A free 'cassette deck' recording program for Macs? That's cool. Windows users have a treat, too. I found Windows software that lets you create professional mixdowns. And it's free.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


'Tape recorder' and DJ software for audio fans

Sept. 27, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Remember tape recorders? If you're like me, you used a cassette recorder (also called a "tape deck") for both music and voice notes. Cassettes are fading into history, but if you're a Mac user you can bring back the good old days with a program appropriately called TapeDeck from http://tapedeckapp.com.
   Windows users have a treat, too. I found Windows software that lets you create professional mixdowns. It's called Zulu Virtual DJ. Get it from www.nch.com.au/dj.
   Cost-wise, Windows users have the edge this week. TapeDeck is $25 and Zulu Virtual DJ is free.
   TapeDeck's interface is cool. As soon as you press the record button, a cassette tape shows up in the cassette recorder's tape well and the deck goes into action. The cassette and the recorder itself look disarmingly real -- you can even see the little reels spinning, and when you press the rewind or fast-forward buttons the sound takes on a chipmunk quality as it speeds past the "tape head."
   You have a choice of HQ, MQ or LQ settings for sound quality. The highest level creates the largest files, of course. I found Medium Quality fine for recording from an external stereo microphone. For recordings I made from my laptop's built-in mike, LQ worked OK.
   In addition to making voice recordings, I used TapeDeck to capture radio shows that are broadcast on the Web. TapeDeck's own format for its "cassettes" is the iPod format, but you can easily export any already-made recording in another format. (Get the Switch audio converter if you need to convert the iPod format files to MP3. It's free from www.nch.com.au/switch and comes in Windows and Mac versions.)
   The Virtual DJ software is amazingly sophisticated. You can use practically any kind of audio file (nearly 40 formats are supported) and you can easily preview audio tracks before they play. A neat touch is the software's automatic beat detection. Simply Load a track onto the left or right "tape decks" built into Zulu and the program will automatically scan the file for a beat, assign a beats-per-minute rating and change the tempo in the second deck for perfect synchronization.
   You can also do cross fades between two tracks, apply effects in real-time, preview tracks through headphones, change both pitch and tempo at any time, control any function from the keyboard, create cue points, loop segments at any time, apply special effects and patch the software into a professional-level USB DJ mixing console.
   Special effects include distortion, reverb and delay.
   Zulu is the kind of software that you'd expect to pay as much as $450 for. The fact that it's free is mind-boggling. Don't wait to give this a whirl.