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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Transferring cassettes to iTunes with the help of Audio HiJack Pro

I originally planned to use Audacity, the Free! open-source audio editor. It is Free!, it is open-source; and as a full-featured audio editor, it takes some time to learn.

I only wanted to transfer some of my sister-in-law’s old 80’s mix cassettes to CDs for her Christmas present last year. I didn’t have a lot of time to learn a new piece of software. So to cut to the chase, I turned to Rogue Ameoba’s wonderful program, Audio Hijack Pro. It is not Free!, it is not open-source, and I am so glad I spent the $32 to buy it.


Audio Hijack Pro v 2.10.6 only works with OS X 10.6 through 10.8.3. Audio Hijack Pro takes its name from its foremost capability, that of rerouting audio in your Macintosh. It also has the ability to record anything that plays on your Mac to several different audio formats. These formats range from AIFF, for capturing audio you intend to burn to CD, to M4A, the default iTunes audio format, to plain old MP3 for Internet distribution.

The rest of this article will cover how to transfer an old cassette tape into a format suitable for iTunes/iPod/iPad.First, you need an tape player. I am lucky, I have a high-end Sony cassette deck. You may have a boombox or Walkman.

Clean the tape heads with at least denatured alcohol and the cleanest Q-Tips you can find. If you have a Walkman, get a head-cleaning tape. I assume the readers of this article live in an urban area or close to one. You can go to Radio Shack or Best Buy or Fry’s for tape deck cleaning supplies. You might also try Al & Ed’s Car Stereo stores.

Second, you will need a cable to connect the tape deck. For a high-end audio deck , you will need a cable with RCA jacks on one end and a 1/8” stereo

minijack on the other end. Figure1-Patchcable-stereominijacktoRCAjacks-2013-04-3-19-51.png

You plug the RCA jacks into your tape deck’s line-out jacks (Figure 2) and the minijack into your Mac’s audio-in jack (Figure 3).If you use a boombox (Figure 4) or Walkman, you need a patch cable with 1/8” stereo minijacks on each end. Figure4-SonyBoombox-2013-04-3-19-51.jpg


Once you've done this, open up Audio Hijack Pro. Make a new Session by clicking on the + sign at the bottom of the column. (Figure 5).


You get a new default session that you change to fit your needs. For instance, set the Source Type selector, from the drop-down list, from “Application” (Figure 6) to “Audio Device” (Figure 7).



Set the Input Device to “Built-In Input: Line In” (Figure 8).


Plug in the cable from the tape deck or boombox if you haven’t done so already.Set the Output Device to a set of headphones or monitor speakers. In my case, I use a Griffin iMic as the output device for my headphones. You can just use “Built-in Output: Internal Speakers” and plug in a set of headphones if you like. (Figure 9)


(Now your Session may say “Built-In Input: Line In” instead of the name you prefer. In that case, go to the bottom of the Session column and click on the gear icon to the right of the minus sign. You pick “Rename” and change the name of the session to your desired name. In my case, it was “King Crimson and Pink Floyd”. (Figure 10))


Finally, adjust the Recording tab as desired, setting the file type and entering the desired tags. You have several options for the file type. If you just intend to transfer music to your iPod/iPad/MP3 Player, select the format “For recording streaming music” for files in the same format as those you purchase from the iTunes Music Store. If you want to burn these tunes to a CD, choose “For burning to CD (AIFF)”. (Figure 11)


   Now you're ready to hijack and record. Click the Hijack button on the toolbar, then click the Record button on the toolbar. (Figure 12)


Now start the audio playing from your source, and it will be recorded. That's about all there is to it. When you're done, turn the hijacking off, and disconnect the input device.

For recording audio from a record or cassette, using the Split button will seamlessly create a new audio file each time you hit it. Hit it in between tracks, and you'll wind up with different files for each song. You can also try using the Silence Monitor in the Recording tab to automatically split between tracks. Try the Analog preset to start, or experiment with a Custom setup.

If you want to copy your files to iTunes when you finish your recording session, go to the Recording tab and click on the Scripts drop-down list. You can pick a script to copy your files to your iPod or Itunes.

If you want to copy your files to an Audio CD, you can do so within Audio Hijack Pro. Go to the upper-left corner of the window. Click on Recording Bin. On the right-hand, you will see a display of all your recorded files in the /Music/Audio Hijack folder. (Note: you may want to clear this folder out from time to time, particularly if you want to record tapes and LPs as AIFFs for burning to CDs. This file format takes up a lot of space on your hard disk!)

If the files you want to burn to a CD follow each other, click once on the first one to highlight it. Then hold the Shift key down and click the last file. Now you have a highlighted list.

Click on the Burn icon and follow the instructions. Choose the CD burner you wish to use, insert a blank CD-R, and burn your CD.You can also import the AIFF files into iTunes via the scripts list drop-down box or via the manual drag-and-drop method you’ve used in the past.

Finally, what if you want to play back a snippet of the file and rename it? Simple, go to Record Bin, click once on the song you wish to inspect and the click on the Inspect icon.

You’ll see a window with a toolbar with 4 buttons: Summary, Tags, Lyrics, and Artwork.         

Summary gives information on the file format. It also has a mini-player. Click on the right-facing arrow and hear your song. Yes, that’s the song you wanted! (Figure 13)


Now go to Tags and fill in the information (Figure 14) .


Assorted Notes: -Many people also want to remove noise on the signal. As you may know, AH Pro supports VST and AU plugins in the Effects tab. With the low pass filter, you may be able to remove some hiss from cassettes. Other plugins such as Excitifier may allow you to improve audio fidelity. Experimenting to your taste will likely enable you to get the results desired. However, if you're planning to do a lot of audio importation, you may wish to invest in a more professional solution. Check out Bias Inc's SoundSoap VST plugin. It'll plug right in to AH Pro and clean up all kinds of artifacts. It's not cheap at $99, but it will almost certainly serve your purpose.*If your Mac doesn't have an audio input jack, you can use Griffin's iMic to gain an audio input.


For $32, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro provides a quick and simple way to transfer audio played through your Mac onto files for your iTunes/iPod/MP3 Player. It’s simpler to use than a full-fledged audio editor such as Audacity or HairerSoft’s Amadeus Pro.

You must run at least OS X 10.6 and an Intel Mac to use this program. Sorry, PPC Tiger & Leopard users.

I would like to thank Rogue Amoeba software for the use of selected text excerpts from their manual in this article.

(Thomas Briant was the editor of the MacValley Voice and now edits the MacValley Blog. When not transferring old ‘80s cassettes to iTunes, he enjoys writing about the experience for his fellow MacValleyites. You can reach him at

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