The following review is of a gadget I’ve craved for a long time. No one listens to cassette tapes today, but I bet many of you still have some old recordings with your own voices, made when you were little, or something that you can’t find anywhere else. Like me, you would like to have them converted into digital format, but don’t know how to do that.
A few years ago I found a tutorial on the Internet, teaching you how to connect a cassette tape player to the computer via a special cable and, using audio software, to transfer analog sounds to the computer as digital audio. The hard part was finding an used player, because I didn’t want to spend $50 on a new one which I was about to use 2-3 times only. As none of the people I know had a functional player at home to borrow me, I looked into this again and found the second solution. I looked on the web and found one device that was designed to convert cassettes to MP3s, but the price was high at $100, for someone who needed to convert only 2-3 cassettes.
Recently, I had the chance to pick the best solution for converting old cassette tapes to MP3s and it came from DealExtreme in the form of a small gadget available for a much more affordable price. DX sent a sample of their Stereo USB Cassette Capture device for review and I can say it works great and helped me finish the cassette-related issue in the shortest time so now I can get rid of them.
The device has the look and feel of a walkman and was designed to convert analog audio from cassette tapes to digital audio, in the popular MP3 file format, so you can burn them on CDs or play on any device with music player capability, starting with your computer and ending with your cell phone. In addition to MP3, the gadget can also convert to WAV, AIFF or OGG formats.
The plug-and-play capability allows the device to be automatically detected by any computer, regardless of the operating system installed, while the included mini CD with the Audacity software, helps you finish the conversion and even edit audio files.
You can use the device as a cassette player while connected to the computer via USB, or on the go, using 2 AA batteries that go under the cassette tape, but only via the included earphone or when you connect external speakers. Device controls include Play, Stop, Eject, Volume, FF/REW, DIR for changing the playback direction, and Play Mode that stops the cassette after one side ended, or plays the next side in loop.
In the box
The device comes with a pair of earphones with 3.5-mm jack, an USB cable, the software CD, and the user manual in English. You also have the user manual on the CD in a PDF file.
Using the Stereo USB Cassette to MP3 Converter
The device works like a breeze. It’s detected by the computer automatically and I encountered no compatibility errors. The software on the CD is an older version of the popular Audacity, so I advise you to install the latest version from the official website. It’s easy to install and use, but first you need to check the user manual on the CD or on the official website of Audacity, to make the right settings before starting the conversion.
To convert your cassette, you need to connect the device to the computer via USB, open the installed software, make the mentioned settings, and press the red recording button in the software window. When you’re done, you need to press the Stop button in the program, as well as on the device. Export the converted content as MP3 anywhere in your computer and download/install the Lame audio codec when prompted. That’s it.
Although I wished it had transparent front so I can check the remaining tape until the end of a side, the device has a special setting called the Play Mode for auto-reverse, which allows you to choose if to stop the cassette at the end of one side, or let it automatically play the other side over and over again. That means you could leave the recording process and come back later when you know it’s about to finish, so you can stop either the device or the software from recording.
The DIR function is helpful when you don’t want to turn the cassette on the other side to hear what’s there. If you press this button, the device will instantly start playing the other side, even if it’s currently playing tape.
Extra features I need
The front of the device could be transparent, so you can check the remaining tape.
What I like most
• The device is small and portable. You can keep it in your pocket and listen to the music through earphones, on the go, like with a walkman.
• The auto-reverse and Play Mode functions give you more control over the tape.
• You can share the audio from a cassette via external speakers.
• It enables stereo sound quality so you can connect stereo speakers.
The USB Stereo Cassette Capture Cassette to MP3 Converter is available for purchase at DX for $24.