Can I Use A Walkman Cassette Player To Make MP3's....

… and transfer them to CD. I have so many songs from my DJ days that are just sitting there in their cases and I don’t play them because of the deterioration factor, so would this be an easy way other than buying a cassette deck?

If I have asked this before, please excuse the post, and thanks!


It’s very simple to record sound from audio cassettes to MP3.

  1. Download “Audacity”
  2. Buy a double ended microphone cable.
  3. Plug one end of the cable into the Walkman headphones socket. Plug the other end into the microphone socket of your PC.
  4. Start recording with Audacity.
  5. Press Play on you Walkman

Hey presto, you now have the entire tape in MP3 format.

You can then go through and splice the recording into individual songs, take out a lot of the noise in the recording and so forth. I’ve done this myself, and the result is indistinguishable from the original tape, or a little better.

That’s the cheap and dirty way of doing it. There are better methods, but it sounds like you don’t want to spend a lot of money. A Walkman isn’t the best quality tape player around, and the better the quality of the tape player the better the quality of the recording. You can also buy tape decks that have better outputs than the headphone socket. But you don’t want to buy another tape deck.

You can also buy software that will automate a lot of this for you. It will detect the breaks between songs and automatically clip the recording into individual songs, it will automatically select the best options for reducing noise. I had one of these programs 10+ years ago, and it was great for recording from vinyl. I assume they have gotten better over the years, or at least are no worse. There are any number available for download for ~$20. Audacity will do all that for free, but it takes a bit of time to mess around, especially on noise reduction.

I can tell you from experience that unless the tape is uniquely rare you’d be better off finding legit (or not so legit) ways of either downloading the MP3s or just making youtube playlists of songs from the tapes. It’s a time consuming pain in the ass getting songs from tapes into decent sounding MP3s.

Agreed. Tape players are notorious for playing at inconsistent speeds, so even if you somehow wound up with a high-quality mp3 from an old cassette tape, you might end up with files playing at the wrong pitch, or even worse, a fluctuating pitch.

Of course, if you fetishize tapes like I do, then you’ll be totally into that. Just thought I’d offer fair warning.

I haven’t seen too much problem with changing pitch, unless the cassette is in poor condition and binds up a bit as it plays. The real problem is going to be the poor fidelity of cassettes in general combined with really bad tape hiss. The sound quality if your typical Joe Average walkman isn’t all that hot either. I would recommend getting a modern digital copy of the songs if available just because of the quality factor.

You’re right. The point I wanted to make specifically was that play speeds vary among tape players, and a Walkman probably isn’t the most likely to match the tape’s intended speed. The implications of this aren’t dire for your mp3s, but it does lend credence to the idea that pirating the mp3s would be less time and effort for better results.

Sure you can do this with cassette tapes and also the audio portion of video tapes. I’ve done it. I have a nice Nakamichi tape deck I am going to use to transfer my cassette of Music and Rhythm to digital format. It is now out of print, except for a bastardized version that doesn’t have all the African and ethnic music on it. The original is one of my all time favorite albums. I’ll clean it up and balance the sound with Sound Forge, and should end up with a pretty good copy of the original. The LP it was recorded from had a skip in one song, just one jump.
Nothing I can do about that.
Is a Walkman really the best tape player you have access to?

The belts in old cassette players & 8 tracks dry rotted and stretched long ago. If they play at all, there will be a lot of slippage.

I’m not sure about the Walkman. Was it belt drive or direct drive? Direct drive should still play ok.

If I wanted to transfer cassettes I’d try to find someone that still had a high end unit. I had a Kenwood in my stereo rack. There’s repaired high end units on Ebay for less than $80.

If you have a big box of cassettes to transfer it might be worth getting a high end unit. Makes me a little sick to think a $1000 cassette deck in 1988 sells for under a hundred bucks. But, they do. Those high end units came pretty darn closing to matching a CD. A lot depended on the cassette tape. A fairly new tape that hasn’t collected a lot of dirt can sound great on a high end unit. At least mine did in 1990. :smiley:

Cassettes were notorious for picking up dirt. People would play them in cheap decks at the beach, then their car, then their high end system at home. They’d wonder why they sounded like crap. Well, that cheap deck and all that sand contaminated the heck out of the tape.

I always made copies of my virgin cassettes. Then put them away and used the copies. My high end player only used cassettes kept in the house. My car and boombox used a different copy that I didn’t mind abusing.

No, Arrendajo, it isn’t. I was just going with the cheapest wat possible. I can see from the answers here, however, that this isn’t the best way to go in transferring analog to digital, so I’ll try to find a tape deck which will do what I need it to.

A lot of that stuff is precious to me, because “back in the day”, it fell to the nightime DJ to open all those demo 45’s and give them a listen. Some of them made it to airplay, but a lot of them didn’t, but they all got a listen and a mailed-back comment. I loved that part of my job and I’d like to listen back to some of those demos without damaging the tape any further.

Thanks very much!


Man! I wish I’da thought of that, ace!



In the latest issue of TapeOp some readers wrote in with sources for new cassettes – I guess you have the tapes already, but since tape is getting scarce on the ground, especially for primo high-bias cassettes, it might be worth checking into.

Always wanted one of the higher-end Nakamichi decks. As it is, I just have an old dictaphone setup with a crummy output stage, but most of my old tapes are pretty much shot to hell. Good luck!