Just saw Phillip Manuel picked up a Tascam DP 0008 Porta studio and this is something I'd like to try out! I haven't researched these things much and am wondering about the options available, such as can you layer over previously recorded tracks a la One Man Band? How is the play back sound?
Here's the next question: can you do all of this and more for less than $300.00 ??
I use a freeware program called Audacity for casual recording - takes a bit of effort (maybe 1-2 hours) to figure out things and get started, but it works just fine for my purposes. You can record tracks, edit stuff, and so on - not pro calibre, but then again, neither am I! I just use the mic on my voice recognition program (Dragon Naturally Speaking) headset - I could get better sound from a better mic, for sure, but Audacity does what I need it to do - gives me a chance to hear all those little mistakes and muffled notes. If you've got a laptop, you're good to go for portable recording...
There is also another program - PolderBits - which I've used for burning my vinyl to CD, and it also works for recording - simpler to use, but not as flexible when you want to do more. It costs about $30, if you want to continue to use it after the initial trial period (can't recall if it's a week or a month). I tend to use it for initial recordings, then use Audacity to tinker with the track. PolderBits can be downloaded for the nfree trial period at the PolderBits website.
I use a Jamman digital looper, and I find it very helpful. I really like having the foot controls and the relatively simple setup. If I want, I can load audio onto it from an instructional CD. I primarily use it to practice playing leads and melodies over the music I play. If you are interested in using such a device, you may need to install a pickup and you'll also need an amp. Those of you who perform may have other suggestions on how to utilize a looper.
I also use Audacity but I use an m-audio fast track pro and some mics so it's not super portable but if your computer has a mic or you have a pickup on your guitar you could use those to get the sound to Audacity. For under $300 i would question the quality of the Tascam DP-008's stereo microphones. If you're looking for good quality you may end up having to buy external mics and since they're built in you don't have as much flexibility for mic placement. If you're just looking for portable recording and aren't too worried about sound it seems like it would be good though. It looks like you can layer over previously recorded tracks since it says it does 8 tracks, 2 at a time and I'd imagine the interface is easier to use than Audacity but less flexible. I'd personally trade a bit of portability to get better sound which is why I got the fast track pro and 2 mics, if I want portability I can just plug my guitar's output into the fast track and forget the mics.
Maybe I should add more details! I am totally un-plugged so I guess what I'm after is a remote recording device that I can record a few tracks on and have the ability to layer.
(am I describing a bank of reel-to-reel's??)
The DP-008 has 8 tracks available for recording. Each track can be recorded separately, with a maximum of 2 tracks recording at once. Some of the features, I've not explored are:
- Bouncing tracks: lets you move a track over to another recorded track, combining both of them, which then frees you up to reuse the original track
- Exporting to a pc in wav or mp3 format
- Copy, punch-in, and other track features
- The playback outputs to a headphone jack or through 2 stereo rca style plugs to monitors. The sound depends on what you are using. For me, I use them by connecting my Phonak fm transmitter to the headphone jack, which transmits the sound directly to my hearing aids. Unfortunately, what I experience is less than ideal, I only get mono output. Still searching for the ideal setup to hear the stereo field.
- I got the device with an ac adapter, with tax for just under $300. The recorder was on sale for $249, the a/c adapter was about $29, and tax is what it is.
- Now, that's got me started, but there are more expenses coming... While the unit has built-in mics you can use to record, I want to invest in a couple of external mic to experiment with best mic placement. For a quick check of your guitar and vocal ideas, the basic setup works OK, just not something I'd be comfortable with using for an export and further mixing.
- The most difficult part of using it comes in the setting recording levels. The meters that monitor you input levels doesn't seem to accurately represent what you are getting, at least in what I've done so far. As I've recorded, I have to turn the gain up on the track I'm using, fiddle with the 'trim' button which helps adjust the sound and limit peaks. Then, there's a master volume switch, and an output level switch for the output monitor out to the headphones or speakers. I've not found a good combination yet, but the meters are little help. While I record, I have no peaks, and levels are reported well below the 'hot' or peak level. Still, I'm getting or hearing track distortion. I'm told my levels are still too 'hot', but I don't know how as the meters are not showing it while recording.
I'm going to give a few more tries, and hope I can find or borrow a mic to use for the next recording session. The other handheld models have some useability issues for me. However, if I can't get by these 'hot' levels issues, I'll have to return the unit and see what else is available. I just want a basic unit to record some music and vocals. You know something to get a few ideas out and share them with folks.
I found the pc software like audacity nice for the features offered, but again, the performance of recording of a pc or laptop depends on the pc configuration, preamps, mics, and such, so for me it wasn't ideal either. Anyway you slice it, I don't see how you can get into home recording for under $600 with a pair of decent mics, recorder, cables, mic stands, mic holders, and such. But, maybe getting one of those smaller hand-held recorders is better - don't see it, but I don't have one to compare the experience.
I'm in Mission, KS, so if you are in the KC area, and want to get together at a coffeehouse, I don't mind bringing it along to show it to you. Just email me. The recorder is well built, and I like the design with the dedicated buttons for controling the tracks and such. The tascam site has pdf docs of all of their equipment, so I'd at least recommend downloading the owners/operators manual to read through. Plenty of nice YouTube vids with samples, which sound pretty amazing. I know the unit is capable, so it's like a nice guitar - if you don't have the technique, it's probably a 'user' problem. ;-)
Also, check this link to an area devoted to the DP-008...
Just to update... the recording level distortion I was experiencing was due to my hearing aids, FM transmitter, and connecting cable. All is good now. For the money, the DP-008 is a real nice tool to have for any musician to lay down some tracks. It's great for getting a good idea of what you sound like, and for practicing soloing over a rhythm track. I've got some more work to do to add other instruments on the available tracks, and experiment with external mics, but this is going to be fun.
Is this a user friendly, plug and play tool for a (almost) total luddite like me?
I think is pretty user friendly. Pull down that user manual from the tascam site, and look at the basic recording section. I basically got my first tune recorded last night. I had some issues with distortion that I thought were due to the recorder's levels, but as you can see, it was my 'hearing aid network' that was to blame.
It records 2 tracks at a time, which works for me, and you can copy tracks to another track or bounce them on top of each other, so layering is possible and fun. Just think, an 8-track recorder is all that was used for Sgt. Peppers. Just sayin...