DAR Sabre Hard Disk Workstation (part 2)
DAR use the latest technology of 5.25 inch optical drives - not the commonly seen Sony which is too slow. (Note that some of DARs early promotional photos show Sony drives, which obviously were tested during the development phase). DARs drive holds a total of 650 megabytes on both sides (although the current state of the art still only provides for single sided recording and playback). This drive is said to be significantly faster than the Sony and allows playback of eight channels simultaneously. Other systems achieve similar performance by using a hard disk buffer but the data comes off Sabres optical disk straight into a RAM buffer and is played out from there. Recording performance is six channels which, if you are aware of the limitations of optical disks, you will realise is pretty good going.
Disk based recording has obvious advantages over digital tape, and optical disks have certain advantages over magnetic hard disks. The performance of the optical disk has reached the point at which it is acceptable as an operational medium rather than just as a backup medium. Perhaps not optimal but at least acceptable, coming out of the situation of being too slow to having adequate speed for eight channel playback and adequate storage. DAR do recognise that you have to be selective about which projects you can do on a Sabre; components of projects, or perhaps dialogue editing because having almost two hours of audio on-line is usually adequate for a reel of film (two hours of single channel equates to one of stereo, thirty minutes of four channel or fifteen minutes of eight channel. Silent passages take up no storage space). Sabre would also be ideal for commercials, where duration would not be a limiting factor.
I remember commenting during a demonstration of SoundStation II a couple of years ago that it would be really nice if the graphics could run absolutely in sync with the audio rather than trailing a little bit behind. I was told that the difficulty was in putting all the data through one processor and that the audio obviously had to take priority. Couldnt you run two processors in sync?, I innocently asked. Of course, DAR were not at this stage going to reveal their plans, but now we have exactly this. In Sabre, the graphics engine is completely separate to the processor that deals with audio. The scrolling display is spot on in sync and I think this is a great advantage. DAR have a very good jog wheel, both on SoundStation and Sabre, which doesnt give you the feeling of controlling the audio via a long elastic pulley that has been the case in some systems I have tried. Having a display which is just as solidly connected to the audio is another important feature.
I got the feeling that Sabre was rather faster in operation than SoundStation and DAR confirm that at the moment in does have the edge because of its more modern architecture. SoundStation will have the benefit of that too in future releases.