The Ion Audio Tape 2 PC is the best cassette to MP3 converter (opens in new tab) money can buy. It's been around a long time, but don't let that put you off because this is an easy to use and effective way to get all of your old cassette tapes into MP3 format.
The Tape 2 PC connects to your computer via a USB cord, and comes with simple to understand software that produces the highest quality audio files out of all the converters we have reviewed. Let's take a better look at it now...
Ion Audio Tape 2 PC review: design
All of the other cassette to MP3 converters we reviewed are smaller, Walkman-style devices that hold a single tape. Tape 2 PC is a full-sized dual cassette recorder deck that has more capability than the other products.
Not only are you able to connect the deck to your computer via the included USB cable, but you also have the ability to connect other analog devices too, such as an 8-track tape, vinyl record player or any device that has RCA ports, to capture and digitize audio.
Another big difference between this device and other products in our lineup is how it draws power. The smaller, more portable devices drew their power either from AA batteries, a USB connection to your computer, or from a DC adapter you plug into the wall. In contrast, the Tape 2 PC plugs directly into an AC socket. This gives it a more consistent and stable power supply since it’s not dependent on your computer or on batteries for power.
Ion Audio Tape 2 PC review: features
The most important aspect of any cassette to MP3 converter is the quality of the converted audio. This is Tape 2 PC’s greatest strength. In our tests, we compared a converted song from a new cassette tape against the original recording and a digital version of the same song. The sound created by the Ion Audio Tape 2 PC was as good as or better than both versions. In fact, this product produces better sound than any other cassette converter we've reviewed.
The software that comes with the Tape 2 PC deck is Ion Audio’s EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter. Most of the other programs we reviewed come with a copy of Audacity, a free audio recording and editing application. While Audacity is a fine application, it’s not ideal for capturing and converting cassette tapes. In contrast, EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter has been programmed to carry out that specific task. This, in part, accounts for the superior sound quality produced by the Tape 2 PC.
Once you’ve captured the audio on your cassette tapes into the converter software, it asks you to input the metadata for each track. This information includes song titles, an album name and artist name. This is an important step because the metadata allows media players like iTunes to identify the music you're importing.
If you have a large library of cassettes to convert, you may want to consider how much hard drive space these converted files take up. The average song runs for about three minutes. In our tests, a three-minute song yielded a file 3.5MB large. A digital download of the same song has a file size of 6.8MB. A smaller file size means you can fit more converted files onto your hard drive.
Ion Audio Tape 2 PC review: performance
One of the best aspects of the EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter application is that it walks you through the capturing and conversion process step by step. This takes all the guesswork out of converting your cassette tapes. Other products that rely on Audacity require users to learn the application with no guidance. That’s a steep learning curve for people who have no audio-editing experience. EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter has no such curve, so anyone can use this software straight out of the box.
EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter has an automatic track-detection feature that detects the silence between tracks on an album, allowing it to separate each track automatically. However, there is one downside to this feature: the application can't distinguish between the silence that follows at the end of each song and the silence that may occur during a song. So if you have tracks on your tapes that have silent parts, turn off automatic track detection and capture those songs individually.
One minor flaw with this cassette converter is that it has no auto-reverse feature. Auto reverse means that when a tape comes to the end of one side, the player reverses the direction of the tape and plays the opposite side with no action required on the part of the user. This converter requires you to flip the cassette manually when it reaches the end of one side.
Elsewhere, the Ion Audio Tape 2 PC has a few tools that allow you to customize your conversion. The deck itself has a knob for adjusting the recording level. This is essentially the volume control for your conversion. If you’re converting a relatively quiet recording, you can boost the volume using this knob. But use caution here since high volume has a tendency to cause distortion in the converted audio.
You also have the ability to adjust the gain during the capture process. Gain is essentially boosting the signal from the device to the software. You can adjust this in two ways: on the back of the deck there’s a gain knob, and there's a gain slider in the application. Usually the default settings are sufficient for general use. If you’re not sure how to use this feature, it's probably best to leave it alone.
Lastly, on the front of the player you’ll notice a switch marked Noise Reduction. This tool is exactly what it sounds like: it helps reduce or eliminate the imperfections in audio on magnetic tape. We found this feature extremely effective in eliminating those pops and 'warble' inevitably encountered on cassette tapes.
Should you buy the Ion Audio Tape 2 PC?
Ion Audio offers a 90-day warranty period with the Tape 2 PC. In the rare case that you get a defective unit, you can return it within that time period. It should be noted that 90 days is the shortest warranty period of any cassette to MP3 converters that we've reviewed.
Ultimately, the Tape 2 PC produces the best sound quality of any cassette to MP3 converter we've reviewed. The hardware is durable, and the unit is easy to use. You won’t find a converter that gets the job done better than the Ion Audio Tape 2 PC.
Ion Audio Tape 2 PC review: alternatives
The Tape 2 PC is a bulky unit and may be too much for your needs. If you don't want or need a full tape deck, we would recommend looking at its smaller sibling, the Ion Tape Express Plus (opens in new tab), and the Cassette2USB Converter (opens in new tab).