Hardware review of Plus Deck 2 from Axxen Co. Ltd

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Hardware - Plus Deck 2 Audio Cassette Drive for PCsPlus Deck 2
5.25″ PC Audio Tape Cassette Drive
OS Environment: MS Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Manufacturer: Axxen Co. Ltd
Manufactured: 2004-2006
UPC: 8809080112120

“The PlusDeck 2 is a full-logic cassette deck for your PC. Use it to archive your old cassette tapes of 80s hair bands into digital media files for playback on your PC.”

That ain’t exactly what I planned on using it for. I originally bought the Plus Deck 2 for $192.60 CDN back in spring 2004. I had dreams of turning my old audio cassette audiobooks into CDs (now they’ll go straight into MP3s for use on my iPod). But those dreams turned into a nightmare about an hour after the thing arrived. This is due not to the hardware itself, the hardware is pretty simple to install, works very well and looks cool doing it. The problem was all with the software. The software is designed to let you control the device from an on screen interface, it does this but poorly the recording software itself is very, very buggy. Worse still, the error messages are all in Korean! Consulting the manual doesn’t help much either, the manual is in English but was translated from Korean by someone who didn’t know English very well. I thought that a lot of my problems stemmed from the fact that I had first installed it on my Win98 machine. It was supposed to work with Win98, but it didn’t, at least not on my setup. So it sat there, doing very little but looking pretty for more than 2 years. I was pissed off, $192.60 and the thing doesn’t do what it was designed for. And it isn’t like I didn’t try, I had been diligently updating with the latest software (currently at version 3.25) surfing around the web for other user’s fixes. But there was no love. I hypothesized that all the problems stemmed from some incompatibility with Win98, so I figured I do have an XP machine, but because the Plus Deck 2 will only fit into a standard 5.25″ bay I didn’t have any room for it until I swapped out my XP machine into a more capacious case. So I did it, got a new case installed everything and tried the software with WinXP. Nope, it still doesn’t work to any consistent standard of reliability. I’ve given up trying to get the Plus Deck 2 software working for recordings. Instead I’ve been using the hardware in combination with a third party’s software (Audacity 1.2.6) – this way I can get great recordings out of the hardware – but I have to be there to switch the recording off.

The Plus Deck 2 is designed to convert any audio cassette into either a digital audio MP3 or WAV. Using the third party’s software I can get great recordings out of the hardware. It can also just play cassettes, which it did on my Win98 machine as well – but it also has a neat feature not found easily elsewhere it can record any computer sound to cassette. Now I must offer a strong caveat to any person who might be interested in that last feature. I have the original Plus Deck 2. If you go out looking for a Plus Deck now you’ll want to make sure you know the difference between the Plus Deck 2 and the Plus Deck2c. The newer Plus Deck2c does everything the regular Plus Deck 2 does, except it doesn’t record sounds to cassette from the PC.

So why buy this thing at all? Well, it has a certain advantage over regular cassette to PC connections. If you can get the official software to work, I haven’t but maybe you can, the Plus Deck 2 can be set to record a file from one side or both sides of a cassette and do it virtually automatically. It will also monitor the recording for you and stop recording when the tape is done. This means you wouldn’t have to be there to watch it. In the end it also means you can turn your old fashioned audio cassette audiobooks into mp3s or CDs relatively hassle free.

One thought to “Hardware review of Plus Deck 2 from Axxen Co. Ltd”

  1. Neato… the return of the pc tape drive! I always did wonder if an old in-car stereo could be persuaded to fit in a 5.25″ bay with a bit of hammering (the +12v, earth, and audio connections would be trivial to hook up) to save space if you wanted to listen to the radio or play some old cassettes… or add CD (though not CDROM!) playback to a really old machine. I wouldnt be surprised if thats largely what theyve done here, with some simple glue logic on the controls.

    i’d be quite interested to get hold of one of these to answer a few questions… e.g.

    what’s the sound quality ultimately like? cassettes can actually be pretty damn good but many people never realise because of poor media and worse hardware. especially vs the more modern iOn external decks.

    does it provide the audio as pure analogue, or a digital stream down the IDE cable?

    can you, with a bit of programming knowledge, hack the driver relatively easily and use it as a super retroistic backup medium for small but highly confidential files? maybe even hidden as high frequency “noise” over a muffled seeming audio track… You & a friend with one of these each could send some super stenographic documents back and forth disguised as mixtapes :-)

    (or hide your porn stash, whatever… so long as you don’t mind retrieving it at modem speeds!)

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