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Ripping 4-track Audio cassettes. Working with NLS and 2XL format tapes.

#1 User is offline Jeffery Mewtamer 

Posted 13 September 2017 - 09:10 AM

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Okay, so I want to digitize my collection of 4-track audio cassettes, partially for convenience, partially for preserving content that was never made available in any other format. Thing is, none of the tapes are the standard format onced used for commercial album releases.

The two types of tape I'm mainly working with are:
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicap(NLS) Books-on-Tape, which compared to normal tapes run at half-speed(15/16 inches per second compared to the usual 1-7/8 inches per second) and instead of using two tracks per side to produce 2 stereo sides, uses one track per side to produce 4 mono sides.
Tiger 2-XL program tapes, which record tracks 2 and 4(side 2 of a normal cassette) in reverse, allowing all 4 tracks to be used on the same side, which combined with playing a single track and switching on the fly allows for interaction.

I own the hardware to playback these tapes properly, a portable media player with line-in recording to wav, and the appropriate cable to connect the player's headphone jack to the recorder's line-in jack, but using the original players, capturing only a single track per pass, and in the case of the 2XL tapes, rewinding after each pass seems needlessly time-consuming.

I recieved a suggestion to use a regular tape deck and then use sox or another command line utility to slowdown the rip of the NLS tapes, separate the false stereo capture of the NLS tapes into proper mono rips, and reverse the tracks normally used for side 2 on the 2-XL tapes, but I don't own a normal cassette deck, and I'm having trouble finding something suitable on Amazon. Decks specifically marketed for digitizing tapes are common even at low price points, but many seem to be hardwired for producing mp3, and its hard to tell which ones can be used for making wav that can be losslessly compressed. I've also read at least one guide online that recommends using a line-out jack over a headphone jack on the source side, though didn't offer an explanation as to why.

If anyone could direct me to a suitable tape deck for this task or suggest other means of speeding up the process without scarificing quality, it would be greatly appreciated.

#2 User is offline Master Emerald 

Posted 13 September 2017 - 09:47 AM

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Quote

line-out jack over a headphone jack on the source side


My guess would be that the line-out signal is not pre-amped so you wouldn't have to deal with a bad quality amp on the chip.

Why don't you search for a recording studio near your home? They have all that kind of hardware and can rent the studio time for some hours for you.

#3 User is offline biggestsonicfan 

Posted 14 September 2017 - 06:05 PM

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I would recommend something like this and use a program to demux the stereo streams then paste then you can manipulate the data how you want it.

#4 User is offline ICEknight 

Posted 19 September 2017 - 03:16 AM

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View Postbiggestsonicfan, on 14 September 2017 - 06:05 PM, said:

I would recommend something like this and use a program to demux the stereo streams then paste then you can manipulate the data how you want it.

It's cheaper to buy those from the source: https://www.aliexpre...ry=n&isrefine=y ;)

Be warned when buying one of these, though. From experience, there's the good ones which give some good quality and the knockoffs that look almost the same but usually (maybe always?) come loose and have some tiny differences when up close ("MEGABASS" rather than "MEGA BASS"), which may sound terrible.

All good and bad players seem to use the same pictures in their respective ads, so I guess that the best way of ensuring that you're getting a good one is directly asking the seller if it comes in an EZcap box (although the latest good one I got came in a slightly different, non-EZcap box) or asking for a real picture of the front lid to see the "MEGA BASS" part (but they'll probably refer you to the stock pics in the ad).

I'd say that these are pretty good for preserving at least regular cassettes. One of the good things about them is that they output digital data directly through their USB connection so you won't even need audio cables or sound cards, and also you can turn the volume to the max without the sound becoming distorted at all, then you can adjust it through the Windows/Audacity sound settings (both of which are actually linked).


EDIT: Comparison pic (left bad, right good), note the gap in "MEGA BASS":
Spoiler

This post has been edited by ICEknight: 20 September 2017 - 04:21 AM

#5 User is offline Jeffery Mewtamer 

Posted 19 September 2017 - 10:12 AM

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Well, unless it's embossed in large print, I doubt I could tell the difference between "MEGABASS" and "MEGA BASS" even with a unit in hand, and I don't even have a monitor to let a sighted assistent look at photos.

Anyone know of any Linux command line utility that works with a USB audio input? Even assuming it works iwth the Linux version of Audacity(it supposedly works with both the Windows and Mac versions, so I assume lack of mention of the Linux version is the usual "Linux Users have to do their own tech support" mentality that is near universal regarding consumer electronics that connect to PCs), trying to get another graphical application up and running with Orca sounds like a massive pain.

#6 User is offline biggestsonicfan 

Posted 20 September 2017 - 10:08 AM

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View PostJeffery Mewtamer, on 19 September 2017 - 10:12 AM, said:

Well, unless it's embossed in large print, I doubt I could tell the difference between "MEGABASS" and "MEGA BASS" even with a unit in hand, and I don't even have a monitor to let a sighted assistent look at photos.

Anyone know of any Linux command line utility that works with a USB audio input? Even assuming it works iwth the Linux version of Audacity(it supposedly works with both the Windows and Mac versions, so I assume lack of mention of the Linux version is the usual "Linux Users have to do their own tech support" mentality that is near universal regarding consumer electronics that connect to PCs), trying to get another graphical application up and running with Orca sounds like a massive pain.


If you are using Linux, you should be prepared to do most of the major legwork for best results. And how do you not have a monitor? Like a speaker monitor or an lcd/oled/plasma monitor?
This post has been edited by biggestsonicfan: 20 September 2017 - 10:14 AM

#7 User is offline Overlord 

Posted 20 September 2017 - 04:10 PM

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He's blind, hence he doesn't use one =P

#8 User is offline biggestsonicfan 

Posted 20 September 2017 - 11:20 PM

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View PostOverlord, on 20 September 2017 - 04:10 PM, said:

He's blind, hence he doesn't use one =P

I apologize for my ignorance.

#9 User is offline ICEknight 

Posted 21 September 2017 - 06:34 AM

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View PostJeffery Mewtamer, on 19 September 2017 - 10:12 AM, said:

Well, unless it's embossed in large print, I doubt I could tell the difference between "MEGABASS" and "MEGA BASS" even with a unit in hand, and I don't even have a monitor to let a sighted assistent look at photos.

I just went and ordered this one after getting a box picture from the seller. It wasn't the original EZcap box but rather the similar one that included a non-knockoff player last time.

I'll let you know if it ends up being one of the good ones once it arrives in like a month or so, if you want.

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