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Best Cassette to MP3
Why Cassette to MP3 Converters?
We spent more than 80 hours researching, testing, rating and ranking the best cassette to MP3 converters on the market today.
Best Overall: Tape 2 PC
This product was our top pick because it does more than just convert the audio on your tapes to a digital format. It’s also a full-bodied tape deck you can connect to your home entertainment system so that you can use your favorite tapes without converting them first.
The Tape 2 PC also produces good audio quality. During our testing phase, we converted a cassette music album into MP3 format. Then, our sound experts listened to each song and compared the quality of the tape to a downloaded MP3 of the same tracks. They couldn’t find any difference between any of them. This means that you can count on a near-perfect conversion when you use this converter.
The software that comes with this converter, EZ Vinyl Tape Converter, is easy-to-use. All you need to do is connect the deck to your computer, insert the tape, fire up the program and follow the step-by-step instructions. The program will automatically detect where each track begins and ends and create your MP3s accordingly.
There are a couple of things this product is missing. If you’re converting both sides of a tape, you have to manually flip it. Other programs we reviewed will do this automatically. It also lacks the ability to normalize or equalize your audio once it has been converted.
- Dual tape deck can connect to your home audio system
- Produces near-perfect quality conversions
- Step-by-step software makes converting easy
- No automatic side switching
- Can’t equalize or normalize converted audio
Best Value: Tape Express Plus
If you don’t need a full-bodied tape deck, but still want high-quality audio conversions, consider Tape Express Plus. The difference between this and the Top 2 PC is that it’s a Walkman-style cassette deck you can either connect to your computer or carry around with you. This converter is constructed of sturdier materials than some other Walkman-style converters.
We chose this model as our value pick because it delivers a high-quality experience at a reasonable price. It costs about $40, while other tape converters can cost as little as $15; however, those cheaper models are often inferior in terms of the hardware used and the general quality of the converted audio. The process for converting cassettes is identical to our top pick. When our audio experts listened to the results for the Tape Express Plus they were hard pressed to find any flaws in the conversion. On several occasions they actually noted an improvement in quality when compared to the source cassette.
- Constructed out of high-quality materials
- Sound conversion is high quality
- No ability for noise removal
- Cannot equalize digitized sound
- Can’t normalize converted audio
Easiest to Use: Cassette2USB Converter
Although Tape 2 PC and Tape Express Plus are easy to learn and use, they lack a couple of features we look for in our ease of use category. Neither have the ability to automatically switch sides of a tape while a conversion is underway. Cassette2USB Converter does. It also includes two pieces of software to convert your tapes: Cassette2CD Wizard and Audacity. The former is just as easy to use as EZ Vinyl Tape Converter and features the same automatic track detection technology as our other best picks. The latter is an open-source audio editing program that will fit the needs of advanced users.
However, the materials used to construct the device are flimsy and probably won’t survive a drop of more than a few feet. Additionally, you can’t use AA batteries with this converter. You have to either plug it into your computer or into the wall. You also can’t take it with you and use it like a regular Walkman.
Most importantly, the quality of the converted audio is poor. Not as bad as some other products, but you’ll notice the difference when you play it on your computer. There’s hissing, audio artifact and other flaws that will distract from the listening experience.
- Comes with two converting programs
- Automatic side switching
- You can equalize and normalize converted tapes
- Created with substandard parts
- Bad sound quality compared to source tapes
- Can’t be powered by batteries
How It Works
Most of the products we reviewed come in the form of a small handheld cassette player with a USB port that connects to your computer. These devices are usually coupled with a software component that you need to install on your system.
Once you have the cassette you want to convert in the deck and connected to your computer, all you need to do is press Play on your deck and Record in the software and it will capture the audio as it plays back. After the converter software has captured the audio, you can export it as an MP3. Then you can do pretty much anything with it. You can burn it to a CD, sync it to a smartphone, upload it to the internet or import it into an audio editing application for further work.
Converting the audio found on cassette tapes can be a time-consuming process. That’s because it’s not a simple file transfer that only takes a few seconds. Cassette to MP3 converters must record the audio in real time as it plays in the deck. If you’re converting a whole cassette, this can take up to an hour. Then you have to go into the application to listen to the captured content, edit the audio, separate the tracks and a few other things. These are all pretty simple things to master, but it can be quite involved as well. Just know that if you’re converting a lot of tapes, you’re probably looking at a long-term project.
There are a couple of ways these converters connect to your computer. Most have an integrated cassette deck that allows you to easily slide in the tape you want to convert. Others require you to connect your own deck to your computer via RCA cables. These ones let you hook up any analog device, like a record player or 8-track deck, and convert audio from those devices as well.
All of the products we reviewed can connect to your computer through a USB port. This is the most convenient way to connect, because all computers have multiple USB outlets. Most of the products can draw their power through the USB connection. But there are also alternate power supplies for these devices; some have DC adapter outlets, some also take AA batteries.
The conversion software that comes with these products is critical to their performance. The best cassette converter applications have the ability to automatically detect and segregate tracks on a music album. They also allow you to control the volume of the audio as it is being recorded. Additionally, the best applications work on both Windows and Mac.
Most of the devices we reviewed double as portable cassette players good for everyday use. While this is nice for retro-style lovers, they don’t offer any functionality outside of playing and converting tapes. Our top-pick, Tape 2 PC, is a full bodied, double-deck unit with additional ports in the back that allow you to connect not only to your computer, but devices such as record players and your home entertainment system.
What We Tested, What We Found
In our tests, we acquired a brand new commercial cassette tape and used each of the products we reviewed to digitize it. We then compared the resulting file against a digital download of the same content. We examined the converted files for hissing, static, warble and clear sound. The results varied widely. The best products produced high-fidelity audio files that were nearly indistinguishable from the digitally downloaded versions. Other products that had lesser components yielded lower-quality sound. But none of the cassette converters we reviewed created files that were unlistenable.
Ease of Use
All the products we reviewed are fairly straightforward to use. All you have to do is connect your tape deck to your computer, start playing your tape and record it with whatever software you have installed. But there are a few features that make some products easier to use than others.
The best cassette converter programs have step-by-step workflows that take the guesswork out of capturing audio on a tape. They walk you through the program’s interface and tell you when to start playback on your cassette deck.
Once you’re done recording, these programs allow you to input the metadata for each track. This includes data such as album name, artist, song name and more. Filling these out makes it easier to integrate your converted cassettes into your digital media library in programs like iTunes and other media players.
Automatic Track Detection
Another convenient feature is a converter application’s ability to detect when one song ends and another begins. These applications sort all the songs in an album. In general, we found this feature to be effective. However, you should be careful; if there are songs that have pauses or silence that aren’t at the beginning or end of a song, this can result in the application mistakenly splitting one song into two. You can easily avoid this problem by turning off the automatic track detection feature and recording those songs separately.
Generally speaking, content on cassettes doesn’t take up much space on your hard drive. In our tests we found that a converted three-minute track can take up between three and six megabytes. This isn’t very much, but if you have a large library of cassettes you want to convert, it can add up quickly. However, this doesn’t mean you should pick a product that creates smaller files. We found a direct correlation between smaller files and degraded audio quality.
Best Free Cassette to MP3 Converter Software
The software that comes bundled with cassette converters is generally free to download online. It’s the hardware that you need to pay for. If you already have a the necessary equipment to connect a cassette player to your computer, there’s no reason to purchase it again.
EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter is the program that comes with our top two choices in this category, and you can download it directly from the ION Audio website. This is our recommendation for software to capture and convert sound from a cassette tape. Other free programs like Audacity are clunky, have antiquated interfaces and are generally not user friendly to people who don’t already know something about audio capture and editing.
Cassette to MP3 converters allow you to easily transfer songs and other audio onto your computer. The best products make this process as simple as possible, create high-quality sound files and offer applications that are specifically designed to work with the devices they’re sold with.