Converting Music & Media

Converting Music & Media: a reader asks…

I need some help from you. I have an old National Panasonic cassette player with line in, audio tape and Radio options. l also have a number of CD and DVDs with good old music. Can I use old disc drivers with my table top computer? Also, how can I interface my computer with the cassette player to recover taped music? And lastly, how about VHS tapes?

Let’s start with your CD collection. If your desktop computer has a CD/DVD drive, then you should be able to pop a CD or DVD in and play them. Fyi, CDs and DVDs are already in digital format, so you needn’t worry about audio fidelity degradation. To import a commercial music or other audio CD to your computer, you’ll need a music app that includes the ability to “rip” or import music from a CD. Music apps such as iTunes or WinAmp would do the job nicely.

recordable-cd-dvd-and-thumbdrive-image-from-shutterstock

Some personally ‘burned’ CDs are created simply to store files on them and formatted the same as a thumbdrive or other external drive. You can copy those files easily using your computer’s File Explorer app (Finder on Mac), no other software needed.

In the case of DVDs, it depends on if they are commercial or personal. Commercial DVDs usually contain ‘protected content’ like movies and TV shows that include copyright protection, so they can’t be casually copied. There are programs that can sometimes break that protection, but I can’t recommend you try to convert commercial media to a format that could then be resold or distributed – that would be illegal.

Personal DVDs can be data DVDs which are similar to a thumbdrive in that you can read and copy files from them the same as you would with a thumbdrive. Load the DVD and open your computer’s File Explorer app (Finder on Mac), and you should be able to see the files and copy them to your computer.

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If you have a personal DVD that contains video or audio, they likely hold movies or music that may be playable on your computer using an app such as WinDVD Pro or the free VLC Media Player. If you would like to import and convert them to a standard video format (such as .mp3) that’s playable on any computer, then you’d need an app like WinX DVD Ripper or Handbrake.

For the cassette player, it should have a Line Out port, or a headphone port that fits a 3.5mm stereo plug. You would need a cable that has that plug on one end. The other end depends on your desktop computer, whatever Line In port(s) your computer has determines what type of cable you use. It could be twin RCA ports or a 3.5mm stereo line-in port.

Please note that the audio coming from a Line Out port is stereo and is analog (versus digital). So you’ll need an app on your computer to import the analog audio and convert it to digital. Such as the free Audacity software.

Also note that analog audio sources such as your cassette tapes can degrade over time. Audio fidelity will degrade significantly, depending on how the tapes were stored and how often they were used. For tapes that have sat unplayed for a long time, I’d suggest you run them through the player once before you attempt to record the audio from the tapes, since tape can stick and cause audio blips. Same for the VHS tapes below.

Some older cassette players don’t feature stereo music and only play single channel audio (mono). However, the audio on a cassette tape can be either stereo or mono. If you want to capture stereo audio, you should be using the Line Out or stereo headphone port on your stereo player, and the line-in port on your computer. If your computer doesn’t have a line in port, you may need an audio adapter/converter, like this one.

Lastly, if you want to convert VHS tapes to a digital format, you’ll need a VHS player with output ports that match whatever input ports you have or can add to your computer. I should mention that converting video to digital is a CPU-intensive effort – your computer should be fairly powerful.

If your computer doesn’t already have video input ports, you can add an external device such as the Dazzle DVD Record HD, which includes the video editing software you’ll need to trim the video and output it to a digital format you can use (such as .mp4).

2 Comments

  1. K. Srimannarayana

    Dear sir,
    Please advise me for the following problems:
    1) I am having National Panasonic stereo radio cassette recorder model no. RX – 5055F and an external DVD ROM, model no. DVR – Y08. I am interested to play my audio CD/DVDs with the above old external DVD ROM having headphone socket. When I tried, no sound is coming at headphone socket.
    2) I am having WD TV HD Media Player. Can use this to play songs from external hard dick by using the above stereo radio cassette recorder.
    3) Where can I get a replaceable battery (Part no. AP 13G3N, 3.7VDC-6800mAh, Li-ion, model no. CS -ACW300SL) to my Acer tab Iconia W3 – 810 as when I disconnect the power adaptor, the charge is disappearing immediately. I feel it is not holding the charge. Theater batteries are not available in India. Can you please suggest some alternative.
    4) I am having one Portable DVD Player, Initial make, model no. DVD-5820 gifted by my daughter. It’s TFT screen was damaged. Screen display is 5.8” TFT LCD. Can you please suggest me the alternative as the display device is not available in India.

    • Ok, let’s take these in order. There’s a lot of guesswork here since we’re talking about older and vintage equipment. There’s not a lot of information about them online.

      1. Likely you would need a cable with a headphone plug on one end and twin RCA plugs on the other (usually red & white), or with headphone plugs on both ends. It depends on the Line In jack(s) on the Panasonic. There aren’t any manuals available online, nor high resolution images, so I can’t know exactly what kind of connections that Panasonic has. If the RCA type, the headphone end plugs into the DVD player and the RCA plugs go into the Line In jacks on the Panasonic. I’m not sure how you’re powering that DVD drive since that model appears to be a drive designed to be in a computer. If in fact you have that drive in a computer you can use the computer’s headphone jack and output the computer’s sound to the Panasonic through the cable. If you are using the DVD drive as a standalone and have given it electrical power, then use the DVD drive’s headphone jack. If you aren’t getting any audio, then I’d suspect broken hardware either in the vintage Panasonic or the DVD drive. Be sure to use the switch on the top panel of the Panasonic that toggles between Power/Off/Tape, Radio & Line In) – use the Line In position to hear audio from the DVD drive.

      If you have a pair of headphones or earbuds you can try to listen from the DVD drive’s headphone port – if playing an audio CD and you don’t hear anything, then the drive is probably broken or defective. If you can hear music through headphones/earbuds, but can’t get music playing out the Panasonic when that’s hooked up, then the Panasonic is probably broken or defective. Since this is vintage gear, it might be as simple as a broken wire at the RCA jack connection point, but you’d need to disassemble the Panasonic and be handy with a soldering iron to fix that. Anything else and it’s really beyond the capabilities of a forum such as this to advise, you’d need an electrician.

      2. This device would connect and work similarly with the Panasonic, only with a standard RCA audio cable set (twin RCA red/white plugs on either end). Plug one end in the WD media player’s OUT jacks and the other end in the Line IN jacks on the Panasonic.

      3. I can’t advise on making international purchase from within India. I do know that here in the US I can order parts from anywhere in the world and have them delivered to me. Such as through Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Battery-Iconia-W3-810-ZEIV4/dp/B07KV2NN2V.

      4. It is generally more expensive to repair small consumer electronics than it is to replace them. Especially so for small/portable devices like that DVD player. For example, ebay.com sells new portable DVD players for about $50US, used for about $20US. If you could even find a replacement screen it would likely cost you as much or more as a replacement. Small portable devices like that aren’t designed to be used with a secondary video monitor so they don’t have a video output jack.

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