Using a 2-track Field recorder in your studio
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Replacing your DAT recorder with
a Solid State Portable Recorder

 

Alesis ML9600 Masterlink Recorder
The MasterLink™ ML-9600 combines hard disk recording, editing, digital signal processing, and the world's most advanced high-resolution CD-R format for creating professional, fully finished 2-track masters.

 

By Rich the TweakMeister

 

The thought of getting a DAT recorder these days is usually followed by a bunch of questions by the home studio owner.  The big one is:  Do you really still need one?   You might not.  There are many ways to print an audio file these days.  You can master straight to .wav files right on your computer, then burn cds from there; you can get a solid state portable recorder that processes your analog mix, or you can simply make MP3 files and distribute them that way.

 There's also some disadvantages to the DAT format.  The tape is more expensive than a blank CDR disk; it does not last as long, even with careful handling.  They are tedious to back up.  Unless you have 2 DATs, you will have to make a digital pass back to the computer and back again to a blank tape.  The copy has to be made in real time too, so it takes longer. So why the heck bother with DAT?

 

Why you still may need a DAT

1. If you used a DAT to make master recordings for nearly a decade and your deck breaks down, you have no option but to get another one.  I urge anyone with DAT tapes from the 90's not to wait another day before cloning them.  A lot of DAT tapes that they sold us in the 90s were pure garbage and they might only have one more pass, depending on how well you stored them.

2. The more professional your studio gets, sooner or later you will have clients who bring in masters on DAT.  Lets hope their prized dying tape does not shred in your aging machine.

There are good reasons to get out of DAT while you can and never look back. 

Advantages of the new portables

1. A portable digital recorder still is the undisputed king of field recording, so if you are a sample collector, having a one is the only way to get full cd quality recordings on location.  It is quite unbelievable how quiet and good sounding the motorless solid state recorders are.  I have the Zoom H4 and as long as I don't move it while recording, the sound is excellent, even from the built in mics.

2.  Recording on a portable recorder is fast and simple.  You hear something you like, set levels and you press record.  There's no formatting disks, no opening audio applications, just set the levels and forget its on.  A portable makes a better "audio scratchpad" than CD does.  Say you have a cool idea in your sequencer one night but you are under the gun to get paid work done, it's a simple matter to record the riff  and come back later.  When you do want to go back to it, you don't have to remember how your synths were configured or how the board was set up.  You hear it the way you heard it at the point of inspiration. 

3. Using USB on a portable recorder, if it is available, turns it into a near perfect computer peripheral.  You simply connect by USB, a directory open on your computer and you just transfer files. 

4.  If you have as many years of recording as I do (with thousands of songs) you need major storage, and a backup as well.  What if the HD fails? 

5.  Your portable may have better converters than your soundcard.  If it has balanced inputs, it's easy to connect your mixer to the recorder.  You don't have to bounce or render to some 2 track format, just record it, and move faders on the fly if you want while its going down.

So there you have the advantages and disadvantages of using a portable recorder in your home studio. 

Things to look out for

1. The amount of memory you can use.  Older portables might be restrictive in how much memory the machine can access. 

2. Readability of the display

3. Does the unit use non-standard cables or have too many accessories that are proprietary?

4. Check the internet to make sure the USB transfer functions are working with your OS of choice.

5. You definitely will appreciate the speed of a USB 2.0 interface when you transfer files.

 

Today's alternative to DAT
Tascam DR1 Portable Digital Recorder
The TASCAM DR1 puts world-dominating power into your pocket. Its built-in stereo microphones include a unique variable angle mechanism, so you can set it to record from any angle. The DR1 is the first portable recorder to include a 1GB card, so you'll have plenty of CD or MP3-quality recording time for long rehearsals and concerts. And with a street price of just $299, everyone's gonna want one.


'
Tascam HDP2 Hi-Res Portable Stereo Recorder
Unlike consumer MP3 sketchpads, the professional HD-P2 incorporates high-end features like a SMPTE timecode input for synchronization to external devices while in record or playback. When recording, the HD-P2 writes time-stamped Broadcast WAVE audio files that can be loaded into your DAW projects with sample accuracy. Its XLR microphone inputs include phantom power and a limiter to curb distortion during unpredictable live events. The user interface has been designed for fast and intuitive use under stressful one-take-only situations, and its large, angled LCD is perfect for any application from over-the-shoulder location recording to concert recording and commercial use.

 

Yamaha Pocketrak CX Portable Digital Recorder
If your recording needs demand the best possible sonic quality as well as unprecedented portability and convenience, the Yamaha Pocketrak CX may be just what you're looking for. This 92-gram all-in-one recorder will record or play for 50 hours on a single AA penlight battery, and deliver a level of sound quality that you can take to serious post production if necessary (Steinberg(R) Cubase AI4 audio workstation software is supplied). The built-in X-Y stereo microphone assembly is of outstanding quality, offering detailed spatial imaging without phase problems. The Pocketrak CX an ideal tool for recording band rehearsals, live performances, and any type of field recording that requires maximum reproduction quality.

 
Sony PCMD50 96kHz/24bit PCM Recorder With USB
Loaded with top of the line features ranging from 24Bit/96kHz sample rate, standard WAV file recording format for use with numerous DAW applications, 4GB Built-in Memory for up to 6 hours of recording time at 16Bit/44.1kHz.

 

 

Time Out!

Rich the TweakMeister

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