Tim from ‘Shareware Plus‘ has kindly sent us over the uCassette to review and this little device has peaked my interest for some time, a device so cool it looks to be a neat addition to the C64/128 community. This piece of kit may be small, fitting in the palm of your hand but don't let that fool you, as for people like you and me who are sick of trying to get tapes working, will find the uCassette to be the next best thing that don't want to delve into the usage of SD cards.
From the first delivery you can tell the developer really has put a lot of effort into his device as everything you could need is neatly packaged and well presented. A user's guide is provided with step by step instructions, a uCassette cd with converting software including many many games and the uCassette and cable to attach to certain audio devices such as an MP3 player.
Moving on to the attachment, unlike the Amstrad which can just have a cable plugged into an Mp3 player or through a mobile, the C64 as far as my experience didn't have that capability. The only way to get it to work was by using the original tapes or the CD-Cassette adapter pictured below, that then plugs into a mobile. This is for me is an unworkable solution, especially when all three tape decks needed to be aligned again and again for both an original tape and through mobile usage. Also factor in the possibility of a non working tape, this adds extra stress and makes you feel like it's just not worth playing on your C64. I know many have got it working just fine but for me, the tape deck is just a no go.
Now this is when the uCassette really comes into it's own, as not only does it look so much neater even without the PSU attached, but it emulates a tape deck by picking up the C64 loading sound from any other device through the audio cable supplied. The uCassette plugs into the back of the C64 into the tape port and acts just like a real tape deck.
As you can see from the picture below you may notice a green light coming from the uCassette. Basically when any game is loaded at the correct volume, the green light appears to let you know that it is picking up an audio signal so you can now run your game. If the audio volume isn't loud enough the green light wont show and the game probably wont work. Also note that the uCassette interface cannot make the multi-load process automatic. As according to the developer, it is necessary to do this manually, using the onboard green light. When the led turns off during the normal loading, you must pause your audio player manually and resume when the light turns on again.
Thankfully I found a way which is a huge benefit for all C64 owners and takes a lot of the hassle out of missing that pause and play problem. You may notice also in the picture another device attached to the uCassette. This is my mobile that also has the application called Tapdancer. A pretty impressive application that converts files to playable loading sounds and also acts a device which can control a lot of the pausing during silences. For example, when I press Shift Run/Stop on the C64, I can then press play on Tapdancer and allow it to run until it pauses itself. This is especially useful right at the start or long gaps, because as soon as you press play again on Tapdancer it starts the next process of loading.
It's almost as if Tapdancer was made to work with the uCassette; no longer must you fiddle with a non working tape deck or an iffy CD-Cassette device, because as soon as that press play button is pressed on Tapdancer, the green light shows and you are ready to go!
But through all this, there is only one issue which I came across and that was through a failed loading. But this was not the fault of the device more so the C64 not picking up the correct loading sound. When I first loaded up Dizzy through my mobile at volume 13 it worked right away but on the second attempt it didn't! Just lowering the volume to 12 I was then able to play every single game I chucked at it which just blew me away.
Sure it's not as quick as an SD device, but when it comes down to it, the uCassette is probably the best thing you can buy for loading up tape games through your C64. For something that fits in the palm of your hand, very well designed and costing only £24.95 I have no complaints, it's such an impressive bit of kit!
The New Retail Pack Includes -
- All new µCassette interface
- Comprehensive full colour printed manual
- Mastered DVD with +500 mp3 games, software and user’s guide
- µCassette MP3 Cable (3.5mm Stereo Cable)
Free Powerful Utility Software -
- AUDIOTAP - Use this program to convert .TAP files to .WAV
- WAV-PRG - Convert .T64 file or .PRG to .WAV
- CONVERTER - Easily convert .WAV files to .TAP
You can check out this device and many others from his web page or click the buy now on his Ebay page, this is one device I'd recommend for any C64 owner!
Tapdancer is available here
Just a small update to the article regarding the Tapdancer settings for a C64, they are provided below.
1: Volume 12 - 13 ( May be different on your device, if it's too low the green light wont show on the uCassette and the game won't load )
2: Click settings
3: Pause Behaviour TICKED
4: Output Signal UNTICKED ( Make sure this is NOT ticked or it will break games )
5: Auto Pause TICKED
6: First Silence TICKED
7: Long Silences Only TICKED ( This can be UNTICKED for games that use Novaload or don't pause during long silences, handy if you don't want to keep pressing play during a pause )