Hands-On Review of the Ion Tape 2 PC

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I haven’t had a working cassette player in my home for nearly a decade, but I still have a couple shoeboxes filled with old tapes in the back of my closet. I could never bring myself to get rid of them. I’ve developed a deep psychological bond with the little things. Cassette tapes were the only practical medium that you could use to record your own music and mixes for decades. People would put great care into compiling and decorating cassettes. You could make a tape for someone that would express complex inner emotions just with the songs you selected and the order in which you sequenced them.

What does the future hold for the cassettes trapped inside the shoeboxes in my closet? It would be a shame if they just sat there forever. The most logical choice would be to digitize them; to create a digital archive of the old cassettes, and be able to listen to them on my computer and MP3 player. Transferring an analog recording into a digital file can be a harrowing process, but it becomes far less difficult when you use a dedicated piece of equipment like the Ion Tape 2 PC deck. Not only will this device enable you to easily record tapes into a computer, but it can also act as the tape player in your home entertainment system, so you can resume listening to your cassette tapes the old-fashioned way.

If you’ve ever used a dual-cassette deck before, the Ion Tape 2 PC will be familiar. Its basic operation is identical to every other dual-cassette deck on the planet. However, its USB port and the included EZ Converter software make recording cassettes into a computer drop-dead simple. Both the hardware and software are compatible with Mac and Windows computers.

I took the Tape 2 PC out of the box, plugged it into an AC outlet, and connected it to a USB port on my MacBook Pro. I installed and launched the software, inserted one of my old compilation tapes into the tape deck, and I was ready to go. It took me a few minutes to get comfortable using the EZ Converter Software. The software’s interface is so minimal that it looks more like a dialog box than a full-blown application. This is slightly problematic because people tend to ignore dialog boxes. Be sure to read the simple instructions that are given to you onscreen when using this software. This requires a solid fifteen to twenty seconds of your attention.

Adjust the physical gain knob until the meters are bouncing two thirdsof the way up.

Overall, using the EZ Converter software was a breeze. You can set it to automatically create a new file for you between songs. This way you can start recording Side A of a cassette, walk away and do something else, and return later without having to manually create file markers for each song. I tested this feature out, and it worked well for regular rock, folk and reggae songs. However, it chopped Bela Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion into separate files (this mode doesn’t work as well for music that features silent pauses).

One technical hurdle you need to be aware of when using the Tape 2 PC is adjusting its gain level. Unfortunately, the gain knob is located on the rear of the unit (an inconvenient spot for such an important control). If the gain knob is dialed down, your recorded files will sound too quiet, and if the volume is too high, your files will clip and distort. To adjust the gain, you simply play the tape and look at the audio meters in the EZ Converter software. You want the meters to be bouncing a little more than halfway up. Turn the gain knob until the meters are in this healthy spot, and then rewind the tape and start the digitizing process.

When you finish recording your cassette into the computer, the EZ Converter software will prompt you to type in the artist and song names. The software then automatically loads the recorded files into iTunes. One caveat is that the Automatic File feature doesn’t handle compilation tapes very well. When you’re prompted to enter in the information at the end, you’re only given one artist field and several song name fields. So if you have a tape with several different artists on it, you’re better off loading them into your computer one by one, rather than using the Automatic File feature.

All said, the Ion Tape 2 PC is a pretty handy product. It does what it claims to do: it makes it easy to load the audio from magnetic tape cassettes into the cold, binary computer realm.

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth Review. If you have any questions about the Ion Tape 2 PC, we encourage you to ask them in the Comment section, below.

System  Stereo Double Cassette Deck 
Signal to Noise Ratio  58dB
Pitch Control  No
Track Search  No
Counter Type  Mechanical
High Speed Dubbing  Yes
Remote Control  No
Input Stereo RCA
Output Stereo RCA
Other  USB
Dimensions (WxHxD) 16.5 x 5.3 x 8.5" 
Weight 8.5 lb

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How does this item compare to the Grace Digital Tape 2 USB II - USB Cassette Player With Built-in Mic that you also sell on your website? Which would be the better choice?  Aside from the fact that one is Dual and the other has a built in speaker, which one converts faster and more reliably, and which has better software? Willing to wait for the Ion model if it's better. Thank you.

I like the software that is included with the ION product, as it offers the Gracenote information and integrates easily with iTunes. The actual audio quality and speed of transfer should be similar between the two products.

Just checked out the reviews on Amazon - seems that product quality, sound quality and overall value are not great.

The EZ software is pants (rubbish)

Using in windows environment, seems to run out of buffer space resulting in echos and gaps in recording.

Also only works with iTunes which is also rubbish, giving users very little control

So, you don't have to turn the cassette tape over to the backside during the recording?  In other words, it records both the front and back side of the cassette tape onto one audio file onto the pc without your having to pause the recording and turn it over?  and if there is a few seconds of silence, then it will always turn that into 2 files or more on your computer?  I really need it to record into one file. 

Hi Clay -

This is not an auto-reversing tape deck.  It can only play or record one side of the tape cassette at a time.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com