Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Thoughts - audiobooks on cassette

In my search for more audio books, I have been using the AAR audio book blog to see what other people have/know. One commenter on the blog mentioned an unabridged recording of Susan Andersen's Head Over Heels - a favorite author, a favorite book - read by Anna Fields - a truly favorite narrator! I could only find it in cassette, however, so I had been researching the ease of converting cassettes to MP3s. After futzing around with the solutions I had found online, purchasing a $20 Walkman-esque cassette recorder from Radio Shack, and using what appeared to be the correct cable to hook it up to both my Mac and my Toshiba with no results, I went back to Radio Shack and explained the situation. I figured they would maybe test my cable, or just sell me a better cable, or maybe even offer a different solution.

I was right: they offered a different solution, to the tune of $70 more dollars. It's a device, with cords and adapters, that hooks up cassette players and other audio equipment to a computer using USB. Dang, and for the $100 I spent, I probably could have gotten a nice USB cassette deck and not had all this surface-filling clutter.

The box indicated it worked with Windows 7 and XP but didn't list Mac. That doesn't usually slow me down, because often those devices also work with Mac; if not, I had my trusty Toshiba netbook. Lo and behold, I hooked it up, and it showed up in the devices lists, and Audacity was able to hear it and record it!

Then, I was able to delete the annoying "this is the end of the cassette" parts, delete the excess noise/hiss from the tape (I hope - sounded good on the computer but I haven't done the earbud test yet), export to an MP3 and add to my iTunes library! Oh, just the first tape, 45 minutes per side, of 7. It records at 1X speed, so I listened to it while it recorded (knitting, on the futon). I was reminded again how enjoyable Anna Fields makes every story she reads! It's a keeper for me, so I'm sure I will listen to it more than once - otherwise, I coulda just listened to it on tape and been done with it. But now my audio book world is open!

I wonder if I still have any cassettes anywhere - or did they get left behind in a move...

The device is by xitel and it's called Inport Pro on the box, although googling "inport pro" to see if anyone successfully used it on a Mac brought Zero - 0 - results. How often does googling produce NO result? But using only the word "Inport" and adding xitel produced several, none of which clarified whether or not it would work on Mac OS 10.whatever I have (the latest - Snow Leopard). IT DOES! in case anyone got here googling that inport + xitel + mac. I plugged the USB port into my hub, the other side into The Device, one end of the Incredibly Long Cable with RCA plugs they include in the package to The Device, the other end to the adapter they included for the mini-plug that goes into the cassette player.

The Radio Shack cheap cassette player actually does not have reverse, if you can believe that - you can turn it over and FF if you need to go back. Weird.

So for some reason I couldn't figure out, doing as the many online tutorials I found said - plugging the cassette directly to the computer's audio input - did not produce a recording on either the Mac or the Toshiba, although the Toshiba did recognize the cable as being plugged in. It might have been some setting I missed, but after a few hours of diddling, one gets weary. And Frustrated Beyond Belief. $70 seemed a small price to open my audio book world to older recordings!! Well, no, it's a big price, but maybe what I mean is "I'm worth it".

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