Hard drive or magneto optical (M-O) drive: This is the external drive to which you write your data, or sound. Unlike most other digital recording manufacturers, you can use any hard drive that has access time faster than 28 milliseconds. Thus, there are dozens of options in hard-drives. One of the leading suppliers for this application is Eltekon Technologies. Their rack-mounted hard-drives are fast, reliable, quiet and favorably priced. Eltekon has long been at work on a magneto-optical drive for the Sound Tools/DDR-10 systems. In fact, they are now back ordered on MX2D M-O drives. The advantages are considerable because you write to an erasable, replaceable cartridge. Load time of an hour's worth of stereo material (600 meg) takes about seven seconds instead of an hour. The cost should be only about twenty-five percent greater than a hard drive. Since you currently cannot store the names of each soundfile on DAT, magneto optical drives offer another advantage.

One more piece of advice on hard drives: Get the largest that you can afford. Six hundred meg or one gigabyte drives reduce the need to unload and load data so often, thereby saving you valuable time. The DDR-10 comes standard with a 345 meg hard drive. The upgrade is strongly recommended.

Pro I/O: This is where analog-to-digital conversion (using 64 times oversampling) and digital-to-analog conversion (8 times oversampling) take place. The sonic quality is brought to world-class standards by its Apogee filters which are used only in the most rigorous digital recording systems. The DDR-10 supports four sampling rates: 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 44.056 kHz, and 32 kHz. The Pro I/O is also where you bring analog audio in and out of the system using traditional +4dBm active balanced I/O's with three pin XLR connectors.

DAT I/O: This is used to back-up data digitally to a DAT. When your hard disk or magneto optical disk is full, you can dump the data via an AES/EBU or SPDIF port directly to the DAT. Since this is data transfer, it bypasses the A/D and D/A converters in the DAT, which are of much lower quality. When you play back the DAT, it sounds virtually identical to the sound quality on the DDR-10. The drawback to DAT back-up is that it loads and unloads in real time. To off-load an hour of data takes a full hour. Could this be the beginning of a lunch break in radio production?

Controller: The last major component of the system is the large, dedicated control panel of the DDR-10. This is where Sound Tools ends and the Otari DDR-10 begins. The controller eliminates a great deal of the "mouse" work necessary to run the program by combining various key strokes and cursor movements into the push of a button (macros). The result is a more "broadcast oriented" approach to the Sound Tools system.

This dedicated controller is dazzling with a ninety-nine point autolocator, current and event time with SMPTE frame display in an LED format, full transport functions, fifteen dedicated or assignable function buttons, and a metal, sample-accurate scrub wheel. A Top Of File button performs instantaneous rewind to the beginning of a sound file similar to the common Return To Zero functions of analog recorders. An Input/Repro button selects whether the DDR-10 monitors the source or a recording on the disk. In and Out buttons select "regions" of a soundfile to be cut, copied, pasted, replaced, or stored for future editing. The Scrub/Scroll and Jog/Shuttle buttons define the operating modes of the data wheel which lets you "rock" the audio just as you would with an analog reel-to-reel deck. Three Mode Select buttons enable easy switching to the three most used functions of the Sound Tools program.

While many of the DDR-10's functions are controlled by buttons on the control panel, there is still a notable amount of "mouse work" to be done when moving through the different screens. However, there is no mouse to use. Instead, the control panel of the DDR-10 offers an "Un-Mouse" which is a stationary, touch-sensitive panel. Simply touching this panel and moving your finger in any direction will move the cursor on the screen in the same direction. The Un-Mouse performs the same functions as a mouse but takes up less room to operate.