Test Drive: Tascam CD-701 and RC-701

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by Jerry Vigil

Right off the bat, we've got to say that it was a pleasant surprise to find a profes­sional CD player that was designed for production use as well as on-air use. Tascam's CD-701 CD player and RC-701 remote control are a powerful pair. The most outstanding feature, from a produc­tion point of view, is the optional BU-1 RAM buffer. Rather than talk about the basic features of the CD player first, we're going to jump right into this optional feature and what this buffer can do.

The BU-1 RAM buffer is an optional card that can be purchased for the CD-701 and easily plugged into the unit. The buffer is a 1.5 meg memory board. This mem­ory is used with the REPEAT func­tion of the re­mote control­ler to en­able you to create loops of up to 3 min­utes in length! Those of you who have used samp­lers to make loops of song segments will appreciate the ease at which loops can be created. You'll also appreciate the 3 minute maximum loop length, which opens many doors for speed­ing up production time. If there is a 15 second bridge in the middle of a song on CD that you would like to loop to a full 60 seconds, you simply use the SEARCH wheel to locate start and stop points, activate the REPEAT mode, and hit PLAY. Bingo! You have an endless loop of the bridge. An additional plus with the RAM buffer is the audio rise time when you hit PLAY. When you cue up to a track, the first few seconds of the track are loaded into this memory. When you hit play, the audio is ALWAYS there instantaneously. Without the buffer, there is a delay of anywhere from zero to 1/3 of a second ADVANCE \D 3.60before the audio rises. This optional RAM buffer makes the CD-701 worth taking a close look at if you are looking for a CD player for the produc­tion studio. The buffer lists for $399. The CD player itself lists for $1999, and the RC-701 remote control unit lists for $1249. Ouch!

The RC-701 is not the only remote con­troller available. For over $1000 less, you can get the RC-7 remote controller, but you lose the digital readout of the RC-701 along with the ability to control up to 4 CD play­ers from one remote control. There are several other sacrifices, but we didn't have access to the RC-7 to tell you much about it. If you'd like more info on it, contact your local Tascam dealer.

The CD player itself has the usual "new" circuits and construction to make it a "better" CD player. If you're like most production types, you aren't going to be too concerned about the new circuitry of the digital-to-analog converters or the new "Vibration-free Rigid Disc Clamping System." It's a CD player! It sounds like one! Now, if you want to talk about out­puts, you have balanced XLR outs, a digital out, and a PHONES/MONI­TOR output for direct head­phone moni­toring or for hookup to the re­mote control unit's MONITOR output. More on that later. Dip switches on the back allow for adjustment of the cue audio level. This is the func­tion accessed by pressing the AUTO CUE but­ton on the re­mote controller which allows the unit to cue to audio for quick starts. The front panel of the CD-701 is quite simple. You have a couple of SKIP buttons for selecting tracks, an OPEN/­CLOSE button for the CD tray, a STOP button, a PLAY button, and a READY but­ton. The READY button acts much like a PAUSE button. All other func­tions of the unit are accessed by the re­mote control unit.

The RC-701 remote control leaves nothing to be desired. As mentioned, the unit can control up to 4 CD-701's. With the RC-701 you have elaborate programming ability. This would come in handy if sev­eral units were used on the air in a some­what automated situation. There is even the option to control the RC-701 by com­puter to further automate the system. The SEARCH/PITCH wheel is used to locate cue points in the SEARCH mode. The accuracy here is adjustable from 74 frames per revolution of the wheel to about 30 seconds per revolution in the SEARCH FAST mode. If you spin the wheel fast, the amount of time per revolu­tion is reduced consider­ably. The other function of the SEARCH/­PITCH wheel is, of course, the variable pitch function, plus or minus 6%.

The RC-701 features dual output modes, the MONITOR mode and the ON LINE mode. The MONITOR mode is used for cuing, audi­tioning, searching, etc., and its output is separate from the ON LINE output. The ON LINE mode activates the XLR out­puts of the CD player. For use on the air, the dual out­puts make it possible to cue up music and audition intros in the MONITOR mode, which mutes the XLR out­puts. The MONI­TOR output is an unbal­anced output and can be connected to a cue amp. Once you have a selection cued, you simply hit the READY button, the unit goes ON LINE, and the XLR outputs are hot. In a produc­tion environment, an internal jumper in the CD player will make the XLR outputs hot all the time. This avoids hav­ing to switch the unit ON LINE to get audio to your console.

The large red LED display on the RC-701 gives you all the information you could want. To begin with, there are two sets of readouts, one for the unit ON LINE and the other for the unit in the MONITOR mode. In effect, you have two identical displays with the exception that the ON LINE display does not have a frame indicator. Other­wise, each display has indicators to tell you which UNIT has been selected, a track indicator, an index indicator, and a pitch indicator. The TIME indicators track min­utes and seconds (plus frames in MONITOR mode) in one of four ways. By hitting the DISPLAY buttons, you can alternate bet­ween each of these four modes. In mode one, the display gives you the number of tracks on the CD and the total playing time of the entire CD. In mode two, the display tracks the actual playing time. In mode three, you get the remaining time of the current track. If the unit is cued to the beginning of the track and in the PAUSE mode, the time reflected is the total time of the track. Once you hit PLAY, the indica­tors begin counting back to reflect remain­ing time. In mode four, you get the total remaining time on the entire CD from the position currently selected. The functions of each display can be selected independently, so you can watch actual playing time on one side while the other display counts down remaining time.

Everything considered, we were quite impressed with this pair from Tascam. If you're going to use it for production, the BU-1 RAM buffer is a must! Don't forget it. The ability to make "gapless" continuous loops from a CD with a CD player is some­thing we haven't seen up to this point. This particular function has great pos­sibilities with short sound effects and synthesizer zaps; Creating interesting pul­sating beds becomes an easy task. This is a feature we can prob­ably expect to see more of in future CD players as manufac­turers begin to put a greater value on applications in the pro­duction room as well as the on-air studio. Hats off to Tascam for an impressive effort at taking care of both studios of a radio station!

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