Ion Tape Express Plus earned the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award for cassette to MP3 converters because of its superior hardware, easy-to-use software and excellent sound quality.
The first thing to understand about this cassette to MP3 converter is that the tape deck is made of higher-quality materials than every other product on our lineup. Most of the other products we reviewed came with a cassette player that felt flimsy. This unit's cassette player feels solid and produces great sound in the included headphones. The only negative thing about the player is that it doesn’t have an auto-reverse feature, which means you have to manually flip the tape when it reaches the end of one side.
The software component of this converter is likewise superior to the competition. EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter is a free application that comes bundled with the player. You can use the installation CD on both a PC and Mac. In the event that you’re using a computer that doesn’t have an optical drive, you can download it for free from the Ion Audio website. And it’s not just for cassette tapes, you can also use this software to digitize your vinyl records and pretty much any other analog audio you happen to have, so long as you have a USB connection from your device to your computer.
Once we converted the audio on our tapes, we found the sound to be nearly flawless. We compared the converted audio against both the original tape and a digital version of the same song. We found that the sound of the converted file was actually better than the tape we captured it from. This is most likely due to the superior nature of the hardware. When we compared it against the digital version, we were hard pressed to find any difference.
One of the things that make this cassette converter better than the rest of the competition is the nature of the software that performs the conversion. EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter walks you through the conversion process step by step. When you’re done capturing the audio on your cassettes, the program allows you to input the metadata for your new files. This means you can add the title of the song, artist, album and everything else you need to identify a song in whatever media player you happen to play it back on.
Another great feature of EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter is its ability to automatically detect and separate musical tracks. It does this by scanning for the silent spots on the tape that separate one track from another. Once the capturing step is complete, the application sorts all of this out so you don’t need to trim and edit each track individually. However, the application has no way of detecting whether silence on a track is the end of a song or just a pause. If there is a track on your tape that has silence that doesn't come at the end of the song, you can turn off the track-detection tool and record that song separately to prevent the song from being split into two tracks.
One of the important things about EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter is that it does not export in the MP3 format by default. The Windows version exports the converted files in the WAV format, and the Mac version exports in the M4A format. It’s only when the files are imported into applications such as iTunes that the files are transformed into MP3. However, this is a technicality and shouldn’t you stop you from considering this converter to digitize your old cassette tapes.
One of the places where this product falls short is that it doesn’t give you much control over your conversion. There is a volume-control knob on the side of the cassette deck and gain slider in the capture application. This makes the product easier to use, but advanced users may want more control over the converted audio.
Other programs we reviewed came with the editing program Audacity. And while that program isn’t exactly optimal for casual users, it has an extensive array of editing tools that those who know how to use them will find very useful. The good news is that Audacity is a free application that can be downloaded from various places online. There are also other programs you can buy that have the ability to record audio from the Ion Express Plus tape deck.
Ion offers a 90-day warranty period. The company also offers customer and technical support via phone or email. When we reached out to the company, they responded within 24 hours.
On the Ion website, you’ll find an extensive FAQ section that can answer most of the questions you’re likely to have. You’ll also see that it offers video tutorials that show you how to complete common tasks and troubleshoot technical problems.
The quality of the converted audio is the most important factor in any cassette to MP3 converter. The second most important factor is how easy the product is to use and learn. Ion Tape Express Plus excels over the competition in both areas. It doesn’t offer as many editing tools as other programs, but you can get those easily enough elsewhere. If you want to digitize your own tapes, Ion Tape Express Plus is one of the best options available.
The sound quality of the converted audio is outstanding.
The software doesn’t offer many customization options.
The combination of easy-to-use software, well-built hardware and excellent sound quality make Ion Tape Express Plus one of the best cassette to MP3 converters you can buy.