I am trying to help someone convert some old cassette tapes to CD. I figured the best way to do this would be to plug the headphone jack of their cassette player into their laptop and use Audacity to capture them.
Issue is, the audio sounds HORRIBLE on the PC. It's not the laptop's speakers as I tried headphones, and it's not the source as from the cassette player itself it sounds fine. I tried messing with the sound device settings to adjust gain and volume as well as sample rate but it didn't help.
I assume the laptop's audio input is just poor quality, especially since it's intended for microphones, not music. So I figured a good bet would be to get a USB based audio capture device/sound card.
So I wanted to ask if anyone had any recommendations. I am looking for something cheap, I saw hundreds in the $10-20 range, and while I know that those aren't going to be the best of quality, again, the source are old cassette tapes that were recorded at home, so I don't really need something of amazing or high-end quality as it would just be overkill and expensive. Is there anything in a decent price range that would take an audio input in stereo for the sake of recording it at decent quality?
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Headphone level is MUCH hotter than microphone level. It's apples and oranges and that's why you are getting distortion. You might still need a pad with a USB converter depending on just what this player is putting out through the headphone jack. A cheap converter is probably fine if you don't have picky ears.
Use Line-In NOT Mic-In. Mic-In is usually mono, provide some voltage to power up Mic capsule and also is very sensitive, frequently also there some form of variable gain to deal with high dynamic of signal.
So line output from cassette deck to PC line in. Best if you can provide power supply from same point (power bar - PC + deck connected to same power bar).
A quick check on Amazon brought up this device: https://www.amazon.com/Cassette-Converter-Recorder-Convertor-Portable/dp/B07MJ7S5XG/re...106792&sr=8-13. It's not clear from the pics and description, but it apparently sends the audio signal through USB to your PC/Laptop. The earphone jack is just portable use. The reviews are good as is the price, $22.
This identical one with lower reviews has an a big Q&A section: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ADXLBS4/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1
If it's basically a cassette player and that in one, would the one built into that cassette player be any good?