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Cassette tape revival? Probably not

CNET's Donald Bell offers his take on the Alesis TapeLink USB, a cassette deck that lets users digitize recordings over USB.

I don't care how much you love the '80s, no one wants to listen to cassette tapes anymore. The wretched things are noisy, they wear out, and unless you've got one of those super-duper cassette decks, skipping tracks means riding the fast-forward button until you feel lucky.

Photo of mix tape liner notes.
Don't turn your back on old mixtapes. Jay Cox

For all their faults, though, there is one bright spot in the history of cassettes: the mixtape. There's just something awesome about a curated mix of music, tediously patched together, song by song, onto a hand-scrawled tape. A robot could burn a CD, but only a human (preferably a lovesick one) can craft a legitimate mixtape.

Most of us probably have a shoebox somewhere in our home, filled with a jumble of old tapes. Most of them are only painful reminders of misguided music purchases from the '80s and '90s (yes, you actually paid money for that Paula Abdul tape). With any luck, hidden in your rubble of commercial pop music are a handful of mixtapes.

Maybe it's a tape you got from an old high school crush, or a personal mix of your favorite freestyle rappers from 1994--it doesn't matter. Whatever it is, you probably listened to that tape on repeat at least a hundred times back in the day, and whether you like it or not, it's a part of who you are. Anything that can induce that kind of instant flashback deserves to be saved. In fact, it deserves to be archived in it's raw form, hiss and all.

Photo of the Alesis TapeLink USB
The Alesis TapeLink USB takes the sting out of archiving your tapes, but it'll cost you. Corinne Schulze/CNET

If you have the least bit of do-it-yourself spirit in you, the process of digitizing your old tapes to MP3 or CD is as simple as hooking up an old Walkman or thrift store cassette deck to your computer's audio card, and recording straight to a free audio program like Audacity. Another route you can take is to purchase an all-in-one product like the Alesis TapeLink USB ($199).

The TapeLink is a USB-connected dual-cassette deck bundled with an assortment of recording software. If you ask me, the whole package is pretty mediocre for the money, but it could be just the thing if you lack the tools and confidence to cobble together your own setup. To learn more about the Alesis TapeLink USB, you can read my full write-up over at CNET Reviews.