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

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DRIVE 1 — FLEXIBLE PLAYBACK

Lest you think that drive 1 is just a garden-variety CD player, let me reassure you that it isn’t. For starters, it has a pitch control that can vary the playback speed by plus or minus 9%. The AUTO CUE function makes the player cue up tracks based on their audio level instead of on the Track ID, and the cue level is programmable between -72 and -24dB.

The most ingenious feature of the player is its ability to internally generate a “virtual TOC” (a fake Table of Contents in memory), which you can then edit to change how a pre-recorded CD plays back. Much like a MiniDisc, you can combine, erase, or divide tracks using this virtual TOC, which is lost when the CD is ejected. But meanwhile you can copy a pre-recorded CD in drive 1 to drive 2, using the virtual TOC to completely change the organization of the pre-recorded CD. That’s clever.

DISC COMPATIBILITY

The 402 isn’t fussy about what brand of blank CD-Rs you use in it, but the manual does warn against using printable CDs. This could be a deal-killer for me, since I have a CD printer and inkjet-printable CDs are all I use. So yes, I used them despite the warning against malfunctions, and I had no problems whatsoever. Your mileage may vary and you run the risk of voiding your warranty.

Some newer CDs offer “over-burning”, and will hold 80 minutes of audio instead of the usual 74 minutes. The 402 has an ExtendCheck function that kicks in if you hold the RECORD button for more than two seconds. This will check the CD to see if it allows overburning, and if it does, the displayed recording time will be adjusted upward to reflect this. Do be aware that 80 minute CDs are unplayable on some older CD players, but it’s good to know that the 402 will handle ‘em anyway.

The 402 also lets you set copy protection flags for CDs you create. Your options are FREE (allows others to make unlimited copies of your CD), 1GEN (only one copy of your CD can be made), or PROH (you guessed it — zero copies). If you’re copying in TAO mode then you can set the protect flags on a per-track basis.

BACKING UP THE BACKUPS

A wise man once said that digital data doesn’t really exist unless it exists in three separate places. I believe that, having recently lost an entire 75GB IBM hard disk, which just up and failed. I backup all current projects at the end of every day, and do a complete project backup when I’ve finished a particular project. For the daily backup I’ll often copy the folders to another hard drive, but for the latter I always use CDs that can be stored elsewhere.

The 402’s data disc copying facility is really handy for making that third copy of your client’s stuff. In addition to being able to do TAO (Track-at-Once) copying, the 402 can perform DAO (Disk-at-Once) copies of both audio disks and data disks including CD-ROM and CD EXTRA (audio plus data) disks.

Using the 402, I successfully copied several data CDs in ISO-9660 format (standard for PCs) and in Mac HFS and HFS+ format. Pushing the Disk Copy button with a data CD in drive 1 shows the DAO option in the display. After confirming DAO you’re presented with options for setting the copy speed (up to 4X) and for comparing the copy to the original — you’ll want to do this. Pushing the MULTI DIAL knob again starts the process, and you can go get another coffee or read your email while the 402 does the work. I’ll be filling out and printing the invoice while it’s busy copying, thank you.

FINALIZING THIS REVIEW

I burned through a lot of CD-Rs and a few CD-RWs while exercising the 402, and I like it. It’s a professional product, well-built and well-thought out. It handled every disc successfully, and generated zero coasters. I used it on several occasions to record voiceovers, a job for which I usually use a DAT. And I backed up projects like a madman. Worked great, no problems.

The 402 would seem to be the Swiss Army Knife of CD decks. It plays, records, and copies easily and quickly, and makes a fine mastering deck. Steve sez check it out.

The Tascam CD-RW402 has a suggested retail price of $1249. For more information in the US, contact TEAC America at (323) 726-0303, or in Canada phone (905) 890-8008. On the web, visit www.tascam.com.

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