Akai DR8 Hard Disk Recorder (part 7)
You will also be very happy with the DR8 as an accessory to your MIDI sequencer system. If I have been thinking of the DR8 as an alternative means of multitrack recording, I am guilty of forgetting that many people don't even have a multitrack recorder, and probably don't really want one. A sequenced MIDI system has a lot of advantages as a means of music production, not least of which is zero rewind time. Link up a multitrack and you are immediately reduced to working at the pace of the slowest, and usually you will have to perform all the locate functions on the multitrack and use the sequencer as a slave. The DR8 puts an end to all this. MIDI sequencer users will find that they can dump tracks to the DR8 and free up their synths, samplers and effects for yet more sounds of wonder. And even when the DR8 has been brought into play, they will experience none of the slow down effect that tape brings. The DR8 will spring into action almost as quickly as the most responsive sound module. What's more, you don't have to move away from your sequencer to operate the DR8 since it will respond to MIDI Machine Control (MMC) commands, and with the right sequencer you will be able to arm tracks for record and drop in and out from the screen of the computer. You can forget it's there, and you don't even have to feed it with tape!
Are there any drawbacks to the Akai DR8? Well yes, with all its undoubted advantages comes a distinct disadvantage. Since the recording medium is fixed within the machine, no matter how big a disk you have there is a definite limit on the amount of audio you can record. With an ADAT or DA88, when you have filled one tape you just slot in another, and if you had infinitely deep pockets you could have infinite storage. Even over a thousand pounds worth of AV drive with 4 gigabytes of storage would only give you around 45 to 50 minutes of eight track audio, which compares with an ADAT tape costing around a tenner. Of course you can back up to DAT, and with the latest software you can back up to multiple DAT tapes, but that takes time - an immense amount of time. Undoubtedly when the ADAT card becomes available you will be able to back up much more quickly to ADAT, but perhaps you didn't want the expense of one of those as well. The alternative is to use optical disk as the recording medium, and Akai specify four track simultaneous record and eight track playback with an additional memory card and a suitable optical disk drive (but see the panel on optical disks). Three 1.3 gigabyte optical disks could hold enough material for a CD project at a cost of around £150. It's still a high price to pay compared to tape, but we are now talking about a practical compromise, depending on the nature of your application.
In the end it comes down to a similar argument to the great ADAT/DA88 debate. If you want compatibility with other musicians you buy an ADAT, if you want to record for more than an hour on one tape then you must buy a DA88, other factors weigh much less than these simple points. If you want cheap and limitless storage, then you have to buy a conventional digital multitrack. But if you want the immense advantages the DR8 offers, then at the moment there are few alternatives.