Test Drive: D-160 Digital Multitrack Recorder from Fostex

Recording/Playback

One of the biggest advantages of the D-160 over its earlier cousin, the D-80 [January 1997 RAP Test Drive], is that the number of projects that could be stored on the drive was increased. The D-80 can only contain a maximum of five separate projects on the drive, although there might be plenty of disk space available. The D-160 can store 99 projects or programs, as they are referred to. Of course, whether 99 programs will fit on the drive depends on how long your average program is, but 99 is more than enough for the average radio production environment. If you have that many projects going, you’re too busy!

Starting a new program is a matter of entering the Program Change mode and scrolling past current programs to get to the “New Program?” prompt. Press the Execute/Yes key to continue. The D-160 then enters the Setup mode ready to accept the default name, “PGM12” e.g., or you can give the program a name up to sixteen characters long. When through, press the Exit/No key to exit the Setup mode and begin recording. Or, you may want to scroll through the other options in the Setup mode, since they might apply to your new program. Some available parameters include the sampling rate (44.1kHz or 48kHz), pre-roll time, and which tracks to send the digital input to, such as from a CD or DAT. (Musicians can also set time signatures and tempos, set the metronome on or off, and more.) Many parameters are saved with each program individually.

Once you’ve exited the Setup mode, you’re ready to record. Press the desired Record Track key(s). Flashing indicators on the display show which tracks are in the record ready mode. Press the Record key to enter input monitoring mode and set levels. Press Play and Record together to begin recording. When done, press Stop. The unit takes a second or two to complete the recording process and is again ready to record the next segment of your project. All sixteen level meters are always visible, so a glance at the display gives you an idea of what tracks your audio is on.

The sixteen tracks of the D-160 came in very handy for several projects. I found myself using ten tracks often, and twelve tracks a couple of times, and I’m sure if I had the unit long enough, some client would have requested a donut jingle with twenty scripts. In that case, even sixteen tracks wouldn’t be enough. But have no fear; the D-160 can handle it with its eight additional virtual tracks. Yes, although the D-160 doesn’t try to emulate a digital workstation, it has several of the features associated with those machines. The virtual tracks, tracks 17-24, cannot be mixed with the sixteen upon playback. Basically, they are storage tracks. Audio recorded to one of the sixteen tracks can be moved to one of these extra tracks, thus freeing up the original track. This Track Exchange, as it’s called, is done in the Setup mode where any single track from 1-16 can be swapped with one of tracks 17-24, or eight tracks can be swapped all at once (1-8 or 9-16 with 17-24). In this era of producing for multiple stations, these extra tracks could be handy.

Playback on the D-160 is as straightforward as you’d expect using the transport controls to move about a program. You can’t hear audio in the Rewind and F.Fwd modes unless you press Play first. Then, the unit skips through the audio, but at least you get an idea of where you are. I found myself looking at the time display to determine where Rewind and F.Fwd had taken me. The Jog/Shuttle wheel allows fast-forward and rewind with control of the speed, and I found this to be the better way of moving about a thirty or sixty-second project.

Loading programs is a quick process taking only a few seconds. To select a new program, enter the Program Change mode by pressing the Hold/Digit Move and Store buttons simultaneously. Scroll through the available programs, then press Execute/Yes, and the program loads quickly. Deleting programs is done from the Setup menu. Other useful functions in the Setup menu include the Rec. Protect function, which lets you prevent recording and editing to a program. This very nice feature protects projects from destructive accidents by forcing you to enter the Setup mode to turn the Rec. Protect function off. This setting is stored on the disk with each individual program.

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