In the old days the mark of a true audiophile was owning a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Anyone who was serious about audio had at least one, and many music-lovers had two or more 10-inch-reel behemoths. Nowadays reel-to-reel recorders are largely objects of curiosity relegated to yard sales. Most up-to-date audiophiles do their recording via their computer’s disc-burners. But for those select few who still want to record analog sources or capture on-location live concerts, TASCAM has a new recorder that carries on its tradition of making top-shelf recording devices.
The $2500 TASCAM DV-RA1000HD is a two-track digital recorder that uses a built-in hard-drive and a DVD ±RW burner. It can record in 44.1, 48, 88, 96, 176.4, and 192kHz PCM or 2.8224MHz DSD formats. The internal 60GB hard drive holds as much as 62.9 hours of 44.1kHz PCM and as little as 14.4 hours of 192kHz PCM material. Recordings can be archived onto DVDs via the internal DVD burner. These archived DVDs can also be copied into the hard drive for further editing in the DV-RA1000HD or transferred to a computer by way of its USB interface.
Along with analog XLR balanced and RCA single-ended inputs and outputs the DV-RA1000HD has two stereo AES/EBU digital inputs, two stereo AES/EBU digital outputs, one coaxial S/PDIF digital input, one coaxial S/PDIF digital output, two SDIF 3/DSD RAW inputs, two SDIF 3/DSD RAW outputs on BNC jacks, a RS232 connector for device control, BNC word-synch input and out/thru with auto terminations, and a USB 2.0 interface for computer connection. Unlike most consumer recorders, which have a wireless remote control, the TASCAM has a wired remote. This is so that engineers sitting at a console can control the TASCAM without turning around to point a remote control. The TASCAM also allows a PS/2 keyboard to be attached so file names can be added or changed more easily than relying on the TASCAM onboard jog/shuttle’s hunt-and-peck method.
The TASCAM comes with a 67-page owner’s manual that is a model of obscurantism. While it contains answers and directions for the recorder’s functions, the information is so badly arranged that even after multiple readings it’s difficult to fully grasp all the recorder’s functions and features. Among the more arcane are the built-in oscillator to set reference analog recording levels, the on/off dithering for down-converting from a 24-bit recording to 16-bit, and the various built-in effects. These effects, which include three bands of adjustable EQ, a three-band compressor, three-band expander, a single-band compressor, a single-band expander, and the ability to save and recall your custom-configured effect settings, are available for all recording sample rates except 176.4kHz, 192kHz, and DSD. Some of these effects, such as the dynamic-processor band settings, are sufficiently complex that they deserve a far more detailed explanation. Without guidance you can really screw up a recording if such things are used improperly. Since TASCAM offers no suggestions as to how to best employ these powerful effects, caveat emptor.
For my recordings I kept things simple—no effects, no EQ, and no expanding or contracting of dynamics. Since I principally use recorders in a live concert situation with no opportunity for retakes if I mess up, recording devices sporting overly complex or feature-laden interfaces aren’t high on my list of positive life-enriching devices. If the primary use for a recorder will be transferring LPs into digital files you may find the EQ, expander, and compressor features more useful.
The TASCAM DV-RA1000HD’s front-panel display has a logical layout that can be mostly deciphered even without the assistance of the owner’s manual. Only when confronted by such labels as “IN.SEL,” “REF.CLK,” “PREFER,” and UDFMI” will most users be forced to resort to pawing through their manuals. The more computer-like functions of the DV-RA1000HD are accessed through a menu controlled by its jog-shuttle dial. As you might expect from a complex device, the TASCAM employs nested multi-level menus to control most of its functions. Again multiple viewings of the manual will be de rigueur to fully grasp the subtleties of TASCAM’s menu maze.
Once a recording has been made it can be played back through the DV-RA1000HD’s analog or digital outputs. Recordings can also be transferred via USB 2.0 to a computer for further processing, archiving, and playback. The TASCAM comes bundled with Minnetonka Audio’s discWelder Bronze software package. This software is designed for sample-rate converting, and burning CDs and DVDs. If you need to do any amount of editing you must acquire another software program. I successfully used the AudioGate program that came with the Korg MR-1000 to resample and play the DSD music files made with the TASCAM. I also used the free-ware program Audacity for editing 44.1, 48, 88, and 96kHz PCM files. For anything with a bit–rate higher than 96kHz you’ll have to ante up for a pro-level editing program such as Cubase or Sonic Solutions.