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Dumb noobie question... transferring from four track to computer

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by dlloyd, May 31, 2005.

  1. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    I've got an old cassette four track and a bunch of old tapes with some stuff on it, you might call it music.

    I've also got a computer, it was inexpensive. It has a soundcard, but I've no idea what sort it is. I'm running Windows XP.

    I want to be able to transfer what I have on these tapes to my computer.

    I'm broke, so I only want to pay for cables to connect my four track to my computer. I'm not interested in pro quality.

    Is it just a case of pressing "play" on the four track and "record" on Sound Recorder?

    I said it was a dumb question. :)
  2. The straight answer is 'yes you can, but...'.

    On your 4 track, you will need to mix down your four tracks into a stereo pair, because if you try to export them one track at a time, it will be almost impossible to syncronise them again (especially with cassette). The stereo output is likely to be RCA phone type sockets, but could be 1/4 inch jacks, and on your PC, you need to find the line-in 1/8 inch jack (personal-stereo headphone-sized).

    From memory, Windows sound recorder stops recording after about 60 seconds (please check, I'm not 100% sure on that), so you will need some software with which to record. If you haven't got something suitable, Audacity is free and good - Google it to find the site. Nero also bundle a wave editor with some of their CD burner software. Your CD writer supplier may have bundled in something that you can use.

    The quality of the recording will depend on both the quality of your tapes, and the quality of your soundcard. As a rule of thumb, if your mic/line-in/line-out/etc are in a row, on the edge of the motherboard, it will be a relatively low-fi recording. A plug-in sound card will usually sound better - you said it doesn't matter, but it might when you hear it.

    Finally, 4-track cassette means different things to different manufacturers, and they don't always play each others tape formats properly. Don't get rid of your tapes or 4-track until you are happy that you have all you need from them, at a quality that you are happy with.
  3. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    They're rca sockets, I'm assuming I can get a cable that has the red and white rca jacks on one end and a stereo 1/8" jack on the other end?

    That's exactly what I'm after! Thanks.

    It's mostly stuff I recorded years ago, that I just want to preserve in terms of concept. But I guess I will probably want better quality for subsequent projects.

    Thanks for the tip.
  4. Yes, most domestic electronics, hifi, or music shops should stock them, and for these signal levels, a cheap one will do the job.

    Another tip: The length of your recording will be limited by the size of your hard drive. If your cheap PC is second hand, with a small hard drive, you may need to copy each tape/ write to CD/ erase from hard drive/ start again. If you want to work it out, as a rule of thumb, a 74 minute CD is about 600Mb, and if you want to do any kind of editing, you need that much again for the temp files. Think in terms of having at least 2 Gb of spare hard drive capacity to do audio work without hassle.
  5. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004

    That's something I hadn't really thought about, good tip.

    Speaking of signal levels, I found I had the bits and pieces I needed to be able to connect my bass, via my Sansamp, directly to the computer (ie. I have a cable with 1/8" jacks on either end and a 1/8" to 1/4" jack adaptor). I'd quite like to be able to record samples that way... I wouldn't be in danger of frying anything in my computer if I did that, would I? The bass is active (a Stingray), if that makes any difference.
  6. From what you have said, it sounds as if you plan to put a stereo 1/4 inch jack convertor into the Sansamp, and take the 1/8 stereo lead from that to the PC.

    If the Sansamp has a stereo chorus (?), then you will get both channels, which is what you want, but if the Sansamp is mono, your signal will only appear on one channel (usually the left channel). If you bought a [mono 1/4 jack to 2 rca phono sockets] adaptor, that could be used with your [2 rca phono plugs to 1/8 jack] lead to connect the mono signal to both channels of your pc.

    One thing that you need to check is that the Sansamp uses a separate on-off switch, and does not use the output lead as a way of switching the circuit on and off, which is probably what you have with your Stingray. A guitar lead mono jack plug will short the middle contact to ground, so they connect the battery ground connection to the middle contact - guitar lead plugged in, battery connected - no guitar lead, no battery connection.

    If you do not have a separate on-off switch on your Sansamp, assume that it is wired this way. Using a stereo jack plug to connect it to your PC will connect your battery to the pc input, and stop the Sansamp working because it will not be getting any juice from the battery. I cannot say whether 9 volts dc on you PC input would cause damage, but I would not want to try it.
  7. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Hmm. How about if I use my four track as a rudimentary mixer? Presumably that would be okay?


    Stingray --> Bass Driver --> Four track (rca output) --> computer
  8. The problem is not how you string them together, but what you do it with. Any electronics that uses the jack socket to control its power needs to have a mono jack plug in it. If you do that, you can plug the bass, or the Sansamp or the four track straight into the PC. If you don't have that problem, you don't need that solution.
  9. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    For good recordings mute the line in input and TURN OFF mic boost. (both are in sound controls)

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