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Recording Radio Broadcasts on a VCR
Listen to your favorite radio show on your own schedule
  
Can't stay home to listen to your favorite radio show at the time it is broadcast? Have to work late and can't get home in time to listen to your radio in peace. Here's an easy way to record your radio talk show or music on a VCR while you are away from home. Yes, it really does work. You’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to record the sound from your radio onto a videotape in your VCR.

A typical VHS videocassette recorder (VCR) is capable of recording up to eight hours of audio on just one tape. When you come home just rewind the videotape and listen to your radio show thru your TV or thru your stereo or surround sound system. You can even transfer your show to inexpensive audio cassettes for archive. Who still uses a VCR these days? Plenty of people. VCRs have been around for more than 30 years. That's a long time for any technology and there are millions of VCRs still in use.

Just as you do a "timer record" or "time shift" of your TV show so you can view it at a later time, you can use this TIMER feature of your VCR to do a "timer record" of audio like a broadcast radio show. The procedure is the same. You are just recording from a radio instead of a television signal. Most people do not think of a VCR as a sound recorder but your videos have sound tracks do they not, and it is these sound tracks that you'll utilize to record your radio show on the videocassette. No, there will not be any video recorded. Only sound will playback. The video portion of the tape will be blank because there will be no video connection at the time of recording.

The VCR provides a built-in timer that allows you to set the time to turn on and turn off to record your radio programming for playback at a more convenient time. This is known as "time shifting." Your VCR can make superb audio recordings, which you can hear through the sound system built into your TV or through a stereo or surround sound system.

What you need:
  • VCR with audio input and audio output jacks. Almost all VCRs have these jacks.
  • Cable to connect the radio output to the VCR input.
  • Cable to connect VCR output to TV input.
  • Blank videocassette
  • TV
  • Radio


How you setup and record:
  1. Locate the audio input jack on your VCR. You will usually find it next to the video input. It might be in the front or rear but is usually in the rear. You are looking for (typically) a white colored jack, although it could be black as well. It will look something like this on your VCR:
      

    RCA style jacks
      
    A VCR with only mono sound will only have one audio jack (white or black) but a VCR with stereo sound will have two audio jacks, one white and one red. Use the white one or if you have a stereo radio, stereo VCR and stereo TV, use both white and red.
      
    Pay particular attention to the IN and OUT labels near these jacks. You want to be sure to use the IN jack to connect the radio and the OUT jack to connect the TV. Some VCRs have multiple input jacks, both on the front and the back. Next, determine how to activate these jacks so the VCR will recognize the radio sound you’ll put in instead of the TV sound usually recorded. The TV does NOT need to be turned on during the time you actually record the radio output on your VCR. 




    VCR rear panel - RCA Input jacks and Output jacks
      
  2. The standard jacks will be what are called "RCA" or "Phono" style jacks. RCA style cables look like this:
      

      
  3. Look at the radio you are going to use and find the earphone output jack. Typically, it will be a miniature or sub-miniature output. It will be stereo or mono. It could be located on the side or the top of the radio or boom-box you use to receive the radio broadcasts.
      

    Earphone output jack on radio
      
  4. If you do not already have an adapter cable with the proper plug size on each end to connect the radio to the VCR you'll need to obtain a cable. The radio must have a headphone or earphone jack. Most portable radios have a small-size, 1/8-inch jack, but any size will work. You’ll need a 6-foot audio cable available at Radio Shack. One end is the plug to fit the earphone jack on your radio. The other end is known as a phono or RCA plug, to fit the audio input jack on your VCR.

    Adapter cable connects radio earphone jack to VCR line input jack(s).

        
  5. Typically, you will need what is called "male" plugs on the adapter, to fit into the radio's output and the VCR's input.

    1/8 inch male plug (mono)
      
  6. A retail electronics store, like Radio Shack, sells these kinds of adapter cables.
      
  7. Turn on your radio and turn the volume up so you can hear it. Adjust the volume so the sound is clean and undistorted. Locate your radio sufficiently away from the TV and VCR so as to avoid interference that creates hum or buzz. 
      
  8. Leave the radio turned on to the radio station you want to record. Once you are satisfied with the sound level, plug the adapter cable into the earphone jack. Since you will have the adapter cable inserted into the earphone jack on the radio, the speakers will be silenced and you can leave this setup while you're away from home and not disturb anyone with the radio sounds. Once you plug in the cable you won’t hear the radio at all, because its speaker becomes inoperative when you plug in the adapter cable. 

      
  9. Plug the other end of the adapter cable into the VCR's audio input RCA jack(s).
       
  10. Now connect a RCA audio cable from the VCR's audio output jack to your TV's audio input jack.
      
        
      
  11. Program the VCR timer to turn on and begin recording a minute or two earlier than the show begins and to end recording a bit after the program ends. This way, you won’t miss a thing, even if the VCR clock isn’t exact. Follow your normal procedure for doing TIMER recordings on your VCR. Consult VCR owner's manual if required.
      
  12. For long recordings, remember to set your VCR to the "EP" setting.
  13. For higher quality but shorter recordings, use the "SP" speed on your VCR.
      
  14. The VCR should begin recording at the preset time and record the radio's audio to the videocassette. The VCR will turn off at the preset end time. Rewind the tape when you return home and listen to the radio broadcast on your own schedule.
       
  15. You will need to select the proper LINE input on the VCR and the proper LINE input on the TV. Use the remote control for each device to select the inputs. Some VCRs access the inputs on the front or back panel through setting the channel to “00” or by changing channels below “02.” As you go below “02” you may see something like “L 1” or “L 2” that lets you know you’re using the line inputs. 
      
    Power on your TV and test the connection and settings. You should hear the radio from your TV speaker(s). Experiment beforehand to make sure the sound is recording on the videotape and getting to the TV on playback. By doing this, you will not miss a show because your setup was incorrect. Your VCR may have an "input select switch" with choices such as "Aux" or "Line." Or, you might "turn on" one of these jacks on your VCR by switching the tuner or channel selector to the "Aux" position. (Don't forget to eventually remove the cable from the VCR when you’re done recording from the radio, or your VCR will not operate as normal.)
      
  16. You can also use a stereo system to playback your radio show. Just substitute your sound system for your TV. Connect RCA audio cables (left & right) from the VCR's audio output line to the input jacks (AUX) of your stereo system.





 
Another option is to use an audio cassette recorder, with either an input marked "Line In," or one with a built-in microphone, to transfer the sound from the videotape to an audio cassette for portable listening.
 
Home audio cassette machines as well as portable audio systems, such as "boom boxes," have these inputs. Simply connect the "Audio Out" from the back of the VCR to the "Line In" jack on the cassette recording device. Now, insert the video and audio tapes in their respective machines. While you play the tape in the VCR, record onto the audio cassette.

If you want to use a portable cassette recorder with a built-in microphone, you can place the portable recorder as close to the TV speaker as possible, play the videotape through the TV and record the sound from the TV speakers. You can experiment with both TV volume and placement of the audio cassette recorder in order to get good results.


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