« Tascam CDR788 Portastudio »Published on 07/06/01 at 15:00
I feel that the 788 as with all the other new Hard disc based desktop recorders has an initial learning curve requiring some diligance to master. However, once I got a feel for the digital mixer interface, the 788 was easier to use than most other units. If a user has had any experience with the older tape based Portastudios, then this one will make you feel as if you finally got your sundae with the cherry on top !
Boasting uncompressed 24 bit 8 track recording, and 250 virtual tracks (all save-able) you won't be pulling your hair out with quality loss usually associated with bouncing and mixdowns (which are undoable as well) The onboard compression is fairly adequate, and adjustable per track, its like having a separate compressor for each track. The EQ works in much the same way, although a bit tricky to visualize a curve from a few numbers on a screen.
Mastering is a cinch, more on that later though.
Another nice feature is the wav edit-jog/shuttle, for mostly precise editing of a track.Simply set your in & out point, and wha-la cut, paste, punch in, silence, whatever you like on your pizza. The display is easy to read, and even the waveform editing is simplistic.
Midi control of external devices is a snap, and in addition to the 8 actual tracks, Tascam has provided a real submixer section with 8 additional channels for your virtual instruments and effects, adding up to 16 actual channels of final recording at 'mastering'. This is very useful considering the 8 recorded tracks are assumably already recorded and mixed from the various 250 virtual tracks, leaving drum machines, keys, and sequencers for the submixer section and controlled through the midi clocking. Ghost tracking is very easy with the onboard metronome.
The guitar amp simulators aren't bad, some are relativly usefull (although many leave something to be desired).
One more thing most salesman don't know about.... if you have a problem, online tech support is pretty good, with a company moderator, as well as a whole host of other users available on the Tascam BBS. (Fostex could learn from this).
You'll need a good mic preamp and a good studio mic, at least for vocals anyway. this is pretty common though, particularly with digital recorders.
Learning the effects routing will take some getting used to. Routing to effects outside of the unit is a bit tricky at first. And the manual does a loose job of explaining this. The biggest peeve with this unit is, get ready..data backup. three CD's for an average song with a few virtual tracks, and can take up to two hours (thats a twelve pack and a movie folks). Although there have been a few software upgrades to fix some of the data backup issues, they still have a ways to go.
As far as mastered recordings, the CDR788 lacks in the audio quality, and will generally need to be ripped and mastered (normalized) on a PC in order to kill some of that 'demo' sound and help your final tracks breathe more like a professional release. The biggest nag besides Data backup is no support for .wav export, however, being a scsi device, I think there could be a software upgrade for this in the future...we can only hope. The Tascam BBS has breathed a bit of this as well.
The case is well constructed and strong enough to inspire confidence moving it around, with all patch points on the rear, and out of the way. The faders are firm, the four trim knobs, a bit wimpy feeling -dont drop anything on 'em though! The surface is well laid out, and intuitive with an easy to read adjustable LED.
Ok, get ready, this isn't your Daddy's Portastudio. With some good mic pre's and a few additional outboard units, a recording of 'label' quality is possible. More remarkable is the sound quality instantly acheivable, even by a novice. But, do some reading, compression can be ugly, and this box will do what you tell it. Don't be afraid of the lack of knobs, the menus are easy enough. A solution for wav file export is a must, but patience....compared to other digital hard disc units, this one tops 'em. With 4.5 not available, I'll give this a 4. A smaller learning curve, and ease of use and quality we expect of Tascam. Before buying Roland, Korg, or especially Fostex, give this bike a ride-its all downhill from here.
This review was originally published on http://www.musicgearreview.com