Akai DPS12 Digital Personal Studio (part 2)
The mixer section of the DPS12 has six analogue inputs on balanced jacks (no Phantom power for mics unfortunately), a stereo optical digital input, two analogue auxiliary outputs, two analogue master outputs and an optical digital output which copies the analogue master outputs. It is interesting to note that the mixer lacks auxiliary return inputs and is not provided with a proper monitor output, although there is a headphone output on the front panel that could be used for this purpose.
Although many users will have no need to record more than two tracks at a time the DPS12 can in fact record up to eight tracks simultaneously. This would obviously be useful for live recordings, but also where a composition is built up using a sequencer and MIDI system and is then transferred in bulk to disk. Bear in mind that two of the eight inputs are optical digital so if you want to record the full eight tracks simultaneously you will need an outboard convertor.
Once you have created a Project all that is necessary to start recording is plug in a mic or instrument to Input 1, select record ready on Track 1 and start recording. Recording starts absolutely the instant you hit the buttons with no time spent getting up to speed as happens with tape. I have to say the Jaz drive makes a bit of a racket but this is hard disk recording and it is what you should expect. I love removable media but its very removability makes it impossible to soundproof, or even attenuate the clicking of the disk so I would recommend that the mic and the DPS12 should really be in separate rooms. If you have previously assigned Input 1 to all of the tracks, as well you might, then just hit the next record ready button and continue until all the tracks are recorded.
Unlike conventional mixing consoles, the mixer of the DPS12 does not have any grouping system other than the master outputs, therefore it is tricky to mix two or more signals onto the same track. It can be done however by routing to the masters and then routing the masters internally to tracks. If in addition you need to monitor tracks already recorded while mixing more than one signal to a track, you will have to go via the auxiliary sends. It’s possible, reasonably easy, but you’ll need the manual for sure.
I mentioned earlier that there are no dedicated auxiliary return inputs on the DPS12. Most people would use aux returns for the output of their reverb unit both for mixing and for a little 'sweetening’ during the recording process and their omission might seem to be a problem. This is not the case because you can easily configure two of the inputs as 'thru mix’ channels and use your reverb without difficulty all the way through the recording and mixing process. The auxiliary sends work as you would expect and are individually switchable pre and post fader.
Punch ins are of course an important part of recording technique. The DPS12 supports both manual and automated punch in. Unfortunately, it is not as reliable as it should be as I found that sometimes clicks could be created at the in and out points. Also, when you punch out, the monitor doesn’t switch immediately back to playback as it should. This really needs some attention from Akai. All is not lost however as you could quite easily achieve the same effect as a punch in with a little editing.