on 19 November 2009
I was slightly wary of ordering this, having tried another audio grabber from a Radio Times reader offers catalogue and had to return it as my computer wouldn't recognise the hardware. This one, however, was a pleasure to use. Just plugged it in and was turning cassettes into MP3 files within five minutes. Any queries about the more advanced features of the Audacity software were easily resolved by going online and consulting the Audacity wiki. Very good for the price.
on 30 October 2011
Running on: 2008 MacBook Pro, Mac OS 10.6
Purchased: October 2011
We bought a VCAP800 to transfer a few precious or otherwise unobtainable items from VHS to MP4 format. We'd not that many transfers to do, so we wanted something fairly cheap, and from the Amazon reviews the VCAP800 looked like a good balance of price, quality and reliability.
I've been using the VCAP800 for about a week now, and I'm VERY pleased with it. I've transferred 6 or 7 programmes of up to 90 minutes. Transfers are reliable, quality is not-bad (a bit of snow and aliasing on the picture, plus highlights can look washed out), mind you, so far I've left it on the default settings. However, I can report that picture quality is much better than that produced by the dedicated VHS-to-DVD recorder at my partner's work, which produced coasters 2 times out of 3 anyway. Sound quality from the VCAP is very good.
The Mac iCapture software provided "with" the device (more on that "with" in a minute) is simple and straightforward to use and understand. Playback from your video recorder appears in a little window on your computer monitor, so you can see exactly what you're getting, and you don't even need to be connected to a TV to see where you are on the tape! There's a handy option to do timed recordings, so you can leave the software to get on with the job without worrying about it filling your whole hard disk up.
There are plenty of options for changing the settings both on sound and picture recording; I haven't played with these yet.
On the default settings, iCapture converts the VHS input to Apple MOV format, and these come out quite big - I suspect partly as a result of the slightly-staticky picture quality which would defy compression. A 90 minute movie would come out at 10gb or so (compare that to 1-1.5gb for an MP4 movie of similar length bought from iTunes). Mac users would need to use iDVD to burn an MOV to disc (also expect a long wait as iDVD compresses the movie down to below the 4gb DVD size limit). iCapture exports to a set of standard formats; I've seen other utilities that do this clip the edges off the picture (very frustrating for movies with subtitles) but iCapture has so far been smart enough to use a larger format than the incoming VHS signal, resulting in a picture that's embedded in a neat black frame.
Movies open fine in Quicktime (if you have Quicktime Pro, you can edit your movies, clipping out run-ons and ad breaks). The movies play back in iTunes without any problems, despite their large size.
So what's the caveat? Well, it's to do with the set-up...
Unpacking and connecting the hardware was straightforward (the VCAP800 comes with a set of connector cables, though as reviewer Not So Easy To Please pointed out, you do need a SCART adaptor if, like mine, your VHS recorder only has SCART outputs (happily I already had one)).
There was a Quick Start guide with separate sections for Windows and Mac installation, plus an installer CD with Windows and Mac serial numbers printed on the outside. Insert the CD, says the guide, and open the folder that says Mac software... except there was no such folder, and no Mac software of any kind anywhere on the disc.
It turns out now that there was a second Mac installer CD included loose outside the product packaging, which got stuck in the envelope and wasn't found until a week or so later, so I went the long way round:
I'd read in the Amazon reviews about some purchasers having to download updated drivers... and there was a URL on the front of the quick start guide.
It was easy to find the download page on the site, and after that, the drivers downloaded quickly and easily (actually you're getting the whole iCapture software package, but the page just describes it as "drivers"). The link to the User Manual was broken (and still is, as of writing), but luckily the software was simple enough that so far the printed Quick Start Guide has been sufficient.
Installation was quick and straightforward; the serial number printed on the CD case was needed to activate the software. The only problem I had was silent video until I went into the "Sound" menu and selected "USB" as the input source.
This product is cheap, effective, easy to use, and worth ever penny. I originally deducted one star for the "missing" Mac installers, but given that they'd included a second disk AND made the installer available on the website, I'm putting it back. Having a second disk loose outside the packaging is a bit heath-Robinson but it's much, much better than many manufacturers who include out-of-date or buggy Mac software as an afterthought and tough luck if it's no good. iGrabber is up-to-date and works well with a very small footprint (3.3 mb!)
Overall, thoroughly recommended.
Like other reviewers, I was a tad wary of buying this item but as I have a lot of old cassettes and LP's I want to digitise, I felt that £16-or-so was worth a punt.
It immediately proved to absolutely be well worth the money.
The unit comes with Audacity v1.2.6 which can be downloaded free of charge anyway and I already had it installed on my computer. I regularly use it for sound recording and/or editing projects. If you also already have 1.2.6 installed, there's no need to reinstall it using the CD which comes with the CimaxDigital unit. I didn't and everything worked perfectly.
If you're new to Audacity, it's quite easy to learn - just take your time.
The process is explained very clearly in the accompanying manual (of which there's a pdf copy on the CD) ...
(1) Connect the ClimaxDigital unit and wait for your computer to recognise the new hardware.(I have the XP operating system).
(2) Although I have a choice of cassette players (including one in a hi-fi system), I decided to give it a tough test by using an old Sony player which only offers an earpiece output. I HAVE NOW UPLOADED TWO PHOTOS OF THE ITEM AND HOW I USED IT.
(3) I duly connected the Sony using the earpiece connector. (See one of the photos).
(4) I started my existing copy of Audacity and simply altered the preference for the recording device to the USB PnP Device (as clearly explained and illustrated in the manual). I made no other changes to Audacity - the recognition of the ClimaxDigital unit was straightforward and totally without hassles.
(5) I started my first cassette (a spoken-word story that my grandaughter wants on CD but for which there is no commercial release in that format) and took a minute or two to run a few tests adjusting the player's volume so that I wasn't overloading the input. One reviewer moaned about the difficulty of this - that's rubbish. Within a minute I had found the playback volume level which produced a perfect transfer.
(6) Upon finishing side 1 of the cassette I used Audacity to export the file in its new digital format. You can opt to save in mp3, wav or ogg formats.
(7) I subsequently tested music cassettes in the same way and had no problems whatsoever. I tested both mp3 and wav exports and they were perfect .... all this, remember, using a truly basic player and an earpiece output!!
Because I prefer to have spoken-word recordings in 'chapters' (just as music will be in separate tracks) I will now use Audacity to split the transfer into sections. Once you are familiar with the program, this is simplicity itself and is something I do on a regular basis.
The basic method I use is as follows:
a) Load the track to be split.
b) Use the Audacity View/Zoom function to focus on the first part of the recording.
c) Find the part where you want to have a split and leave the cursor there.
d) Use the 'Cursor to start' option and copy that section.
e) Open a new file and paste in.
f) Save (eg: track 01) using whatever folder or subfolder you prefer or have created.
g) Close that new file and you revert to your original master file which still shows the highlighted section you just copied and pasted.
h) Delete that section and repeat the whole process for track 02, track 03 etc. etc.
IMPORTANT --- To be safe, of course, always work on a backup file just in case something goes wrong when copying, pasting and deleting.
So - without a doubt, this purchase has been a spectacular success.
on 13 January 2011
SUPPERB! Honest, Thank you so much! For years I've coped something like 50 mini DV tapes, and my camera wouldn't work with PC or mac, (thanks to Sony Handycam software that is useless)and the Mini DV player costs around £500,(because it's not in production anymore), Now slowly, but easily transferring all the videos and instantly editing it and converting to whatever I want. Really easy to use software and hardware, you just plug and play as people say. Thanks a gain
on 1 May 2009
I purchased this for transfer from VHS to DVD.
My VHS machine has only a SCART output, so I used a scart to rca adaptor and a triple RCA cable (male to male) to go into the female rca inputs of the unit. I haven't tried the S-VHS input. I then used a 10m usb extension cable (female to male) to go to the pc, which is a pentium 4 3.2GHz running XP pro SP3.
There are instructions on the box to install the drivers first (before plugging in the device), so I followed these and although the actual prompts were nothing like those described on the box, I was able to follow the instructions to confirm that the drivers had installed.
I then installed the Arcsoft Showbiz DVD 2 software and when I ran it in capture mode, it found the device, but said no video. I found the scart adaptor was switched to input rather than output and when fixed there was video and sound from the preview screen.
My first recording had no sound, but I found you had to select sound recording by ticking a check box. When I did this and set up the options there was sound on the recording. The problem is that if you come out of the capture software and go back to do another recording, the box has unchecked itself and you get no recorded sound even though you hear it while the recording is being made. This applies if you come out of the Arcsoft altogether or just switch to edit mode and then back, so it is easy to miss checking the box each time. If you can remember this, the recording is good quality, vision and sound, with the 352 by 576 lines mode being entirely adequate for putting VHS on DVD.
Pressing the big button on the device captures a single frame as a still picture file.
The editing mode is rather limited and if you try to use some of the slider controls, the pc goes off and thinks very hard for several minutes. You can import files to the software for inclusion in the editing, but it doesn't know anything about 16:9, which is rather a limitation thse days.
The transfer to DVD and setting up the DVD menus part of the software is quite easy and gives a good result.
I have also used the EzCAP device with Ulead Videostudio 11plus and that works okay in many respects, but that software is not without its own issues - it doesn't have the sound problem though.
To summarise: I can't fault the EzCAP device, I think all the problems come from the software, although for less than £20 total it is very cheap.
on 26 October 2010
We have a whole load of mini-VHS tapes spanning almost 30 years and wanted to preserve the recordings. Saw this on Amazon, very good price, bought it. Very easy to set up and connect, in conjunction with adaptor so tapes can play in a standard VHS player (the old video camera has expired) and a SCART to AV adaptor for the connector on my video player which only has SCART connections. It just works. You have, of course, to check the durations of the recording on the tape before you start so you can switch things off at the right time and it's a bit time consuming, but all of our 50 or so tapes were converted in small batches over a 2 week period. Quality of the digital files is of course only as good as the quality of the original recording. Things to watch out for? Only one that I found, you have to re-tick the sound recording box at the start of every session. If you don't, the video records with no sound. The software supplied worked fine on my Windows 7 laptop (drivers were found and installed automatically) and I have copied files to DVD no problem. The files produced have also been transferred via USB memory stick to Vista and XP users. I've also tested the device to record from my SKY+ box, and that works too although I had to change the picture aspect on the SKY box. Highly recommended.
on 19 December 2011
After having much trouble selecting the right encoder, it will do what you expect!
On Mac OSX, I selected the recommended >motion-jpeg< encoder, audio sync was out, I've had this problem before on PC, so I tried the DV encoders, DVC-pro & DVCpro-50, this had rock solid audio sync but expected 768 wide capture res - this device max is 720.. so result was distorted.
Choosing >>Apple Intermediate Codec<< provided excellent encoding quality and rock-solid audio sync. For a bargain price and choosing the aforementioned codec all is sweet - do this and it will save you sweat and tears!