Transferring Analog to Digital

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Many genealogists will come in contact with an outdated audio format. Understanding how to convert these audio recordings to digital sound is essential for preservation.


Digital Transfer

1.      To transfer audio cassettes or records directly to a computer, purchase a 1/8” stereo to 1/8” stereo audio cable. This is also known as a mini-jack cable. It looks like a headphone plug on each end of the cable. These are available at computer stores. These cost around $6.00.

2.      Plug one end of the cable into the headphone jack of the audio source (the device you want to transfer from.)

3.      Plug the other end into the directly into computer through the microphone jack. This allows a closed-circuit recording environment. The user may record directly onto the computer without external noise ruining the recording.

4.      To record from record players or low-output devices, use a Preamp, otherwise the sound quality will only be as good as the original sound. To increase the quality, purchase a Computer Transfer Preamp. These vary in price around $50-$200.00. or

Most computers come with basic sound recording software. Often these are limited to a few minutes recording time. Check at a local software company for sound recording software, or search for free sound recording software online. Check to make sure that the sound recording software records files in .wav format and that the length of the recordings is sufficient.

'Audacity: [1]'

'Polderbits: [2]'

'Audio Recorder for Free 8.6: [3]'

Ashampoo Burnya: [4]

Or search for free downloadable software through

5.      The sound card on the user’s computer will affect the sound quality. Sound cards may be added through USB ports such as the Transit USB and the Audiophile USB sound cards. They range from $70-$170. If the sound card has an audio jack, plug into the soundcard jack instead of the computer microphone jack. or [5]

6.      Many older recording devices have larger headphone jacks. Adapters are often available at a minimal cost through an electronics store.

7.      Once all desired components are in place, adjust the software settings to record at the desired quality level and audio file format.

8.      Push record on the computer software, then push play on the audio source (cassette player) or start playing the record. Most software will contain instructions for setting chapters within an audio file. To set chapters with a cassette recorder, push pause on the cassette first at the desired point, then follow the instructions in the software to mark the chapter. To begin recording again, first start the computer software, then the analog device.


1.      Never wash a vintage record with water or expose it to moisture.

2.      Never use compressed air to clean a vintage record.

3.      Never play a vintage record on a modern record player with a modern stylus.

4.      For detailed information on handling vintage records visit: