getting that cassette audio digitized

using headphone out

let’s say i want to dump some audio from a casette onto my hd, but the only tape deck available to me has only a HEADPHONE OUT. no line out of any type.

what would you consider a safe option for using that amplified output to get the audio into my system. i have mixers, preamps, and my sound card obviously takes a line level signal directly.

this isn’t being used for tracking or anything that has to be quality… just a temp solution to get the audio dumped. i know to use a deck with line out’s… but just work with me on this scenario.

The hp out on a tape deck should pose little if any threat…Hard to say with no hard specs. But, generally the impedence is high, and the watts low from these devices. Just don’t crank the volume.

You can use the mixer for a second source of control for the output.

Hope that helps.


Hey Dimmer.

If you have a couple of transformer DI boxes for the left and right of the cassette player, pipe the output of the tape player to the DI boxes then into the digital recorder/computer then you should be able to play the tape at a reasonable level and still get a matched level at the recorder. Without DI, I’m sure you could just pipe it into the soundcard, but there might be some distortion due to the impedence mismatch. I don’t think this arrangement would break anything. You’d probably need to experiment to find the best levels at the tape player and the recorder/computer to get the cleanest sound.


Use headphone out, that shouldn’t cause problems - BUT make sure you start with very low volume to begin with.

I recorded a cassette 2 nights ago. I thought it would help to get rid of the tape hiss if I recorded it fairly hot. I got the whole thing set up and then recorded both sides, created a huge file in ntrack.

The whole thing was slightly distorted-a little too hot. So I guess I’ll have to settle for a bit more tape hiss next time around. I have only had limited success, in the past in using Audio editors to get rid of tape hiss. It worked perfectly the first time I tried it in CoolEdit 96 and since then, every time I try the same procedure, with different editors, I get strange artifacts in the recording.

The distortion could be a result of 2 things (or a combination of both).

1. Overdriving the sound card input with too much level from your headphone out.

2. Setting the recording level too high within Ntrack

As Ludo said, make sure you are running the headphone out volume at a low level to start.

Play the LOUDEST section of the tape and monitor the sound card input. Slow raise the headphone out level to where you just begin to hear distortion, then back it off a touch until the distortion goes away. This will take care of any distortion that could result from overdriving the soundcard input, giving you the max signal level your sound card can handle.

Again play the loudest section of the tape and set the record level within Ntrack to just below clipping. Remember, 0db in digital recording is pretty much a hard and fast point at which clipping/distortion occurs so run the recording level in the software 1 or 2 decibels below 0db

Thanks Phil,

I’ll try that tonight. I am not the thread starter here. I’m coming from the line out of a Tascam 424, 4 track recorder. These days, I most often use the 4 track as a second mixer but it is still handy if we do any recording away from home.


There’s a pretty good program on under software called singulator. It will creat a new file when the signal is very low for a certain amount of time…like between songs on an album or tape so it’s not all one big file. ten songs = ten files.


I’ve dumped several tapes to HD using this method and have never had any problems.

The only issue I can see that might spoil the session is a ground loop (causing 60Hz pickup). If that happens, try to plug the tape and computer into the same outlet.

There also might be a problem if you use a DI. Some of thos uints have fairly low input impedence, which could cause distortion on the tape deck’s output amp.

My advise is to go for it!

- Ben