TASCAM CD-RW5000 Standalone CD Recorder

There is enormous interest in various types of high-resolution digital media. We now have equipment capable of recording at a 24-bit/96 kHz sampling rate and the new top-shelf DSD protocol - things digital are really moving along. The 16-bit/44.1 kHz CD format is still the distribution standard for virtually everyone listening to digital audio, however, so there's still a place for a standalone CD recorder.
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There is enormous interest in various types of high-resolution digital media. We now have equipment capable of recording at a 24-bit/96 kHz sampling rate and the new top-shelf DSD protocol - things digital are really moving along. The 16-bit/44.1 kHz CD format is still the distribution standard for virtually everyone listening to digital audio, however, so there's still a place for a standalone CD recorder.
Product PointsApplications: Studio; production

Key Features: CD-R, CD-RW recorder; wired remote; parallel port

Price: $999

Contact: TASCAM at 323-726-0303.
Features

The TASCAM CD-RW5000 ($999) is a two rack-space unit capable of recording on two types of media: garden-variety CD-R recordables (available anywhere for about a dollar) that you can use once and the CD-RW rewritables (available almost anywhere for a couple of dollars) that function much more like a tape in that they can be erased and rerecorded if desired. Choice is a good thing.

The TASCAM unit gives you lots of options concerning your inputs and outputs: two XLR balanced inputs; two XLR balanced outputs (which include trimpots for precise level adjustments); an AES/EBU digital input on an XLR connector; two unbalanced inputs on RCA jacks; two unbalanced outputs on RCA jacks; coaxial digital inputs and outputs on RCA jacks; S/PDIF optical digital inputs and outputs; a jack for connecting the wired remote and a control I/O port on a 15-pin D-sub connector.

The front panel has a full complement of controls including: a power switch; a headphone jack with a level pot (I had no problem driving both AKG 240Ms and AT M40fs phones to reasonable monitoring levels); finalize and erase buttons; a complement of transport controls (absent search keys or a scrub wheel - although search keys are included upon the remote); source selection and digital input buttons; analog input level pots; display and mode control buttons; and a nice big fluorescent display complete with peak reading meters and unit status information.

The wired remote (which includes about 14' of cable) duplicates most of the front panel features and adds track search capabilities. It also includes a numerical keypad, which is handy for accessing tracks directly.

In use

I used the CD-RW5000 for a variety of tasks over a period of a few months. I used it for making digital dubs from the coax output of my DAT machine with predictably excellent results. I also used the machine to make copies of CDs and CD-Rs by connecting it to the digital output of a standard consumer CD player; no problems expected or observed.

Another use I found for it was transferring analog mixes from my Studer two-track via the balanced inputs. I was not entirely crazy about the sound of the TASCAM's A/D converters - I noticed a reduction in the ambient soundfield and the soundstage height and width. I have to be honest, however, and say that the anomalies that I observed are no worse than what you would expect from any DAT machine at this price point.

Part of what I heard may be due to the inevitable loss in fidelity that occurs due to the 16-bit/44.1 kHz sampling rate. Still, if you are thinking about buying a standalone CD-R/W unit with the idea of mixing directly to it, rather than to a DAT machine, it would be better to budget for an outboard A/D converter.

All the controls and disc operations worked smoothly and the machine did not produce an objectionable level of ambient noise in the room (quite unlike my standalone CD-R unit, which sounds like a hair dryer!) during operation. Recorded CD-Rs were playable in the various CD players in which I tried them, ranging from the CD drive in my PC to the changer in my car. Again, this is a distinction that my standalone CD burner cannot always claim!

Summary

The CD-RW5000 is a good product that can be relied upon to fill a real need in many recording and production studios for making digital copies of CD and CD-R material. And for those who do not want the complexity of a computer-based CD-R/W, this unit is a good choice, especially if teamed up with a top-shelf A/D converter. Feature for feature I believe it stacks up quite nicely against its competition.