The Akai DR16 manages to record and play sixteen tracks from one hard disk,
and this is no mean achievement. This level of performance demands a fast hard
disk, and an awareness that if you edit a recording really intensively using
a lot of very short segments, then tracks may be dropped on playback. This is
something which is inherent to all hard disk systems and if you really push
the DR16 hard you will get muting. Although there are activity lights for each
track which go out if a track is muted, I would have liked alarm bells and flashing
beacons, because it’s easy to miss a problem like this during the mix,
and then become aware of it some time later when nothing can be done about it.
In normal use, and even quite extreme degrees of editing, all will be OK. Akai
mention one limitation concerning how many tracks you can record and play at
the same time. The DR16 has 32 ‘voices’ and so can record or play
a maximum of 32 tracks at a time. Although this would seem to be more than enough,
edits are performed using quick real time crossfades, which take up two voices
while they are being performed. Also, to make instant drop in available, the
DR16 continues to ‘play’ each track inaudibly in the background while
recording on that track using another part of the disk. This means that three
voices could be in use for each track, which at some point in theory could exceed
the 32 voice limit. In practice, the number of calls on this subject that Akai
UK have received about the DD1500 workstation, which uses the same voice architecture
and has been in use in top pro circles for around 18 months now, is zero!
I had absolutely no quibbles with the sound quality. Bat eared users may wonder
whether there is a difference between outputs 13-16 which have 20 bit convertors
and outputs 1-12 which are ‘only’ 18, but I’ll be damned if I
can hear it. These last four outputs can also be used for the mixed stereo output
and auxiliary sends, hence the difference.
In conclusion, the DR16 is very slick and professional in operation, and it
sounds great. With hard disk recorders like this available, and truly practical
removable hard disk storage on the point of becoming a reality, I’m starting
to wonder whether cassette based modular digital multitracks have much of a
future. A point for discussion perhaps?
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