on March 4, 2011
I needed to convert my tape collection, and we tired of using headphone jacks. This thing is fantastic.
In response to other reviews:
1) The unit is plenty loud enough even with the cheapo included headphones
2) it's not meant to be used as a walkman. Don't try and you won't be disappointed.
3) The included software has good intentions. Poor execution. Use Audacity, not iTunes.
1) It's the right price
2) Easy operation
3) True plug and play on Vista. Just plug it into a USB port and it worked instantly with Audacity. Did you hear that? No driver problems! Very unexpected, very welcome. This gets ignored when it works well, but people complain about it when it doesn't work.
4) Loop feature. Turn on the tape, walk away, come back when it has done both sides.
5) Auto volume for recording. Don't have to mess with it.
6) No batteries, no power cords
1) Plastic body. It'll hold up for my tape collection, but I would never take it outside.
2) Hum during recording. Don't know if it's the tape or the player, but it happened on both cassettes so far.
3) No auto-stop. When it has played both sides of the tape, it should know that it is done, right? It doesn't.
How to use it (or how it works for me):
Plugged in the USB cable (no battery needed, none used). Put in a tape. Pressed play.
I have used the included software option and the Audacity option. Audacity is better. Here's why: the included software has a feature. It auto-detects when a song ends and another song begins. But it is not 100% (it missed 3 breaks in the tape I just did, and it was a commercial music tape). And it does not have a noise reduction function, which it desperately needs.
Using Audacity, download it for free. Then follow the links on the Audacity site and download the lame MP3 encoder. That's the name, not a description. It works great. Using this setup is simple:
1) start Audacity
2) click record
3) press the play button on the unit
4) when you are done recording, click stop in Audacity
5) stop the player
6) select a small section of "silence" in the recording.
7) in the Effect drop-down menu, select Noise Removal
8) Click Get Noise Profile
9) Select the entire recording (all 90 minutes at once if you have a recording that long)
10) in the Effect drop-down menu, select Noise Removal
11) Click Remove Noise. Wait for it to finish.
12) You can easily see where songs start and finish, so highlight 1 song, go to file-->Export selection as MP3, and save it. Do this for each song. You now have the songs saved, named, and noise is removed. You don't need that tape any more. You win!
on August 17, 2010
After reading some of the reviews, you would swear that this was a piece of junk, however it was exactly what I needed to get these old recordings off of tape and into my iTunes! Granted, the player is made of plastic (chromed plastic). It's not something you'd want to abuse or tote around with you, but sitting on my desk it does the job it is intended to do. I just transferred a 20 year old musical recording of a friend of mine and now it's off of that old tape and into my system where I can back it up for the future.
If you're looking for a cheap way to turn your tapes into MP3s, this is a great way to go. It was super simple. I loaded the software in about 2 minutes, plugged it into my Mac's USB port and pressed record and play...It's as easy as that! The only drawback is that if you want to separate your tape into separate songs, you do have to sit through the song and press "new track" on your screen. Otherwise, it's pretty great. If you want a super high-end system, this isn't it, but I'm very satisfied with my results so far.
on July 12, 2010
I spent several hours trying to copy a tape to my HD using the software that came with this unit. It was a NIGHTMARE!
First of all, the software REQUIRES that you download and install iTunes (200+Mb.) or IT WILL NOT RUN. Second, the ion software lets you input the artist and titles, then switches you to iTunes where all the titles and artist info disappears. Thirdly, you can not go back to a previous screen without losing everything.
The iTunes requirement was not divulged in the item description, in the advertising or on the box. This would be a deal-breaker for me if I had not purchased it on E-Bay. iTunes may be a great program for those who need it's features but, on my netbook, it is pure and simple bloatware. The program has many features I will never use and it sops up over 200 Mb of hard-drive space. In the end, I deleted the Ion software and iTunes and installed Audacity (about 2.0 Mb). Audacity was easier to use and required less than 1% of the hard-drive space of the Ion software plus iTunes.
The hardware, in my opinion, is quite adequate for it's intended purpose. It is intended to allow you to convert your tapes to digital format on your computer. It is plenty robust enough for that purpose. After copying your music to your computer, it would be reasonable to assume you would listen to the digital copy from then on, and never have a need to play the tapes again.
on January 3, 2011
Nice simple way to convert your old audio cassette tapes to MP3 for your portable music device or burning to CD.
Can be powered via the included USB Cable.
Doubles a portable audio cassette player.
The included software needs a lot of improvement and requires iTunes to work.
Needs to include a power cable.
The side hinged cassette door seems a little flimsy.
ION Tape Express+ is packaged with the device, a pair of cheep behind the neck headphones, a Mini-USB to USB cable, and the ION CD containing EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter.
The first thing I noticed upon unboxing the ION Tape Express+ was the that it didn't include a power cable even though it does have a port for for one. According to the ION website it takes a 3V DC, 500mA, Pin-Positive. Connector dimensions: outer diameter 3.4mm, inner diameter 1.3mm. Its common enough that you can pick it one up at most electronic stores though.
The next thing I noticed was that the USB connection cable was Mini-USB rather then the MIco-USB that is now pretty much standard on cell phones as well as many other devices. It's not a deal breaker but not having to keep another cable laying around would be nice. The USB cable will also power the device and seems to do the job just fine but if you have a weak power supply on your computer I would recommend picking up a power cord for the device or even using batteries with it.
The device itself looks like any other standard portable audio cassette player except that the cassette door hinge is on the side and seems a little flimsy but a side hinge is probably necessary as the 2AA battery compartment is on the inside.
Windows and Apple computers recognizes the ION Tape Express+ a Universal Plug and Play device, so it connects to your computer easily. It might take a little more work to install it on Linux, you will also have to use 3rd party software to use it.
EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter has a simple graphical interface that allows for recording from vinyl records or cassette tapes. In Tape mode you can select from either normal audio tapes or chrome/metal tapes, I personally couldn't notice a difference no matter what type of media the original recording was on.
EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter also allows for either a manual recoding process or splitting the tapes into tracks. However the software isn't intuitive enough to split the tracks with any sort of consistency. Sometimes it will split in the middle of a recording when there is a long pause and you'll want to use a manual recording process to record the whole thing. More often then not though it will run multiple tracks together and you either have to re-record the tracks manually or use a third party tool such as Audacity to split the song tracks. However you wont even notice if the tracks recorded properly until you've finished the process as there are no playback and editing features in EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter.
Once the recording process is finished EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter gives you the opportunity add tags for Artist, Album, Song Title, and Track number. If allowing the software to split the recording into tracks and you know how many tracks were on the original recording this will be your first chance to notice if the tracks were split properly.
After that EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter will export your tracks to iTunes where they show up as MP3's and you can play back your tunes, get album art, and everything else you would normally in iTunes.
After converting a few tapes I just wound up setting up Audacity use the ION Tape Express+ as a recording device and manually edited everything from there. It saves you a couple of steps if the tracks weren't split correctly and it doesn't require iTunes. Audacity uses much less space on your hard drive then EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter and iTunes combined as well.
Over all I am quite impressed with the ION Tape Express+. Your recordings will sound just as good as they did on the original tape and some 3rd party software will allow you clean up the audio a little but I doubt it will ever sound as good as a purchased CD.
I would recommend to ION, dump the headphones, include a power supply, change the USB connection on the device from Mini to Micro, and drastically improve the included software.
That said, if you have a bunch of old cassette tapes laying around that you either cant find or afford to replace on CD or MP3, want to convert your old Mix Tapes to CD or MP3, or have other old personal recordings on audio cassette that you want to digitize... Even with the caveats listed in this review the ION Tape Express+ is well worth the 50 to 60 bucks it's currently selling for.
on November 28, 2010
Wanted to transfer my cassettes - especially my holiday collection - to MP3s and my laptop doesn't have an audio input (which is different from a headphone input) to accomplish this properly; even with downloadable software from the net. I didn't want to invest in a whole conversion receiver system, so I went with this. Despite some unfavorable reviews, I was hoping that the software, the USB cable input, and the cassette system itself would do the job. Boy was I right. The thing works perfectly. I have already transferred some treasured cassettes to MP3 and they sound better than ever. The software works seamlessly with Itunes. I just loaded the software and started recording immediately. The only things you have to play with are the record level and if you want the software to split into tracks. You can just let your tape play, if you chose, and it WILL automatically split the songs into different tracks - very cool. If you're like me and you're a little bit concerned about some of the negative reviews - don't be. If you have Windows XP or above, Itunes, a USB input, and a CD player to install the software - you'll be fine. I picture the unfavorable reviewers as people with very low computer saviness, very old operating systems, or those too stubborn to use Itunes. Great product.
on October 23, 2010
Yes, the construction is flimsy. However, that wouldn't be a deal breaker for me if the device produced good-quality recordings; once my cassettes are digitized I would never use it again anyway. Unfortunately the sound quality of the music I transferred to my computer using this product was terrible. There was a substantial background hum, and since the device played cassettes at a speed that was slightly too slow, there was some distortion on the music it transferred. I was really looking forward to listening to my old cassettes again, and this was a real disappointment. On the plus side, the product and the software are easy to use, and getting the music to iTunes was a breeze.
on February 22, 2011
It seems like it should be so easy. I wanted to get all my tape cassettes on the computer, about 200. Not going to happen. You have to constantly monitor sound and timing on the cassette. If you allow it to automatically record from side a to b, then you have to watch the time, otherwise you will continously record a to b. If you just do side a, then flip over to side b,you end up with a whole new "album" on the itunes library. It took about 3 days to download 5 tapes completely without error, and then the sound quality was so poor, that it was just not worth the effort to continue.
on September 3, 2010
I purchased the Ion Audio USB Portable Tape to MP3 Player several weeks ago. Although it gave me major problems at first, now that I have figured the darn thing out, it does pretty much what it is supposed to do: allow you to convert your old cassette tapes to digital files on your computer.
One world of warning: the disk that they provide for setting up this thing is pretty much useless and should not even be tried. I did everything I was supposed to do, and the message came up that I had to download iTunes for this thing to work. Nothing was further from the truth, but by the time I found this out, I had downloaded iTunes and the thing still would not work ... and I tried this on computers that had iTunes already installed.
Anyway, I heard from other reviewers that you could use Audacity, and I had that installed already (I use it for the Ion Turntable), and proceeded to try that program ... but it still would not work.
On a lark, I not only reinstalled Audacity (it take maybe a minute to do), and also installed a new Beta version of this program. I tried the product on the old but newly installed Audacity, and it still did not work, but I tried it on the newer Audacity, and lo and behold, it worked!
And yes, it does record pretty low, but not so low as the sound files are useless. They are highly listenable.
One tip--when you use Audacity, set it to line out or whatever term your version of Audacity uses.
But all in all, even though I struggled at first, the thing does work. It is not up to the Ion Turntable, which I have never had a problem with, but it is a handy alternate instrument for putting all of those cassingles you have on your computer.
Out of five starts, I would probably give it a three--but remember, do not even attempt to use the software they give you, because if you do, you will cause yourself lots of headaches.
Use Audacity instead!
on November 22, 2011
This little cassette player does exactly what I need it to do. I have hundreds of old cassette tapes waiting to be converted. So far I've done a hundred or so, and the player works perfectly. No complaints. The door opens revealing the entire cassette, which is unusual, but remembering my cassette days this is how it should be. If the player eats your tape, getting it out is a pain. Having access to the whole tape would fix that (not that this player has eaten any of my questionable tapes yet - playback so far has been perfect). It sits on my desk at work copying tapes to my laptop, and while it does have a cheap feel (I wouldn't take it jogging), it looks really nice.
The software is Audacity, which is freeware you can download and use without buying the player. At first I thought this was just Ion being cheap, but now I see it's a wise move. Audacity is powerful, well-documented software that will do much more than just copy tapes to your computer. It's a full-fledged audio editor and not the easiest program in the world to use. It has a lot of bells and whistles you'll never use with the Ion tape player, and there are no simple instructions for using it, which is why I'm writing this review. My process has a few steps:
First I record the audio. This is fairly simple, but you have to make sure you set the microphone in Audacity to the Ion USB player, or else you'll just record your computer's microphone (another great feature of Audacity). You have option of having the audio play through your computer speakers if you want to listen while you record (software playthrough) or you can turn it off and record without listening.
After recording the audio, the real work begins:
First I have some DC offset to fix (the audio isn't centered on the audio line) so I apply the Normalize effect. You may not have this problem, but you may find you want to Amplify the audio to make it louder.
Next I highlight a bit of audio where there's no sound playing (usually at the beginning), select Noise Removal from the effects menu, and choose "Get Noise Profile". This sets the tape hiss as background noise.
Then I select all of the audio and choose Noise Removal again and push OK and it will remove all the background tape hiss from the recording. This is the magical part of audacity and makes it sound clean like a CD, and I'm surprised how well it works. (If I'm recording LPs I can also choose "Click Removal" to get rid of the clicks and pops)
After that I choose "Silence Finder" from the Analyze menu. This does a decent job of finding the start of each track in the recording. Depending on the recording, it may find a whole lot more silences, or none at all. But it's better than nothing. Live recordings are pain though since there's rarely silence between the songs.
Next I title all the tracks and delete all the "false" tracks that Audacity finds. Yes, it's a bit of a chore, but I can't see how it could be done any better.
Then I go to File > Open Metadata Editor to add the album and artist names.
Then I go to File > Export Multiple to export all the tracks in the recording to mp3. (you have to download the mp3 codec before Audacity can do this, but it gives you decent instructions on how to do it)
That's it! Whew! Yes, it's fairly complicated, but converting tapes to mp3 is not a simple process and will take some time an effort to do a good job. The good news is that it works so well. The recordings are not quite CD quality, but they're decent and it actually sounds better than the original cassette after you've removed the tape hiss. I'm very happy with the results, and only about 800 more tapes to go! The other advantage is you are introduced to Audacity, and can learn how to edit audio and do other things like make your own ringtones and mash up audio and do other fun things. It's a really powerful program and I've used it for semi-professional projects.
So yes, I recommend this if you have old cassettes you want to put on your ipod. This will do the job, and then some.
on July 2, 2010
This product absolutely works. However the provided software DID NOT work for my Mac. If you are familiar with Garage Band, it's not a problem. You have to use the headphones to monitor the sound, so it ties you down to the computer. I've used it to transfer several books on tape that I use year to year and other needed recordings. Worth the investment.