Test Drive: The Akai DR4d Hard Disk Recorder

akai-dr4d

by Dave Oliwa

Unless you're a big, fat corporation with piles of cash and a tremendous need to capitalize before the end of your fiscal year, you're going to be "going digital" one step at a time with the rest of us. That means making some choices that can stick with you for some time! Granted, there are a number of formats, or "platforms" to choose from, but today, let's look at hard disk recording.

The first thing associated with the term "hard disk" is a computer. You gotta have one to run the program that runs the hard drive or you have to buy a stand alone studio in a box which, in reality, is a computer that's dedicated to processing audio. The computer, a program, and the circuits to run the audio, when put together, manufacturers call "workstations."

Leave it to the sampling pros at Akai to break the rules. In a creative approach to low cost, digital recording, Akai has taken its knowledge of building boxes like the DD 1000 and applied it to the Akai DR4d hard disk recorder, combining the readily available technology of computer hard disks with four channels of audio electronics into one, sampler sized, three rack space box.

It's got a jog/shuttle wheel, independent control over the four tracks, and one hundred and eight locate points, accessible from a keypad.

A 36 and a half minute, four channel sampler with editing capabilities is what we've got here!

Let's tour the front panel.

A barrier protected power switch in the upper left hand corner sits atop a headphone jack with a level control and a foot switch jack (for punch ins). The headphones receive channels one and three on the left and channels two and four on the right. Four, 20 segment LED bargraphs show VU levels from behind a smoked panel. The LEDs operate with a peak "hold" indication. Each channel has its own record/safe button and operates just like its analog counterpart. Directly under them are the input select keys that choose digital or analog by channel pairs (1 and 2, or 3 and 4). The front panel also sports an Auto Monitor switch and a Rehearsal switch for use during recording.

The display, eight LED digits, toggles between Absolute time (the total time available on the hard disk), Relative time (from where the user set 00:00:00), and BBC (bar, beat, clock). The ABS/REL button, with LEDs on each side to indicate the mode, and a reset button work the display. The BBC button and its LED are primarily for the musician using the DR4d as a MIDI Clock master with an optional interface. The display is also used for locate points and error messages from the unit itself.