Fostex FD-4 Hard Disk Multitrack Recorder (part 3)
Other features of the mixer section include two auxiliary sends, which operate on a single knob in the same way as the monitor level control. This unfortunately precludes sending a signal from one channel to two effects units simultaneously. I suppose the provision of an extra knob per channel would have increased the cost of the unit. Both auxes are post fade, which is appropriate for a unit of this type. The EQ section is quite versatile. It has high frequency and low frequency controls, and a mid control with two knobs for frequency and level. The EQ is surprisingly good and the HF control adds or subtracts brightness (some HF sections only manage to add harshness or dullness!) and the LF section adds warmth or thins out a signal in a very useful manner. The mid control has a slightly sharper resonance (Q) than I would normally prefer but it is still capable of a very useful degree of control.
With a cassette multitracker you slot in a cassette and start recording. To record another song later on the tape you just take a note of the counter reading and perhaps set the zero locate. With disk systems things are, I am afraid, more complicated. First of all you have to format the disk. Fostex offer three formatting options known as Normal, Mastering 1 and Mastering 2. Normal mode offers longer recording time but is 32kHz sampling with data compression which means a frequency response only up to 15.5kHz and a not entirely transparent, but still very acceptable, sound quality almost comparable to Minidisc. Mastering 2 offers full 44.1kHz, 16-bit quality and Mastering 1 has an additional two virtual tracks, known to Fostex - logically enough I suppose - as additional tracks, which can be used to store material in sync with other tracks but cannot be played back. Mastering 1 format cannot be used on a Zip drive nor on a magneto-optical disk since they are a little slower than other disk media. Once formatted, you can start recording your first song immediately. If you want to record further songs on the same disk then you can simply start further down the timeline as you would with cassette, but the recommended option is to create a new program. Each program corresponds to a song and you can have up to 99 on a disk, or fewer as space allows. It isnt immediately obvious how to create and select programs, but if you look long and hard enough at the FD-4s control surface you will notice that certain buttons are linked together via horizontal lines. These include the Hold and Store buttons which when pressed simultaneously allow program creation and selection. It takes a little time to get used to the way the FD-4 works, but it is reasonably straightforward after a little practice.
Recording tracks follows the standard procedure of hitting record select buttons, and operating the record and play keys. As a hard disk recorder, access to any part of the recording, once made, can be almost immediate, but to ease the transition for those used to tape based equipment, fast forward and rewind buttons are provided, and I can assure you they will be used. Also, the FD-4 has several locate functions that need a little explanation. Firstly, there are six locate memories which are labelled Start, In, Out, End, Clipboard In and Clipboard Out. You can ignore their names and use them as simple locators where you can store a locate time in any one and go back there very quickly. Alternatively you can use Start and End as markers for the Auto Return and Auto Play functions where a section of interest can be looped and played repeatedly. Within that loop there can be an automated punch in, which is quite easy to set up. The clipboard In and Out points are used in editing. Punch in, by the way, is click free although you can only punch in and out once each time you record, and when you punch out the monitor signal is muted for several seconds, which is disconcerting although the recording is OK.