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Digital Recorders: Zoom MRS-1608 or Fostex VSF-160EX?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by davesisk, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. davesisk


    Aug 30, 2004
    Raleigh, NC
    Hey folks:

    I currently have a Yamaha MD8 (minidisk 8 track recorder) and a Roland VS840EX (zip drive 8 track recorder).

    The thing is that I've never been totally happy with either. The Yamaha is nice in that it pretty much functions like a tape deck plus recording board rather than a computer in a mixer's packaging. It's quite simple to operate, and it will record all 8 tracks simultaneously (important for recording a "live" performance). I don't like that it has no effects builtin, no assignable compressor built in, that it records to funky MD data disks (which are luckily still easily available). The inputs and outputs don't seem to have the dynamic range that I would expect. I bought this for the specific purpose of recording the band I used to play in.

    Comparing this to the Roland, it seems to have better sound that the Yamaha IMHO, it has built-in effects that seem to be quite good, and has more "one-person" type of features built-in. It's really 6 mono tracks + 1 stereo track, but it has 8 virtual tracks for each physical track. The downside here is that it will will only record two tracks simultaneously (unless my memory fails me), I'm not crazy about the zip drive recording (but probably still a better idea than the MD data disks). Another drawback is that it's just not simple to operate, not at all like a tape deck + recording mixer, IMHO.

    That said, I'd really like to have a unit that essentially does the things that each does combined into one gadget, so I'm thinking of selling both and replacing them with one unit. The Zoom MRS1608 and the Fostex VF160 seem to be about in the right price range. One of the Boss units is roughly comparable, but a little more expensive.

    So, does anyone here have some real world experience with either of these? The Zoom seems to have better features (24-bit A/D vs. the Fostex 20-bit A/D, both have 24-bit D/A). Have anyone compared ease of operation and sound? Even though the Zoom looks better on paper, my gut almost tells me that the Fostex would sound better (used to have an analog Fostex 8 track reel machine, and it was great for it's price range).

    Essentially, I'm looking for 1) good sound (at least as good preferably better than what I have available now), 2) ease of operation, 3) flexibility to do everything from one-man over-dub recordings (common features) to recording a whole band "live" (less common for this class of unit). Any advice appreciated. I'm trying to keep the price in about the same range as what I think I can sell the two current recorders for so I net $0 out of pocket or pretty close.

  2. basss

    basss Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2001
    Did you pick up either one of these multitracks? I'm looking for an 8 track DAW (w/8 XLR's) and these both look nice.
  3. davesisk


    Aug 30, 2004
    Raleigh, NC
    Yes, I went with the Zoom...it had the closest match to what I wanted in terms of features. I'm very pleased with it. I do wish that it had 16 mono tracks rather than 8 mono + 4 stereo, but it's still workable.

  4. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    Although I can't compare it to the Zoom (never used it), I have the VF-160 and am reasonably pleased with it. Pretty darned good sound and lots of sound shaping features. One HUGE downside-- I found the manual to be nearly worthless. Often difficult to find the info you want, and you generally have to read and re-read the manual a couple of times to learn any new function (and that's while you are sitting there pressing the buttons as you read!!). I have dozens of small sticky tabs on pages so I can go back and find specific instructions. I do wish it had XLR inputs on all channels, but a handfull of XLR to 1/4" adaptors have helped. Very minimalistic view screen, too. All in all, I like it better as I've gotten used to it, but definitely not a unit that you can sit down and make great recordings the first day you buy it. ALSO- in reality, it records as if it's an 8-track unit. To get 16 tracks, you have to record on tracks 1 thru 8, dump those down to tracks 9 thru 16 and then record on tracks 1 thru 8 again. This may be the same for all recorders, so it may be a moot point.

    Edit-- Sorry! I should mention that I have an earlier version of the VF-160. There is the possibility that Fostex has improved some of these issues.