The Tascam HD-P2 Compact Flash recorder reviewed here is a solid state field recorder, retailing at around £700, recording onto standard Compact Flash cards. Designed as a professional location field recorder, it can be powered by eight AA batteries or 12V external DC
Operationally the HD-P2 is well laid out. The large display is backlit following any control changes, with the light turning off after a few seconds on battery power. Record level is set using the large rotary control on the right-hand side. One minor irritation in the field is the turn off was a soft switch which needed an annoying "are you sure" query to be confirmed, using the select button which is one of the many controls on the top. It was easy to forget this and leave the machine switched on. Recordings are created in folders on the CF card called "projects" - any change to sampling rate and bit depth needs to use a separate project.
Monitoring is done by headphones, but this machine has a feature unusual on many CF recorders, a monitor loudpeaker on the top. Users of playback may find this a key feature, if you can square the ethical issues.
The right-hand side of the machine shows the XLR mic/line inputs, power socket and CF card slot.
On the left-hand side are the firewire connection, timecode in XLR, video and digital in/out, and the ¼" headphone socket. A computer keyboard can be attached to make titling projects easier.
On the top you can see the scroll wheel, power switch, speaker grille and transport controls. A number of operational switches for limiter, P48 powering and 20dB pad are provided as separate switches, this is nice to have in the field rather than having to set these parameters up with a menu system.
All this adds up to a machine which, though operationally idiosyncratic, is reasonably fast to set up and use in the field once you have got to know it. A feature which will be appreciated by wildlife sound recordists in particular is the 10 second preroll buffer, which allows you to record tracks including the 10 seconds before you pressed the record button.
Sampling rates can be set to 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 96kHz and 192kHz at bit-depths of 16 and 24 bits.
The weather was not kind to me over the period of this review, March 2008 deserved its reputation for March winds, so this recording was made of a local chaffinch in my garden on one of the less windy days
Chaffinch recorded using H2-P2 and a Sennheiser ME66 (suburban location so 300Hz high-pass filtered to reduce traffic noise, ME66 powered by P48 power).
Settings - Microphone input, max gain pad 0dB sampling rate 44.1kHz Source impedance 150Ω Software level 1.05 Bootloader BL2 machine S/N 0010110
Minimum input for 0dBFS = -44dBu
Ein = -126dBu (unweighted, 22kHz BW)
Ein (A) = -131dBu (A weighted, 20kHz BW)
Vmax = 0.8Vrms (delivers 0dBFS at minimum gain setting of 0 - no greater clipping level can be reasonably expected than that required for 0dBFS)
switching in the 20dB input pad, the input did not overload even with an input of up to 13dBu. The test generator was not capable of generating more signal than this.
(W x H x D), 260 mm x 196 mm x 65 mm
Weight 1.2kg excl batteries
The technical performance of this machine is very good, and it is operationally well suited to wildife sound recording - it can be used hung over the shoulder or placed flat on the ground. Preamplifer noise performance is excellent, and unlikely to be an issue with most capacitor microphones. The self-noise of the mic will in nearly all cases be significantly more than the self-noise of the recorder at maximum gain. The overload performance is also excellent - the input stages will not clip provided the signal meters at less than 0dBFS. If your computer is Firewire-enabled, the recorder will present the CF card as a mass storage device. You can therefore transfer recordings from the HD-P2 via firewire without taking the CF card out.
The Wildlife Sound Recording Society would like to thank Solid State Sound for the loan of the Tascam HD-P2 reviewed here. You can purchase this recorder at their website http://www.solidstatesound.co.uk/, the HD-P2 page is http://www.solidstatesound.co.uk/Tascam%20HD-P2.htm
Review date: March 2008