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Guitar Musician   e-zine     02/09/05

In This Issue:

  Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.

                                                                    Oscar Wilde

Some Humor

  An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%. The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, "Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again." The gentleman replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will three times!"



Click here for all products by Tascam.

Tascam DP-01 Digital Portastudios

Digital 8-track recording made easy and affordable

By Ron Dryden

Tascam has a hit on its hands. That's my opinion, at least, after giving its new DP-01 a test drive. I'm going to spring for one and I bet a lot of other musicians will too, because the DP-01 has a combination of features not found in other digital recorders. It's easy to operate, delivers a full eight tracks of CD-quality recording, and it is surprisingly affordable.

Tascam DP-01 Digital Portastudios I have always been attracted to the popular tabletop studios for what they can do, but put off by the price and their complexity. Like many musicians, I want to make music, not be an engineer. All the digital workstations and studios I've gotten close to seem too complicated. By the time you get through a 300-page manual, learn to navigate through layers of menus and screens, and use buttons that each do about a zillion different things, you've forgotten how to play your instrument.

Simple is beautiful
The DP-01 is Tascam's response to the problems that are inherent in most digital studio devices. I use a Tascam cassette Portastudio for song writing purposes and love it for its simplicity. So I was eager to check out a digital unit that had Tascam's Portastudio thinking applied to its design. It sounded like my kind of machine�simple, affordable, and not overly fancy.

I should mention first that there are two DP-01s, the DP-01 and the DP-01FX. The unit I tried out was the DP-01FX, which in addition to all the cool features of the DP-01 has onboard effects and XLR inputs offering phantom power for condenser mics.

On the DP-01 recorders, nearly every button has just a single function and the buttons are clearly labeled. It has the buttons and wheels that are standard on digital machines of this sort, but there's also a set of controls that look like those on any cassette recorder: play, fast forward and reverse, stop, and record. They add a reassuring touch of familiarity for those of us who like the old ways.

The mixer layout is also standard. There are two assign buttons and a row of buttons over the tracks marked REC for selecting or turning off a particular track and a number of other dedicated buttons for effects and editing. Compared to other digital recorders, the DP-01 recorders are an open book.

Flying blind
I decided to give the DP-01FX the acid test for intuitive design�I would see if I could lay tracks without opening the manual. Without boring you with a button-by-button account I managed to start it up, create a song file, load it, assign one of its two inputs to channel one, plug my guitar in and get a level that wouldn't clip, adjust my headphone volume. I was ready. I pushed down the record and play buttons just as you do on a cassette machine and started playing.

Tascam DP-01 Digital Portastudios After a few times around a blues progression, I pushed stop and then rewound. When I hit play, there was�a clear raw track. It was so easy I couldn't believe it. The whole process took me about 15 minutes and I hadn't looked at the manual once. With this success, I was so taken with the DP-01 that I wanted to read it and know more.

The manual proved to be as easy to follow as the machine itself. It's 66-pages in all, and the pages aren't crowded. It starts with all the basic, easy stuff: how to start it up, how to record, how to save what you've done, and how to shut it off. These are the basics, but there's a whole lot more to this baby.

Extensive effects
I expected the DP-01FX, at its relatively low price, probably didn't carry a huge package of effects. I was wrong. It's loaded. Actually there are two processors: a multi-effects processor for use in recording, and a separate reverb processor for use in mix down and mastering. The multi-effect section is divided into guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drum and vocal effects.

There are dozens of different settings for guitar, close to a dozen for acoustic guitar, a bunch for bass, and so forth. The effects are also easily tweakable via a parameter knob. Sampling through the guitar effects, I found they sound quite good�not the least bit cheesy�and they give you lots of options for adding color to your tracks.

Tascam DP-01 Digital Portastudios The right stuff
For such an affordable device, the DP-01s have a surprising number of cool features: a hidden stereo channel for mixdown so you get use all eight channels to record on. Phantom power on the XLR inputs lets you use condenser recording mics, and auto punch capability lets you easily re-record over goof-ups. It has all the basic digital track editing functions�copy, paste, move, erase, silence, undo/redo�that make song construction and fix-ups so easy.

Another very cool aspect of the DP-01 recorders is its extensive connectivity. Besides RCA line output and effects send and return, it has S/PDIF digital optical output, MIDI timecode output, and a USB 2.0 port for easy connection to computer. Last but not least is its 40GB drive that gives you tons of recording time for eight tracks (at least 17 hours, and that's a lot of songs).

Wrapping it up
The DP-01s are perfect digital recorder/mixers for musicians who want to create full band recordings but aren't aiming for monster productions. They are perfect for anyone who finds most digital recorders too complicated, or wants quality finished recordings, but doesn't want to pay for capabilities that aren't needed. Most importantly, the low prices of the DP-01 models make them accessible to many more musicians. If you have effects units you can use outboard and want to save a few bucks, go for the DP-01. If you want the XLR inputs and the convenience of everything in one box, the DP-01FX is your baby. They're great machines. Good job, Tascam.

DP-01 Features:

  • 8-track recording, uncompressed CD quality
  • 40GB hard drive
  • 2-track simultaneous recording
  • Dedicated stereo mixdown track
  • Channel controls: volume, pan, EFX send
  • 2-band semi-parametric EQ each channel
  • 2 1/4" TRS mic/line inputs
  • 2 XLR mic inputs with phantom power (DP-01FX)
  • Guitar level input
  • Built-in reverb processor (DP-01FX)
  • Built-in insert multi-effects processor (DP-01FX)
  • Effects send and stereo return
  • RCA line output
  • S/PDIF digital optical output
  • Headphone output with level
  • MIDI Timecode output
  • USB 2.0 port for computer connection
  • Track editing: copy, paste, move, erase, and silence

For more info on ordering this product email us

Guitar Q & A

  Nylon Tension

Q I�ve noticed that while steel strings are rated by gauge, nylon guitar strings are differentiated by tension. Should you use certain tension strings on certain guitars, and how do they affect playability?

Ivan J. Negron
Bayamon, Puerto Rico

The only differences between extrahard- and light-tension sets of nylon strings are their gauges, or string diameters. When choosing the best tension set for a particular guitar, a thoughtful player will try different sets until he finds the one that provides the best balance between the player�s and the guitar�s requirements. Different tension sets can elicit different tonal colors and different tactile responses from the same guitar. Also, the same tension set will sound and feel different on different guitars, depending on how the instruments are made. For example, light-tension strings on a short-scale guitar will likely produce a flabby sound and feel like rubber bands, but the same set may perform in an exemplary fashion on a long-scale guitar. On the other hand, extrahard-tension strings on a long-scale guitar will feel excessively taut but will do just fine on a shorter-scale guitar.

The consequences of choosing the wrong set of string gauges may be even more dramatic, though. Guitars can be built either very lightly or rather massively. Placing extrahard-tension strings on a lightly built instrument may cause it to slowly collapse; placing light-tension strings on a stiffly built instrument will result in a muted, disappointing tone, regardless of how expertly it was made.

Don�t despair if your classical guitar sounds wimpy or feels unresponsive. With a little time and patience, you can find a particular string set that makes your guitar behave precisely the way you prefer.

�William Cumpiano