, the name, artist, and start/end time for the track.

I'm not even sure Sonos supports them. I'm pretty sure that the Logitech Sqeeze line does, though. So, if you're not married to Sonos, that's an option.

Unfortunately, like I said, I'm not well-versed in the tool-set surrounding cue sheets. There may be something out there that can load the .wav file you created and just let you pick all the break-points, name them, and write a .cue file for it. If there is, maybe someone more versed in them can point you to it. I just brought it up because I'm aware of the cue sheet concept and can see how it'd benefit you....sorry I can't help more than just making you aware.

Heck...it'd be really cool if there was a tool that could scan a wav file for "dead zones" having no music, automatically picking them out and letting you name the track.... Of course, again, I'm not sure this tool exists.
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post #16 of 26 Old 08-06-2010, 04:21 PM
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I use Audacity and an M-audio fasttrack pro for recording. Depending on your desired quality you may be happy with the internal sound card on your computer rather than an external sound card like the fasttrack. Try it out and see how you like it.

I highly recommend Audacity it is a great free tool for recording and doing some basic clean up on the tracks after you record them, noise removal, stereo widening and such. It can also transcode to flac or mp3 for storage if you wish. You may need lame installed for mp3 and for flac if your on windows i think you need the newest beta build of audacity.
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post #17 of 26 Old 08-07-2010, 10:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by xianthax View Post

I use Audacity and an M-audio fasttrack pro for recording. Depending on your desired quality you may be happy with the internal sound card on your computer rather than an external sound card like the fasttrack. Try it out and see how you like it.

I highly recommend Audacity it is a great free tool for recording and doing some basic clean up on the tracks after you record them, noise removal, stereo widening and such. It can also transcode to flac or mp3 for storage if you wish. You may need lame installed for mp3 and for flac if your on windows i think you need the newest beta build of audacity.

Thanks. I am not interested in high quality. i just want to be able to get these many reel-to-reel tapes digitized, so I can use them from time to time with a Sonos system (not yet purchased). Since they are mixed artists, and because I do not want to take the time to split them into tracks either for the artist, and certainly not for each song, I have abandoned album art. I just would like to be able to put a tag for each reel that might have 6 artists names and be able to find on Sonos the file/reel that contains those artists (not their songs within the reel/file) . I'm having a little trouble with the tags not coming through on the Sonos. Also, got a Sonos error msg. : "Encoded at a unsupported sample rate 96000hz ." What is the best rate to use?

Gratefully, Richard

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post #18 of 26 Old 08-09-2010, 12:53 PM
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I'd record everything at 44.1 KHz and 16 bits. That's better quality than any analog tape (or LP) source, and won't waste hard drive space.

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post #19 of 26 Old 08-09-2010, 11:41 PM
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I havent tried Audacity myself, but I used to use Musicmatch to record from cassette. The one feature it had at the time that none of the others did is that it would detect gaps in the playback and split the tracks into individual files. You would still have to title them and add id3 info, but it sure saved a lot of time and with an autoreverse cassette deck I just hit play and walked away. Prior to that, recording cassettes was very time consuming as the recording was done realtime, and then I still had to split the tracks using something like Nero Wavestudio.
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post #20 of 26 Old 08-10-2010, 02:59 AM
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I agree with Ethan Winer's suggestion: I'd record everything at 44.1 KHz and 16 bits'

44.1 KHz and 16 bits can be referred to as the Wave format because of its .WAV file extension and it's probably the highest quality format available to you. I know that you've said that you don't care about the higheast quality but, it's just as easy, just as fast and provides much greater flexibilty in the future. You can use Wave files to directly produce normal, good quality CDs; create any compressed audio format that you might ever need; and, do pretty much anthing else that you'd want. The only disadvantage to wave files is that they are bigger files and thus require more hard drive space. Well, hard drive space has become almost unbelievably inexpensive. Just for example, 1 terrabyte internal hard drives are now available for under $100! Even portable, almost pocket size, 1TB HDs are about to drop below $100. And you don't even need a HD anywhere near that big. I just got back from a trip and it's late so I've probably done this wrong but, I just calculated that a 1 Terabyte HD would hold about 1,575 hours of wave files. - That's a lot of reel-to-reel tapes!

If you save your reel to reel songs in a lesser format, then you'll be limitated to its lower standard forever. (Unless you want to do the whole copying job all over again!) For example, if you only have MP3 audio files, then the only way to produce a normal CD is to create Wave files from a compressed MP3 filez. That's not a very good idea. Not only are you starting with a lesser quality format but, such a conversion often results in very obvious audio clipping that makes the CD unlistenable and useless.

Down the line, you can alter your appraoch to perhaps better match your needs, but at the beginning, I think saving all the tracks as Wave files (and keeping backup copies of them) has no risks, offers great flexibility and is the best way to go.

Later,
Dave
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post #21 of 26 Old 08-28-2010, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWind View Post

I agree with Ethan Winer's suggestion: I'd record everything at 44.1 KHz and 16 bits'

44.1 KHz and 16 bits can be referred to as the Wave format because of its .WAV file extension and it's probably the highest quality format available to you. I know that you've said that you don't care about the higheast quality but, it's just as easy, just as fast and provides much greater flexibilty in the future. You can use Wave files to directly produce normal, good quality CDs; create any compressed audio format that you might ever need; and, do pretty much anthing else that you'd want. The only disadvantage to wave files is that they are bigger files and thus require more hard drive space. Well, hard drive space has become almost unbelievably inexpensive. Just for example, 1 terrabyte internal hard drives are now available for under $100! Even portable, almost pocket size, 1TB HDs are about to drop below $100. And you don't even need a HD anywhere near that big. I just got back from a trip and it's late so I've probably done this wrong but, I just calculated that a 1 Terabyte HD would hold about 1,575 hours of wave files. - That's a lot of reel-to-reel tapes!

If you save your reel to reel songs in a lesser format, then you'll be limitated to its lower standard forever. (Unless you want to do the whole copying job all over again!) For example, if you only have MP3 audio files, then the only way to produce a normal CD is to create Wave files from a compressed MP3 filez. That's not a very good idea. Not only are you starting with a lesser quality format but, such a conversion often results in very obvious audio clipping that makes the CD unlistenable and useless.

Down the line, you can alter your appraoch to perhaps better match your needs, but at the beginning, I think saving all the tracks as Wave files (and keeping backup copies of them) has no risks, offers great flexibility and is the best way to go.

Later,
Dave

So Dave,
What do you think about my saving to .flac format? Would that not meet the criteria you laid out?
Richard

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post #22 of 26 Old 08-28-2010, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Yeh, Xianthax,
Audacity is working great for me.. WOnderful program. I gotta donate to these guys.

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post #23 of 26 Old 08-30-2010, 01:00 PM
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I haven't used .flac; but, what I've read sounds good. Not being an expert on all the formats; I really don't know what's best for you or others. If .flac is, in every way, just as good, flexible and future proof as .wav, then, I guess, the smaller size makes .flac better. - Hopefully, someone with .flac expertise will pop in with good info.

As for me, so far, I've mainly made CDs for car or home CD Changer use and .wav has been the de facto file type for burning CDs. I just haven't encountered any reason to abandon the .wav format. They do exactly what I need without drawback. Things could change. For example, I plan to get a centralized home media player and maybe I'll discover some advantage to using another format. But, in the meantime, I'm very comfortable knowing that my .wav files will be able to accommodate whatever I may decide to do.

Fwiw, two things: The biggest advantage to compressed formats is that they are so much easier to distribute over the internet. Because you are creating your own digital files, you have the power to create 1st generation copies that are archived in the best quality and most flexible format.
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post #24 of 26 Old 08-30-2010, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
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I haven’t used .flac; but, what I’ve read sounds good. Not being an expert on all the formats; I really don’t know what’s best for you or others. If .flac is, in every way, just as good, flexible and future proof as .wav, then, I guess, the smaller size makes .flac better. – Hopefully, someone with .flac expertise will pop in with good info.

Since it is lossless, FLAC is every bit as good as WAV in quality. It is also quite popular when compared to other lossless codecs.

For those who are still skeptical about the quality aspect for whatever reason, there are numerous ways to prove it. For one thing, the MD5 checksum will be the same across both WAV and FLAC files if the encoder program doesn't have any additive processes. Another way is to encode a DTS-CD track; the DTS bit-stream will remain and the file size will go down slightly due to packing down padded zeros. Another proof is with HDCD discs, in that the receiving HDCD-compatible device will recognize the HDCD signal all the same.
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post #25 of 26 Old 08-30-2010, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
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As for me, so far, I’ve mainly made CDs for car or home CD Changer use and .wav has been the de facto file type for burning CDs. I just haven’t encountered any reason to abandon the .wav format. They do exactly what I need without drawback. Things could change. For example, I plan to get a centralized home media player and maybe I’ll discover some advantage to using another format. But, in the meantime, I’m very comfortable knowing that my .wav files will be able to accommodate whatever I may decide to do.

I should mention that there are numerous computer programs (e.g., foobar2000) that will automatically decompress FLAC files and burn them to CD without an additional step for the user. This means you get to save space on the hard drive(s) by archiving music with a lossless compression codec, and burn to CD without having to store the music in a space-hogging uncompressed state.

You may have already known this, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to mention it.
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post #26 of 26 Old 08-30-2010, 06:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. I am planning to save all my digitized projects to .wav before editing them in Audacity and saving as .flac .
This should give me good backup in case something goes haywire in the future with my flac files.
R

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