The box claims that honestech’s Audio Recorder 2.0 Deluxe will let you, “With just a few clicks, convert your analog music into digital formats including mp3s and audio CDs.” Well, it honestly takes more than just a “few clicks”; after all, you have to find those analog formats and find a working player and get it all connected. Once that’s done, though, the box is right – it’s a pretty easy process.
I’ve recorded audio into a computer many times before. I worked in radio for over a decade, and part of that time saw the conversion from older analog formats to digital ones, including many hours spent recording audio into a computer. That experience taught me that you really need to have decent equipment if you want a decent recording. Just plugging a tape deck into the “audio in” jack that came built-in to your computer is not likely to produce quality results. You get buzz or hiss or hum or some other form of audio distortion, and most PCs do not come with decent recording and editing software.
All of this experience has meant that I’ve shied away from doing much analog-to-digital transfer at home. I don’t have the right equipment or software and don’t feel like shelling out the money it would take to do it right. There is, however, a device/software package now on the market that changes that.
Honestech sent me a copy of their Audio Recorder 2.0 Deluxe package for review. It includes the Audio Recorder 2.0 software and a MUZBOX USB device that captures audio from a standard stereo RCA connection, as well as a selection of cables and adapters to make the necessary connections. Let’s start with looking at the hardware.
The MUZBOX itself is small and powered via USB 2.0, so you don’t need an external power cord. A standard USB cable is included, as are a stereo RCA cable and an adapter to use the RCA cable with a standard stereo mini plug, the kind used for most headphone jacks. I was impressed that the RCA cable was long – I’m guessing it’s a 6 ft. cable. That’s longer than what usually comes with your VCR or tape deck and makes it much easier to find a spot near your PC to place your analog device. I was also impressed that the connections on the cable and the MUZBOX were gold, which provides for a better quality connection. The drivers for the MUZBOX are included with the software; once I had them installed, I connected the MUZBOX and instantly had audio coming into the PC. Not only did the MUZBOX work easily, it worked well. The audio was clean and clear, nothing like any previous experience I had with recording audio at home. The hardware gets an A.
The software is honestech’s Audio Recorder 2.0. It includes both a “Wizard” mode and an advanced mode for recording. I gave each a shot. In wizard mode, you are guided through a few simple screens (pictured at right) to test your connection and set your audio level, then you begin recording. When you’re done, you go instantly to burning to CD. It’s a very easy process. I only ran into one hiccup – I selected “Auto Split” without knowing what it did. Come to find out, the Auto Split feature detects silence in the recording and starts a new track for your CD. That’s great for music… but I was recording spoken word. Every time the speaker paused, I got a new track number. I ended up with seventy some tracks, which was a little awkward. Maybe next time I’ll read the directions first.
Since I didn’t want to deal with all of those tracks, I tried again, this time using the advanced mode. The advanced mode is pretty basic as audio recording software goes and I found it easy to navigate. I set up my recording, including a noise reduction option which worked better than the Dolby noise reduction built-in to my cassette deck. Everything went smoothly for the first thirty minutes or so. Then I started getting some weird stuff – the audio would stop suddenly, even though it should be continuing. I had to stop the recording, stop the tape, then start both again. This continued every five minutes or so until the end of my cassette. I’m not sure if this was a USB issue or a driver issue or what the cause was – if I’m going to continue using this device, I’ll need to get that figured out.
Overall, the experience was a good one. The honestech Audio Recorder 2.0 Deluxe package offers a simple process that produced good results. For the price, $79 MSRP, you get a good combination of hardware and software that almost any novice PC user can utilize to get their analog audio into their PC or onto CDs. There were some bugs in my experience, too, so proceed with that in mind.
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Ben Martin is the CEO of THE FATHER LIFE. He lives with his wife and five children in the Rochester, NY, area.