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Tascam CD-RW5000

Compact Disc Recorder & Tascam CD Duplicator By Paul White
Published June 1999

Tascam CD-RW5000

Tascam's CD‑RW5000 is one of the more cost‑effective CD recorders around that can make use of the cheaper 'pro' blank discs — and the company have also released a useful box that can duplicate both audio CDs and CD‑ROMs. Paul White checks them over.

While computer CD‑ROM drives and consumer CD recorders are still the cheapest hardware platforms on which to make audio CDs, both have disadvantages — consumer machines must use the more expensive consumer discs, while computer CD‑ROM drives generally require you to transfer all your audio to your computer's hard drive, then compile a playlist before you can burn a CD. If you want to make a copies from DAT tapes, and if you're likely to use a lot of blanks, then a professional machine is probably cheaper, or at least faster, in the long run.

Tascam's CD‑RW5000 can record onto both regular CD‑R (write‑once) and CD‑RW (rewritable) discs and includes a sample‑rate converter so that digital sources at rates other than 44.1kHz will automatically be converted to the correct rate. Current consumer CD players can't play CD‑RW discs, though it is expected that the next generation of consumer machines will be able to do so. CD‑RWs will, however, play in CD recorders and CD‑ROM drives.

The 2U CD‑RW5000, which includes a hardwired remote control as standard, is fitted with both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (phono) analogue inputs, as well as phono and optical S/PDIF digital I/O plus an AES‑EBU digital input. The hardwired remote plugs into a mini‑jack on the rear panel and there's also a 15‑pin 'D' connector providing control I/O for custom controllers or computer systems.

The front panel inspires confidence, with full‑size transport buttons, separate right and left analogue input gain controls and a large, informative display window. Aside from the transport buttons, there are half‑a‑dozen other dedicated buttons, along with a phones outlet and volume control. A slim motorised drawer houses the disk to be written, while the Display button cycles around the display modes.

Most of the controls are self‑explanatory, but as with all CD writers, there are a few different operating modes that require a little explanation. The Auto/Manual button allows S/PDIF DAT or CD sources to transfer their track IDs directly, while AES‑EBU or analogue sources cause a new track ID to be written every time the input level drops below a preset 'silence' threshold (actually ‑36dB) for longer than three seconds. Alternatively, it's possible to select Track Increment Manual mode and input the IDs by hand by pressing either the Track oRecord button at the appropriate times during recording. This is also a useful mode for entering IDs into continuous material, such as a live recording with no silent gaps.

Source determines which input will be used for recording — digital, or either of the analogue inputs. The Digital key then selects whether the digital source is S/PDIF co‑axial, S/PDIF optical or AES‑EBU. The Sync Start button enables recording to start automatically when digital audio data is recognised. In Sync 1 mode, the recording automatically stops when a second track ID is detected, while in Sync All mode, all source material is recorded, along with any track IDs, until a silence exceeding 20 seconds is detected, at which point recording stops automatically. Manual Stop may be used at any time, and if you're recording classical music with long periods that might fall below the 36dB threshold, then you can use Manual mode rather than Sync. Similarly, a recording may be started manually in Manual mode. One point to watch here is that like most CD recorders, the machine takes around a quarter of a second to react to the start of the audio material, so it's best to ensure that the first DAT ID is placed half a second or more before the start of the audio, otherwise you could lose your first note!

The CD‑RW5000 worked perfectly as described, and given its low cost, there are few criticisms.

Once a recording is complete, it must be Finalised to create a table of contents before it can be played on a regular CD player, though it can of course be played on the recorder prior to finalisation so that further tracks may be added. This is done by pressing the Finalise button, immediately followed by the Record button.

When a CD‑RW disc is being used, it's possible to erase individual tracks starting with the last one recorded, but only if you do so before the disc has been Finalised. After Finalising, you can only erase the entire disc.

In Use

The CD‑RW5000's rear panel, sporting balanced and unbalanced inputs, phono and optical S/PDIF connectors, and an AES‑EBU in.The CD‑RW5000's rear panel, sporting balanced and unbalanced inputs, phono and optical S/PDIF connectors, and an AES‑EBU in.

If you've ever used a CD recorder before, the CD‑RW5000 has few surprises, though unlike some similar machines, the sample‑rate conversion process is completely automatic insomuch as you can't lock it on or off. There seems to be no subjective damage to the sound due to the sample‑rate conversion process, and the fact that it's automatic means you'll never get caught out providing the input rate is between a nominal 32 and 48kHz. However, if the input sample rate is 44.1kHz, the sample‑rate converter automatically switches itself out of circuit, which is fine unless you have an unstable source that drifts by more than 100ppm. If thinput sample rate falls outside these limits, the sample‑rate converter will keep switching in and out of circuit, causing glitches. Some machines have the facility to force the sample‑rate conversion to stay on, which solves this problem, but if the CD‑RW5000 can do this, the means to do so is not revealed by the manual or by casual exploration of the menus. In practice this shouldn't be a problem as a drift of 100ppm (parts per million) is actually pretty dire and few sources should be this bad.

When recording from commercial CDs or DATs using Sync mode, track IDs are automatically copied along with the audio. Record levels can be monitored on the display meters prior to recording, though you can only change the gain when recording from an analogue source. Digital recordings are in effect a clone of theoriginal. If recording individual tracks, you can play back the recording on the CD‑RW5000, but you have to Finalise before you can play back your disc on a regular CD player. No more tracks can be added after you've Finalised the disc. To my ears, the sound quality is similar to what you'd expect from a good DAT machine, though if you record digitally, the sound of the converters shouldn't enter the equation.

I was also extremely impressed with the CD‑D4000 CD duplicator — I hadn't expected it to work with CD‑ROMs, but it handled everything I threw at it.

So far I haven't mentioned the remote control, and to be honest, for routine recording jobs, you don't need it. Nevertheless, it does include some functions that can't be accessed from the front panel, most of which have to do with programmed playback or to start playback at a particular track number. Aside from these functions, the buttons effectively duplicate what's available on the front panel. Some may see having a hardwired remoterather than an infra‑red device a bit of a cop out, but in a studio where there may be several devices that use remote controls, having a hard wired system at least ensures that only the intended device will respond. It also makes it possible to use two or more CD‑RW5000s in the same setup without confusion.


Tascam CD-RW5000

The CD‑RW5000 worked perfectly as described, and given its low cost, there are few criticisms. Personally, I like to be able to vary the silence‑detecting threshold level, and it would also be useful to be able to vary the length of silence the unit needs to hear before assuming a new track has started, but even some of the expensive machines don't have these features. Good points about this machine include its clear user interface and solid‑feeling controls.

I was also extremely impressed with the CD‑D4000 CD duplicator — I hadn't expected it to work with CD‑ROMs, but it handled everything I threw at it. It's also useful to be able to duplicate audio CDs at 4x speed as clients invariably want more than one copy. It is extremely simple to operate and has the benefit of a test run facility, as well as the ability to verify CD‑ROMs.

CD‑D4000 CD Duplicator

In the same series (and at the same price) as the CD‑RW5000 is the CD‑D4000 duplicator (see above), a two‑drawer machine designed specifically to duplicate CDs faster than real time. Unlike commercial CD players, the CD‑D4000 can also read (but not write to) CD‑RW discs, which makes it an ideal companion for the CD‑RW5000, as rewritable disks can be used to prepare the master. It's also possible to use the CD‑D4000 to duplicate most CD‑ROM material. Copying at up to four times normal speed is possible, depending on the media used, though there is a caveat in the manual that states it may not be possible to read or make accurate copies of some types of disc. Presumably this is a getout clause in case the machine fails to read an odd format of CD‑ROM.

The controls are deceptively simple — two drawers with Eject buttons, a Mode switch and an Enter button. The manual explains that if a disc can't be ejected conventionally for any reason, sticking a paper clip through the hole next to the drive will eject it. Mac users will find this very familiar! Mode cycles through the menu options while Enter 'makes it so'.

To make a copy, the master disc goes in the Master drawer, and the blank goes in the Slave drawer. After selecting the write speed (1, 2 or 4x), it may be wise to go into Test Write mode to check everything is OK before you produce yet another coffee mug coaster. Enter starts the copy or test procedure, during which you can leave the machine unattended. There's also a verify procedure for comparing CD‑ROM copies with the original, though this can't be used with audio CDs. Instead, audio CDs may be played back conventionally via a 3.5mm jack headphone output on each drive, albeit with no level control.

I tested the machine with audio CDs (my own material, naturally), a CD‑ROM backup of my Mac, and a PC‑format CD‑ROM, all of which worked at 4x speed with no problems. I also succeeded in backing up an Akai‑format disk of samples I'd been compiling. A very useful piece of gear.


  • Affordable.
  • Automatic sample‑rate conversion.
  • Comprehensive analogue and digital interfacing.


  • Auto‑track ID threshold and time are non‑adjustable.


The CD‑RW5000 is sensibly priced and works reliably without fuss.