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How do I Transfer Tape to MP3?

Maintenance and Care of Tape Cassettes

The Basics

If cassettes tapes are well maintained, the thing most likely to damage the tapes is a faulty cassette player.

A man who owned a valued recording on cassettes decided to see if the recording was now available on MP3 or CD. He searched the net, but found nothing. Eventually he decided to buy a new cassette player. He did his reasearch and ended up buying a model from a trusted brand - an expensive one that had full logic control, auto-reverse and all the latest in sound improvement technology.

Taking his old cassettes out, he placed one in the player and listened through state of the art headphones. Beautiful. But when the side ended and tape auto-reversed, he noticed something was wrong.

The sound was not exactly garbled, but it sounded odd. Taking the cassette out to examine it he noticed that the player's roller had scored a sharp groove into the tape along it's entire length. This hadn't cut right through the tape but it had done visible and permanent damage.

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Choosing the Right Tape Cassette Player

The gentleman in the story above did the right thing - he looked after his tapes well, and sought out a good quality tape cassette player from a reliable manufacturer. The player he chose had full logic control - we'll see the importance of this later on - and when a fault was suspected he didn't ignore it and took immediate action. Yet all this wasn't enough to prevent some damage to his tapes.

The key rule with any tape cassette player must be, when you notice or suspect a problem, don't ignore it. A faulty cassette player can do harm to tapes that you may not notice until quite a few tapes have been damaged. If you have a funny feeling about your player, no matter how good the brand, stop using it.

It is useful to have two players - this is sometimes the only when of answering the question: does a tape cassette not play properly because the tape is damaged or because the player is faulty.

The reality is that whilst all tapes experience minor wear and tear each and every time they are played, you shouldn't experience ANY problems the vast majority of the time.

Avoiding Tape Cassette Damage

We've all been there: you are playing a cassette, when suddenly it speeds up, slows down, then everything sounds garbled. You hit stop button and pull out the cassette to find the tape in a tangled mess. The main cause of this is failing to take up the slack before hitting the play button. You should take up the slack from a cassette tape before hitting the play button - each and every time. The usual advice is to use a six-sided pencil to reel in the slack. This is all well and good, but you can go one step further.

Chunk and Clunk vs Feather Touch.

You might have heard the expression Full Logic Control in relation to tape cassette players. Full Logic Control is also known as feather-touch or feather-light touch or some variant. This simply means that the buttons on the player activate the motor electronically. The alternative - and not always the cheap alternative either - are the old fashioned players with chunky keys which you have to press down to start the player, and where the stop button usually produces a loud clunk when you activate it. When you press the play button on a player with full logic control, it quietly whirs whilst taking any slack in the tape, and then engages the play mechanism. The Chunk and Clunk variety of players will happily destroy your tapes by the dozen unless you manually take up the slack each and every time before you press the play button.

Needless to say I recommend players with full logic control and if you find that such a player starts chewing up your tapes, get it looked at or replace it.

There will be more on choosing and maintaining tape cassette players and looking after and maintaining tape cassettes, as well as tips on getting the right set up for transferring your audio to PC, but for now, the two ideas to keep in mind are that you should always take up the slack in a tape before hitting the play button - or better yet get a player with full logic control which does it automatically, and recognise that at some stage your player will need repair or replacing - and the first indication of this may well be that it starts damaging your tape cassettes. If you bear these two things in mind, the majority of problems you might have previously experienced with tape cassettes may well vanish.

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