Hands-On Review:TASCAM DR-2d
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—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.
Theis 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.
The great thing about thefrom 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 theoffers 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.
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.
When using thein 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.
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 thedoes 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. Thecomes complete with Musician's Friend's Lowest Price and Total Satisfaction Guarantees.