posted by Adam S on Thu 6th Oct 2005 12:00 UTC

"Plusdeck, Page II"

One feature the Plusdeck2 touts is the ability to recognize blank space in a playing tape and automagically break a long track into individual songs. It does this by searching for distinct breaks in the recording that tape decks create during recording. As a devout Phish fan, I have well over 100 live tapes, whose contents usually play without interuption for the duration of a side. These tapes have no track gaps, and as such, this feature doesn't work. I found it to be a bit scary to use this feature, as some tapes have these gaps even though you don't want them there. My experience with this feature was make or break - it did a reasonably good job at determining track breaks, however, it often inserted a two silent second track between my songs, and it sometimes clipped the beginning of the song just enough to be annoying. These breaks leave you with no recourse but to use an external program to rejoin your tracks if they are incorrectly split, or to re-encode if cut. I generally found that listening to tapes as I created them was easier and more fun, although my alternate method was also suitable.

The "alternate" method I chose was a much easier overall process. I began by encoding each side of a tape in its entirety to WAV. Then, I imported the WAV file into Audacity, the excellent open source audio editor. From there, I simply highlighted each track - track divisions are generally simple to see - and chose "File > Export Selection As WAV." When I wanted or needed an mp3, I'd simply export the same selection as an mp3 as well (don't forget, if you're using Audacity, you'll need an mp3 encoder, such as LAME). This made it very easy to encode a number of tapes to WAV and then split them at my convenience.

Plusdeck2Although seemingly trivial, one of the disappointments with the Plusdeck2 is the front bezel. Sporting a part-indigo/part-beige bezel, I'm sure it stands out nicely in a whitebox machine that in which many of these units will doubtlessly end up. However, in my machine, which is black through and through, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and it's tacky looking to boot. However, in fairness, it's a small price to pay for the usefulness of the unit.

The Plusdeck2 includes the ability to push your WAV and mp3 files onto a tape. Although I can imagine this may be useful for some, I can't think of any reason I'd want to do this, so I didn't test this functionality.

Plusdeck2Now, of course, there will be those users who ask why one would buy a unit like this when you could easily plug your tape deck into the "Line In" of your soundcard and use an application like Audacity to manually import. There's no good reason not to do just that. If that's your preference, it's certainly a lot less expensive than purchasing the Plusdeck2. However, having done that many times before, there's no question that it's certainly many times faster to use the Plusdeck2. The quality is generally nowhere near what I received from the Plusdeck2, and nowhere near as consistent. In addition, it's much simpler, and if your tape deck isn't near your computer, it's also much less of a mess because there are fewer cables. In my mind, the Plusdeck is worth every penny. It's not much different than most debates we see here on OSNews - ultimately, you're paying for the polish, ease of use, hassle-free experience.

Overall, the Plusdeck2 is clearly not targetted at all PC users. However, for those who have extensive collections of irreplaceable music cassettes, large numbers of books on tape, recorded lectures, or other cassettes, the Plusdeck2 is a fantastic addition. My experience with the Plusdeck2 was so positive and I've so seamlessly integrated into my routine that I am highly recommending it to all readers with cassettes they still use or wish they could still use.

Pros
Simple to install
Easy to use
Application is drop dead simple
Saves tons of time
Adds functionality without using space on IDE chain
Reasonably priced

Cons
Cabling section of instruction manual is confusing
Same function can be had for free with some work and some cables
Bezel doesn't offer choice of color
Application doesn't support ID3 tags

Overall Rating: 9/10. An excellent piece of equipment.

Table of contents
  1. "Plusdeck, Page I"
  2. "Plusdeck, Page II"
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