Ease of Use
Help & Support
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. At the end of our analysis, we chose Tape 2 PC as the best overall. This is due to its dual cassette design, step-by-step user instructions, automatic track detection and perfect audio quality. It is the only fully functional cassette deck we reviewed. The rest are merely Walkman-style units that don’t have the high-quality components found in this device.
Our top value pick isn’t the least expensive product we reviewed, but it carries the most bang for your buck. Tape Express Plus is the little brother of our top pick. Made by the same manufacturer, it contains many of the high-quality components as its larger counterpart. Unlike the other Walkman-style products we reviewed, it creates high-fidelity sound files that you would be hard pressed to find imperfections in.
If you’re looking for features that make it quick and easy to convert your tapes, you should consider Cassette2USB Converter. It comes with two separate programs that can capture the sound on your cassette tapes: Audacity and Cassette2CD Wizard. The former is an audio recording and editing program that advanced users will appreciate. The latter is a simpler program that offers step-by-step instructions to transfer your cassettes onto your hard drive. However, the sound quality produced by this converter leaves much to be desired.
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.
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.