Yamaha's AW-2816, a stand-alone DAW that records up to 16 channels at a time and can mixdown up to 28 using the input channels
Fostex MR-8HD CD 8-Track Recorder with CDR Black
Roland VS-2480DVD 24-Track Digital Studio Workstation

 Let’s look at the entry level situation first. 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 as many as 8 channels at once, and may have as many as 16 total channels to record to. Fostex, Tascam, Boss , Korg, Yamaha and Akai 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 plugins, 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 $3500 for  the state of the art Roland VS-2480DVD 24-Track Digital Studio 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. Roland,  Korg and to a lesser degree Akai, all have products in this category. Roland, however, is the industry leader at the upper price point with their flagship VS-2480DVD setting the bar for all Digital Audio Workstations with CD/DVD burning and the capability to add a computer keyboard, mouse and monitor to make the package complete. It even has the option of adding plug-in effects, so it competes pretty favorably with a computer based digital audio workstation.  I happen to own a Yamaha AW-2816 (pictured in the upper left hand corner) 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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Getting started  - Hmmm, where do we begin? I suppose the first place to start is with the budget. What’s great about the current home audio recording equipment market is that there are products to fit every budget from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

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Fostex MR-8HD CD
Roland VS-2480DVD Digital Studio Workstation