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Plusdeck 2 PC Cassette Deck

Converting music on cassette tapes to digital music (or back) no longer is a complicated matter of hooking up your cassette deck to the PC. Instead BTO comes to the rescue with the Plusdeck 2, a product that gives you the flexibility of a cassette deck inside your PC.

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Introduction

It is not that often that I come across a product that has such a narrow target audience like the BTO Plusdeck 2. In short, it is a product that allows you to play old cassette tapes on your PC, record from cassette to PC and record music onto cassettes from the PC. Considering a lot of today’s young computer users haven’t even seen a cassette tape, you probably now understand why this isn’t a product for everyone.

The Specifications

• Records sounds, MP3 files, and internet streaming audio from PC onto Tape
• Hi quality record/playback as Hi-Fi audio
• Convert cassette tapes to into MP3 files
• Full-logic controls
• Dub voice with mic on Tape.
• Tape Speed 4.75cm/sec
• Wow & Flutter 0.09%(WRMS)
• Frequency Response 30~18,000Hz
• Separation 40dB
• Signal-to-Noise Ratio 55dB
• Fits in open 5.25″ drive bay
• Included recording software requires Win95/98/ME/XP
• Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year

Just as BTO says, the Plusdeck 2 is like having a fully featured cassette deck on your computer.

The Package

Unpacking the box with the Plusdeck 2, you’ll find:

• The Plusdeck 2
• A 20 pin cable
• A connection card that sits above a PCI-slot (but not in it)
• Serial cable
• 3 stereo cables
• Software CD
• Manual


This is everything you get in the box, except for that floppy cable
on top of the Plusdeck 2 that somehow managed to sneak its way into the photo.

You’ll quickly notice that the Plusdeck 2 is big. It is in fact as large as the largest DVD/CD drive. I can’t help wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to create an external version instead of an internal version.

Installation

Even though the Plusdeck 2 sits in a 5.25” bay and looks like a DVD/CD player, it does not connect using an IDE-cable. Instead, it connects using the special thinner 20-pin cable that is included.


It looks like a DVD/CD player, it fits into the same bay as a DVD/CD player
– but it uses a different cable than a DVD/CD-player.

The cable is then connected to the small connection card that is placed above one of the PCI-slots.


This is where you hook everything up to. The 20-pin cable from the drive,
the serial cable to the serial port on the motherboard and the audio cables to the soundcard.

Last but not least, you hook up the various audio ports to the audio ports on the motherboard and wrap it up connecting the serial cable to the serial port on the motherboard (this of course means you need a serial port on the motherboard).


Cables cables everywhere.

The included manual is thick and has a lot of pictures, making it pretty easy to install the kit. Unfortunately, the English in the manual could be a lot better, and I often had to read sentences a few times to figure out what they mean. The manual goes over several ways of connecting the audio to the connection card, and even if you have a full 5.1 speaker system, you will be able to use this product without losing the 5.1 sound for other applications.

The Software

Software is included on the CD, but I recommend heading to www.plusdeck.com and get the latest version right away. I downloaded version 3.23, and after installation I could start using the Plusdeck right away.

The software is very straightforward to use. It allows you to control the Plusdeck 2 just as you can, using the buttons on the front. This is what you can do:

• Listen to audio on either side of the tape (no need to turn the tape around)
• Convert audio on either side to a digital file on the computer. The format supported are: Wave, MP3 (from 256 down to 3 bitrate).
• Convert the audio to one large file or find the silent part between songs and divide up the audio in separate files
• Record audio from a digital file to the tape
• Dub sound from a mike onto the tape at the same time you record from a digital file to the tape.


The software allows you to quickly play from both sides as well as convert to/from PC.
Here you also can see the supported digital audio formats.

Testing

In my younger days, I used to create a lot of mix tapes with the hot music of the time (80s). After digging through a ton of old dusty stuff, I found an old Panasonic portable cassette player with an old tape in it. As far as I can remember, the tape is about 13 years old! I slid it into the Plusdeck 2 and suddenly was listening to a nice mix of Mike Oldfield and Pet Shop Boys. What I found even more impressive was that the sound quality was very good, even from that old tape. I have in fact been listening to that tape all the time while writing this review. Now if I only could find some of my other old mix tapes …


You can control the Plusdeck from the front of the drive as well as with software

To test the ability to separate up individual pieces of music, I set it up to play through the tape and record everything to 192KBit MP3 files. The result was good. Each piece of music was converted to an MP3 file, and in almost every case, it did find the correct place to start and end. One or two tunes were either cut off a bit too early at the end or started a second to late in the beginning. It would be nice if the software allowed you to set up how it calculates the beginning/end so you could fine tune it.

The Target Audience? 

So what is the target audience for this device? While testing the Plusdeck 2, I told several friends about it and almost everyone was very interested in borrowing it when I was done.

One friend wanted it to record all the old demo tapes his old band had done to digital format. Another guy wanted it to record some of his old mix-tapes to the PC, just like me. A third guy wanted it to be able to listen to some old audio books while working on his PC at work. In fact, I was quite surprised how much interest I could find for the product. This was of course from an older demographic.

Before I get tons of mail about it, let me say that it of course is very possible to hook up a normal cassette deck to the line-in of the computer and record that way. This is actually what the Plusdeck is doing, albeit in a more user-friendly way. In the end, not many have the computer and the cassette deck in close proximity. It is also much easier to use the software to create separate MP3’s from tapes or even record back to tape.

The Conclusion

Either you have a use for this product, in which case it is an excellent product, or you don’t, in which case it is pretty useless. The rating I’m giving this product is completely based on the fact that I have found it useful. The only big negative issue I can see with the Plusdeck 2 is the price. The cheapest I’ve seen is $149.99 at ThinkGeek, and that is a lot of money for something that you might not use that much.

Pros

+ Finally I can get all my old tapes converted to digital files
+ Great listening and recording quality
+ Simple but good software
 
 

Cons

– Very high price
– Manual warns for using 90 or 120 minute tapes although I haven’t had any problems yet.
– Needs lot of space behind the 5.25” bay
– Bad English in the manual

  

I give the Plusdeck 2 from BTO a rating of 7.5 (Good) out of 10 and a Seal of Approval.

  • tapanp

    thanks for this detailed post on the Plusdeck, I have one, but am not able to locate the software CD for it, and their website is no functional.. is there a chance you have the CD and would be kind enough to zip and email/ upload the software somewhere I can download from

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