Adventures In Audio
DAR Sabre Hard Disk Workstation (part 2)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday January 1, 2004
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Optical drive

DAR use the latest technology of 5.25 inch optical drives - not the commonly
seen Sony which is too slow. (Note that some of DAR’s early promotional
photos show Sony drives, which obviously were tested during the development
phase). DAR’s drive holds a total of 650 megabytes on both sides (although
the current state of the art still only provides for single sided recording
and playback). This drive is said to be ‘significantly’ faster than
the Sony and allows playback of eight channels simultaneously. Other systems
achieve similar performance by using a hard disk buffer but the data comes off
Sabre’s optical disk straight into a RAM buffer and is played out from
there. Recording performance is six channels which, if you are aware of the
limitations of optical disks, you will realise is pretty good going.


Disk based recording has obvious advantages over digital tape, and optical
disks have certain advantages over magnetic hard disks. The performance of the
optical disk has reached the point at which it is acceptable as an operational
medium rather than just as a backup medium. Perhaps not optimal but at least
acceptable, coming out of the situation of being too slow to having adequate
speed for eight channel playback and adequate storage. DAR do recognise that
you have to be selective about which projects you can do on a Sabre; components
of projects, or perhaps dialogue editing because having almost two hours of
audio on-line is usually adequate for a reel of film (two hours of single channel
equates to one of stereo, thirty minutes of four channel or fifteen minutes
of eight channel. Silent passages take up no storage space). Sabre would also
be ideal for commercials, where duration would not be a limiting factor.

Speed

I remember commenting during a demonstration of SoundStation II a couple of
years ago that it would be really nice if the graphics could run absolutely
in sync with the audio rather than trailing a little bit behind. I was told
that the difficulty was in putting all the data through one processor and that
the audio obviously had to take priority. “Couldn’t you run two processors
in sync?”, I innocently asked. Of course, DAR were not at this stage going
to reveal their plans, but now we have exactly this. In Sabre, the graphics
engine is completely separate to the processor that deals with audio. The scrolling
display is spot on in sync and I think this is a great advantage. DAR have a
very good jog wheel, both on SoundStation and Sabre, which doesn’t give
you the feeling of controlling the audio via a long elastic pulley that has
been the case in some systems I have tried. Having a display which is just as
solidly connected to the audio is another important feature.


I got the feeling that Sabre was rather faster in operation than SoundStation
and DAR confirm that at the moment in does have the edge because of its more
modern architecture. SoundStation will have the benefit of that too in future
releases.

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