It’s cute and I want one! That was my reaction when I first saw the pre-release information on the Akai DPS12. There is no doubt that this little unit is a great advance in recording technology in two important ways. It is the first all-in-one hard disk recorder to be capable of twelve tracks. Also, those twelve tracks can be recorded directly onto removable media. These two points are so important that I could be tempted to remind you of them whenever I mention something bad about the DPS12. Yes there are a few niggles, but taken as a package – as we shall see – the Akai DPS12 right now is a must-have for virtually anyone in recording from bedroom amateur to seasoned pro. In addition to the recording features, the DPS12 has a 20-channel mixer of which twelve channels have physical faders and pan controls. EQ comes as standard and an effects board will be available as an optional extra later on. Another significant feature is Akai’s tremendous experience in hard disk recording systems. They always did seem to have a knack of squeezing more tracks out of a disk than almost anyone else, and they have proved again that they can go one step ahead of the competition. Let’s jump straight in and see what this little baby can do…
All that Jaz
The Akai DPS12 (in the review version) offers an internally mounted Iomega Jaz drive. This is great because for one thing you don’t have a separate drive to connect, secondly the Jaz drive takes removable 1 gigabyte cartridges which cost around £60-£70 apiece depending on how carefully you source them. Jaz cartridges come preformatted for Mac or PC but the DPS12 uses its own format, naturally enough since twelve-track recording is rather different to the word processor and graphics files that most Jaz users will want to store. Rumour has it that removable hard disk cartridges are not the most permanent form of storage in the world unless treated with great care and Akai do recommend backing up, preferably to a magneto-optical drive via the external SCSI connector. You can also record to external drives, apparently up to 14 terabytes (enough for two and a half years of stereo recording – if you can afford the disks)!
Recordings are organised on disk in the form of Projects. A Project contains audio, mixer data and locate points (the locator, by the way, is very easy to use). The manual doesn't say how may projects can be stored on a single disk but I got up to twenty before I decided that I had more than enough value for my gigabyte. A single twelve track project at 44.1kHz sampling rate would allow just over sixteen minutes of recording time. Since disk space is dynamically allocated, if not all the tracks were used for their full duration then the total start-to-end recording time could be more. If you use the virtual tracks feature, where up to 250 additional tracks can be stored on disk (but not played until allocated to a 'real’ track) as alternative takes perhaps, then you might expect the disk to fill up more quickly
Quite naturally the question arises whether the DPS12 actually can record twelve tracks reliably. In tape recorders you never have to worry about this since each track is given its own space on the tape, but in any disk recording system there is always a compromise between how many tracks can be obtained reliably and how widely the data is scattered on the disk primarily because of editing, but also due to the order in which different sections of each track are recorded. Needless to say, Akai have done their homework and I couldn’t fault the DPS12 in normal use.