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Which Tape Cassette to PC Set Up is Right For Me?

Dedicated Tape to PC Coverter or DIY Tape Conversion Kit

Dedicated, Soundcard or DIY Tape Converter?

Since we've already looked at the very basics of tape cassette care and maintenance, let's move on to the practicalities of choosing an audio conversion set-up that is right for you. The basic choice of tape cassette player for transferring tape cassette to PC is between dedicated Tape-to-PC players which provide all the hardware and software you need; in-between products which provide a soundcard, plus software, but for which you need your own player, and DIY kits which can be very inexpensive and lots of fun too.


Dedicated tape to PC converters like the Ion Tape 2 PC are the more expensive choice, but all you need is there and all you need supply are the tapes. If you are short on time, these may be the simplest way to get started.

Some products do not include the player, but instead have an external soundcard to which you connect your player. This is the case with the Magix Rescue Your Vinyl and Tapes for instance. The obvious advantage here is that you can plug in a record player or a tape player.

The third option is one of the many DIY kits available - these rely on the fact that PCs already have a soundcard which should be adequate for transferring tapes, records and other sources to PC. Laptops also have built-in soundcards, although sometimes not as good for audio transfer as PCs. DIY kits will usually be the cheapest option and someone with a good deal of audio experience may be able to put one together for less than £10.00 and for that price - be able to record tapes, records etc.

With such a wide choice, there should be something to suit pretty much everyone.

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Tape Cassette Players: DIY Knowhow

Assuming that you are not looking for a dedicated tape to PC player, what factors should affect your choice of tape cassette player?

Auto-reverse

One difference between listening to a tape cassette and transferring a tape cassette to MP3 is that you may not necessarily want to listen to the tape playing and may prefer instead to listen to the completed recording.

The need to leave the player unattended means that auto-reverse comes into it's own - you can go away and leave both sides to record one after the other. This also means that you should set auto-reverse to come to a stop after both sides have played, otherwise if the tape becomes jammed, the player which continue endlessly flipping sides and mash your tape ribbon into the audio equivalent of origami in the process. And not a very attractive form of origami at that.

Apart from that there is not really much to recommend one player over another. You may find that with a tape cassette which is playing up very slightly, a mains-driven player may handle it better than a small portable player running on say one small AAA battery.

Taking Care of Tape Cassette Players

Clean the tape head with a head cleaning tape cassette or a head cleaning kit after about 10-15 hours use. If the tape you are playing is very old, you should clean more regularly than this. This removes oxides which build up on the head during ordinary use. If you are after good quality recordings this is a chore which must not be neglected.

More on Tape Cassette Care

Do not leave tapes cassettes in direct sunlight and never put close to a radiator for any length of time.

More on DIY Kits

The man advantage of DIY kits is that they save cash - and save the hassle of trying to figure out how to use the software or which cable to get. With the cash saved it should be possible to get a good quality general purpose tape cassette player.

For real techies - those with a sound understanding of recording techniques and a reasonable grasp of digital audio, it should be possible to assemble a DIY tape to PC kit from scratch at very little cost. And it should be possible to put together pretty much any combination of connection cable, software and tape player to suit your needs.

But more on that in a future article.

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