Why digitise? Your audio cassette collection's digital future

  1. Introduction
  2. About this resource
  3. The Reilly collection
  4. Reasons to digitise
  5. Current project
  6. Digital formats
  7. Useful links
  8. Disclaimer

Dr Linda Barwick
PARADISEC, Transient Building F12
University of Sydney
NSW 2006

July 2001
revised September 2005

Anyone who holds significant recordings on cassette or reel-to-reel tape will probably be wondering what future those recordings have now that these technologies are becoming obsolete. Or perhaps you have already noticed that your recordings are deteriorating with repeated playing. If you want your recordings to remain accessible beyond the lifetime of your current equipment you should start planning now as to what to do with them.

One possibility is to persuade a library or archive to look after them for you (which will almost certainly involve them digitising the recordings). If your collection is really rare and significant this is the best way to go. However, you may have to wait a long time before you get digitised copies of your material back, because most public institutions are already struggling to digitise their existing collections and have long waiting lists. If you'd like to have digital copies of your recordings sooner rather than later, you could pay a commercial firm to do it for you, though that is likely to work out fairly pricey (approximately $AU180 per hour in Sydney in 2003).

Or if you have a bit of time on your hands, a decent pair of ears and just a bit of technical nous, you could do some cottage digitising of your own, perhaps before you deposit your collection in that archive. With a computer, a soundcard, appropriate software and a CD burner you can do a pretty good job of transferring your cassette recordings onto audio CDs. This won't be an archival quality copy, but it will be a whole lot better than nothing. In any case the quality of most home-recorded cassette recordings is such that you won't be losing much by doing your own digitising, so long as you bear in mind a few basic principles.

About this resource
Reilly collection
Why digitise
Digital formats

© Linda Barwick 2001, 2003