Akai DR16 Hard Disk Multitrack Recorder (part 7)
One of the strong points of the DR16, besides its excellent recording and editing facilities, is its ability to integrate with a wide range of other equipment, through optional interfaces where necessary. As standard, the DR16 has AES/EBU and SPDIF digital inputs and outputs so you can source material from DAT, and use the internal digital mixer to lay it back to DAT without ever leaving the digital domain. An ADAT optical interface is also available so that whatever you can achieve with DAT, you can achieve four times faster, including back up and restore. Synchronisation is a particularly strong point, and the DR16 can sync to SMPTE/EBU timecode, MIDI Time Code (MTC) and Machine Control (MMC), and also MIDI clocks and song position pointers. It can also slave to one source of sync while generating another, for instance locking to SMPTE/EBU timecode while generating MTC, or responding to MMC commands from a MIDI sequencer and converting these commands into the 9-pin protocol to control a professional video recorder. Timecode is always referenced to the clock rate of the digital audio, so that the 44,100 samples of audio always correspond exactly to 25 frames of video, which is important.
There is a compromise to be made by manufacturers between providing equipment with enough functions to do the job, and allowing flexibility for future expansion. You dont need to expand anything in the DR16 (like you are often virtually forced to with samplers for instance) but if you have special requirements, then there is an interface with your name on it. Possible options include:
- MIDI Timecode synchronisation and MIDI Machine Control
- SMPTE/EBU timecode synchronisation
- Additional SCSI interface
- ADAT optical interface
- RS422 and Bi-phase interfaces (used in professional post production applications)
- Additional buffer memory for use with optical disks
- Digital EQ board
- MT8 Mixtab mix controller
- Video display option
Digital Mixing and EQ
The DR16 incorporates a sixteen channel digital mixer with two analogue auxiliary sends and snapshot automation which is certainly useful, but a little bit fiddly on account of having to access each parameter before adjusting it. The MT Mixtab accessory provides real knobs and faders and makes the digital mixer almost as easy to use as analogue! Only eight channels are provided, but it can be switched to channels 9-16 quite easily. To use the digital EQ controls, the DR16 itself must be fitted with the optional EQ card. The MT8 is surprisingly easy to use, but since each channel can control two tracks, you will often find that the position of the knobs and faders, which are not motorised, dont correspond to what is happening audibly. If you see this as a drawback, dip into your pockets and buy another since the DR16 will support it.