If dear reader you are eager to get to grips with Compact Flash let me assure you that you have come to the right place, but for the moment excerise a modicum of patience as we first consider the rotating silver medium that we have come to know and love so well. Like the baddie in a cheap horror flick CD is hard to kill, surviving DAT, minidisk, DVD, DCC, hard disk and even compact flash. Just when you think it’s safe to record on another medium it turns out that CD was a good choice after all. The Tascam SSCDR-1 is the third CD machine I’ve reviewed in the last year or so and is just as compelling poposition as the Fostex CDR500 and the Denon CD640N?
I wanted a CD recorder with the ability to do simple edits before commiting to burning the disk and the machine had to fit in a one U rack space.My purpose was simple aside from broadcasting we often do public workshops where people can roll up and have a go at being a DJ or news reporter and when they’ve done their best Chris Moyles impersonation it’s nice to give them a CD to walk away with, immortalising their time on the mic to play in the car on the way home. We often conduct these workshops outside our lovely bus-cum-studio under a gazebo so the kit has to be carted around so thin and light are essential characteristics as is easy to use. So when I flicked through the Tascam catalogue I got quite excited by a machine that did all that and had a compact flash recorder thrown in. Of course I’ve really got you this far under false pretences the SS-CDR1 is first and foremost a compact flash recorder with built in CD recording as a bonus, it’s just that I came in through the wrong door. But why would you want a compact flash recorder? Isn’t this the age of the DAW when the laptop is king? Well yes of course it is but there are so many niggles with computers, the number of leads, mains plugs, it takes an age to boot, you need a tidy sound card to take your balanced audio and squirt it back to the desk, and although the drivers/software/operating system are all 99.8% reliable sometimes that’s not enough.The glory of compact flash is it’s cheap and getting cheaper, it boots sharpish, it outlasts a CDR by miles – I was stuck at the Porthcawl Elvis festival (I kid you not) trying to record a three hour show. No problem a 4 Gig card will do that nicely. Which is why I did punt the SS-CDR1 at my colleagues in the orchestra – who loved the longevity of the 8Gb card capacity but really did need 24 bit which is only available on Tascam’s HDR1. The other argument for CF is the widespread availability of CF based field recorders from Tascam themselves, Fostex, Marantz, Sound Devices and Nagra. And although the medium is compact you can at least write a label on it. This combination of field recorder and studio format is something CDR never really managed putting CF closer to Minidisk but allowing us to escape the dreaded audio compression. Though these machines will record to mp3 format if that’s your thing.
Plugging a keyboard in gives access to quick titling of files and loads of keyboard shortcuts. The editing is of the old fashioned minidisk style, you select an edit point and jog it back forward while the machines cycles in loop playback. It could really do with the waveform display from the Fostex. Now maybe your wishing you had your laptop, but for simple top and tailing it gets the job done.
One thing I did notice when tidying up my 3 hour Elvis epic is that before the system makes a divide edit it has to copy the entire file. Even I’m not that much of an Elvis fan. So for three minute songs editing is a yes, for three hour symphonic mesterworks – no.
The front panel controls are laid out just like an old fashioned CD or MD player and your live jock will have no problem with this. I snuck one in between two CD players at a live OB and we bounced along without a dropping a beat. I got to play with the remote control for instant replay which features 20 hot start keys and a refreshingly long control lead. Press flash load and the keys load up faster than a grunt in Call of Duty.A nice feature for those early morning starts, when you fire a cut to take some level the light on the button flashes as if to say “Play me next, play me next.” Which on the whole is much better than the “Do you feel lucky punk, well do you?” given off by some keypads. If you have the SS-CDR1 then the hot key pad works with both CF and CD formats which is a nice bonus.My take on the compact flash recorder is that’s nice to have, in some ways less hassle than CDR – no finalising, longer duration and media that fits in your pocket and of course it isn’t prone to scratching. Having said all that I find the dual medium recorder the most attractive. CDR when you want to play the result in the car, the flexibility of edit then copy to CD and the ability to rip from CD when required whithout a PC. I put my money where my mouth is and shelled out for an SS-CDR1 and you can’t really say fairer than that.