Hands-On Review:TASCAM DR-2d


Click here for all products by TASCAM.

 

High-quality dual-record mobile recorder

By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central

 

TASCAM has added to its well-established DR-1 and DR-07 recorders with the DR-2d—a  high-quality portable hand-held recorder that boasts improved audio  specs, a newly designed low-noise mic system, and tons of  musician-friendly features, including a unique Dual Recording mode. The  DR-2d records in both WAV and MP3 formats (in multiple resolutions),  saves data directly to an SD card, and transfers files effortlessly to a  computer via USB 2.0, making it the perfect bridge between your live  and studio worlds.

Overview

The DR-2d is about the size of an iPhone, only a bit beefier, and is extremely  comfortable to hold and operate in one hand. There are relatively few  buttons on the front panel, which makes navigating the unit a breeze,  even when your eyes are focused somewhere else. The buttons that are included are tailored for musicians: the Playback button activates  whatever alternate speed or key you've set up; the I/O button allows you  to place in and out points within a file for continuous looping (great  for transcribing or focusing on an elusive passage); the various  transport controls and a circular data wheel ensure speedy menu  navigation when recording and configuring the unit or dialing in  location points within a file.

 

The usual complement of switches and I/O appear on the sides of the  unit: Hold, an SD card slot covered by a hinged door, separate input and  output level rocker switches, line out/headphones, AC adapter, mic and  line inputs, and USB. There's also an onboard speaker (with its own  on/off switch) and a threaded collar for attaching the unit to a tripod.  Included in the package are a wireless remote control, two AA  batteries, a 2GB SD card, and a carrying case. An AC adapter is sold  separately. The DR-2d's backlit amber display shows a surprising amount  of information, including the file name and format, folder location,  elapsed time, speaker/headphone status, and the states of various modes,  such as Playback (selected speeds), Key (for transposing), Part Cancel  (a vocal/solo instrument eliminator), Effects (various reverbs), and  Monitor. Of course, the information changes depending on whether you're  in Record or Playback modes or performing file-based functions.

Format fiesta

The great thing about the DR-2d from a fidelity standpoint is its many recording formats, both MP3 and  WAV—all the way up to 24-bit/96kHz WAV. I used a few of the most common  formats: 16/44.1 (CD format), 24/44.1 (for DAW work), and 128 and  192kbps MP3 (though higher-quality modes up to 320kbps are also  available). If I was recording music in a controlled situation, I  recorded WAV files; if I was capturing audio to upload to the Web or to  augment the built-in mic on my video camera, I used MP3s.

Now featuring the music features

Once you've got something recorded, the fun really begins, as the DR-2d offers myriad playback modes and features. As mentioned, there's a loop  function that's easily activated from the front panel, but you can then  fine-tune the in and out points with the cue and review buttons,  creating a rhythmically seamless loop. TASCAM's VSA technology allows  you to either slow down or speed up a file without changing the pitch,  or, conversely, to change the pitch by musical half-steps while keeping a  constant speed. You can use Playlist to sequence files in any  order—very handy for organizing your music on the unit itself (if a  computer is unavailable). Overdub mode is great for getting multi-part  ideas down—an initial melody and then, say, a counterline, harmony, or  rhythmic groove behind it. Best of all, this works by creating a new  file, leaving your original intact (in case you "flub the 'dub"). You  can then record an additional layered part on the new file. Awesome!

Double your fun

For critical recording situations, you can use Dual Recording mode,  which makes two recordings simultaneously, each at a different,  user-selectable level. This lets you record as hot as possible in one  mode for the best sound, while ensuring capture of low-level or wildly  varied sound sources. You can then use the second, lower level as your  safety. Between them, you'll have two recordings to choose from,  virtually guaranteeing a distortion-free version you can comp together  when editing on a computer. Dual mode can also record the line in and  mic simultaneously, either mixed together or as separate files. This is  useful in a live performance setting, where you want to capture the room  sound along with the board mix.

Features galore

There are many other features, too, such as a metronome (with  accentable downbeat); a circuit called Part Cancel that removes vocals  or lead instruments; and one of my favorites, variable-speed search (2X,  4X, 8X, and 10X), a godsend when combing through 20-minute jams to find  that one perfect lick. Six reverb effects (all with variable time and  level parameters) can also be applied—either on the input signal or  playback tracks—to give dry recordings a little studio sheen. Just what  you need for creating polished results in acoustic dead zones like hotel  rooms and bedrooms. Other standout features include a low-cut filter,  user-assignable markers within a file (which are searchable), pre-record  (up to two seconds before you hit the Record button), record delay (to  cover the sound of the record switch being pressed), and auto-record  (when the signal exceeds a threshold level). And there are many more  functions that you can explore fully by downloading the excellent manual  from TASCAM.com.

In use

When using the DR-2d in the field—recording everything from meetings to rehearsals to  concerts—I found that setting the unit to auto-gain was the best choice  for most situations. I couldn't improve on this in most of my manual  efforts, except in unusual circumstances involving alternately very loud  and very soft voices. Employing the Limiter ensured that I didn't have  to ride the input level or keep constant watch over the meters. The mics  are quiet, even with the preamp cranked, and the stereo imaging and  clean, clear recording quality is among the best I've heard in a unit at  this price point. My songwriting partner and I used the Overdub mode to  add a much-needed third vocal harmony.

Conclusion

If you consider just the features, you will be hard-pressed to find  any recorder at this price that offers even a fraction of what the DR-2d does in terms of musician-friendly tools. Couple that with its  audiophile qualities—including multiple and high-resolution WAV and MP3  formats and excellent microphone technology—and you have in the DR-2d an  indispensable compact recording device that can handle any musical  situation.


Capture your performances and rehearsals with sterling sound  quality. Loop and learn tough passages by slowing them down without  changing pitch. Record those fleeting moments of musical inspiration.  The TASCAM DR-2d comes complete with Musician's Friend's Lowest Price and Total Satisfaction Guarantees.