Test Drive: D-160 Digital Multitrack Recorder from Fostex

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fostex-d160

By Jerry Vigil

If you've been around for a while, you can remember when four tracks used to be plenty. Then they weren’t enough. And when they wheeled that 8-track in, you were in heaven. Now, the busy production pro is in need of even more--extra tracks for those updates and more tracks for those extra stations. Many workstations now offer additional "virtual" tracks, but you are still mixing eight channels. And many software driven systems tout "unlimited" tracks, as long as you have a hefty enough computer to handle the load. For the producer in need of more tracks, without compromise, Fostex has come to the rescue with their new D-160 Digital Multitrack Recorder ($3995), sixteen real tracks priced to fit anyone’s budget.

This fully self-contained unit takes up three rack spaces and comes with a detachable front panel which, with the optional 16-foot Remote Extension Cable ($50), brings all the controls of the D-160 to the desktop with a footprint approximately 14½ by 4½ inches. All that remains in the rack unit is the removable hard disk and the power on/off button. Not only is this a space-saver and convenient, but there are several ways to keep unwanted hands off your projects. For one, remove the disk and take it with you. There’s also a lock next to the disk that must be in the locked position to access the disk. A turn of the key disables access to the disk. Or, one could disable the entire unit by removing the front panel, a simple task of unplugging the cable and lifting the panel off the unit. The removable disk also means each producer can have his/her own disk to store projects. The D-160 accepts standard 3½-inch IDE hard disks, so additional disks are easy to obtain. The D-160 comes standard with a 2.55-gigabyte hard disk that provides about eight track hours of recording time (no compression schemes used) at 44.1kHz sampling. (The only other sampling frequency available is 48kHz.)

To the rear

The D-160 offers simultaneous recording and playback of up to sixteen tracks. There are eight unbalanced analog inputs and sixteen unbalanced outs on RCA connectors. Four optical connectors provide stereo S/PDIF I/O or sixteen tracks of ADAT digital I/O. Simultaneous 16-track recording is done by using the eight analog inputs and one of the digital inputs with the ADAT digital format selected (from the Setup menu). A SCSI port is next to the digital I/O, which can be used to connect the D-160 to external drives for additional storage space. The D-160 is compatible with several types of external drives including Iomega Zip and Jaz drives, SyQuest drives, and some MO and fixed disk drives. Only one SCSI device can be connected to the D-160, and this port is intended more for saving and loading projects. Real-time recording and playback are possible to an external SCSI device if it meets certain criteria, but Fostex does not guarantee perfect operation. Storage/backup is also possible to ADAT and DAT. Finally, MIDI IN, OUT, and THRU connectors wrap up the rear panel. The MIDI connections enable connecting several D-160s together to expand tracks. Synchronization with a sequencer is also possible. The D-160 can be controlled remotely via external MIDI Machine Control (MMC) and can output MIDI Time Code (MTC), MIDI clock signal, and MIDI Machine Control (MMC).

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