At A glance: TASCAM DP-24

The TASCAM DP-24 is the latest flagship Portastudio from the company that pioneered portable multitrack recording over 25 years ago. The TEAC Portastudio 144 was the world’s first four-track recorder based on a standard compact audiocassette 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—at a time when the idea of computer-based DAW workstations as pervasive and affordable was relatively inconceivable.

Fast-forward to 2012, and TASCAM brings us the DP-24, which directly succeeds the TASCAM 2488 and was released in January at this year’s Winter NAMM show. TASCAM’s long history of tape-based recording technology is evident in the DP-24. Anyone familiar with tape-based analog technology will quickly see that fact and appreciate TASCAM’s clever integration of analog and digital recording technology in the DP-24.

As far as the HD/content creation market, the lack of an available battery power supply (at least from TASCAM) means the DP-24 really doesn’t have any direct application as a self-contained field-capture device. According to TASCAM, many end users are using the DP-24 to record live to video, for example, at 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 DP-24, tracks 1-12 are mono tracks, and tracks 15-24 are stereo. On the back of the unit there’s 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 and more. The unit features an easy-to-read, 3-inch color TFT screen. Build quality is solid—the 19 Faders buttons and switches on the front of the DP-24 all feel substantial. Bottom line: Nothing about the DP-24 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.

As the DP-24 really is the result of a quarter century of technological evolution, the unit incorporates not only much of the recording interface you’ve found with tape/analog-based recording, but also 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 editing, punch in, track bounce down, etc. The quick startup guide will have you up and recording in about 15 minutes, while the finer points of the DP-24’s feature set will take a fair amount of time to master.

On the minus side, while you can export .WAV files via the onboard USB port, TASCAM doesn’t make available a software interface for the DP-24. The availability of a computer-based editor librarian would make it an incrementally more effective and productive tool. Further, there’s no S/Pdif output on the DP-24, which means 24-bit mastering isn’t available. It would have been great if TASCAM had added the ability to plug a USB or FireWire hard drive directly into the DP-24 for file storage.

With a $799 street price, the DP-24 is at a price point where you could alternately buy a laptop and have a number of different software-based DAW platforms to choose from (let alone choose from the growing number of tablet-based software and hardware options). On the other hand, what you do get is a high-quality, mature piece of technology that does what it’s designed to do extremely well. You get all the tools you need to do sophisticated multitrack 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.

Contact: TASCAM, tascam.com.

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