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Cassette blues in the Age of iPods

india Updated: Dec 07, 2008 21:59 IST
N Madhavan

I think increasingly that the comfort is not in the machines that we buy but how easily we can operate them or get the right benefits out of them. Apple's iPod is a fancy status symbol, but requires you to have CDs and insists on a proprietary software or buy songs from its own iTunes.

What, if, like me, you have a collection of audio cassettes that go back decades, with gems that you cannot buy easily on the Web? Or if you do not fancy buying CDs of the same songs all over again and pay more?

Help is at hand now, with software and machines that can help you manage a legacy.

A few months ago, I saw an online purchase that promised one, thinking I was going to get a device that helped me transfer cassette recordings, but it turned out to be a CD with software (for which I paid around Rs. 150) and a wire that you can buy in your neighbourhood shop. I checked out later and found that such software can be downloaded on the Net for free (in sites like or But these require some time and effort in loading, configuring and patiently transferring those songs or recordings.

Machines are also now available that make the task easier. Early this year, Philips introduced a boom-box like "rip all" machine called AZ1586 that has a USB drive through which you can rip your cassettes into a USB drive which you can then use to transfer songs to your MP3 players. File formats are critical, and I would advise anyone trying to gain from these understand that not all audio files are MP3.

There are quality issues in transferring old recordings into digital formats and we may have to consider them. I found an LP-to-MP3 converter machine and a cassette-to-MP3 machine selling for around $130-150 –the same price league as the Philips machine at the site of US retailer Hammacher Schlemmer ( In addition, it offers noise reduction and systematic management of tracks and high-speed dubbing to reduce the time for conversions.

However, in these busy times, I do long for a shop in a place like Karol Bagh or Palika Bazaar where they would just burn my old collection into a USB drive, so I can avoid the mess of wires and complex software instructions. As I said, machines are now cheaper, but what I want is convenience. I must go and look for one.