Electronics- vintage and modern

Almost finished updating my entire system. What a task. My computer had a meltdown and something caused 2 of my partitions to disappear. If it weren't for religious backups I would have lost my entire photo archive plus a whole lot of miscellaneous documents. During breaks between installing devices and programs, and getting all my photos and documents in order, I was able to tackle a few other things.

I bought a usb enabled cassette recorder called the Grace Digital Audio as a birthday present for myself this past July. Actually, my sister paid for some of it. It has taken me until today (2 days ago) to figure it out. From what I read on the web I am not the only one who had a lot of frustrations with this product. I will also admit that I have no experience with music hardware and have never had luck dealing with the sound system on my computer so this is quite the achievement for me!

Anyway, for other people who may have thought they bought a hundred dollar paper weight, and who simply want to digitize cassette audio for the computer, I will share what I learned this evening:

1. Forget the stereo cables that come with the product -from what I've read you would need some kind of adapter to channel the voodoo from two cables into a single one for that port in the back of your computer. You should have usb ports on your computer and use the supplied USB cable.
2. The Audacity software on the disc is there so you don't have to rely on the shitty little sound recorder that comes with Windows. Also, when you are told you need the 'lame' file go find and download it from the net because the software will need it to work. I believe it's also required if you want to convert the music files you make into the MP3 format which is the standard because of it's balance of sound quality and size.
3. All your computer devices have 'drivers'...it's your sound card driver that's important to know about. I have something called Realtek, which deals with sound on my computer. You have to let the Audacity program know this in the preferences.

So, to begin. Once you have installed the software, got the 'lame' file, and KNOW BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT YOU HAVE SOUND, power up the cassette machine and plug in the usb cable. By the time you plop in a favorite oldy cassette Realtek sound manager (or something similar) may have popped up. I believe I ignored it- can't remember! I do know Realtek likes to make a fuss whenever audio related equipment is introduced to the computer.

Run the program Audacity. Under Edit>Preferences> you will get a tabbed dialog. The Audio I/O is the important one to get you started. Under 'Playback' is Device and you can pick from a Microsoft, USB, or Realtek option. I chose Realtek because I have to go through it's software to hear sound properly.
Under 'Recording' is Device and there I chose USB audio CODEC which is the cassette player.
Under 'Channels' I chose 2 (Stereo)
Once that's done it's time to try it out. Use the record button on Audacity and then hit play on the Grace device. After the song is over use the stop button in Audacity and save the project with the name of the song you just recorded to avoid confusion. Replay the song (project) to prove that it actually exists and start thinking about learning the program to edit the blank parts out.
***IMPORTANT: As I understand it you can play an entire side of a tape, have it recorded as a single 'track' by the software, and then edit the gaps and imperfections with the software. I haven't tried it but it strikes me as being VERY HEAVY on your computers processing power, memory etc. so consider that when you fool around with this. My first project file was a MINISCULE 14 kilobytes that exported a nearly 4 megabyte MP3 file! This tells me Audacity needs plenty of memory available to it...and the default directory for it's working space is in your C drive which will be cause to defrag more often. I will be seeing how well it works with its working space (temp directory) set up on a partition. Also, as soon as you have edited a piece of music, export it to the MP3 format so it's ready to be played or burned to disc with whatever other software you may be using.

***later in the evening***

If you decide to record one side of a cassette as a single audio track in Audacity then be prepared for slow editing. I have been going about it (probably quite primitively) by 'cutting' the first song out of the saved project, opening another instance of the program, and pasting it in there and then exporting the file by the song's name. Sometimes the 'cut' command is grayed out and I have to start the program twice to get it back.
This might have something to do with having the temp folder on a partition. Will probably move it back to c drive.
Like I have time for all this!

***1 day later***

I am obviously in the process of converting hard-to-find music from cassettes into the MP3 format and discovered that songs burned to cd from MP3 become some other kind of format.
IT IS TOTALLY RIDICULOUS that car cd players can’t just simply play MP3- no, you have to go through a burning process that may or may not produce a working music cd (I’ve not had good luck in with that in the past!)

So today I broke down and bought an MP3 player. I don’t have a huge music collection but what I do have I want to listen to in the car. Besides not having a good track record (ha ha) at making viable cds the cd deck in the car is a joke- no play button (you have to press the tuner knob which sometimes kicks in the radio) and the cup holders are almost directly in the way…the cup holders are the only kind that can be fitted onto my car so it’s not like I can change this. And a COFFEE cup holder matters more than anything else in that car. While I love the JEEP it does have some serious design flaws like having no proper storage space on the dash, which is common on a lot of new cars. That and the ‘anti-whiplash’ headrest.

Anyway, the MP3 players is made by Sylvania (of light bulb fame) and evidently can play back movies and photos as well as music. Bought an auxiliary cable so it can be run through the car’s speakers which is the whole point of having bought it and it looks simple to navigate. Will update when I have more to say but suffice to say it plays music through head phones very nicely and has simple controls- yay!