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You can connect the Akai DR8 to a mixing console in the normal way, but it can be practical to use it as a sort of ultra portastudio. The jack inputs on the rear panel have a sensitivity switch and you can even connect a dynamic microphone, although you wouldn't expect to get the same performance as a mixing console mic input. There are eight level controls on the front panel, which are actually a bit of a pain in a normal studio configuration since you don't need them. Even if they are not needed, you still have to be aware of the levels to which they are set and it's not all that easy to tell unless you look very closely at the tiny dot that shows which way the knob is pointing. As with a normal multitrack, recording is done by arming channels and pressing Rec and Play simultaneously. Like ordinary tape recorders, but unlike a number of hard disk recording systems, the DR8 has instant on-the-fly punch in capability so you don't have to go through the rigmarole of setting up an auto punch in just to fix the end of a vocal line, although you can if you want to. Auto punch is rather clever in that when you do a manual punch in, the in and out points are stored, so you can repeat the operation quite easily as many times as you need to. Punch in and out are both silent and gap free, by the way, and there is a jack for footswitch punch in.
One feature of the DR8 which most tape multitracks don't have is the ability to assign any input to any track, which you may find useful according to the nature of your setup. This includes the digital inputs which the DR8 has as standard. Stereo digital input and output is available on both SPDIF phonos and AES/EBU XLRs, which should keep semi pros and pros very happy. There is also a house sync input so the DR8 can keep pace with any digital system no matter how big. Sampling rate can be 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, and 44.056kHz for NTSC video synchronisation.
I said that recording is similar to tape multitrack recording, but there are those important hard disk advantages. Who, for instance, hasn't screwed up a punch in and erased part of the good bit along with the bad? With the DR8, all you have to do is press Undo and no-one but you will ever know it happened. You can if you wish use the Undo button to compare your new take with the old one very easily. The other advantage is in the DR8's Take function where you can record up to five takes, compare them at leisure and then select the best. This would be good for recording a difficult vocal track line by line, or for punching in a particularly difficult section. I did find however that if only a part of a take was good, it was rather more troublesome to keep it and junk the rest, although it is certainly possible to do this.