As we mentioned earlier, a set of buttons just above the "transport" controls are used to mark the Start/Stop points of Edits and/or Inserts, Deletes, and Erasures. The In/Out Play key plays what you've marked, just in case the phone rings, or a momentary lapse of confidence sets in. An Autopunch button uses the same In/Out markers, as does the continuous, and seamless Repeat function.

We made a copy on the same track by marking the In and Out edit points and toggling the Edit button to Copy. Simple. Copy to another track? Just enable the record on the track you're going to and punch in the address. We could move edits in the same way. Copy and Insert, or Move and Insert manages the audio after your edit as if you spliced in more tape and simply made your program a little longer.

And of course, pressing play means instant audio.

The newest version of the DR4d (3.0) will merge tracks internally as well, including "phantom track" merges of all four tracks into one! Track levels during this procedure are adjusted with the shuttle wheel.

The total amount of recording time available is dependent on the amount of disk space you buy and which of the three sampling frequencies (32, 44.1, 48) you choose to work with (the higher the sampling rate, the higher the quality, the more storage space is needed). Digital material sent to the unit from a source with SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) is recorded without the SCMS signal.

The DR4d we tested came with Akai's 200 megabyte internal hard disk, giving a track time of 36 minutes, 57 seconds at 48kHz. [Compute track time by adding ALL recorded material on ALL four tracks together.] Adding disk drives will increase the total time available, up to 24 track-hours. Standard SCSI disk drives available anywhere will work, as manufacturers like Akai have realized the consumer's need to shop around and to not be locked in to buying specially designed gear. This also frees the manufacturer from research and development costs which, theoretically, are passed on to us in lower overall cost.

Up to four DR4ds can be linked together with cables purchased from Akai, giving a total of 16 tracks that lock up without additional cards.

Like the big dogs, the DR4d will back up all four tracks to DAT using the digital in/outs. Backup to an external optical disk is possible as well but requires the purchase of a SCSI card (about $200).

This unit's specs are nice and clean 18 bit filters, in and out; channel crosstalk more than 96 dB.

On a one to ten scale of bang for the buck, the DR4d is a nine. Why not a 10? The Store/Enter button is used for just about everything, yet it's the same size as the keypad buttons and a little small for such a major button, although Akai has placed it in the lower right hand corner of the front panel without a button above it. Also, there is no "global" control for locate points. Once you change the position of your audio in reference to absolute time, locate points are no longer "in sync" with your recorded material. (Hey, what do you want? "10" is very difficult to reach!)

Which brings us to bucks. The Akai DR4d without a disk drive lists for $1995.00. With a 200 megabyte drive, it's $2495.00 list. Street prices are obviously less and you could probably find a disk drive cheaper, provided you don't mind installing it yourself. A remote control is available at a steep $849.00.

If you want to move into the digital age without spending a lot more on a recording platform, this is a nice box. No, it's not a "workstation," but for the price of one of them, you can outfit four studios with eight tracks each, and that's a great alternative.

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