Linked by Adam S on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:00 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems With each successive generation of technology, we collectively make each leap faster and with slightly less pain. However, as a music fanatic, the jump from tape to CD/mp3 was a tough one for me. Enter the Plusdeck2 Tape-RW PC Cassette Deck. This fantastic device, supplied by geeks.com, has been one of the best devices I've had the pleasure of reviewing. Read on for the complete story.
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Why is this OSNews?
by Adam S on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:10 UTC
Adam S
Member since:
2005-04-01

Before anyone starts the never-ending debate on why this "gadget" is featured on OSNews, let me clarify and repeat that we are a general technology site, and although we primarily focus on Operating Systems, we are not limited to only them.

Reply Score: 5

Cute
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:15 UTC
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Nothing you can't do with a cassette deck, sound card and audio leads, but I imagine it would be quite nice if you're still into tapes.

Reply Score: 0

v Spam
by Blackhouse on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:16 UTC
Well, useless?
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:48 UTC
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Using a Audigy 2 with a HQ cassette deck would have much higher quality than this....IMHO.

Reply Score: 0

md
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:51 UTC
Thom_Holwerda
Member since:
2005-06-29

I'm still looking for an internal MiniDisk drive, preferably with HiMD support, for the same reasons you wanted a tape deck. However, these internal MD drives are hard to find, and I'm quite sure that there's no HiMD version yet.

Overall, a cool thing, even though I have no use for it.

Reply Score: 5

v Sigh. Another affiliate commission shill
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:56 UTC
Interesting product
by JustThinkIt on Thu 6th Oct 2005 13:41 UTC
JustThinkIt
Member since:
2005-09-04

I for one appreciate learning about this product.

I've gone the stereo to PC route and it was a pain in the butt, taking up too much space and requiring me to change my PC sound settings (before and then after each taping session).

We play audio books to our children each night from the family PC adjacent to their bedroom and we've about maxed out the local library systems in terms of CD Audiobooks. However they have much larger numbers of cassette audiobooks just waiting for us to figure out a way to use them.

A product like the one mentioned here may be in my future and help save me time, money and technical frustration.

Also, I think I see a KDE-based desktop in my future (just trying to drive up the number of comments on this article ;-) )

Reply Score: 1

WAV
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 13:45 UTC
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Actually, WAV's prevalence might not stem from it being a MS format: as the Wikipedia correctly points out, the RIFF format (that WAV belongs to) is "a clone of Electronic Arts's Interchange File Format, introducted in 1985, the only difference being that multi-byte integers are in little-endian format". Since IFF files were used on both Amigas and Macs, the support for RIFF was pretty easy to implement.

Reply Score: 0

RE: WAV
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 6th Oct 2005 16:55 UTC in reply to "WAV"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

I've found that WAVs, raw WAVs at least, are functionally identical to AIFFs. E.g., I've had (IIRC) older versions of CDex that wouldn't recognize/convert AIFF files, but I just used a CMD prompt to change their extension to .wav and it worked fine.

As far as I can tell, raw audio is pretty much just raw audio.

Reply Score: 1

More pros and cons
by JustThinkIt on Thu 6th Oct 2005 13:58 UTC
JustThinkIt
Member since:
2005-09-04

This product is way more expensive on Amazon.com ($150 vs $90 at geeks.com).

Bummer that it reads at regular tape speed.

Can rip an entire tape as one track, or split into tracks based on sound gaps in tape.

Mounted internal to the computer -- I would have preferred a standalone unit myself.

Reply Score: 1

RE: More pros and cons
by JonasDue on Thu 6th Oct 2005 14:18 UTC in reply to "More pros and cons"
JonasDue Member since:
2005-09-17

> Bummer that it reads at regular tape speed.

I think the risks connected with reading at higher speeds would be way too high...

Reply Score: 1

HiMD Drive
by _df_ on Thu 6th Oct 2005 14:19 UTC
_df_
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thom, an internal HiMD drive would ROCK! dang. i loved my minidisc player/recorder... HiMD data would be cool, as well as recording voice etc..

i remember sony had for a very short period, md data drives in a few PC's they shipped.. never seen once sice...

Reply Score: 1

RE: HiMD Drive
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:12 UTC in reply to "HiMD Drive"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

HiMD data would be cool, as well as recording voice etc..

MiniDisc is for me the one true portable music format. I just upgraded from a standard MDLP recorder to HiMD, and it is awesome... 1GB on one HiMD disc, just awesome. Oh, and you *can* store data on those HiMD discs, and your old normal MDs too, they get formatted as HiMD to store ~300mb of data. The portable recorder will be recognized as a standard USB mass storage device; mine works fine in Linux and OSX. The latest HiMD recorders can play MP3 too; so you're not stuck on ATRAC anymore (but true MD zealots like me will still prefer ATRAC ;) ).

And yes, a year after MD Audio got introduced (1992), Sony introduced MD-Data, but it was shortlived, and incompatible with MD-Audio.

Reply Score: 5

They all laughed at me in 1997 ...
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 14:42 UTC
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I kid you not, I had the idea for just such a thing back in 1997.

I shared this idea with my friends and they all looked at me funny. That "o-kayyy" type look. The idea spawned from actually having stuff on casette I wanted to encode to MP3 but didn't feel that I should have to hookup a whole stereo to my pc to do it.

Then a few months ago, I stumble across one of these on ThinkGeek and near had a fit.

If only I had put out a patent on the idea ;)

Reply Score: 0

Can anyone tell me whether
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:14 UTC
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Since we are discussing tape/Mp3 can anyone tell me whether tape quality is superior to mp3 ? Or does it just have that "old charm" factor with it?

Reply Score: 0

RE: Can anyone tell me whether
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 6th Oct 2005 17:13 UTC in reply to "Can anyone tell me whether"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

It's not really a valid comparison - one is a recording media, the other is compression format. Tape converted to WAV will typically not sound better than an MP3 ripped from a CD though. IME, I've found that vinyl converted to digital audio sounds a hell of a lot better than cassette converted to digital audio.

Older people laugh at my unfamiliarity with analog audio equipment, I'm sure. I had to ask someone if you're supposed to be able to hear sound from a record player when there aren't any speakers attached to it.

Reply Score: 1

disapointing
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:21 UTC
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there is nothing in this review that analyzes the sound quality of this device. how much noise is added by this device into the sound file? how does this compare with connecting a high-quality tape deck to a sound card's line in jack? if you couple this device with a professional sound card, does the sound quality improve significantly?

$130 seems like a high premium to pay when all the users would already have a tape deck and a sound card. why pay $130 when you could just use a cable to connect the tape deck you already have?

Reply Score: 0

sucker born every minute
by Robocoastie on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:24 UTC
Robocoastie
Member since:
2005-09-15

All one has to do instead is use an old walkman, a cable from radio shack to go from the headphone jack to your sound cards line in and Audacity.

If you want even more features like autodetection of tracks you can get Steinberg Clean.

Reply Score: 1

USB?
by rain on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:43 UTC
rain
Member since:
2005-07-09

Wouldn't an USB connection make sense for a device like this? I guess converting old tapes to digital formats isn't exactly something most people do every day, so it doesn't really make sense to me that it requires a 5" bay and an expansion slot. Better to put it somewhere else and connect it when needed.

But I guess you will have a lot of tapes to convert to justify the price of this thing if you allready have a good tape deck.

Hmm, I remember reading about a similar device for converting vinyls. That was many years ago. Are there any today?

Reply Score: 1

Not bad
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 15:46 UTC
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I think it's not so bad.A friend of mine has a about 200 cassettes from the old days.He would never unplug his nakamichi casette player and connect the device to the PC.This PlusDeck could make a difference for him.Once the songs are digitalized all expensive soundcards are pretty useless because he could remaster all his songs quite easily and play them on his Mark Levinson (SACD player).

Reply Score: 0

usb & himd...
by hobgoblin on Thu 6th Oct 2005 16:47 UTC
hobgoblin
Member since:
2005-07-06

yes, it would make more sense to do this over usb, or maybe firewire.

and thats the reason why you dont see internal data drives for the himd format. every himd player out there can act as a usb storage media unit, just like say an external hardrive.

just pop in the disc, plug in the player and presto, drag the files onto the new removable media icon that showed up. i have even read a story over on forums.minidisc.org from someone that booted a mac using their himd player.

only problem is that the write speed of the media is so slow that you get no benifit from using anything above usb1.

but as the media is magnetoptical (look it up over on tomshardware.com) its more or less indestructable. MO is viewed as a replacement for the good old backup tape.

allso, its fully RW, unlike most RW cds that can only be fully erased. you cant realy delete a file in the middle of the cd to reclaim space. a himd disc or a himd formated md behaves just like a fat partition. a slow fat partition but still ;)

so dont hang around waiting for sony or similar to make a internal himd drive. grab one now as they are selling them cheap these days. maybe it will even indicate to sony that the format is still worth supporting as they may well axe it soon to help streamline their portfolio of products.

or maybe pray that some other company picks up a licence from sony and keeps it alive.

Reply Score: 1

Thanks for the review
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 6th Oct 2005 16:49 UTC
StephenBeDoper
Member since:
2005-07-06

I fairly regularly convert old cassettes/vinyl to CD for an old guy around here. I'm actually doing it at the moment with the method described in the article (headphone extension cord from the line out of my soundcard to the headphone/speaker out jack(s) of a tape deck/record player). The main thing that sounded interesting in the review was the ability to automagically find track end/start times, a shame that it doesn't work reliably.

You're definitely right about the convenience. Having software controls for the tape deck - and not having to run back and forth between two rooms when starting a recording - would sure be nice. Also nice for people who don't already have/don't want to buy a handful of adapters/cables from RadioShack.

The ability to push MP3s/WAVs to tape sounds cool too. Sounds like a handy way to make mixed tapes for people who still have car tapedecks or are analog devotees like my roommate.

Does it have any features for automatically adjusting the recording levels, or do you still have to do that manually through Windows? Most of the tapes I convert are mixed tapes with typically inconsistent levels, so I often have to go back and re-record a side because one loud song caused peaking.

Is there any chance you could post a sample of a track recording using the Plusdeck and a sample recorded just through the line in? My uncle just mailed me a shoebox full of old cassettes and the $130USD would probably be worth it IMO if there's that significant of a difference in sound.

Reply Score: 1

useful to some...
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 17:42 UTC
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but not others. Those who don't have the heart to throw out the old tapes usually have a deck or 2 around, and a quality component deck is relatively cheap.

I use the Steinberg Clean mentioned above that has a Lite version of WavLab included. For hardware I use a component deck an Audigy 2. I have a turntable going into a decent xformer which came with Clean.

Quality of tapes vs MP3. Argument is sort of irrelevant. But to answer, I would say "that depends." An MP3 recorded at a VBR high is better quality than a used tape. Since most audiophiles used vinyl instead of tape, it's not really an audiophile question. Tapes were more for those too young to care or afford and wanted something to play in the car.

The big reason to keep them was never quality. It's usually that a CD version didn't exist for a long time or the LPs weren't filtering through used channels. Or sometimes tapes have tracks (or versions) not available to LP or CD - as in the Cure's "Carnage Visors" on the B side to "Faith."

I'd say tapes and mp3s fill the same respective role, and quality is always a secondary concern to convenience. Even using -alt preset insane. If you really cared about quality, MP3 isn't what you'd use. Tape was never meant to replace LPs. They were convenient and portable. There were other formats that came along (DAT, minidisc), but they never took off. MP3 may not be as high a quality as Ogg, FLAC, AAC, WMA, etc but it is much more convenient and it is "good enough." You put your LPs on tape to make them more convenient; you put your CDs on MP3 to make them more convenient.

Reply Score: 0

oh !
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 17:50 UTC
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It would be great if old tapes could be used as digital (something like Sony Digital-8).
Anyone knows old streamers that used compact cassette-like tapes ? (TEAC, if i remember well...)

Reply Score: 0

clarify
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 17:53 UTC
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also, to clarify, an MP3 from a CD will usually sound better than a tape of the same song. An MP3 from a tape may actually sound better since you can process out some of the garbage (hum, warble, noise).

BeDoper - I think having a dual-deck component may be still be better. I have all of the functionality (record from/ to) using the deck with Steinberg Clean. It's tracking splitting is decent, but better than most. I also manually adjust levels though, so an app that performed that would be ideal.

Clean also comes with a Preamp for connecting your turntable into it, if you have components.

Reply Score: 0

RE: clarify
by StephenBeDoper on Fri 7th Oct 2005 05:32 UTC in reply to "clarify"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

BeDoper - I think having a dual-deck component may be still be better. I have all of the functionality (record from/ to) using the deck with Steinberg Clean.

Does Clean have any special ability to push out to tape, or do you use the "run a cable from the soundcard line out to the tapedeck's mic/input" method?

I'd imagine you'd certainly get more flexibility from your setup. In my case though, I have the computer in one room, and the tape deck in another (part of a stero, can't really move it) and the swapping of cables gets a bit tedious when I'm doing it a lot.

It's tracking splitting is decent, but better than most.

Is it any more elegant than doing "Export selection as AIFF" in Audacity? I'd ideally like something that allowed you to select the start/end times of all tracks in a file, then be able to perform the "cut" operation once, saving the tracks as sequentially-named files.

Reply Score: 1

Re: Not bad
by Anonymous on Thu 6th Oct 2005 21:12 UTC
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Sorry, but to it looks rather bad. A Nakamichi owner will not be happy with a tapemachine that doesn't even know the difference between normal, chrome or metal tapes. And what about dolby? I have some 200+ tapes recorded with dolby-c, mostly chrometapes. Problem is that in all those years, the paybacklevel has dropped, so playback with dolby is terrible, and playback without dolby is terrible, too. What I need is a way to adjust the playbacklevel before the signal goes into the dolby-chips. In theory, this could be done in software, but I didn't find a software dolby-C decoder, so I'm afraid that I have to take my soldring iron, and put some pre-amp/equaliser between the playback-head and the dolby chips.....

Reply Score: 0

to expensive
by Anonymous on Fri 7th Oct 2005 01:21 UTC
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$10 Cassette Walkman from Walmart and a stero cable to plug from the cassette head phone jack to the input line in jack on the sound card. Total cost? $12 including tax.

Using your favorite recorder of choice from Audacity to Windows Record; push play on the tape and hit the record button. ;)

Jim

Reply Score: 0

RE: to expensive
by Adam S on Fri 7th Oct 2005 12:08 UTC in reply to "to expensive"
Adam S Member since:
2005-04-01

You don't know what you're talking about. Windows "Record" - the Windows ssound recorder can only do 60 seconds of recording. To trick it, you must do something like repeat your own sound over and over again and then record over it. Since you didn't mention this time consuming effort, it's clear you're never done it, and even though I hate the word, you're obviously "trolling."

I can't believe how many people decided to chime in to address something I discussed and addressed in the article, which I suspect most of them didn't read in the first place. It's awfully sad.

Reply Score: 5

Did you see the specs?
by Anonymous on Fri 7th Oct 2005 14:00 UTC in reply to "RE: to expensive"
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# Seperation: 40dB
# Signal toNoise Ratio: 55dB

For $130? Without Dolby decoding and at least 70 dB Signal to Noise, I don't think so. I agree with the others here, walkman with a line-out jack would be just as useful and sound just as good. I might pay $50 or $60 just for the novelty, but not $130. You're better of spending that money on a nicer soundcard, like an Audigy platinum or Terratec Aureon.

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: to expensive
by Anonymous on Sat 8th Oct 2005 08:42 UTC in reply to "RE: to expensive"
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Since you didn't mention this time consuming effort, it's clear you're never done it, and even though I hate the word, you're obviously "trolling."

How is he trolling? He also mentioned Audacity, which would work just fine. Just because someone has their own opinion and doesn't agree with your precious article is no reason to start crying and call them a troll. All he said was that he thought this was too expensive and the same (or better) can be done with a portable tape player and a program to record from it. You on the other hand start personally attacking him, and that's sad. For what it's worth I agree with him; this is an overpriced gimmick. I'd rather buy a high quality tape deck and hook it into my sound card.

Reply Score: 0

Interesting
by Anonymous on Sat 8th Oct 2005 08:36 UTC
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I think I'll wait for the 8-track version.

Reply Score: 0

usb, mp3 to tape, etc
by Anonymous on Tue 11th Oct 2005 11:19 UTC
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Hi,

Enjoyed the review. As an owner of Plus Deck 2 I'll add a few user comments.

First, the USB is an interesting question. Why go for an almost obsolete serial pin connection when USB is so much easier to use? No idea? Anyone else?

Second, the reviewer didn't bother to test the WAV/MP3 to tape function. If he had, he would have discovered it doesn't work. MP3s won't even go onto the menu for recording and WAV files, while recording, end up in tapes with too much hiss to listen to.

I've been in touch with the Plus Deck folks and they really haven't a clue how to fix it. Something about new software might fix the problem. I suspect something else; hardware failure! The newer models of Plus Deck 2 will no longer include a record to tape function. The official reason being the supplier is no longer makeing the heads. Too bad.

Why record mp3 to tape? I'm a teacher. My texts all have CDs only for classroom use. No classroom has a built in CD but they do offer tape decks (technology rules but not in schools). Making my own custom tapes for lessons was one of the main reasons I bought this unit. Needless to say I'm bummed.

I agree, a good cassette deck, sound card, and connecting cables would do the same job. The Plus Deck 2 offers the same in an elegant package. Too bad it doesn't work.

Cheers

Dman

Reply Score: 0