Test Drive: The HHB CDR-850 Professional Compact Disc Recorder

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SHOVELING ONES AND ZEROS

The 850 really shines when recording digitally from CD or DAT. The 850 includes built-in sample rate conversion that allows you to record digitally from a source that uses a sampling rate of 32 kHz or 48 kHz. The digital audio is automatically converted to 44.1 kHz so it can be recorded to CD. I recorded several 48 kHz DAT tapes to the 850 and heard no difference between the original DAT and the finished CD.

If your digital audio source has a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, you can bypass the sample rate converter altogether. This allows you to make a digital clone of the source material.

The 850’s Digital Synchro feature makes it easy to make a custom compilation CD. With the 850 in RECORD and a digital input selected, pressing the DIGITAL SYNCHRO button will put the 850 into record until the track ends or until it encounters another Track Number or Start ID, at which time it will go into Record Pause. It will wait there for another Track Number or Start ID, at which time it will go back into record. In this way you can compile a number of cuts from different sources onto one CD-R.

If you press the DIGITAL SYNCHRO button twice instead of once, the 850 will begin recording at the first Track Number or Start ID. In both these cases, if AUTO TRACK is enabled the 850 will advance to the next track every time it encounters a new Track Number or Start ID from the source.

Finally, if you press the FINALIZE button with DIGITAL SYNCHRO enabled, the 850 will copy an entire program and finalize it. In this mode it will begin recording at the first Track Number or Start ID, and will automatically stop recording and finalize the disc when it sees one minute of silence. This is perhaps the easiest way to create a Red Book CD with the minimum amount of effort on your part. Set it up, hit play on your source machine, and come back to a finished, finalized CD. Now that is cool.

The only caveat is that the DIGITAL SYNCHRO function only works with S/PDIF material through the optical or coax inputs. It doesn’t work with analog sources, and because AES/EBU does not transmit Track Number or Start ID flags, it doesn’t work with AES/EBU sources. But for making a quick dub of a CD or a DAT over S/PDIF, it’s a no-brainer.

DISC COMPATIBILITY

All recordable CDs are not alike. There are just a few actual manufacturers and most CD-Rs are private-labeled from those manufacturers. However, different manufacturers use different dye formulations, resulting in CDs whose recordable sides appear green, blue, gold, or silver.

The CDR-850 is not too fussy about what brand of blank CD-Rs you use in it, but there can be problems. My first experiments used blanks that I buy pre-printed with my company logo on them. The blank discs are manufactured by Prodisc in Taiwan and are green. They work well for me (less than 2% become coasters), but the 850 did not like them at all. It refused to record more than a few seconds before the display flashed CHECK DISC. There’s not much you can do when that happens except eject it and toss it into the trash — I already have plenty of places to set my drink, so I don’t need another coaster.

A quick trip to the nearest Office Depot and I had both Maxell (CDR74 greens) and Verbatim (CD-R 74min, 8X speed blues) to test. For the record, Maxells and Verbatims were $15 for a package of 10. I also dug up some older Mitsui gold CD-Rs I had from a previous project. Each of these worked flawlessly, as did Maxell CD-RWs (CD-RW74 silvers, $10 for three discs at Office Depot). One can infer that HHB’s own CD-Rs and CD-RW discs will work as well, although I did not test them.

The 850 also lets you set the SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) flag for CDs you create. Your options are Copy Permit (allows others to make unlimited copies of your CD), Copy Once (only one copy of your CD can be made), or Copy Inhibit (you guessed it—zero copies). This could come in handy for protecting your personal sound effects, promos, and bits from being hijacked by your coworkers. But of course that NEVER happens, does it?

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