Several professional audio manufacturers are now selling standalone CD recorders with familiar tape transport functionality for well-under $1,000. The HHB CDR830 BurnIT is a prime example – a device that is state-of-the-art and feature laden, but as natural to use as any analog recorder.
Product PointsApplications: Project studio, live recording, broadcast
Key Features: Standalone CD recorder; coaxial and optical S/PDIF I/O; RCA analog I/O; uses CD-R and CD-RW discs
Contact: HHB Communications at 310-319-1111 Web Site
+ Quality workmanship
+ Exceptionally intuitive controls and documentation
+ Very easy to use
+ Unbalanced analog I/O
+ Silence detection was temperamental
The Score: The BurnIT is a well-executed piece of equipment at an appropriate price.
The CDR830 ($795) is a self-contained, single-disc CD recording/playback device. The familiar HHB purple chassis comes equipped with standard rack ears and can occupy two rack spaces or sit on the enclosed plastic feet.
The front panel is dominated by a large dot-matrix LED display that has indicators for various device status readouts, as well as a central text-based section, which varies depending on function. Also on the front panel are transport controls, several function buttons, a headphone jack with volume knob, a knob for analog recording gain and a jog wheel that does duty as the digital recording level control, track skip, and data entry.
A comprehensive remote control duplicates most front panel functions, and contains additional abilities such as cursor control and a full numeric keypad for text entry. Inputs and outputs are straightforward, with stereo digital inputs and outputs on both coaxial S/PDIF and optical connectors, and analog I/O via line level RCA jacks.
The CDR830 handles a variety of bit depths at 32, 44.1 and 48 kHz through the digital inputs, all of which are automatically converted to CD standard 44.1 kHz/16 bits. The device is capable of interpreting the track ID codes from DAT tapes or digital CD sources. Recording takes place on standard media, using CD-R and CD-RW formats.
Several modes are provided for CD burning. These modes give the user the option of recording one track at a time, with the recorder starting automatically upon the detection of audio, or recording of all tracks, with track IDs marked either by audio silence or incoming track ID codes – the latter with or without automatic finalization.
A manual option permits use of the transport controls to control recording. There is also a feature that allows track numbers to increment automatically at a preset interval, permitting easy access when recording a long, continuous program source like a speech or live show.
The BurnIT can read and write using the CD Text standard, which contains entries for artist name and title for each track. The text shows up in the displays of compatible recorders. An increasing number of commercially released discs have adopted this standard, which can also be useful for archival purposes.
The unit is certainly simple to set up – just a matter of connecting the digital source and patching it in to a monitoring system. For listening purposes, that is all you need to do. You can use this as a normal player, including standard player features such as programming and random play.
When you first insert a disc, the BurnIT takes a couple of seconds to assess what kind of media it is working with – CD-R, CD-RW or CD. For recording purposes, insert a CD-R or CD-RW and choose input source and set levels.
Most digital sources will probably set for 0 db of gain change. If not, adjusting input level is simple. The RCA analog inputs are equally easy. Although this is a budget CD-R, Iwish it had XLR analog connections as some lower-priced decks are now including them.
Assuming source material is in place, the next step is to choose the recording “synchro” format. This has the advantage of allowing you to start tracks right at the beginning of the audio if you so desire. If you are brave, you can even choose to have the recorder advance track numbers and finalize the disc in one fell swoop.
The idea behind the synchro modes is that they will automatically start when an incoming ID is detected. If you are using a digital source that transmits track ID codes, such as a compatible DAT, CD or MD source, the track information will be duplicated exactly. On several tests, the unit was able to receive and duplicate track ID data without a problem.
I found the automatic silence detection modes somewhat temperamental. Its definition of silence was a little stricter than other silence detection schemes I have used. Setting the digital recording level to negative infinity or using a brand new DAT tape (digital black) as a source did not seem to be quiet enough either. The only silence it seemed to recognize was pressing stop on the source device, and even then not all the time.
I found the manual mode to be quite straightforward, which gets back to my opening sentiment – it really is nice to be able to make CDs the way you record tapes. Throwing together compilations or roughs is a breeze, and all the worries about buffer problems and roached CDs are a thing of the past.
The Orange Book and Red Book standards have not gone away of course, so you still have to finalize the TOC information before using your discs in standard players, but you can listen to semifinished discs in the recorder, which is really handy. While you cannot erase on CD-Rs, you can leave bad tracks out of the TOC, which does enable some fixing of mistakes, albeit at the expense of disc capacity.
Finalizing is accomplished by hitting the Finalize button, at which time the recorder displays how long finalization will take, and prompts for approval. Once finalization has begun, all controls are disabled until the process is complete. If the unit is powered down during this time, the disc will be lost.
I found the sound of the BurnIt to be equivalent to other pro CD units I have used. The controls and documentation are intuitive, and the more advanced features are easily accessible, but not intrusive. HHB deserves accolades for a well-designed remote control as well.
In general, the HHB CDR830 BurnIT CD recorder is a solid, well-made piece of equipment that does what it is supposed to do in an artful fashion.
The BurnIT seems ideally suited for project and professional studios, where making CDs is a daily occurrence and the ease of use a huge asset. It would also be perfect in a live engineer’s rack or at a rehearsal studio, for quick and easy documentation of live shows or writing sessions.