The TASCAM DV-RA1000HD makes recordings in almost every lossless two-channel format currently available. During my on-location recording sessions the TASCAM never failed or issued error messages in lieu of recordings. Although the TASCAM has both an optical drive and a hard drive, you can’t record onto both simultaneously. This is unfortunate since it would be delightful to have some degree of recording redundancy built into a single recorder. I mention redundancy because no recording engineer would dream of making a live recording with only one recorder. Murphy’s law is always alive and well in a live-recording situation.
I made all my test recordings with the TASCAM DV-RA1000HD using its DSD sampling rate. Since DSD can be down-sampled cleanly without requiring difficult interpolation into any PCM format, I saw no reason to use anything else for my live recordings. And while the TASCAM’s optical drive allows you to archive DSD recordings on DVD, I transferred my DSD recordings directly to my computer where I do all my editing and archiving. For most owners the optical recorder will be a relatively useless feature. Sure, you can make on-the-fly Red Book CDs from your higher-bit-rate recordings, but very few recording engineers I know want to release unedited versions of their work.
When it’s time to listen to your recordings you have several options. If you want to hear unadulterated DSD you can listen directly from the TASCAM’s analog outputs. If you are fortunate enough to own a Meitner DSD processor you can send a DSD signal to the Meitner via the SDIF/DSD-RAW outputs. Once you transfer DSD files to your computer they must be converted into PCM files before you can send them to a conventional DAC.
Since I’ve previously reviewed the Korg MR-1000 [Issue 180], which also records in DSD format, I can compare it with the TASCAM DV-RA1000HD. The Korg is less than half the price and half the size of the TASCAM. It offers fewer internal editing features, but does include stereo microphone preamps and internal battery-power options, making it more suitable as a one-box on-location recording device. Theoretically the most important advantage of the Korg is that it can record at double the DSD bit rate of the TASCAM. However, I couldn’t hear any audible differences on simultaneous parallel recordings made with both devices played back through these very same recorders. This doesn’t mean that the double-bit-rate Korg recordings aren’t better sounding, merely that I have no way of telling since once they’re decoded through the Korg’s own playback circuitry the sonic advantages are lost. If I had a complete Meitner DSD playback system, differences between the two units might be more apparent.
The TASCAM DV-RA1000HD is a fairly bulletproof machine. My review sample had a rough initial trip via UPS. The box showed signs of abuse and since the recorder wasn’t double-boxed, the shipping hardships were borne by the unit itself. The chassis was slightly creased on one side and something was rattling about inside. I opened the TASCAM’s top cover and removed a screw-mounted cable tie-down. Despite the physical abuse the DV-RA1000HD performed without a single glitch during the review period. In comparison my Korg MR-1000, which hasn’t had anywhere near this level of physical mistreatment, often has disk-write errors during recording sessions. Ray Kimber, who uses two Korg MR-1000s for his on-location sessions, hasn’t had similar issues with his units, so my unit’s problems may be an isolated case. But I wouldn’t trust a live recording session to a single Korg MR-1000 based on the performance of my review unit.
So how do TASCAM DV-RA1000HD recordings sound? They sound like whatever is the weakest link in your recording chain, be it your microphones, microphone placement, mic preamp, or the doofus who’s trying to use them. While I wouldn’t be so foolish as to insist the TASCAM DV-RA1000HD is perfect and without any sonic signature, I will go out on a limb and state that if you assemble a recording and playback system that is good enough to make the TASCAM the weakest link you are a better engineer than I am, and probably better than the other 99.99% of recording engineers on earth. The TASCAM is that good.
For $2500 you can buy a portable PC, an outboard recording interface such as a Mark of The Unicorn Ultralite Mk3, and professional audio editing software capable of producing at least 96/24 multi-track professional-quality digital recordings. Why would you want to spend the same amount on a stand-alone two-channel recorder that will still require a PC and software? The simple answer is that the TASCAM DV-RA1000HD will do DSD format recordings. By recording in DSD the TASCAM is one of the few recording devices that is truly future-proof, since DSD recordings can be re-sampled cleanly into any PCM format. For many recording projects this capability alone makes the TASCAM worth its weight in gold.