If you were cutting mix tapes for your teenage love in the 80’s, or rushing to press record on a Saturday morning to record the Top 40 on Radio 5, then you will appreciate the ION Fast Forward USB Tape Converter. My sentimental streak has held back many attempts over the years to throw away the cassettes containing the songs from my angst filled teen years, and thankfully, a walk through a Look & Listen introduced me to the range of gadgets designed to bring through memories into the digital age.

The ION Fast Forward USB Tape Converter

Well, you may be wondering why I would want to take these songs off tapes when I could probably find them on the newly launched SA iTunes store at a better sound quality. My response would be that what’s on these tapes is more than a song, its a time recording of me sitting in front of my double tape deck radio carefully crafting mix tapes for my then girlfriend Lyndsey. These tapes are a record of my youth, and I would like to keep them on file.

With sentimentality aside, the ION Fast Forward USB Tape Converter is a fantastic little gadget that does a damn good job. The installation process is extremely simple if you are working off a Mac (but the manufacturer did state that there may be issues working off Windows – no surprises there) – Its a simple process of installing the application, connecting the ION Fast Forward, popping in a tape and recording the contents.

Some great features of the ION fast Forward application is that you are able to calibrate the gain setting allowing for a better digital sound recording, the software automatically determines the start and end of a track and splits them into separate files, you are able to edit the song file name and details in the application, and when you are done, bob’s your uncle, it is imported into your iTunes library.

The ION Fast Forward offers an extremely easy user-interface

If you want to go seriously retro, the gadget can also be used as a stand alone walkman. Just load in 2 x AA batteries, your favourite mix tape, plug in your earphones (not included) and off you go – just remember the rules – don’t leave it or your tapes in the car, lying in the sun, don’t get it wet, and don’t run with it.

As for the recording quality, the ION Fast Forward is a great gadget, but it can’t work miracles. It does a fantastic job of converting the recording on the cassette strip into a digital file, but it is limited to the quality of the recording on the cassette strip – simply put, if you have a back recording on your tape, then you’ll get a bad recording on your digital file. In a later review on the ION USB Vinyl Record Converter, I will explain how this this works to your advantage – especially with records from the 1930’s and 40’s.

So if your boyfriend, husband or dad is hanging onto his tapes, perhaps this would make a great gift. Its available at Look & Listen and retails for around ZAR699 – money well spent, if you ask me.