How to Digitize a Tape

1. Get all equipment outlined below and set it up downstairs in the music library listening room.  (Everything you need should be in the locked the grey cabinet upstairs.)

Laptop (and charger – inside laptop case), USB cable (in laptop case)








Sound card (front and top views below)






Any headphones with large jack, like we see below.


 Now, an RCA cable (two pronged cord, see below) connects the the tape player/tape deck (in the back of the player) and the sound card (in the front of the sound card). This RCA cable should already be in the library and plugged into the tape player (if it’s not, ask the Music coordinator to find you an RCA cable).

Below is the tape player.                                                              Below is the back of the tape player. RCA cables are plugged into the output section.

White is left (top), red is right (bottom).







Below is the RCA cable you’ll plug into the sound card. CKUT sticker is left, evolution sticker is right.








Here we have the sound card all set up:IMG_2781

The purple/blue light you see above will turn on when you plug the USB cable into the sound card and the computer, like we see below. IMG_2782
The USB cable is connected to a laptop USB port and the back of the sound card. While you’re looking back here, check to make sure the sample rate is on 48, the REC square is pushed down, the limiter is ON and the Phatom+48 and Advance are off.

Alright, you should be all set up. On to step 2!

2. Choose a tape to digitize.

3. Place tape in the tape player (side A first if you can tell).

4. Rewind tape with tape player until it stops winding.

[Disregard steps 5-7 if you’re using your own laptop:]

5. Log into VOLUNTEERS on the laptop.

6. Open the DIGITIZED folder on the volunteer desktop.

7. Open DIGITIZATION-BASE-FILE.aup – Audacity should start.

8. Ensure 32 bit float and 48kHz sampling rate. (On the left hand column of Audacity it should read 32 bit float and 48kHz in small letters. 480000 can also be selected in the bottom left corner of the Audacity screen with a drop down box. For more information on changing these preferences, see the troubleshooting page.)

9. Press the red dot in the top left of Audacity to start recording.

10. Press play on the tape player.

11. Get ready to adjust the SENS knobs for volume (the knobs beside the RCA plugs on the sound card, see above) – usually, they’re around half-way cranked and similar to each other. The SENS knobs can prevent the music from getting too loud and becoming distorted. Other ways you can prevent this include:

  • Ensure Audacity is not displaying much red/orange in the volume bar (top middle)
  • For the most part, the wave should not go much outside -0.5 and +0.5
  • For the most part, the PEAK/LIMITER (green) light on the sound card should not be on
  • Let the tape play through, flip it when needed, and adjust SENS for each track

12. Log into the google account and go to the drive. You’ll also probably want to open the music library catalog.

13. Enter all metadata in the DC – Cassette Digitization google sheet while you listen to and digitize the tape.

14. After the tape is finished digitizing, crop any excessive silence before or after the tape.


*Now for SAVING THE FILES (Steps 15-19)*

15. All files, audio and images with correct their names, will go into a file folder you create with the name LIBRARYCODE–ARTIST–ALBUM–YEAR. (You’ll swap the words you see here for information about the cassette you’re digitizing.) You’ll create this file inside the DIGITIZED folder on the volunteer desktop. The Music Coordinator will find all digitized audio/images in these files and then transfer them to the digital music library.

16. Exporting = saving. In Audacity, find FILE > EXPORT AS WAV  (visual accompanying step 17), then export the whole tape’s audio at 24-bit PCM following the naming convention: PRES-LIBRARYCODE–ARTIST–ALBUM–YEARIMG_2847
17. Select a track by dragging the cursor, then FILE > Export Selected Audio of the single track at 16-bit PCM with the following naming convention: SIDE-TRACK#–TRACKNAME–ARTISTIMG_2848See this link for more information on naming!

18. Enter album/track metadata when prompted. Comments should always be : DIGITIZED FROM CASSETTE TAPEIMG_2827
19. Scan all inserts or take good photos with your phone and send to to save in the appropriate file in the DIGITIZED folder. Name these files with the appropriate naming convention: ARTIST–ALBUM–YEAR–# OR A/B

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