The AKG DSE-7000 - "A Digital Workstation Just For Us!"

With many of the inexpensive hard disk systems, program functions are selected by moving a cursor, usually with a mouse, to a place on the screen and then "clicking" that function. If you've ever used a mouse system on a computer, you know it can be awkward moving that tiny arrow around, trying to put it in a little spot on the screen and then "clicking" a button. It's awkward compared to just hitting a button somewhere that says "PLAY." This is where the control panel of the DSE-7000 shines. On it are buttons for the various functions of the program. If you want to enable a track for recording, you don't have to waste precious time moving mice around the room, trying to stick their minuscule noses into little squares on the screen so you can perform the long awaited "click." The control panel lets you just hit a button labeled "READY." The necessary commands are then sent to the computer to enable that track for recording. The majority of the most used commands are placed on this control panel. Here is where you find the record, play, rewind, and fast forward buttons. There are PLAY and ENABLE buttons for each track along with auto-locator buttons. There are buttons to mark your edit points and buttons that do things you could never do with an analog tape machine. Also on the control panel is a "scrub wheel" just like those found on some CD players. This wheel lets you "rock the reels" to find edit points with the precision you would expect from a digital editor.

There are eight faders on the control panel. These faders control the output level of each of the eight tracks. What are they doing on the control panel? Unlike a typical 8-track tape recorder that has eight individual outputs that you would send to a console, the DSE-7000 has only two outputs (aside from two effects sends) to send to a console. You guessed it; the mix is done within the DSE-7000. Pans and levels are set with the control panel and a "mixer" screen, and a stereo mix is sent to the two outputs.

Glance at the picture on this page. The monitor is displaying the "editor screen." This is where most of your work occurs. There aren't pages and pages of screens to scroll through to get a spot cut. The horizontal lines across the top half of the screen are the eight tracks. As you record, the amplitude waveform of the audio gets written across the screen on its respective track or tracks. It is quite easy to see every element of your production. All editing is done on this screen. The bottom half of this screen has level indicators for inputs and outputs as well as a "fuel gauge" which indicates the amount of free memory, or recording time, available. This is also where you select the various editing functions such as CUT, ERASE, COPY, LOOP, and more; and this is the only time the DSE-7000 resembles a computer program. Cursor keys on the control panel are used to move through choices on the screen. When a choice is highlighted, the EXEcute button on the control panel acts as the ENTER key of a computer.

The other screen worth discussing is the MIXER screen. When you begin a production, you actually set up an on-screen mixer just as you would a regular console. Using the buttons and sliders on the control panel, pans are set for each channel as well as levels and pans for the effects sends, which are selectable between pre and post fader. Once this mixer has been set up, it can be saved to hard disk for later retrieval. If you have a particular setup for promos, for instance, you can save that mixer setup as your "promo mixer" or whatever. If you occasionally do mono production, you can set up the console that way and save it as "mono mixer." Saving and retrieving different setups eliminates having to set the mixer before each production.

Enough description of the machine. Let's talk about what it can do. Editing is, by far, the most impressive aspect of the DSE-7000. Let's say your morning jock runs into the studio with a reel containing the latest cash winner. Thread the reel up, set a level, enable track one on the DSE-7000 (with the push of one button), hit RECORD and PLAY on the DSE, and roll the tape. As the audio gets shoved into RAM, its waveform scrolls across the screen. You listen to the winner and get an idea of where you're going to edit. You get to the end of the winner's track. You hit STOP on the DSE, then hit LAST RECord. Instantly, you're at the beginning of the voice track. You press PLAY for that track and begin listening. There's an edit point! You stop and back up using the scrub wheel, hit SOURCE IN on the control panel, and roll the track again. There's your other edit point! You stop, cue to it, and press SOURCE OUT. Assuming you have already set the edit function to CUT using the cursor keys, you simply hit EXEcute and the edit is made instantly. Pressing REWIND you hear the audio "rewind" with the exact rewinding sound you get from a tape machine. You hit PLAY and listen to your edit. You don't like it. You press UNDO and the original track is back, instantly. You mark two new edit points and hit EXEcute again. Perfect! At the end of the track, the listener says, "I can't believe it," and you'd like him to say that three times in a row before he continues. You mark SOURCE IN at the word "I," then SOURCE OUT after "it." You select the LOOP IN function and hit EXEcute. The eight PLAY buttons above the faders start blinking rapidly, asking you to select the number of times, from one to eight, that you want the marked audio to repeat. If you want three repeats, you hit PLAY button number two, then hit EXEcute. You rewind and playback. The listener says, "I can't believe it," followed by two repeats of the same for a total of three. What would have taken probably five minutes on tape is done in less than thirty seconds, and the edits and loops are perfect! If they're not, just hit UNDO and try again.

How about some music? It just so happens you have stored on the hard disk a bed called "cash winner bed." You select the LIBRARY function and hit EXEcute. A list of beds, jingles, sound effects, and whatever else you've stored to hard disk appears. You use the cursor keys to highlight the bed and hit EXEcute. In less time than it would take to actually lay down the bed, it is loaded into RAM and ready to move to wherever in the promo you want it. Do you want the music to end right when the listener says, "I love this station!"? Cue up to the end of the word "station" and hit DESTination OUT. With a couple more button pushes the music bed moves instantly to exactly where you want it. Back-timing was never so simple, nor so perfect on the first try! Is the music bed too long? Mark a couple of edit points on the music tracks and cut the bed down to size while leaving the voice track untouched. Try that on 8-track analog tape! Impossible! How simple is it to edit a bed? Hit SHIFT then PLAY. The music plays back at half speed. Hold your finger over the SOURCE IN button. On the beat, while the "tape" is rolling, mark the first edit point. Let however much time you need to edit out elapse. At the appropriate time, on the beat, hit SOURCE OUT. Stop the machine, hit EXEcute and the cut is made. You've made "grease pencil" marks on the beats while the "tape" was rolling! Try that on your old tape machine!

Suppose your GM was kind enough to buy this machine for you. (Altogether now... "Yea, right.") And let's say you're still new to the DSE-7000 and have forgotten how to perform a particular function, but, alas, the manual has vanished. Hit HELP and context sensitive help screens appear, helping you through whatever task is at hand. Manual? Who needs it?!

Don't think eight tracks are enough? The DSE-7000 can mix down to its own tracks, even to tracks in use! It reads before it writes. That means you can fill eight tracks then mix them down to any two of them. Now, erase the other six tracks with a few simple moves. Bingo! There are six more tracks. Remember now, that this bouncing is being done in the digital domain. There is no loss of quality. In this respect, you have unlimited tracks!

Afraid of working in RAM where a power failure can completely erase your hard work? No problem. The DSE-7000 "shadows" your work as you work. While you're not actually using the machine, while you're looking at the screen or digging up a sound effect, the DSE saves your work to the hard disk. In the event of a power failure, you only need to load your work back into memory then you can continue where you left off before the power failure.

Want to look up a sound effect using your IBM based computer catalogue? No problem. Most IBM based software will run on this machine, and you can leave the DSE's program and come back to it without disturbing the work you have in memory. DOS programs such as word processors, etc. use memory in an area different from where the audio is being stored. The 3½-inch floppy disk drive on the DSE can be used to upload such programs then save them to the hard disk. You can also use the floppy drive to save a sound you've created, then send it over a modem on another computer to someone else across the country with a DSE of their own. The more we think about it, we can't see any reason why you couldn't install a modem in the DSE's computer and send the file directly from the DSE itself! As upgrades of the DSE's software become available, you'll also use this floppy drive to copy the new program into the DSE.

Want to make some notes about a particular production, like what sound effects you used, the track and index numbers for the CD music bed, or notes to the person who is going to finish a production? Use the NOTEPAD function and attach notes to any production, then store those notes with the tracks themselves.

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By Ty Ford

It was October of 1990. I'd been writing reviews for Radio World since 1987. AKG had a what? A workstation? Sure, send it. The first one arrived with a dead power supply in the PC tower. I soon met messrs. Pierce, Blesser and Steadman over the phone.

The entire tower was replaced overnight. A long cable was needed so the tower could be shoved into a closet like a red-headed stepchild because it was noisy!

I had been doing radio production for twenty years, primarily with mono and stereo reel to reel and cart machines. You know the drill; fingers, knees and elbows to hit the play buttons while you performed copy at the same time. Because Pierce, Blesser and Steadman had done their homework, it took moments for me to figure out how to use the DSE 7000. The scrub wheel let you rock the audio just like rocking analog tape reels; and dead nuts accurately.

The DSE 7000 list price was $46,500 by then. Very expensive for radio broadcasting GMs to get their heads (much less...

By Ty Ford

It was October of 1990. I'd been writing reviews for Radio World since 1987. AKG had a what? A workstation? Sure, send it. The first one arrived with a dead power supply in the PC tower. I soon met messrs. Pierce, Blesser and Steadman over the phone.

The entire tower was replaced overnight. A long cable was needed so the tower could be shoved into a closet like a red-headed stepchild because it was noisy!

I had been doing radio production for twenty years, primarily with mono and stereo reel to reel and cart machines. You know the drill; fingers, knees and elbows to hit the play buttons while you performed copy at the same time. Because Pierce, Blesser and Steadman had done their homework, it took moments for me to figure out how to use the DSE 7000. The scrub wheel let you rock the audio just like rocking analog tape reels; and dead nuts accurately.

The DSE 7000 list price was $46,500 by then. Very expensive for radio broadcasting GMs to get their heads (much less budgets) around. After two months at my studio, I joined the team, bought one and never looked back.

Somewhere in my memorabilia, I'm sure I have a paper copy of my review in Radio World. I was asked for a quote for AKG marketing. It ended up on the back of a DSE 7000 T-shirt that was given away at the next NAB Convention. I have one of those T-shirts in a cedar chest. I said something like, "To me it's another day in the studio. To my clients, it's a magic carpet ride."

I remember being called in several times to local stations by AKG to do a demo on a loaner. WPGC AM/FM was one such occasion. They are in Washington DC. I knew their CE who also wrote for Radio World. I told him the DSE 7000 was a game changer. It took 3-4 days for me to arrange to meet with the Production Director at WPGC. By then, he had already figured most of it out and was stunned by its abilities.

When I left radio in 1986, the DSE 7000 allowed me to attract clients because of the speed of the workflow and facility with which you could edit. I remember one session in which audio was brought in on reel to reel for me to edit and mix. I'm loading in the audio and part of me is freaking out because I hear this hissing noise. WTF is THAT!! Oh, its tape hiss. My God, I'd forgotten all about tape hiss by then.

The DSE forced one other technical change. I had been using a Sennheiser 421. The CRT of the DSE 7000 blew a ring of EMI noise straight out like a smoke ring. The 421, being a dynamic mic with a coil attached to a diaphragm picked the noise up very well. Gotham Audio had just lost the Neumann account, found Gefell in East Germany and began to import them into the USA. I replaced the 421 (still have a nice pair of them) with a Gefell M71 cardioid condenser mic and a Symetrix 528.

I got the Mattress Discounters account and was producing a TV VO track and multiple radio spots with edits for Boston, NJ, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond and San Jose. Each spot had to be customized with a tag for each market. No problem. After I edited and mixed each version, I rolled the dubs off onto two Revox PR77 mk ii and FedExed a package of dubs to each market. At its peak, my Mattress Discounters account was worth $30,000 a year.

Hammerjacks, a major local R&R bar and concert venue was in every week to do at least two concert spots, each with 5-6 upcuts. We needed to time compress the voice guy because they always had too much copy. By then I also had (and still have) an Eventide H3000 with full sampler card. I'd record his voice to the DSE 7000, edit out the breaths and send it to the H3000 sampler card where we could typically get 10-13% compression before things started to sound wonky. Then I'd dump that back to the DSE 7000 and add music drops and mix. My mix chain included an Aphex Compellor followed by an Aphex Studio Dominator. BANG!

I remember calling my Hammerjacks guy and telling him that his studio rate just went up 50%. Naturally, he was shocked! Then I told him that because of the DSE 7000, he would not be spending a penny more than he had been spending because I could work so much faster. I also told him that he no longer needed to hang around while I recorded him over music drops to tape, so he'd only be here for maybe an hour instead of 3-4 hours. Naturally, he was delighted. I'm still working some with him today.

The DSE 7000 continued to allow me to make a living until about 2000. By then it had become the Orban Audicy. There was a new controller (console) more tracks and more features. It was, however, being pushed into retirement by Pro Tools and other software. I sold mine to a nice guy whose name escapes me; Mike, I think. He was out of somewhere near the Great Lakes. Maybe he will read this and reach out. Sorry for the bad memory. He was doing VO work from his home and had used a DSE 7000. He didn't want anything else. Not even a Fostex Foundation 2000 that had come out in 1993. I saw it at NAB. It was good but it still wasn’t a DSE 7000.

Mike met me in a mall parking lot in Harrisburg, PA and we did the transaction. Loading the tower and controller from my trunk to his felt a little like a dope deal going down. If there's a Hall Of Fame for radio production gear, the DSE 7000 deserves to be there.

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Comment was last edited about 5 years ago by Jerry Vigil Ty Ford
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Ty dug up his review of the DSE7000 from 1990! Here are links to the two pages from Radio World:
https://rapmag.com/files/archives/2015/dec/TyFordDSE70001.jpeg

https://rapmag.com/files/archives/2015/dec/TyFordDSE70002.jpeg

Jerry Vigil
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