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I have a cassette recorder with a microphone input, no line-in. I'd like to record some audio coming from my computer. No matter how low I set the computer's output volume the recorded signal is way too loud and potentially overdriven. Due to the low output level the SNR of the computer's output is so low you can hear a loud buzzing in silent parts.

How can I lower the volume of the output that it's on microphone level?

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The cassette recorder may be increasing the gain on the microphone input, this is probably not adjustable but that depends on the device. –  horatio Jun 13 '12 at 15:07
    
I just build a potential divider, but there might be a better way, so I'm leaving this unanswered. –  Max Ried Jun 13 '12 at 15:15
    
Why would you want to record your computer's output with a cassette recorder, if not verily to get a nice low-fi analog sound with lots of nonlinearities? –  leftaroundabout Jun 13 '12 at 21:47
    
Mainly to give music to several persons who prefer audio cassette. Besides, without modifications the distortions from overdriving the input signal are not that appealing... –  Max Ried Jun 14 '12 at 4:58
    
This question is better suited to electronics.stackexchange.com –  ObscureRobot Jun 14 '12 at 15:36
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1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You're likely looking at the harsh reality of mic level vs. line level recording. Line level, such as your headphone output, is a much stronger signal than mic level, which, given your symptoms, is likely the case on your cassette recorder. The loud buzzing in silent parts, overdriven audio, and a sound quality that's best described as "crispy" are all the hallmarks of a mismatch between line and mic.

A couple options: you can't adjust the output from the laptop. Most recording devices have a switch labelled "line" and "mic". Flip the switch to "line" so it matches your output. If you've got no switch and you're handy with electronics (or know someone who is), try this.

Good luck!

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You could also buy a pre-made level adapter; at least, Radio Shack sold them (marked by having red plugs) around 15 years ago when they weren't in the cell-phone business… –  Kevin Reid Jun 14 '12 at 12:11
    
Great point, @KevinReid! Caveat emptor: I bought/exchanged three in a row from Radio Shack about 3 years ago (when they were in the cell phone busienss) and the plugs loosened, resulting in crackle after a few uses. Hrm. YMMV, but I eventually got a professional one from Comprehensive...but that may be stupid expensive for what you need. –  dwwilson66 Jun 14 '12 at 13:09
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