Test Drive: The Fostex Foundation 2000RE 8-Track Digital Audio Workstation

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On the other hand, the front panel of the main unit has just a couple of status lights, the power ON/OFF switch, and a button labeled RPE. That stands for Removable Project Environment--a fancy name for a removable disk drive. What looks like a permanently attached disk drive on the front panel is actually a removable one. The unit used for this review came with a 500 megabyte drive which is no longer available. Now you get a choice between a 1 gigabyte or 2 gigabyte drive at roughly $800 and $1,400 each, respectively. The drive is not included in the $9,995 list price. Removing and inserting the drive is a piece of cake, and the ability to do so is one of the nicer features of this workstation. Obviously, if you work in a multiple studio environment, this is a very simple way to transfer projects, assuming each studio is equipped with any Foundation 2000. In a radio station production environment, particularly when there's only one studio with one Foundation 2000, there are other advantages. Each producer could have their own RPE, or one RPE could be for promos, another for commercials. You could save work for longer periods of time with several RPEs on hand. However, using a backup device might be more economical. The RPEs store all project information, not just the audio files. As the name implies, this is a Removable Project "Environment."

The dynamic editing power of the 2000RE comes to life at the Edit Controller. This sleek interface is not much bigger than a computer keyboard and is perhaps one of the most user-friendly interfaces I've come across. At the top center is a 3" x 3 3/4" display screen. But this is no ordinary screen; this is a touch sensitive screen. A set of touch sensitive "buttons" along the right side and bottom of the display provide various menus and functions. Touch the TRACKS button to display the eight tracks and the audio on them. (The unit "chirps" each time a button is successfully pressed.) The TRACKS button also accesses a sub-menu of options for displaying the audio on the tracks. The display can show fade ramps, output waveforms, and more. One thing that was quite surprising was how quickly the 2000RE draws waveforms. It's virtually instantaneous with small projects such as spots and promos. A zoom function provides a variety of views, from a view of an entire project, all eight tracks included, to a view of a tiny fraction of a second of just one track. With the display set to show waveforms, the zoom is extremely helpful when performing precise edits.

The next button on the touch screen's main menu is the I/O button. This accesses the 2000RE's digital patchbay. The unit's digital and analog inputs and outputs can be configured in a wide variety of ways from this screen. Two analog inputs can be used to feed all eight tracks, for example. If you're using a 4-bus board, four inputs can be set to feed the eight tracks. If a patch is not possible, it'll let you know. The METERS button switches to the meter display. There's a meter for each channel/track with peak/hold and overload indicators.

The REELS/LIBRARY button is where you'll find the 2000RE's filing system. The terminology used is somewhat unique for digital workstations. When you record a sound file, you record an "Event." These Events are recorded onto "Reels." Up to six Reels, labeled 1 through 6, make up a "Project." Each RPE or disk drive can hold up to six projects, labeled A through G. On the screen, Projects are shown on the left, and the six Reels for the selected Project are shown on the right. Projects and Reels can be named using a typewriter keypad on the touch screen. This may sound more confusing than it is. Normally, you think of a "project" as an actual production. Think of the six Projects as six "directories" of the RPE, just like file directories in a PC. Within each directory you can have six Reels. Each of these Reels can hold a production, be it a promo, a commercial, or whatever. So, in effect, what you have is the ability to store up to thirty-six productions per drive. For my purposes, I found it best to name Projects A and B "Promos" and C, D, and E "Commercials" leaving Project F for miscellaneous production.

This Projects/Reels system can be a bit restrictive. Since you can have no more than thirty-six different productions on a single drive, it is possible to run out of places to store spots and promos before you run out of disk space. This might happen with a 1 gig drive, and would most likely happen using 2 gig drives because most radio spots and promos take up only a few track minutes of recording time. And this is more likely to happen if you use the 32kHz sampling rate which uses even less disk space for a track-minute. For this reason, a 1 gig drive is probably most efficient for radio production. That aside, the 2000RE's cataloging system is easy to use and loads projects (or Reels, actually) very quickly. Simply touch the Reel where your production resides then press the MOUNT button on the touch screen and your "reel" is "mounted" onto our virtual "tape deck" ready to work on. Loading a Reel takes just a couple of seconds, depending upon the amount of audio being loaded. Reels and Projects can be copied and erased from this screen also.

A sub-menu under the REELS/LIBRARY function accesses the 2000RE's Library functions. Here you can locate, delete, and audition audio that has been saved to the 2000RE's sound library. Audio can be stored in a Reel and/or the library. Storing to the library is done effortlessly from the Tracks screen. Let's say you've recorded a sound effect you know you'll use again and again. Touch the sound effect on the tracks display. It will highlight to indicate it's "selected." Then press the pop-up menu on the screen and press the "ADD TO LIBRARY" button on the menu. That's it. Go to the Library screen to see the sound effect and rename it if desired. The default name is the current date and time.

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