Sugg. Retail: $1500.00 (CAN)
To some of us, the appropriate replacement for the Nagra IV-S in the film sound and location recording world is still the Nagra IV-S, but that’s an opinion based on an appreciation of sound and build quality, not the winds of technological change.
The TASCAM HDP2 represents the future of location recording in as cogent and well-thought out a way as I have seen. It’s simple, elegant, and affordable, but also versatile. The main selling point is the ability to record in stereo from 44.1 to 192 kHz sampling rates at 16 or 24 bits using line or microphone inputs onto solid state media: flash cards or microdrives. These capabilities bring to it a whole new set of possibilities and operational options, which are very well described in the single-page brochure: “Not only is Compact Flash absolutely silent, so no transport noise will show up in your recording, but the recorded audio is written directly as Broadcast WAVE files for immediate use in digital workstations. The unit even includes a FireWire jack for the fastest possible transfer of files to your PC or MAC computer.”
“The Retake button allows the user to delete the last recording and set up to re-record with a single button press. As audio is recorded, the file headers are continually re-saved to protect your recording against accidental data loss. Files can be named from the front panel interface or using a PS/2 keyboard, which can also be used to control transport and setup features.”
The HD-P2 runs for 5 hours or more on AA batteries, and current drain is very low from the solid state recording media. It weighs less than 2 pounds with batteries and flash card/microdrive (one or the other; the competitive Fostex F2 accommodates both simultaneously for up to 13 gig of storage) installed. And here’s a paragraph from the brochure I have to include, with its head: “You don’t need a union card to figure it out”:
“Although the HD-P2 was designed for demanding film shoots and live concerts, it’s still simple and affordable enough for use in everyday classrooms, churches and home studios. School band and orchestra leaders can use it to record rehearsals for students, and then record concerts to sell for fundraising. House-of-worship leaders can record their services for duplication on CD, and its high-speed FireWire connection provides instant access to the recording so that CDs can be authored and duplication can begin as the laity files out of the church.” What a tool to amuse, educate, or control the masses! The advantage of the broadcast WAV files over linear recording techniques is obvious in its instant gratification (read “duplication”) possibilities.
I did have some fun playing with this neat little recorder. First of all, I plugged into it my audio Swiss Army Knife, the Shure VP-88 mid/side stereo microphone, which I call the “Chuck Israels Memorial Mike” for its fabulous pickup of his bass, as well as Donald Bailey’s drums, on our Bellingham Sessions recordings; Chuck is, of course, still alive and well in Bellingham. The HD-P2 preamps were quiet, with excellent dynamics, and very clean sound. That’s a good start. Operationally, the portable proved to be easy to manage, once you worked your way through the necessary digital protocols, something I’m getting a little too old for; the top panel has all the requisite buttons, and the LCD screen shows you what’s going on and how to save, move, and organize the WAV files. I won’t go into all of that, but it is both more vexing and versatile than your average linear location recorder.
We didn’t do much with the timecode, since I try to keep my Nagra’s timecode shelf at bottom front out of the way as much as possible,and I haven’t yet figured out how to use it as a simple elapsed time counter. Suffice it to say that the TASCAM’s simple recording ability was my focus, and at that it did a very good job, the results of my 15 minutes of 192 kHz recording fame very impressive, recording both live voices and sounds, and the sound of my monitor Veritas speakers. You don’t have to worry here about bias, or frequency response, or even levels much, since they are always optimum, flat as can be, and all under control, respectively.
The digital ins and outs are all logically grouped on the left side panel of the HD-P2, allowing direct connection to PC or MAC, SMPTE time clock, or BNC video clock, with old fashioned S/PDIF I/O, and an anomalous analog headphone jack. On the right side are the XLR microphone ins, with phantom power and limiter switches, RCA audio in/outs, and the built-in mono omni directional microphone for the most mundane uses of this sophisticated recorder.
As they say on eBay, “We did not test this latter function.” You’ll have to take it on faith that it works. There’s really not much more to say about this efficient little recording device. The metering covers a broad range and gives a superb indication of levels, the various digital functions are clearly delineated, so you always know where you stand in terms of what and how you’re recording, and the computer interface is ridiculously easy to achieve, so though you have an inverse relationship between recording quality and time (hence my comments about 15 minutes, which is about all you get on a primitive 1-gig flash card in high resolution audio), you can in short bursts offload your work to a laptop easily and quickly in a very well organized form. Among horses for courses, this one is definitely a sprinter until you feed it lots of gigs, and perhaps then attach it to an Apple.
And therein lies the rub (my kingdom for a steeplechase horse, goes the Shakespearean paraphrase), in that while you are much like a Nagra with its perfectly biased mate, BASF 468 tape; that is, there’s 15 minutes of sheer audio glory at 15 IPS or 192 kHz. So, you can’t expect to plop an HD-P2 in a concert hall and record 2 hours of music unless you lower the sampling rate (read speed for the analog recorder). Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!
The aforementioned Fostex approach of allowing daisy-chaining of flash card and microdrive allows greater continuous storage, but comes at a 50% cost premium at the hardware stage. So at high resolutions the HD-P2 still remains a bit of a baby, needing its diapers changed often, or at least emptied frequently (a typical metaphor for a new grandpa, I suppose), and this remains the main, and possibly the only, downside to the HD-P2 design brief. Otherwise, it’s a clean machine, and one many avid recordists and budding film makers will want to acquire.
More completely in the professional realm is the same company’s DV-RA1000 mastering recorder, (seen front and back), which I plan to review in the coming months. Cable (or should I say, Kable”) guru Ray Kimber has already purchased 3 of these for his new IsoMike recording ventures (see reviews elsewhere in this issue). Simply described, the DVRA1000 is DVD-based recording that makes either DVD-A or DSD (SACD without the final consumer coding) masters. It can also serve as a live 2-track recorder that can provide up to 5 hours of continuous 24-bit recording. The resolution/time numbers work out his way (and TASCAM is much more specific in this area about this recorder than they are regarding the HD-P2): “DSD 2.822 MHz 109 min; 192 kHz 24- bit 66 min; 96 kHz 24-bit 72 min; 88.2 kHz 24-bit 133 min; 48 kHz 24-bit 267 min; 44.1 24-bit 290 min”.
Just for recording concerts, this is a great tool, with 88.2 audio for over 2 hours. If they made a portable with just this one function, my life would be perfect! The DV-RA1000 also serves as an archive recorder to DVD in one’s choice of resolutions, which makes it historic in itself. I’ll go on about all this in a future review. In the meantime, if you want something affordable and portable that does high resolution digital very well, check out the TASCAM HD-P2 yourself.
Comment & Question:
I want to primarily record grand piano. I read impressive things about the Korg MR-1000, was told to consider an Edirol R-44 but I also find the Tascam HDP2 to be of strong interest. The Sound Design models are too pricey for me.
Would you still recommend the Tascam HDP2? Do you have any thoughts about the alternatives mentioned above?
Any other alternatives you would recommend?
Hi THX Steve AKA Jeanne Touger,
I’d like a KORG MR-1000, and a few other recorders, but like you, I’m not about to get into serious numbers to own one. But I do now have what I need, an Edirol R-4, which does 4 96/24 channels, and a ZOOM H2, which does 4 48/24 channels with its own microphones, and 96/24 stereo with outboard mike or line. Both offer many other options, and interface easily with a computer via USB.
The R-4 is currently available for $895, and with editing and a 40-Gig hard disc is a bit more versatile than the similarly priced and newer R-44, which uses SDHC cards. The ZOOM H2 (much superior in many ways to the H4), also uses SD media and is an amazing bargain at $199. The TASCAM HDP2 was soon virtually obsolete after this review, and even the new handheld little brother doesn’t touch either Edirol or ZOOM recorders for features. And I’m not just down on TASCAM gear, having just bought a 4-channel 34B analog recorder to make copies of my digital multichannel files from the computer.
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