Superscope PSD300 CD Recording System

Enter the Superscope PSD300 ($1,099), a compact, dual-drive, CD recorder/duplicator that is small enough to throw in a travel bag, and can function as a high-quality two-track recorder, CD duplicator or personal recording device with a host of nifty features.
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In this world of miniscule digital cameras, palm pilots, pint-sized mobile phones and other compact tools of technology, it makes sense that a small, portable CD Recorder would appear in the marketplace. While hard disk recording devices, with their obvious storage and multitrack advantages, seem to be the trend of choice for intensive, portable recording, there are certainly times when we may need to make stereo recordings and create or duplicate CDs outside the confines of a traditional studio. Of course, anything using the compact disc medium can only be so small. Nevertheless, the promise of burning or copying CDs in a remote setting is enticing.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, music rehearsal, broadcast, preproduction

Key Features: CD-R and CD drives; built-in mic preamps; monitor speaker; tempo, pitch controls

Price: $699

Contact: Superscope Technologies at 630-232-8900, Web Site.
Enter the Superscope PSD300 ($1,099), a compact, dual-drive, CD recorder/duplicator that is small enough to throw in a travel bag, and can function as a high-quality two-track recorder, CD duplicator or personal recording device with a host of nifty features.

Features

Considering its lengthy feature list, the PSD300 is remarkably compact. It is 11 inches wide, 9 inches deep, 4 inches high and it weighs about seven pounds. This unit has been outfitted with a wide range of controls, interfaces, displays and two drives, yet it is only a tad bigger than most field cassette recorders. The top of the PSD300 is home to the playback CD drive, a monitor speaker, monitor EQs (bass, middle, treble), two sets of transport controls (one for each of the two drives), a built-in microphone, a jog wheel control, a sizable display and a number of control buttons. These control buttons cover a broad range of functions like tempo (+50/-33 per cent), pitch (± one octave), single-track play, record mode (CD copy, 2X, half speed, etc.), text, voice reduction (karaoke-style center image reduction), display function, menu/store, repeat and cancel/delete.

The front of the PSD300 is home to the CD-R/CD-RW drive, a volume control (monitor speaker and headphones), a 1/4-inch stereo headphone jack, a phones/monitor source selector switch (CD, line out, mic/line, aux), a line out level control, two XLR mic preamps with additional 1/4-inch line inputs, input trim controls and source selectors (external mic, line, internal mic). There are also switches for analog/digital source, automatic level control (limiting), speaker on/off, and recording source routing. Routing options include sending both channels of the playback CD to the left channel of the CD-R and both sides of the mic/line inputs to the right side of the CD-R (split mode); sending L/R of the CD and mic/line to L/R of the CD-R (stereo mode) or sending L/R of the CD, aux input and mic/line to the CD-R (mix mode).

The rear of the PSD300 is adorned with mix out jacks (RCA), line out jacks (RCA), aux input jacks (RCA), digital in and out jacks (coaxial RCA), a foot pedal jack (for play/pause control) and a power switch. The PSD300 also comes with an infrared remote control that can execute most functions that the machine performs.

In Use

Initially, the PSD300's lack of professional standard I/O, modest converter specs and eclectic features made me question whether this it should be reviewed in a pro audio magazine. Now, after several weeks of use, I must say that it not only deserves a review, but this unit is valuable and it is downright fun to use.

While I would not use the PSD300 for critical mixing or mastering, it does have some practical applications. It could be very handy for preproduction work. With its built-in mic preamps, the PSD needs only a pair of dynamic mics or line connections to record a rehearsal. Need to make a copy for the band? Just pop a blank in the CD-R bay and make a copy. Need to see if another key would yield a better vocal performance? Just change the playback pitch, turn up the monitor speaker and have the vocalist sing along.

I do a lot of work recording speeches for transcription. The PSD300 eliminates just about everything on my equipment list except a microphone. With onboard mic preamps, you do not need a mixer and with a monitor speaker and you do not need headphones.

I made a number of CD copies using the PSD300 and all the copies (Orange Book spec) played on all four of my CD players. I did get a tad antsy while waiting for the discs to burn at the now antiquated rate of 2X. I was impressed by how many different record modes the PSD300 has in addition to the 2X mode. If you want to monitor the CD dubbing process, you can choose Copy + Listen, which plays/records at real time while broadcasting the dubbing over the monitor speaker. In Halfspeed mode you can create a copy that is half speed and one octave lower than the original. This mode could be very useful for transcribers or musicians trying to learn high-velocity passages. Like most professional recorders, the PSD300 has a Sync mode that commences recording when source material is detected.

The PSD300 can be a lot of fun too. The voice reduction works well by reducing things in the center image. Unfortunately that often includes significant amounts of the bass, snare and kick drum. I consider this feature something of a gimmick but I suppose it could have practical applications for trying to see if a vocalist is ready to perform a hastily rehearsed cover song. The pitch and tempo adjustments were fun too. I could not resist the urge to call a friend and leave a warped version of a song we know and love on his voicemail. While there are significant reductions in sonic quality, being able to hear a well-known CD at a much lower pitch (while remaining at the same tempo) is just plain wacky. Another feature of the PSD300 that should prove useful to musicians is the loop function. It is very easy to create a loop that will repeat indefinitely - very handy for learning a piece by ear.

Summary

For professional engineers, the Superscope PSD300 is a great idea that falls a bit short of its potential. If it had DC power capability, it could probably do well in an ENG environment. If it had balanced analog outputs and digital (AES/EBU) I/O, phantom power and better converters, it would be more appropriate for pro audio use. Nevertheless, it has a lot of features that make it a convenient and easy way to make remote recordings and CD dupes. For musicians, the PSD300 is a true blessing. It is a valuable tool for learning, transcribing and rehearsing songs. At $1,099, it is a good value - especially for those in need of a machine like this.

REVIEW SETUP

Audio-Technica ATM61HE dynamic mic; Audio-Technica M40 headphones; Taiyo-Yuden gold 74minute CD-Rs.