[RNLD] Digitizing tapes - what's the current best practice?

Deborah.Hill Deborah.Hill at CANBERRA.EDU.AU
Thu Oct 18 04:17:23 UTC 2012

Hi Mark,

I asked the person who has digitized tapes for me. His focus is more music than language but perhaps it will help. Here is his response:

A majority of the time the bit depth and sample rate (48/24) will be determined in the program you use.  Like anything the Sound card quality will definitely help with the digitizing, no need to spend thousands though, any middle of the range external will do. 
A cheap sound card can have buffer issues with the intake of sound which is why people advise against this. 

Input/Output wise, all sound cards should include at least RCA(Red/white), 1/4 inch and 3 pin microphone jacks.  it doesn't matter about what jack choice you go with but if you 3.5mm to RCA, make sure the 3.5m isn't mono. (Unless the recordings are mono, as then it doesn't matter)  I would advise RCA-RCA.   The cable size or jack should never determine quality but rather the wire quality inside. (don't buy a cheap $5 one)

Deborah Hill

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark W. Post [mailto:markwpost at gmail.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, 16 October 2012 6:41 PM
To: r-n-l-d at lists.unimelb.edu.au
Subject: [RNLD] Digitizing tapes - what's the current best practice?

Hi All -

We're about to embark on some pretty extensive cassette tape digitization over here, and I'm wondering what people feel is the current best practice. We plan to digitize to a PC (not to CD or DAT), and are prepared to pay for additional storage capacity to record at 48/24, or possibly at 96/24 if it turns out to really be worth it. What I'm mainly wondering about is hardware. I often hear about getting a "good sound card", but I'm not exactly sure what variables to keep in mind. I'm aware that nowadays some people are using external "sound cards" with USB interfaces, and that they offer different sampling depths etc. But I'm not sure whether there might be less obvious variables (for example, might they vary in frequency response, like microphones? I have no idea). Also, I'm aware that there are units like the Tape2PC that try to do everything for you, but the units I've seen are so cheap that it makes me suspicious. And I'm also thinking about cabling, and wondering whether there's a better way than squeezing everything through a 3.5mm pin (I've seen that some "external sound cards" have RCA inputs, which must be better?).

Has anybody been doing this sort of work recently, and if so, would you mind sharing your strategy?

Thanks very much in advance,



Dr. Mark W. Post
Universität Bern
Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
Länggassstrasse 49
3000 Bern 9

Tel +41 31 631 37 07
Eml markwpost at gmail.com
Web unibe-ch.academia.edu/MarkWPost

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