If you’re looking for something to record your mixes without the need for a computer, the Reloop Tape USB Mixtape Recorder will fit the bill nicely, especially if you like recording your live sets at the club and don’t like using a laptop. It also doubles as a vinyl recorder thanks to the phono input, allowing you to rip your vinyl straight to MP3.
First Impressions / Setting up
It’s a fun little device, coming in a display pack that’s designed to look like a retro cassette player. It’s the same size as an old-fashioned cassette tape, albeit slightly thicker, and made from the same kind of plastic casing. It comes with a set of stickers, just like cassettes used to, so you can customise your Reloop Tape. They’ve obviously had fun designing and packaging it.
In the pack you’ll find the Reloop Tape itself, plus a DC mains electricity adaptor, and a lead. The lead has twin RCA plugs on one end, and a stereo 1/8″ TRS jack on the other, for plugging your source into the Reloop Tape. The unit has three sockets on its bottom edge, for the USB device, for plugging in your input, and also a Thru socket (1/8″ jack too). This is for when your recording source only has one output; it lets you plug another lead (not supplied) in, which can go on to wherever you’d normally plug into (a mixer or speakers), effectively setting up the Reloop Tape between your output and destination, and negating the need for a second output.
On the left-hand edge you’ll find a ground pin (the supplied lead also has a third, ground lead, which can attach to the ground pole on your mixer, and also here). This can be useful to reduce buzz or hum, and would be definitely worth attaching if you’re recording direct from vinyl.
There are switches for phono/line (normally you’d have this set to Line, but if you were recording directly from a record deck in order to use the device to rip vinyl, it’d be set to Phono), and also for 192/320kbps MP3 quality. Generally you’d want this set to 320 for best quality, but if you’re recording for uploading to a mix service online that streams at 192, or you’re recording a long session onto a smaller USB drive, 192 will use considerably less space on the USB.
Finally on this edge, there is a DC-in socket for attaching the power supply; this needs to be plugged in for the unit to function.
Once you’re wired in, plugging in the power causes the power light top-left to illuminate. Next, plug in the USB and again a light (bottom-left) confirms it’s been recognised. (One tip is to use an empty USB, which results in the unit recognising it faster.) Just before starting your mix you hit the Rec/Stop button dead centre on the front, and then the Rec light (top-right) flashes to tell you the Reloop Tape is recording. The Signal/Peak light (bottom right) stays green if all is OK, flipping to red if you’re pushing too much of a signal into it.
In practice, I found that I had to push the Traktor Kontrol S4 that I was using to test it with really hard to make this go red; it was well in the red on its own VU meters and on the computer screen first, so as long as you’re “keeping out of the red” on your gear as a habit (and you should be), the Reloop Tape will record fine.
By the way, if you’ve ever wondered what the “Rec Out” is for on the back of a mixer (and the occasional DJ controller too), this is it: Rec Out bypasses main volume controls, so you can turn the main volume up or down in your room and the recording remains equal.
Not many DJ controllers have a Rec Out, though; next best is to use the Booth Out if you’re not otherwise using it. In this instance, you’d set the Booth Out volume and not touch it again for the duration of the recording.
As mentioned above, a workaround if you have neither is to use the Reloop Tape’s Thru – but you’d have to remember not to alter the main volume once set, or your recording volume will also change.
Once you have finished your mix, you just press “Rec/Stop” to stop the recording, then you’re free to remove the USB and plug it into a PC, for editing in something like Audacity, for uploading to Mixcloud or similar, for adding to iTunes and on to your MP3 player, and so on.
The Reloop Tape is a fun little device, and it does what it sets out to do well. The recordings were exactly as you’d expect from 320/192 MP3s quality wise, and it’s simple to set up and use. If you want WAV files instead of MP3 you’ll need to look elsewhere, but otherwise it’s got you covered.
Of course, most DJ software (with the notable exception of many LE programs, supplied for free with DJ gear) lets you record directly to your computer’s hard drive just by hitting the “Record” button. While for many people this function is all they’ll ever need, there are instances when you might not want to use it, or when it’s not good enough.
Firstly, you may be wary about putting that additional strain on your computer in a performance situation. Secondly, you may want to record the mixer output in a club or bar, rather than the output of your controller (for instance, to capture an external microphone, or other DJs using their own equipment but feeding through the same mixer). Or thirdly, of course, you might not be a digital DJ at all, in which case something like this is essential for recording your mixes.
There are other recorders available, and this unit differentiates itself from some of them by having the Thru function, and from (to my knowledge) all of them by having the Line/Phono switch to allow you to use it to rip vinyl direct from a normal record deck; note, you’d probably need an extra adaptor lead to get the record deck’s output into it. (We didn’t test its vinyl ripping capabilities.)
Overall, if you’re looking for something like this to record your mixes, we can recommend it. The Reloop Tape is fun, and it works well.