Fostex FD-4 Hard Disk Multitrack Recorder (part 4)
I have a feeling that many users of the FD-4 will never used the editing facilities, although they will always be there should the need arise. As with all non-computer based hard disk recorders in the lower-than-stratospheric price bracket, editing is really only useful for cutting sections out of songs, repeating choruses and that kind of thing. If you want to build up a song out of loops and short audio segments you need a computer and appropriate software. Nevertheless, the FD-4s editing functions are very useful in the right context. Marking out a section to be cut, for example, involves setting start and end points. Start points can be found approximately by hitting the Hold or Store key on the fly. They can then be fine tuned using the jog/shuttle wheel or the preview function. The jog/shuttle wheel, I have to say, is one of the worst I have come across. It is partially recessed and it is difficult to get a firm grip on it, and it doesnt scrub like other hard disk recorders do, emulating the old method of manually moving analogue tape against the recorders heads. When done well, this provides a quick and easy method of finding and edit point, and all the pro machines have it. The FD-4 on the other hand plays repeatedly a very short segment of audio - around 100ms I would estimate - which slides backwards and forwards in time as you turn the wheel. It is usable but far from ideal, and it sounds pretty unpleasant too. The preview function is a little better where the FD-4 cycles a creates a two second cycle allowing you to hear the last second up to an edit point, or after an edit point where appropriate. This you can trim in real time as it loops round. Once you have found your edit points you can copy a segment (from any number of adjacent tracks) and paste it elsewhere, or move the segment leaving silence behind. If there is something on the disk you dont like, you can simply erase it. What the FD-4 lacks is a delete function that will close up the gap so you can get rid of a whole section of a song if you dont like it and butt the remaining portions together. You can achieve much the same thing using the copy function but its not as straightforward a process as it should be. The editing functions also include track exchange where data can be swapped among playback tracks, and also to and from the two additional tracks in Mastering 1 mode.
Sound quality-wise the Fostex FD-4 is well up to current digital standards, and even the data compressed normal mode, if not entirely transparent, is surprisingly good through three or four generations of bouncing. It is definitely far far better than cassette and it is attractively priced (even with a Zip or Eziflyer drive taken into account) compared to similarly featured Minidisc units. Overall, I am confident that the FD-4 is capable of excellent results and it is very recommendable.