Hands on Multitracks - Fostex G24S and Tascam MSR-24S (part 4)
When youre sure that the tape is loaded correctly, press the Load button. This is a clever (and useful!) function which automatically spools approximately one minute into the tape then sets absolute start and end points with thirty minutes of clear recording time between them. Once this is done, you cant accidentally run the tape off the spool - something which studio customers always seem to relate to the word amateurish for no particularly good reason. Obviously, you will want to get the tape off the spool at some point, and there is a Spool button to do just that. Press Spool then Fast Forward or Rewind and the tape will glide at approximately one third of normal wind speed to the end. There are other functions related to these buttons, but theyre really only useful if you want to focus your skills on the niceties of tape machine operation rather than recording in general.
I wont explain the obvious features of the Tascam MSR-24S because youll be able to see them for yourself on the front panel. But there are some functions which are valuable but need a little effort to understand. One of these is the monitoring system. Modern multitrack recorders have automatic monitor switching so that some of the work of the engineer is handled without physical effort. On the MSR-24S there are three switches:
All Input. This button has no useful function. (OK Tascam, argue the point!).
Insert. The output of all tracks is from the tape, except those which are actively being recorded (not just record ready) where the output is connected directly to the input. With this on, you can record and hear the musician playing, then rewind and hear the performance without having to reset anything.
Auto Input. The monitor on all record ready tracks switches to input in every mode except play. This mode keeps musicians very happy (if you are recording keyboards in the control room or you choose to source foldback only from the output of the multitrack) since the last thing that should happen is that they are cut off from their instrument at any time other than listening to a take.
One of the MSR-24Ss big features, something which Tascam include on other multitrack recorders, is an inbuilt automated punch in facility. This is driven from the tape counter rather than timecode so it isnt absolutely accurate, but when I tested it on the MSR-16 and MSR-24 (without the S) I found it accurate enough not to feel the need to worry about it. If you use it regularly then you get the hang of it and you wont have to refer back to the manual each time. It goes like this:
The first thing is to set the punch points by using the Rehearsal function. In Insert monitoring mode, set the track you are working on into record ready, press RHSL, then Play. When you hear the intended in point, hit Record. At the out point, hit Play. After a three second post-roll, the tape will rewind ready for punch in rehearsal. The punch in can be rehearsed as many times as necessary before committing any music to tape. All by itself, the machine will switch the monitoring from tape to input and back again, then roll back for another go. When the punch has been rehearsed to absolute precision, pressing AUTO IN/OUT will commit your playing to tape, then wind back automatically so you can audition the result. I think this is pretty simple, and there doesnt seem to be much likelihood of making a mistake and erasing something important.
Obviously there is much more to the Tascam MSR-24S than I have space for here but its time to move on to Tascams rival, Fostex. Did I say rival? The parallel development of these two companies has created a new and important market niche that many manufacturers would envy, and has brought benefits to very many people involved in music.