TASCAM DV-RA1000HD Digital Two-Track Recorder

When the TASCAM DV-RA1000 was introduced a couple of years ago it was acknowledged as a practical medium for high-resolution mixing and mastering.
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(click thumbnail)When the TASCAM DV-RA1000 was introduced a couple of years ago it was acknowledged as a practical medium for high-resolution mixing and mastering. In my opinion (and the opinion of many others) there was only one problem with it: the lack of an internal hard drive. That’s what initially kept me from getting rid of my Alesis Masterlink and buying the DV-RA1000.

That problem has been corrected with the recent release of the DV-RA1000HD, thus making it perhaps the best digital mix-down medium to date. The DV-RA1000HD supports recording to CD, DVD or hard disk media at sample rates up to 24 bit/192 kHz. Like the DV-RA1000, the box also records in the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) advanced resolution audio format.

Features

The DV-RA1000HD can record directly to DVD+RW or CD-R/RW media, as well as to its built in 60 GB hard drive supporting CD-DA, Broadcast WAVE and DSDIFF formats. Archives can be made to DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW discs. The box’s internal processing features a three-band equalizer and a dynamics processor. These can be inserted either before the final recording process or simply on playback. The equalization is processed at a 40-bit resolution, and the dynamics are processed at a 32-bit resolution while maintaining the project’s sample rate.

The input level to the effect processor section is adjustable from 0 dB to -72 dB. Settings between 0 and -10 dB are made in 0.5 dB increments and settings greater than -10 dB are made in 1 dB steps. The EFFECT button makes it easy to independently switch the EQ and the dynamics sections on and off, as well as set up the parameters and position of the effects in the signal path. The output level following the dynamics processor is set using the same parameters as the input level setting. The equalization has three bands: a sweepable low frequency shelf, a fully parametric mid and a sweepable high-frequency shelf. Each band can be adjusted +/-12 dB. The slope of the low and high bands is 6 dB/octave.

The unit includes a USB 2.0 connector so it can be connected to a PC for use as a DVD data drive. Balanced AES/EBU inputs and outputs support normal, double-speed and double-wire formats via a pair or female XLR and a pair of male XLR connectors. SDIF-3 DSD input (via two BNC jacks) and output (also via two BNC jacks) is provided for the external conversion and processing of DSD audio. BNC connectors also provide Word Sync In, Out and Thru. The box supports RS-232C serial control and includes a PS/2 keyboard connector allowing a keyboard to be used for title editing (and making me never want to enter a title on a Masterlink again). The unit also has user-definable function keys.

The DV-RA1000HD has a large, backlit LCD display, a dedicated input level control and an adjustable maximum output level. The pitch is adjustable plus-or-minus six-percent and the unit includes fade in/out, jog playback, power on play feature and various play and record modes including auto track increment, auto cue, auto ready, single/continuous play and program A/B play. The unit includes the RC-RA1000 wired remote control (RC-RA1000) and a headphone output jack.

The DV-RA1000HD accepts analog input by way of +4 dBu balanced analog audio input via two female XLR connectors or unbalanced -10 analog via a pair of RCA connectors. During playback, audio is simultaneously output through a pair of male XLR +4 dBu balanced analog line outputs and a pair of RCA -10 unbalanced analog line outputs. The unit accepts digital audio data from one of three selectable sources and can output digital data from the equivalent type of connector in the same format it receives data.

Fast FactsApplications
Studio, project studio, live recording, broadcast, postproduction

Key Features
Built-in 60 GB HD supporting CD-DA, Broadcast Wave and DSDIFF formats; direct recording to DVD+RW or CD-R/RW media; archival to DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW discs; internal processing features: a three-band equalizer and a dynamics processor; USB 2.0 connector; balanced AES/EBU, XLR, SDIF-3 DSD BNC I/O; RS-232C serial control support; PS/2 keyboard connector

Price
$2,499

Contact
TASCAM | 323-727-7617 | www.tascam.com

PRODUCT POINTS

Plus

  • Internal 60 GB hard drive
  • DSD capable
  • Fantastic sound
  • Good manual

Minus

  • A lot of menus and buttons

Score
The DV-RA1000HD is perhaps the best digital mix down medium to date.The box allows standard DVD-Audio discs to be authored from DV-RA1000HD recordings. Authored discs can be made compatible with any DVD player, whether utilizing DVD-Audio or DVD-Video. It is also possible to convert DSD recordings to PCM for editing within a workstation by using Minnetonka DiscWelder Bronze 1000 software, an exclusive version of DiscWelder jointly introduced by TASCAM and Minnetonka Audio Software specifically for owners of the DV-RA1000HD.

The software package — which adds useful audio mastering features, as well as supports DVD-Audio disc authoring — is available at no charge to all registered DV-RA1000 owners. Included in the software package’s features is the ability to convert from Direct Stream Digital (DSD) audio to a PCM WAVE file that can be imported into any DAW software, the ability to burn a DVD-Audio disc with up to 24-bit/192-kHz stereo mixes and the ability to create a DVD disc that will play on any DVD player, not just those set up for DVD-A playback.

In Use

Although it can be a bit confusing at times, in most instances the navigation of the DV-RA1000HD is relatively simple. Though its operation is fairly intuitive, there are several areas (like file management, powering down, etc.) that aren’t completely obvious. So it is one of those boxes that actually requires the user to at least read part of the manual. In my typical fashion, I tried to get the box up and running without even glancing at the manual, but I quickly found myself having to refer to it to get off the ground. Thankfully, it is well written and easy to understand.

Buying a keyboard for the DA-RA1000HD is a must. I found one at CompUSA for $8 that works great; it makes title entry a breeze, and I can’t believe I ever entered DATA without one.

The 60 GB hard drive seems to be more than adequate. At 24 bit/44.1 kHz, you can record 62.9 hours of stereo material; at 96 kHz, 192 kHz and for DSD, the capabilities are 28.9, 14.4 and 23.6 hours, respectively.

I was very impressed with the sound of the DA-RA1000HD’s converters. At 44.1 kHz, 88.2 kHz and 176.4 kHz, I compared them to my Lynx Aurora, and at 44.1 kHz and 88.2 kHz I compared them to the iZ RADAR. The TASCAM held its ground in each instance. The TASCAM converters have a sound of their own, which I felt never sounded better or worse than the comparisons. I went on to record an acoustic guitar with the Brauner VM1-KHE microphone through the Gordon Microphone Preamplifier System with no EQ or compression. I recorded to Pro Tools through the iZ RADAR converters at 96 kHz, to Pro Tools through the Lynx Aurora converters at 192 kHz and directly to the DV-RA1000HD via DSD. While all three recordings sound good, I found the DSD recording to be simply stunning and easily the most accurate representation of the sound of the microphone on the instrument of the three examples (I’m saddened all over that SACD never caught on). Unfortunately, most editing features (including Jog Playback, Auto Cue, file combining, file dividing, etc.) can’t be completed on audio recorded in the DSD format.

One of the features I loved about the DV-RA1000HD is that you can record directly to an audio CD in the CD-DA format. Another feature allowed you to add recordings to a disc as long as it isn’t finalized and, if recording to CD-RW discs, you could also delete or un-finalize data. When recording directly to disc, the DV-RA1000HD operated as a standard CD recorder featuring synchronized recording and other standard functions found on CD recorders. The machine played store-bought audio CDs like a charm and it was easy to create audio CDs from audio tracks stored on the unit’s hard drive or copy audio from audio CDs to the hard drive.

Having the built in-effects was nice. I was never inclined to use them to a great extent, but the one instance where they were extremely handy was when I was working with a client that couldn’t seem to grasp the difference between an unmastered and a mastered version of a mix. Obviously, an unmastered mix wasn’t going to be as loud as most CDs that you buy in a store (at least it shouldn’t be). As the client started to demand that I make a mix louder and louder as he compared my mix to one of his favorite mastered albums in his car, I found that I could simulate what mastering would do to a mix with some compression and sometimes some slight EQ. Applying only this post-recording allowed me to let the client hear something closer to the end product without compromising the dynamics of my mix. The only downside to the effects was that they weren’t available when working at 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz or in DSD.

Having DiscWelder Bronze 1000 increased the flexibility of the DV-RA1000 by allowing conversion of DSD files to WAVE files at any resolution for use in DAW and/or mastering software such as Pro Tools, Digital Performer, WaveLab, Peak, etc. Additionally, engineers could burn either DVD-Audio discs of their mixes or burn standard DVD discs which could be played in any of the world’s millions of DVD players.

Summary

The TASCAM DV-RA1000HD is a high-resolution stereo master recorder that records to CD, DVD or hard disk media. It is easy to use, built well, loaded with interface options, and it sounds fantastic.