We are now in the day and age of digital dictation and transcription. But, believe it or not, there are people and organisations out there who are still using some form of cassette tape to record dictation. Olympus long ago discontinued their micro and mini cassette transcription kits (remember the old Pearlcorder brand?) and more recently their hand held tape dictaphones and the tapes bit the dust.
So, what if you do transcription work and you only have digital transcription software, how do you get taped audio into a digital format for you to transcribe? Really it is quite simple as long as you have a device that can play the tape usually the device that made the recording if you have a microcassette or mini cassette. Standard tapes can be played back using a standard tape deck although you have to be careful as some standard cassette recordings can be made in double time which you won’t be able to play on a standard tape deck. As long as that tape player has an earphone or headphone jack you are in luck.
As audio is played back through the earphone jack socket, typically to a headset or earpiece, when you play the tape use that output source and run it into the mic socket on your PC or Mac. To do this you will need a cable which on one end has a male jack plug the correct size to fit the earphone/headphone jack socket on the tape player. On the other end of the cable you will need another male jack plug the correct size to fit the mic socket on your PC or Mac. Don’t worry if the sockets on the tape player and your computer are different sizes, you can get adapters to change the male jack plug size. Once you have the cable all you need is some free audio recording software to record whatever your PC/Mac mic socket can hear as the tape is played back. Once recorded you can save the audio in your favourite digital format; mp3, wma, wav etc.
One thing to watch out for is excessive noise output from the tape playing device. In our experience we have had to reduce the output volume on the player to very low. On the computer I recommend you adjust the mic in volume control to the lowest setting also. Keep an eye on the audio meter levels in the software you choose to record digitally, you will be able to see if the audio in is too much for your sound card. Remember this is taped audio, it will not be as crisp or clear as digital.
Suggested software for recording audio on your computer:
Audacity: Open source, free audio recording software. Allows for audio editing and some effects like noise reduction.
Wavepad: From everyones favourite audio software company NCH Swift Sound. Wavepad comes in a free limited functionality version and a paid full featured package.