Test Drive: D-160 Digital Multitrack Recorder from Fostex

Front panel

Having full control of a 16-track digital recorder from a control panel smaller than a computer keyboard is quite amazing. The large FL display takes up most of the left side of the panel and offers sixteen 11-segment level meters with overload indicators. Above these is an easy to read 16-character display that shows the current tape time (ABS, MTC, or MIDI Bar/Beat), remaining time on the drive (in hours/minutes/seconds and megabytes), and program titles. It also provides prompts for user input during most functions. Indicators on the right side of the display show which time base is selected, what sampling frequency is selected, when digital lock is obtained, when certain functions are “Completed,” and more.

Below the display are eight Record Track keys and a Shift key. The Shift key switches control of the eight Record Track keys between tracks 1-8 and tracks 9-12. Below these are three LED indicators. The Locked LED lights when the D-160 is locked in the Slave Mode function. The HD Access LED lights when the unit is writing to or reading from the hard disk. The MTC In LED lights when MIDI Time Code is detected at the MIDI IN port.

The right half of the front panel contains the transport controls (Record, Stop, Play, Rewind, F.Fwd), the large concentric Jog/Shuttle wheel, and the various editing and function keys. The Auto Play/Auto Return key toggles between the automatic rewind and playback modes and has two LEDs to indicate which mode is active. When both LEDs are lit, the Auto Repeat mode is engaged. Start and End points for this function are set with the Auto Punch/Auto Rtn Start and End keys, which obviously share duties and set the in and out points for the Auto Punch function. Clipboard In and Out keys are used to mark edit points. The Copy, Move, Paste, and Erase keys are used to perform each of those editing functions. (More on editing in a moment.) The Undo and Redo keys offer one level of undo/redo when editing or recording. The Auto Punch key activates the auto punch-in/out mode, and Rehearsal and Take LEDs indicate when the D-160 is in the Rehearsal mode (automatic monitor switching) or actually recording a take. (Manual punch-in/out is available using a foot switch that plugs into the side of the front panel.)

Use the Locate key to move the transport quickly to a desired place in a project. The Clipboard In and Out keys and the Auto Punch/Auto Rtn Start, In, Out, and End keys all store locations. When one of these keys is pressed, followed by the Locate key, the D-160 locates to the point stored in that key. The Locate key then retains that location in its memory and locates to that point whenever it is pressed again, until a different point is located to using the Locate key. In effect, there are seven memory keys on the D-160 that can be used as autolocate keys counting the six mentioned above and the Locate key. Edit/locate points are stored by pressing the Store key then pressing the key you wish to store the current time to. The time in the display can be edited by pressing the Hold/Digit Move key. This key also freezes the current time in the display when the D-160 is in Play or Record modes to enable storing edit and locate points on the fly. Just press the Hold/Digit Move key followed by the Store key, then the key you want to store the point to. Pressing the Recall key followed by any of the seven keys mentioned above retrieves that locate point and enables editing of the location in the display using the Jog/Shuttle wheel. (Actually, just pressing any of the seven keys alone puts the unit in the time edit mode, with the exception of the Locate key. Pressing it actually locates to that point. Pressing Recall first enables editing the Locate key’s stored time without actually locating to that point first.) Simultaneously pressing the Stop and Rewind keys and Stop and F.Fwd keys locates to Absolute Zero and Absolute End respectively.

At the top right of the front panel, Execute/Yes and Exit/No keys perform the functions of a computer’s Enter and Escape keys and are used for executing editing functions, accepting parameter changes in the Setup mode, and canceling/exiting functions. The Display Select key toggles the display between the current time, the remaining time on the disk, and the Setup mode. Pressing the Display Select key together with the Execute/Yes key enables setting the time base for the current project (Absolute Time, Bar/Beat/Clock, or MIDI Time Code). The Vari Pitch key (±6%) wraps up the front panel tour.

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