Test Drive: AirCorp AirCart, Korg i3, and SADiE Disk Editor

Finally, there was one other booth at NAB that warranted a glimpse by anyone looking into digital multi-track systems. While manufacturers throughout the U.S. are very busy creating better, faster, and more cost efficient multi-track hard disk systems, don't think for a minute that our European counterparts aren't doing the same. From Studio Audio and Video Ltd. in Cambridge, England comes the SADiE Disk Editor system. Ted Hayton, Sales Engineer for Studio Audio of England provided the demo on the SADiE system. Like many hard disk systems available, the SADiE system doesn't have a dedicated control panel; it is mouse driven. As Ted proceeded to display some of the various functions of the version 1.75 software, it became apparent this was a 4-track system. I said, "Ted, are there only 4-tracks?" Ted then loaded up the version 2.0, software slated to be available this month. After a few moments, version 2.0 pops up on the screen. Suddenly, there are eight tracks to play with, and a ton of added features including real time mixdown of eight tracks with metered faders into two or four channel outputs, an optional effects output, waveform editing, compatibility with CD recorders, real time digital EQ, compression and Time Stretch, automated mixing, reverse playback, 8mm support for archiving to the Exabyte format, overdub capability, sample rate conversion, pitch shifting, digital vari-speed while maintaining the sample rate on the digital output, and a couple of other nice things.

The 15 minute demo hardly provided enough time on the system to relate to you a comprehensive opinion of the SADiE system. But, as Ted led the tour of the system, it was obvious that simplicity was at the core of the design. After a while, I stopped letting Ted take me through the machine and just began ordering up various functions, expecting to wait for several seconds for each to arrive. I said, "Ted, move tracks 3 and 4 to tracks 1 and 2." It was too easy. "Ted, does this thing have Time Squeeze?" With a quick click of the mouse, Ted had selected the voice track of the commercial loaded into the system. Another click brought the Time Squeeze "fader" on the screen. Now, if you have a lot of experience with the Time Squeeze function on hard-disk based systems, you know that different systems handle this function differently, and most of them stumble through the process. Ted placed the cursor on the Time Squeeze "fader" and began moving it up and down. In real time, the voice track made the digital adjustments necessary to lengthen or shorten the track. There was no need to set the "squeeze" or "stretch" time then wait while the system rewrote the audio file. It acted as though the function was occurring in RAM rather than reading and writing to hard disk. "That's great, Ted, but can it do EQ?" Click. Here's the EQ screen. Again, select the track requiring EQ, click on the EQ control and adjust EQ - IN REAL TIME. "Ted...that's pretty good! Can it do compression?" Click. Here's the compression screen. With the ease of adjusting a compressor in an equipment rack to your side, Ted adjusted the compression on the voice track...IN REAL TIME...no waiting for the system to rewrite the audio file with new "compression information."

Not enough time was spent at the SADiE booth to satisfy this workstation junkie, but it was obvious that this hard disk based system had made some inroads into disk-based multi-tracking, especially with the new 2.0 software. A complete 1 gigabyte system, offering over an hour and a half of stereo recording at 44.1kHz can be yours for just under $10,000. Like any good system, the SADiE is expandable in many areas if you've got the bucks. The company delivers software updates free of charge up to one year after purchase, and updates can be downloaded from CompuServe. The system can be expanded to six hours and twenty minutes of stereo 44.1kHz recording. The system driving the SADiE is an Intel 486DX33 operating under DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1.

It isn't the price tag on the SADiE system that makes it attractive, and the lack of a dedicated control panel may discourage many in the broadcast field. But, the speed with which the system performed its many functions was very obvious. In fact, the SADiE system appeared to be one of the fastest hard-disk systems this test pilot has seen. The BBC Radio seems to have taken to the SADiE system with great affection. The system is also found in studios at Digital 101 in Thailand, Radio FFB and Radio Kiel in Germany, and there is a significant number of recording and post-production studios worldwide that have purchased the SADiE system. In the United States, some of these companies include E.A.R.S. in Chicago, Masterfonics in Nashville, Sterling Sound in New York, Soundelux and Lorita De La Cerna in Chicago, Panthon Studios in Arizona, and Disney Imagineering. Over 200 SADiE systems have been installed worldwide. What's the bottom line? If you're looking for a lot of punch in a disk-based multi-track system for under ten grand, give these guys a call. 

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