Test Drive: The Otari RADAR Random Access Digital Audio Recorder

The Preferences Menu selection from the Main Menu is used to select the default position of the cursor when an editable time is displayed. The choices are frames and seconds. The Low Disk Warning function warns you when you are about to run out of disk space or recording time. The default value is 5 minutes of recording time left.

The Diagnostics Menu from the Main Menu provides a variety of programs for checking the RADAR, the SCSI bus, the SCSI devices, and the displays. Programs include Initialize Disk, Repair Disk, Check Disk, Show Free RAM, and more, including Otari's version of the popular Tetris game and a pong game that the manual suggests you play from time to time in order to check for proper functioning of the LEDs in the large level meter display on the RADAR. (Personally, I think these games are here for a more important reason!)

Finally, there is the Edit Menu selection from the Main Menu. From this menu you get Undo/Redo, Modify Edit, Cut, Copy, Paste, Move, Erase, Loop, Slide, Listen, Record Safe, and Crossfade Time. Each of these functions has a dedicated key on the RE-8 with the exception of Crossfade Time. The default crossfade time for edits is 5 milliseconds and is adjustable from this menu choice from 0 to 100 milliseconds.

As mentioned, the panel of the RE-8 contains a set of arrow keys, both up/down and left/right, used for data entry and cursor movement. When the left and right arrow keys are pressed simultaneously, the display shows the remaining recording time left on each of the three drives. In a 24-track configuration, there are three 1-gigabyte drives for each eight tracks. If you record to track 5, you're recording on Drive A. If you record to track 13, you record to Drive B, and so on.

Below the arrow keys are the Jog and Shuttle buttons which are next to the data or "scrub" wheel. Pressing Jog engages the RADAR's scrub function. Slow turns of the wheel enable precise cuing. Spinning the wheel rapidly brings playback to normal speed in either direction. The scrub on the RADAR is as good as any scrub I've used on a disk-based system. The Shuttle function is like the Jog except that the audio plays back continuously after you stop turning the wheel. The faster the wheel is turned, the faster the audio plays back, up to normal speed in either direction.

There is a group of ten buttons at the top right of the RE-8. The Undo button performs one level of undo. Pressing the button again, "re-does" the last action. The Digital I/O button takes you immediately to the digital I/O selection display without having to use the MENU/PREV button. This saves three keystrokes. The Shift button is used with other buttons to enable multiple functions from single buttons. The Backup/Project button is one of these multi-function keys. Without the Shift key, pressing Project quickly lets you select a project to load. Pressing Shift with this key accesses the unit's backup feature. The Vari-Speed key activates the RADAR's great sounding vari-speed. The percentage of vari-speed differs depending upon the sampling frequency in use. At 32kHz sampling, vari-speed ranges from plus 54% to minus 25%. At 48kHz sampling, the range is from plus 2.8% to minus 50%. At 44.1kHz, plus 11.9% to minus 45%.

The Cancel key works much like a computer's ESCape key, backing you up to the previous state without performing the selected function. The Mark Locate key is a quick way to mark locate points. Each press stores the current "tape time" to the next available locate point. This can be done while the transport is in any mode including record, shuttle, rewind and fast-forward. The Edit Locate button lets you fine-tune a locate point and even assign a 9-character name to it. As playback occurs and these locate points are crossed, the display shows the most recently passed locate number and its name, if any. (During recording and playback, the LCD display continuously displays current time on the top line and the current locate point and name, if any, on the bottom line.)

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