You might have boxes of audio cassettes laying around, taking up space. Your car, or maybe your home, no longer has a cassette player. These were a past major investment. You do not want to just throw them out. The good news is that you can salvage them. It’s a T&M project, i.e., requiring time and materials.
Time is essential because you cannot do with high-speed dubbing as you did copying audio cassettes in the past. You’ll need to play each tape at its normal play speed. The materials you will need are: 1) a reasonable quality Cassette player with an earphone plug (consider borrowing one if you have to); 2) a 3.5mm Male to Male Stereo Cable (you choice of length) to connect your computer to the cassette player. I recently bought a Cables Unlimited AUD-1100-25 3.5 mm 25 feet Male to Male Stereo Cable - Black to connect one of our computers to our phone system for music-on-hold (I don’t attest to its quality) -- there are also premium cables: Aurum Cables 3.5mm Car Stereo Auxiliary Male to Male (Aux-in) Input Cable (6 Ft) - Ideal for Car Aux in / Ipod, Ipod Touch / Iphone 3g + 3gs / Mp3, Ipad Sony - Colors May Vary; and 3) lastly, a software program to capture the audio, convert it to an MP3 file, and possibly additional splitter software to split, cut, and trim a large MP3 output file into multiple smaller pieces (tracks) for easier playback, if desirable. I have been using a Software Bundle from EZ SoftMagic (see their website) flawlessly for years. It includes a MP3 Splitter & Joiner, Audio Recorder Pro, and MP3 CD Ripper, with a Personal License (all easily downloadable).
Connect one end of the Male to Male Stereo Cable the headphone connector of the cassette player. Connect the other end to either the (pink) microphone connector or the (blue) line-in connector on the back of your computer. Sometimes one works better than the other. You might also have a more convenient additional microphone connector on the front of your computer that you can use. If not enabled, the control for these can be found by selecting “Sounds” in the “Control Panel.” This covers the hardware setup, except that for more expensive cassette players, sound systems, or multimedia components, you will need an RCA Audio to 3.5mm Y Adapter, such as Belkin Y Audio Cable (12 foot) and RiteAV 6 Feet 3.5mm to Stereo RCA Male Cable since they use RCA Audio connectors.
Audio Recorder Pro can run in either an Auto or Manual mode. You can enable “silence detection” which will automatically stop recording after a specified number of seconds, or pause until sound is detected again. It also has an MP3 ID Tag editor to label the Title, Artist, Album, Genre, Comment, Year and Track # “fields” for the newly converted/recorded output files. It also has ten different recording quality levels you can choose from (this translates: better quality means bigger files). You can also just choose the recommended defaults.
I have also used the free "File Renamer" and "Mp3 ID Tag Editor" (you can Google their site-Cnet has them too), because for storage you want to create track filenames in a certain sequence like, 01-01-The Hobbit, 01-02-The Hobbit, 01-03-The Hobbit, etc., where, for an album, the variables would be (Cassette side # + track#) + album name. Also, the program dbConfig will convert these filenames to track titles (used by some mp3 players for ordering tracks). "Mp3 ID Tag Editor" will resequence & rewrite track #'s, also necessary for Mp3 players.
I have found it important, in the Mp3 ID Tag, to keep the following information: Album name, Genre, artist, exactly the same (important for organizing tracks by album, artist or genre on an Mp3 device). If different by one letter or character, the Mp3 player will categorize them differently. Filenames, titles and track numbers will be varied and sequenced such that sorting any on them will always produce the same order (important for storing & playing). In the Hobbit example above, these would be tracks 1, 2, and 3 respectively, because they are the first 3 tracks of cassette #1.
NOTE: This can also work for old turntables & vinyl records.