Test Drive: Dynamax DCR 10 Digital Recorder/Player from Fidelipac

Article Index

Playback

Insert a disk and hit the Play button…just like a cart machine. Have more than one cut on the disk? Use the Stop/Cue button or the data knob to scroll through the cuts. They cue instantly when using the Stop/Cue button. When using the data wheel, the title of the cut flashes for a couple of seconds, giving you time to decide if this is the cut you want, then the cut cues. There are three Disk Modes that control playback. Each disk can have its own mode set. Manual Mode always cues the disk to cut 1 when inserted. Cart Mode simulates multiple cuts on a cart and plays the next cut each time the disk is inserted. Info about which cut was last played is stored on the disk. Theater Mode always cues to cut 1 when inserted. When cut 1 is played, it then cues to cut 2, then cut 3, etc.. Which mode a disk is set to is always shown on the display.

The DCR 10 permits special cut rotations. Say you have a client with ten commercials on file, and he likes to run a few of them at a time in rotation. Put all ten on a Zip disk then program the specific rotation using only the cuts desired. When time comes to change the spots and rotation, all the spots are there. It’s just a matter of a few keystrokes and the new rotation information is stored to the disk. This is also helpful with programming elements that are in rotation such as sweepers or promos. Put all promos on one Zip disk and add or remove cuts in the rotation as necessary. Cut rotations are not entered in terms of percentages. You have to manually enter the rotation, i.e. to get a 75% rotation of cut 2 to cut 1, you’d have to enter 2, 2, 2, 1, 2. (The last 2 is necessary to close the rotation.)

Another nice playback feature is the DCR 10’s Kill Date Checking. Kill dates can be entered for each cut on a disk, up to the nearest hour. If a cut is cued with an expired kill date, a warning message appears and playback is prevented, but it can be overridden by pressing the Function key on the front panel.

Cut Chaining makes it possible to sequence several cuts without pauses between them. Chains can be set to stop after the sequence is played, or they can loop continuously. Endless loop carts are easy to make by setting the Loop flag on a cut, and you don’t have to worry about that tacky audio drop every time the splice comes around. This is great for party backgrounds, street ambience, concert crowds, and other sounds effects used under live reports on the air. Set accurate start and end points and loop music beds endlessly.

Other playback features include Replay Lockout, which when active prevents a cut from being played twice without the disk being ejected first. Play First and Play Last are keyboard functions that audition the first and last few seconds of a cut, up to 9.9 seconds. Press the number keys to quickly cue to cuts 1 through 10. Use the Alt key with keys 1 through 6 to quickly access cuts 11 through 16. Pressing the Time Mode button on the front panel engages a search/cue mode; rotate the data wheel to cue to audio just like with a CD player. 

Getting Deeper

There are dozens of functions available from the keyboard, and the template or a cheat sheet can be helpful. F2 accesses title editing, Shift-F2 edits the outcue field which displays a 24-character outcue when the Outcue flag is enabled. The various flags are easily set by pressing F4 to display the current flag status, then press the corresponding letter for the function you wish to set. Or use a Ctrl key combination to set a flag without pressing F4 first. Press F1 to set the kill date. Alt-T initiates a disk surface test.

F8 and Shift-F8 permit editing of the start and end points of a cut. Editing is done in 1/10th or 1/100th second increments, and all edits are non-destructive. Editing the start and end points is surprisingly fast. Press the left/right arrow keys to make 1/10th second adjustments the start/end times. The up/down arrow keys make 1/100th second adjustments. The start and end times are shown on the display, and you can quickly audition changes by pressing the Home and End keys to audition the start and end of the cut. Press Enter to accept the changes.

F3 copies the current cut. Actually, it only copies pointers to the original cut. Together with the start and end point editing and Cut Chaining functions, it is possible to do some rudimentary cut and paste editing on the DCR 10, but this is certainly not what the unit was designed for.

Summary

How will the DCR 10 work in your environment? It was obviously designed for broadcast use, and handling this Zip drive version left me with the sense that this was a very durable unit—and I’m already a firm believer in Zip disks. The person doing the recording will need less than an hour with the manual to take full advantage of the DCR 10, and the people in the on-air studio should have no problem making a switch from cart machines to DCR 10s. Most likely, a quick 60-second “here’s how it works” lesson will do the job. Fidelipac did a great job of keeping the playback operation as simple as selecting and playing cuts on a CD player. The easy to read 2-line 24-character display is informative yet not too cluttered.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the DCR 10 is the fact that the familiarity, and for many the security, of handling carts remains intact. The option to select from three drives—the 2MB, Zip, and MO—lets you configure a system to your station’s needs. If you prefer the one-cut-per-disk scheme, the 3 1/2 inch floppy disks are an attractive alternative to carts when you consider that floppies can be purchased for fifty cents each and less as compared to those four and five dollar carts. And the value of digital quality recordings is another advantage.

The ideal setup might be to have four machines in the control room, two with 3 1/2 inch drives and two with Zip drives. Single spots and promos could go to the 2MB disks, and rotating spots, promos, and IDs could go on the Zip disks. Zip disks could also hold each jock’s personal collection of drops, sound effects, beds, etc.. The MO drives would be useful if you plan to put music and/or long programs on the DCR system.

In the production room, you would obviously need one of each type of machine in use—2MB, Zip, MO. Zip disks are great places to put often used sound effects and music beds as well as movie/TV clips, listener reactions, etc.. You can get a lot of clips on a Zip with nearly an hour of stereo recording time available (up to 99 cuts).

As a system designed to replace carts, there is very little to find on the down side. It does take a Zip disk about four seconds to load once it’s inserted, and compared to a cart machine, that’s four seconds longer. I picture the fast-paced afternoon drive jock slamming a Zip in the drive, cursing every one of those four seconds. But that’s an obstacle that on-air talent would gradually adapt to. Perhaps the bigger dilemma for Fidelipac is the nationwide consolidation of stations that’s putting three, four, and sometimes more stations in one facility. How much sense does it make to multiply equipment and disk costs by three or four when the central server systems eliminate those costs in exchange for a computer on a network? There are definitely things to consider on both sides of the fence. It’s a very exciting evolution that we’re privileged to witness in our lifetimes, and it will be interesting to see where things end up in ten years from now.

The price tag on the DCR 10 is dependent upon the configuration. The base unit (less drive) costs $2,345. Add a keyboard w/template for $50 to turn it into a record deck. Add $70 for the 2MB drive, $150 for the Zip drive, and $525 for the 640MB MO drive. Add 44.1 and 48kHz sampling rates for $115. Get 44.1 and 48kHz sampling plus digital I/O for $450. If you don’t want APTX data compression, get the DCR-L option for $125. The Q50 Quick Access Keyboard, for $300, is a well built keyboard, about half the size of a PC keyboard, with 50 color coded and numbered keys for instant access to up to 50 cuts on a disk. The rack mount kit is $120. Fidelipac also sells pre-formatted disks as well as table top and wall racks for the disks.

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