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Need some help choose a digital multi-track recorder

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Lobster11, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    For years I've been recording in my basement using a standalone (Sony) CDRW unit. I have a pair of nice condenser mics mounted in the ceiling, which I run through a Presonus preamp into the recorder. This setup makes great-sounding recordings, and is useful for both of main purposes: recording a multi-hour band practice or jam session, and alternatively recording my own little idea snippets when I'm practicing alone. I later copy the files from the CD onto my computer for editing and listening (and/or burning edited CDs.) However, these CD writers don't last very long before they crap out; I'm on my second unit now and it is on its way out. For these purposes I mainly just need a (more reliable) two-channel recorder of some sort, but I've become interested lately in getting some kind of multi-track unit that would also allow me to record parts and then overdub other parts on top of them.

    So, I need something that I can use to record, on a given evening, anything from a few hour-long sets to a bunch of little 30-second snippets. I can't think of any reason I would need to be able to record more than 2 channels simultaneously, and for overdubbing I won't need more than about 4-6 channels or so altogether. I definitely don't need effects of any kind, nor a CD burner (so long as USB transfer is easy enough). Size/portability is not an issue.

    The single most important factor to me is simplicity and ease of use, which seems to point to the various Tascam and Fostex models. Especially for those fleeting moments of inspiration, I want to be able to press a button or two and be recording. Also, I want the process of transferring to my computer to be simple as well.

    The Tascam DP-02 is probably out because I don't want to pay for the extra features that I don't need, but the older DP-01 looks promising along with the Fostex MR8. (I'm certainly open to other suggestions as well.) One issue I'm still struggling with is the choice between a built-in hard drive vs. flash cards. Another is that from the manuals, the Tascam looks intimidating with respect to formatting the drive or card, and having to go through a two-step process for transferring files to the computer. The Fostex looks simpler in this regard.

    Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to be as specific as I could about my particular needs in order to get the best possible advice. Any advice or other relevant info would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    In case anyone is interested, the Fostex MR8HD -- the one without a CD burner -- just went on sale at Musician's Friend for $299. That's 50 bucks less than everywhere else.

    That made my decision for me. I went ahead and ordered one.
  3. tom e smith

    tom e smith

    Jan 27, 2008
    Check out the Zoom models. You can pick up the HD16 for around $700.00 American. The plus is you can record 8 channels at once. The only downside is it only records 16 bit (which isn't bad) and the builtin effects suck (which I didn't plan on using anyway).

    Have you thought about getting an interface for your computer? You can pick up a stereo input interface for as little as a hundred bucks and it will give you as many overdubs as your computer will allow. They all ship with some kind of DAWS software.
  4. I have been using a DP01FX since '05 and find it a quick and easy machine to use as a think pad. I recorded my 1st cd on it and continue to use it for live 2 trak recordings. The usb conputer interface is simple enough and transferring songs and tracks is straight forward (if a bit time consuming). The only issues I had with it were occasional problems with the phantom power which were easily fixed and running out of hard disc space after 4+ years of songs and projects.
    Last year I got a 2488/2 and have not looked back.
  5. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    The Zoom unit you describe it probably great for many folks, but not for me. For my own personal situtation, I really don't need to record more than two channels simultaneously -- usually from my two room mics. I'm not trying to make albums, so I love the simplicity of making ambient recordings instead of "soundboard" recordings: If the mix sounds good in the room, it will sound good on the recording.

    And I did think a lot about computer-interface approaches, but I decided against that because (1) the recording is all gonna happen in one place, where I'd like to have a dedicated unit; (2) my laptop is generally busy with a lot of other stuff and I'd rather keep it out of the loop; and (3) I prefer the simplicity of knobs, sliders, etc. rather than mice and such. I completely understand why computer interfaces are ideal for a lot of folks, but it's not what I'm looking for given my particular needs.
  6. NickRich


    Oct 13, 2008
    Quebec, Canada
    Take a look a this thread and this one. I think they're both (the Boss and the Zoom) 2 channel recorders.
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Thanks for the links. I did consider the Boss and Zoom units. I steered away from both because I don't need the portability, and instead want something more substantial with real sliders and/or knobs, and that is super-simple to use. Also, I decided that a large internal hard drive would be good to have for my purposes.

    I have friends who have both the Zoom H2 and the Zoom H4, and both are great units. They make remarkably good recordings via their built-in mics; we use an H2 to record band practices at a friend's house. But for my own purposes, I already have a nice pair of mics and preamp. I can see getting one of these at some point in the future if my portability needs change, but for now the Fostex (like the Tascam) seems to fit my needs best.

    If folks are interested, I'll post a report after I get the Fostex next week and have a chance to run it through its paces.

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