Test Drive: The Otari RADAR Random Access Digital Audio Recorder

Below the track arming buttons is a standard QWERTY keyboard minus the numeric keys and a few punctuation keys. This is used mainly for naming projects and locate points. The keys also perform "quick searches" through menu choices in the LCD display located at the top center of the RE-8. This is just a 2-line 16-character display, but the characters are quite large compared to most LCD displays. This makes reading the display from a distance very easy. And the fact that only a minimal amount of information can be displayed at one time forces the display to provide simple and concise screens.

Below the LCD display is a numeric keypad used for entering numbers in the display. The 1 through 9 keys also cue to whatever locate point is stored in that respective number's location, and a press of the 0 key provides a "return to zero" function. Within this group of keys are four more function buttons. The Enter Time button allows locating by entering a specific time using the numeric keypad, arrow buttons, or the scrub wheel. The Enter button performs the locate and executes other functions. The Recall Locate button accesses the RADAR's 99 locate points. To go to locate point number 5, simply press the 5 key, or press the Recall Locate button then use the up/down arrows or the numeric keypad to select the locate number followed by a press of the Enter key.

This group of keys also includes the MENU/PREV key which accesses the RADAR's extensive menu of functions. While stepping through the various menu choices, if you select one by mistake, the MENU/PREV key back-steps to the previous screen. There are six main menu choices, each with a sub-menu (with the exception of the last choice, Shut Down RADAR). There are four choices under the System Menu. System Version retrieves the current operating system version number. Upgrade System uploads new system software from the 3.5-inch floppy. Configure Disks sets up the combination of internal and external drives. And Digital I/O accesses the RADAR's S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital inputs and outputs. There are two digital ins and two outs. To record a music track from CD to tracks 1 and 2 using the CD's digital output, select Digital I/O from the System Menu and press Enter. The display then offers four fields for data entry: left channel digital in and out, and right channel digital in and out. Use the numeric keypad, data wheel, or up/down arrows to select tracks 1 and 2 for recording digitally -- 1 for left channel, 2 for right. The output defaults to the selected input channels, but you have the option to send the output to whatever channel you desire. Once channel assignment is done, press Enter again to select which digital format you are using.

The next Main Menu selection is the Project Menu. The RADAR can store up to 99 projects including all audio, edits, and locate points. A large red LED display to the right of the LCD display shows the current active project. Included in the Project Menu is the Backup function. The optional EXB-5G tape backup system utilizes the Exabyte 8505 drive to backup the entire contents of the system's drives or individual projects to 8mm tape.

The Goto Project function is self explanatory. Press Enter and use the data wheel, numeric keys, or the up/down arrows to select the project to load. The top line of the display shows the project number and the date it was last updated. The bottom line of the display shows the project's name (up to 16 characters). Press Enter to select the project. Since this is a disk-based system, you don't have to wait for the system to load the audio into RAM. Projects are ready to work on within a second or two of pressing Enter. The Create Project menu choice is where you start a new project. The system automatically numbers it with the next available number (between 1 and 99), and you are given the option of naming it, though you don't have to. Use the Name Project function to name untitled projects or rename projects. The Copy Project function copies an entire project to another project location but doesn't use additional disk space. The Delete Project function erases the project's playlist information and locate points, but the audio is not erased. This is because multiple projects can use the same audio, and you wouldn't want to destroy audio being shared by other projects. To free up disk space for future recording, use the Reclaim Space function. This function checks all the projects to see if audio is being used on another project before reallocating drive space. Other functions in the Project Menu include the Sync Offset used when syncing to external devices. The Renumber Locates function renumbers locate points in time-code order. The Sample Rate function selects the sampling rate for the current project. Choices are 32kHz, 44.056kHz, 44.1kHz, 47.952kHz, and 48kHz. Finally, the Erase All Disks function does just that, and returns to you a fresh system.

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