Into Sony’s diverse and ever-expanding product mix comes the CDR-W33 Compact Disc Recorder. While we have all seen standalone CD recorders by now, Sony adds a new wrinkle in the form of some onboard DSP mastering functions and Super Bit Mapping.
Product PointsApplications: Project studio, broadcast
Key Features: CD-R/CD-RW recorder with built-in DSP processing; 24-bit A/D-D/A converters; unbalanced analog (RCA) I/O; digital I/O (RCA and optical)
Contact: Sony at 800-686-7669 Web Site
The CDR-W33 ($799) is a two-rack-space unit prefitted with removable rack ears. It features a well laid-out charcoal-gray front panel that provides access to all functions. I/Os are located on the back panel and include unbalanced analog (on RCA jacks), and S/PDIF digital on both RCA coaxial and optical. A full-function remote is supplied as standard equipment.
Transport controls grace the lower right side of the unit. Unlike some transport controls on other midlevel products, these are nicely recessed and easy to accurately depress. A fluorescent display provides detailed level, track, mode and DSP information. A continuously variable encoder provides access to a variety of parameters, including digital record level, channel left/right balance, equalization and compression settings, and general housekeeping functions.
The CDR-W33 includes Sony’s proprietary Super Bit Mapping feature, which purports to offer near 20-bit resolution performance from the standard 16-bit CD. This feature may be engaged or disengaged at will, allowing one to assess its sonic impact.
Onboard DSP functions include selectable three-band parametric equalization and compression/limiting functions. These functions are engaged through a separate rotary control, which offers different combinations of functions. It should be noted that DSP processing is only possible on incoming analog signals.
CD-Text is supported and information may be entered through the use of a standard PS/2 compatible keyboard. An onboard sample rate converter can accept signals of 32 kHz and 48 kHz. Remote transport control is possible by using the PS/2 keyboard or via Control-S.
I put the CDR-W33 to work in my studio, transferring a variety of material from DAT tapes as well as two-track analog tape. Digital-to-digital 44.1 kHz dubs sounded identical, as one would expect.
I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality of material that I transferred utilizing the analog inputs on the Sony machine. I was surprised because there was much less of the archetypal digital artifacts – such as soundstage narrowing and ambience reduction – than I would have expected from a relatively inexpensive digital box.
When I elected to perform modifications to the incoming analog stream utilizing the onboard DSP, the results were excellent. Other minor EQ tweaks and compression were performed with ease.
I noticed a definite benefit when the Super Bit Mapping feature was engaged. The fact that the A/D and D/A converters operate at a 24-bit resolution certainly helps. The onboard equalization and limiting were useful for those project musicians who don’t have a lot of outboard gear.
A pleasant surprise was the high-quality headphone amplifier, which is more than capable of developing healthy levels into professional phones such as the difficult-to-drive AKG 240s.
In my studio, the CDR-W33 helped me with a variety of tasks, from digital dubs to analog transfers. I was pleased with the sound of the A/D conversion, especially while using the Super Bit Mapping feature. As long as you don’t require balanced analog and AES/EBU I/O (as found on the CDR-W33’s big brother, the CDR-W66), the CDR-W33 is a good choice for a reasonably priced, standalone CD writer.