Digital Multitracker Review
ã 1999 by Eddie Ciletti
|MANUFACTURER: Fostex Corporation of America; 15431
Blackburn Ave. Norwalk, CA 90650. USA vox: 562-921-1112 fax:
562-802-1964 web: http://www.fostex.com
APPLICATION: Personal Digital Multitrack Recorder/Mixer
SUMMARY: 8-tracks, two sends and two stereo returns. The DB-25
SCSI-II port supports various media. Review unit tested with SyQuest ezFlyerä
230 MB removable media.
STRENGTHS: MIDI I/O, 16 virtual tracks, digital patch bay, optical
S/PDIF port, 2 XLR mic preamps.
WEAKNESSES: Scrub wheel still needs to be smoother. Manual could
be more concise.
LIST PRICE: $ 899.00 without drive (internal 2.5 IDE drive optional
- factory installed)
The Syquest ezFlyerä drive available
for $149.95 through the dealer with one cartridge ($30). 10 cartridges
In the summer of 1998 I reviewed the Fostex FD-4 Multitracker and was
honestly surprised. Why? Because it is so superior to any analog cassette-based
"personal multitrack." The FD-8 is just that much better. Instead of two
"virtual" tracks for non-destructive bouncing, the FD-8 has 16 tracks.
This means you can audition bounces before blowing away the individual
tracks and, worst case, all raw tracks can be backed up to DAT or...
Both the FD-4 and the FD-8 include a DB-25 connector for an external
SCSI drive (your choice) as well as an internal IDE port for a 2.5-inch
laptop-style drive. Last time, I used the Syquest ezFlyerä
230 MB removable drive. This time I requested a 2 gig IDE drive which,
as an authorized service center, I was able to install. (It is an option
that I believe should be standard though it would obviously raise the price.)
No matter whether you are a weekend warrior or a full-time pro, you'll
like the idea that the FD-8 can be self-contained, hanging a drive off
the back makes it a bit less portable (for tour buss or hotel use), but
very useful for archiving and normal recording.
The FD-8 has three recording modes: Normal Mode (A.D.A.C.), Mastering
Mode (16-bit) and Backup Mode. ("A.D.A.C. " stands for Adaptive Digital
Acoustic Coding, a data compression algorithm developed by Matsushita and
Fostex.) Normal mode is the most forgiving of removable drives, which are
slower than "fixed" hard drives. Therefore, to avoid data compression,
use a fixed drive. (On the FD-4. I used the 32kHz sample-rate with compression
and survived!) Backup mode does not care how fast the drives are. You can
use Iomega's Zipä (17min), Syquest's ezFlyerä
(42min) any SCSI hard drive, plus a Magneto-Optical (MO) drive. (Recording
time based on 44.1kkHz sample rates.)
The manual is very thorough — perhaps too much so — because it tends
to be redundant in a way that is more confusing than helpful. First the
step-by-step procedure is provided as an overview without detail, then
the detail is added when it should have been integrated. In short, the
FD-8 is easier to use than the manual suggests! If I could add one feature,
it would be a "speaker" so that the FD-8 could communicate with the user,
beeping after completing a task, for example. (The speaker could also be
used with the built-in metronome.) Once familiar with the FD-8, I would
often press buttons before the machine was ready.
MERCEDES BENZ: HOW I DROVE IT HOME
I'd been singing an a capella version of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz"
for fun and had even offered a very rough version as an outgoing answering
machine message. This time, I had plenty of tracks to make a fool of myself.
Fortunately, the FD-8 has plenty of tools to help me choose the best performance.
I started with a Wurlitzer electric piano and voice to get the feel and
lay down a basic road map. . (Later I learned that the FD-8 has a built-in
metronome.) Then I set about recording five tracks of lead vocal, using
a Sennheiser MD-421 dynamic mic.
Click here to listen
to Mercedes Benz
The most important button on the FD-8 is STORE because it captures a
location point, which can then be entered into five possible locations:
START, Punch-IN, Punch-OUT, END, Clipboard-IN and Clipboard-OUT. There
is even an adjustable pre-roll. I used the clipboard to copy the best vocal
attempts and paste them into a composite on track 3. (See Table
One for the step-by-step.) I chose this method to keep the vocal
in the digital domain. I could have brought all of the vocals up on faders,
which occasionally did happen when an accidental double occurred. (Like
the ones you could never do on purpose!)