TASCAM DP24 Review
– by Steve Sattler
The TASCAM DP24 is the latest flagship Portastudio from the company that pioneered portable multi track recording over 25 years ago. The TEAC Portastudio 144 was the world’s first four-track recorder based on a standard compact audio cassette tape.
When it made its debut in 1979 the TASCAM Portastudio was a revolutionary creative tool. For the first time there existed the possibility to affordably record several instrumental and vocal parts on different tracks of the built-in four-track recorder and later blend all the parts together while transferring them to another standard two-channel stereo tape deck (remix and mixdown) to form a stereo recording – this at a time when the idea of computer based DAW work stations being pervasive and affordable was relatively inconceivable.
Fast forward to 2012 TASCAM brings us the DP24 which has incorporated into its relatively compact chassis over twenty five years of technological evolution. The DP 24 directly succeeds the TASCAM 2488 and was released this year in January at this year’s Winter NAMM show. TASCAM’S long history of tape based recording technology is evident in the DP24. Anyone familiar with tape based analog technology will quickly see that fact and will probably appreciate TASCAM’s clever integration of analog and digital recording technology in the DP24.
The DP24 is clearly designed as a songwriting and composition tool. As a songwriting tool the DP 24 is great as you can have your drum machine, Keyboard, etc. ready to go with having to set everything up every time you want to record. The DP24 is in short great tool in short for capturing ideas on the fly. For me personally I’ve always been an early adopter of computer based technology and as such spent years working in pro tools and related DAW platforms As a songwriter I have found that the complexity of working on computer based recording system often gets in the way of the creative process. The DP24 on the other hand offers refreshingly easy to use tactile hands on recording experience designed around the basic premise of capturing ideas quickly and easily.
The DP 24 is also great for live recording you can record for example eight tracks of Drums, bounce down to two tracks continues with your instrument tracks and vocal, multiple takes etc. The DP 24 can I am sure also lend itself to be a useful addition to fixed install, house of worship applications etc.
As far as the HD / “Content Creation” market the lack of an available (at least from TASCAM) of a battery power supply means the DP24 really does not have any direct application as a field capture device (at least as a self-contained unit)
According to TASCAM many end users are using the DP 24 to record live to Video Many of the people who use the DP24 are using it for live events, like concerts. They will mix the tracks inside the unit, output a stereo mix, and then cut a music video to the captured audio later.
Taking a quick overview of the DP24 Tracks 1 – 12 are mono tracks 15 – 24 are stereo – There are on the back of the unit a bank of eight XLR /TRS combo jacks for microphone and line inputs (with switchable phantom power) MIDI In /out, an effects send, monitor out etc. .
The unit features an easy to read color TFT screen that while there are some inherent limitation in its 3“screen is usable. Build quality is solid – the 19 Faders buttons and switches on the front of the DP24 all feel substantial. Bottom line nothing about the DP24 feels cheap. It’s definitely a well thought out and well-made piece of technology and solidly constructed enough to take a reasonable amount of “real world” abuse.
The DP 24 also has a dedicated Guitar input along with some built in Guitar effects which is useful as well as an instrument tuner a relatively sophisticated set of Dynamic and EQ options, Master effects etc.
Like I was saying the DP 24 really is the result of 25 years of technological evolution. Consequently the unit incorporates not only much of the recording interface you have found with tape / analog based recording technically as well as most of the advantages (albeit in a scaled down feature set) found in computer based editing – you can have for example up to eight “virtual tracks “allowing for multiple takes basic waveform edition, punch in Track bounce down etc. While all this is useful and like I said cleverly integrated into the DP24’s feature set for any kind of dense editing or waveform manipulation I suspect it will quickly be apparent to the end user that working on a computer based platform will be more productive.
In general over the years Japanese technology while marvels of engineering have been offer hampered by confusing manuals which is usually the result of said manuals having been converted from Japanese to English That said the DP24’s Manual seems better than most. The quick startup guide had me up and running recording in about 15 minutes. On the other hand I suspect the finer points of the DP’24’s feature set would I suspect take a fair amount of time to master.
On the minus side while you can export wave files via the on board USB port TASCAM does not make available a software interface for the DP24. I honestly think this is the single biggest shortcoming of the DP24 as the availability of computer based editor librarian would make the DP24 an incrementally more effective and productive tool, as well as I suspect attract a more professional level end-user. Further, there is no S/Pdif output on the DP24 which means 24 bit mastering is NA.
Finally as the unit records to SD cards you are limited by the size constraints and cost of the SD cards themselves (At roughly 2 MB per track minute I expect the end user will find themselves going through SD cards at a pretty fast pace). It would have been great if TASCAM had added the ability to plug in a USB or Firewire Hard Drive direct onto the DP24 for file storage.
In conclusion the DP24 with a $799 street price is at a price point where you could alternately buy a laptop and have a number of different of software based DAW platforms to choose from for close to the same price (let alone choose from the growing number of tablet based software and hardware options).
On the other hand what you do get for $799 is a very high quality, technologically mature piece of technology that does what it’s designed to do extremely well. You get all the tools you need to do sophisticated multi track recordings “in the box,” all packaged in a relatively easy to use interface that lends itself to a wide variety of creative applications. From that perspective the DP 24 is a relative Bargain