Audio cable conundrum

Reader Michael Sung is confused by cables. He writes:

I have an iBook G4, which does not have a mic/line in port. I understand I need to use the USB port and I need to buy an external device for recording, such as an iMic or something else.

What I’d like to find out is what cables do I need to get for these types of external devices (the cable from the tape deck to the external device and from the device to the USB port)?

Every device of this type that I’ve encountered includes the USB cable you require. Should yours be missing in action, you want a standard A to B USB cable. The A side offers a rectangular male connector and the B male connector is squarish. The A side goes into your computer and the B side runs to the USB audio interface.

The audio cable you get depends on the kind of connectors on your output device and on the audio interface. Typical cassette players include RCA output ports — those red and white plugs that populate the typical home stereo. USB audio interfaces can have RCA inputs as well. If so, just get a standard RCA to RCA cable and you’re in business.

Increasingly the 1/8th-inch minijack is popular on audio interfaces (the iMic you cite, for example, includes minijack in and out). This is the same kind of connector used by your iBook’s headphone port. If you have a standard cassette player with RCA outputs you’ll need an RCA to stereo miniplug Y cable. A quick trip to Radio Shack will secure the cable you need for less than $10. (This means that, yes, you should look elsewhere in the store after the clerk directs you to the nicely made, but really expensive, Monster cables.)

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