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There are two choices when deciding to get into home recording, 1) stand-alone digital recorders and 2) computer recording. While both record digitally, they differ in that the digital audio workstations are basically special purpose computers that have limitations in the way of expandability and upgradability while a computer based recording systems can be upgraded in every sense from the recording software to the effects plug-ins to the hardware itself. While the market for home recording gear has been moving toward computer-based systems over the last 5 years, the digital recorder manufacturers still have some viable products at all price points.

      At the entry level for digital recorders, several companies market digital audio workstations that while not completely full featured, allow a beginner to lay down some tracks, apply an effect or two, mix down and in some cases, even burn a CD. Fostex and Tascam are the primary players in this market and each of them have great products (I’m not going to review products here but I will give opinions about products I personally have experience with). In fact, Fostex and Tascam pretty much have the $200-$750 market to themselves. On the other hand, if you have a spare computer, the only thing you need to get started is recording software, such as Cakewalk’s Sonar Home Studio. There are even some shareware programs such as FAsoft’s N-Track Studio that will do a passable job. The sound card that came with your computer will allow you to record two tracks at once, although the sound quality can be less than desirable depending on the quality of the sound card. An audio interface with mic preamps (we’ll get into that later) will greatly improve the quality of your finished product.

      Once you get into the $750-$1500 range, the options really open up.  A machine at this level will allow you record 8 channels at once, and may have as many as 16 total channels to record to. Tascam, Boss and Korg all make products in this price range and the feature set runs the gamut from basic to very extensive. At this price point, you could purchase a computer, audio interface and recording software as another option. If portability is not an issue , I highly recommend this route as you can customize your computer with plug-ins, stand—alone synthesizers, etc as your needs warrant. The next price level is for serious musicians and recording studio owners. Pricing for these products can run from $1500-2000 for an entry level professional DAW to well over $4000 for  the state of the art Tascamx-48 Hybrid Hard Disk Workstation

      At the lower end of the spectrum are some great products for bands who want to record up to 16 tracks at once. Having this flexibility results in a finished product that is more coherent musically since you can record 8 drum tracks, bass, guitars and vocals at the same time and this really speeds the process up as well as resulting in a tighter rhythm track. Alesis and Fostex both have offerings in the middle range with the Fostex LR16 Live Recording mixer being the most full featured since it is a rack-mount hard drive system with an outboard mixer.

Fostex and Tascam (no surprise here) pretty much own the higher end of the market ($2000 and up) with dedicated rack mount and mixer based systems. The afore-mentioned Tascam X-48 Hybrid Hard Disk Workstation is a rack-mount hard drive system which will allow the user to connect a VGA display, keyboard and mouse for computer-like recording with a dedicated hardware-based recording system. With additional add-in cards, you can record up to 48 channels at one time. Since it has Firewire capability, the opportunity is there to use outboard hard drives and CD burners. You can also connect a second X-48 via STMPE for up to 96 channels of recording.

 I happen to own a Yamaha AW-2816, which can record up to 16 channels (with an expansion card ) and can mix down up to 28 channels. I have been very happy with it despite the CD burner going on the fritz. When I use it along with my Mackie VLZ-1604 live mixer, I can record an entire band live. It also has the capability to sync up with my computer to allow me to record an additional 8 channels and I can also port the audio tracks from the Yamaha over to Sonar for editing, etc.

 

 

 

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DIGITAL RECORDERS

Fostex MR-8mkII 8-Track Digital Recorder Black Fostex MR-8mkII 8-Track Digital Recorder Black
Boss BR-1600CD Multitrack Digital Recorder Boss BR-1600CD Multitrack Digital Recorder
Alesis ADAT-HD24 Digital Recorder Alesis ADAT-HD24 Digital Recorder
Korg D3200 32-Track Digital Recording Studio Korg D3200 32-Track Digital Recording Studio
TASCAM X-48 48-Track Hybrid Hard Disk Workstation TASCAM X-48 48-Track Hybrid Hard Disk Workstation
Fostex D2424LV Digital Recorder Fostex D2424LV Digital Recorder

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