Test Drive: The Fostex D-80 Digital Multitrack Recorder

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The removable front panel is well laid out and simple enough to use that one can begin recording without a glance at the manual. Using the editing functions does require a little reading time, but it doesn't take long at all to get up to speed on the unit. The large display features bargraph meters for each track, a time display (Absolute Time, MIDI Time Code, or Bar/Beat/Clock), and a Program indicator. Below the display are the eight track select buttons used to arm tracks and select tracks for editing. To record on track 1, just press the button for that track and set levels. (There are no level controls on the D-80. Record levels are set at the source. Playback levels are handled externally as well.) Amber colored indicators flash in the display to show which tracks are armed. Press PLAY and RECORD to begin recording. It's that simple. Don't like the take? Press the UNDO key. Change your mind? Press the REDO key. The Undo and Redo work on the editing functions, too. There's one level of Undo/Redo.

The D-80's most used functions appear on the front panel. Press the AUTO PLAY/AUTO RETURN button to enable automatic return and playback from user preset playback and return points. Set punch in/out points and press AUTO PUNCH for automatic punch in/out recording complete with Rehearsal mode. Several of the keys double as locate points. Set points on the fly by pressing the HOLD/> key. This "holds" the current time in memory. Press the STORE key then the CLIPBOARD IN key, for example, to store the time in that location. Locating to that point then is a matter of pressing the CLIPBOARD IN key and the LOCATE key. The CLIPBOARD OUT and the AUTO PUNCH START, IN, OUT, and END keys can also be used as locate points.

The D-80 offers edit functions that utilize an audio clipboard. To copy audio from one place to another requires using two functions. First mark the in and out points of the area to copy using the CLIPBOARD IN and OUT keys. Then press the COPY key to copy that audio to the clipboard. Locate to the destination point and store that location in the AUTO PUNCH IN key, select the destination track, then press the PASTE key to paste the audio at the new location. The audio overwrites any audio at the destination point and does not move existing audio "down the track."

Press the MOVE key instead of COPY to remove the audio from the source track and place it on the clipboard. You can audition audio in the clipboard at any time by pressing STOP and PLAY together. When performing the Move function, the audio does not get removed from the source track until the Paste function is used. When pasting, the display prompts you to tell it how many repeats to perform on the paste. This is especially helpful for musicians but also enables doing some loops to extend music beds or to stutter a voice track. Both of these functions are not instant. The system takes a significant amount of time to write the new file (for Undo and Redo functions most likely) depending upon the amount of audio involved. Moving a segment of two or three seconds in length takes maybe five seconds after the EXECUTE key is pressed. That's not necessarily a long time, but I moved a thirty-second segment and this took nearly sixty seconds!

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