(click thumbnail)I love the simple things: A pretty picture, a sonnet, a simple CD player. TASCAM, TEAC Professional Division, has delivered the latter of those in the new CD-01UPro CD player. Thankfully, this pro player doesn't record, convert, edit, chase timecode, or anything else but provide a well-considered cornucopia of ways to playback CD, CD-3 and MP3 discs. This player will be of good value and use at radio/TV/production houses, online suites, sophisticated music clubs and other locations where playback function and versatility are revered.
Fast FactsApplications: Broadcast, studio, live sound, installation
Key Features: Slot-loaded; AES/EBU, S/PDIF, analog outputs; pitch/jog knob; program play
Contact: TASCAM at 323-726-0303, www.tascam.com.
The slim 1RU-high CD-01UPro doesn't have the normal boring CD drawer, but a slot that easily accepts and returns the CD and a cool blue LCD screen bordered by sturdy transport buttons. Its 8.1 pounds let you know there's not just empty space inside. Its AES/EBU, S/PDIF, optical, and balanced and unbalanced audio outputs let you know it's ready to work.
I started exploring the CD-01UPro from its menu, and by only using its front panel controls. TASCAM thoughtfully made its numerous features controllable from the remote control as well as the front panel, a must design feature for anyone who ever loses a remote. The nine basic transport buttons are grouped to the right of the display, and a shift button gives each transport button an additional feature. Thoughtfully, the shift button action is "sticky," that is, push shift and shift stays engaged until shift is pushed again. To reach the CD-01UPro Menu, press shift and then turn the small jog knob to cycle through the 15 menu items, displayed both in quirky alphanumeric font and by number. A small pitch/jog knob with push button action acts as the soft user input when scrolling through the menu, selecting pitch, scrubbing through a track, selecting tracks for the programmed playback and so on.
I began exercising the CD-01UPro by examining the built in fade-in/fade out feature. Fades are programmable from 0.5 seconds to 10 seconds in 0.5 increments and work smoothly as expected. It is possible to trigger the fade out even before the fade in has completed by pressing the Stop button. Both fade in and fade out are equally smooth.
For operations that absolutely must play the most music per hour, the CD-01UPro has an "original key" feature that supersedes its plain pitch change feature. When enabled in the menu, turning the pitch/jog knob maintains the pitch but changes the tempo. The playback audio is artifact-free except approaching the extreme high or low end settings, above 8% up to 12.5%. At those settings, any slow vibrato or wah-wah in the music will have an unnatural shimmer. Usually +-3.3 to 5.0 is natural and adjusting while playing is smooth without audible glitch or catch up noise. You can engage and disengage the feature while playing, and there is no perceptible glitch between the two, but one can feel the "ramp" of tempo change as the player's internal buffer seamlessly empties and fills.
Thinking about buffers interested me in the Repeat A-B feature. With the CD-01UPro, it is easy to make ad hoc "sampled" riffs. Setting the menu to Repeat A-B, the player indicates it's prepared by flashing REPEAT. With the shift engaged, pressing the pitch/jog wheel marks the "A" point, pressing again marks the "B" point, and repetition begins. For more accurate positioning of the "A" and "B" points, you can place the unit in pause and turn the jog wheel to scrub to your CD frame-accurate "A" and "B" points. When you're done with the repeated section, press the pitch/jog knob three more times to free the loop and continue the playback — it's instant riff with option to continue!
TASCAM must perceive the CD-01UPro as a utility player, because they've packed it with a variety of playback modes for diverse users: random shuffle, or programmable track play, or single play for just one cut, or the continuous play mode of a conventional player. In any mode you can engage the traditional functions A. RDY and A. CUE that pauses the player between tracks and automatically cues up to the first audio of a track. Of the four playback modes, the programmed mode is the most interesting, as the user can build a 100-track program list and easily insert, edit or delete tracks from that list, just by using the front panel controls (or the remote, of course). There is usually some trepidation in programming CD track playbacks, as most manufacturers have an arcane or obscure procedure for entering the desired tracks. The CD-01UPro is as simple as turning the pitch/jog knob to choose the order and pressing the skip buttons to select a track. The display is clear and unambiguous showing which track in what order, a definite plus for the CD-01UPro. The program list is stored as nonvolatile data and is cleared only by ejecting the disc.
Make no mistake about the CD-01UPro player, it is so simple yet so flexible, it's possible to lose positional awareness when using it. Even though its modes and features are clearly indicated on the LCD display, some users will forget to pay attention if they venture into unfamiliar features and they'll have unexpected playback results. Not that this player is intimidating, the CD-01UPro is a fine breed of friendly and a great sounding unit, but you really must pay attention and give thought to how to best incorporate the CD-01UPro's many great features into your plant.