Test Drive: The Tascam CD-RW402 CD Recorder/Duplicator

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DRIVE 2 – RECORDING

The simplest way to use the 402 is as a direct replacement for a cassette or DAT machine. Just connect the analog outputs of your source to either the XLR or RCA analog input connectors, and press the INPUT button until the display shows ANALOG (both XLR and RCAs are active in ANALOG mode). If you connect your source digitally, then you’ll press the INPUT button until the display shows either OPTICAL or COAXIAL, depending on how you’ve connected to it. Pop a blank CD-R into drive 2 and close it. The 402 spends a few seconds determining what flavor of CD you’ve just fed it and attempting to read the disc’s TOC, and then it’s ready to record.

To begin recording, touch the RECORD button and give it a few seconds to calibrate its laser for the type of media you’ve used, while the display flashes NOW OPC (Optimum Power Control). When the display shows the time at 00:00, then you can press PLAY and start your source material to begin recording. To pause recording press the READY button, and to resume press PLAY again. Note that this will generate a new track ID. When you’re done, press STOP. If you’re sure you don’t want to record anything else to the disc, then press the Finalize function button and the 402 will take a minute or so and write the permanent TOC to the CD.

The 402 will perform synchronized recording, in which it automatically goes into record when the incoming audio reaches a certain level. You select this function by pressing the SYNC REC function button after you’ve pressed RECORD. The display shows SYNC ON briefly, and then changes to the track and time display, and the SYNC indicator lights in the display. The 402 will drop into record when the input level exceeds a programmable trigger level, and will stop recording when the input level drops below the trigger level.

The trigger level can be set between -24 and -72dB in the preferences menu. If you’re recording digitally, you can also set the trigger level to MIN, which will start recording at the quietest possible level. An additional parameter, Sync End Time, causes the recording to continue for up to 60 seconds after the input signal drops below the trigger level. This is great for recording audio that fades out gradually, since you can be sure that the 402 will capture the entire fade.

If you’re recording from a digital source, then the 402 will automatically generate new Track ID numbers when triggered by a subcode ID in the original recording (like Start IDs on a DAT). When recording from analog, you have two options for generating new Track IDs. You can either insert them manually by pressing the RECORD button, or you can have the 402 insert them automatically using its A-TRACK function. The manual method is okay if you’re recording just a few cuts with which you’re familiar, since you’ll need to press the RECORD button at just the right moment so your tracks will cue accurately.

A better answer is to use the A-TRACK function, which is much easier. When in this mode the 402 will generate new Track IDs whenever the input signal drops below the trigger level for a time greater than the programmable Watch Time, which can be from one to six seconds.

Finally, the FADER button automatically fades your recorded tracks in and out, over an amount of time that can be set independently from one to twenty four seconds in the menu. You can press the FADER button on the fly to generate fades on some tracks and not others as you record.

All the above might sound complicated, but in reality, it really isn’t. Once you have your trigger levels and watch times set up, the process is pretty much automatic and idiot-proof. I burned over a dozen CD-Rs using analog inputs from a variety of sources including cassette, Mini-Disc, and directly from the mixing console. The resulting CDs sounded excellent, and the Track IDs were accurate.

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