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Hands on Multitracks - Fostex G24S and Tascam MSR-24S (part 1)

In the world of recording, 24 is a magic number. Only a few years ago all musicians aspired to record in a 24-track studio. If you could tell your friends that you had been recording 24-track then you would be a local hero and beautiful women would faint at your feet...

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In the world of recording, 24 is a magic number. Only a few years ago all musicians aspired to record in a 24-track studio. If you could tell your friends that you had been recording 24-track then you would be a local hero and beautiful women would faint at your feet (at least you hoped they would). The reason for this high regard for what seems to most people to be quite a nondescript number is that 24-track multitrack recorders used to be incredibly expensive, therefore studio rates (and studios then were few in number) were very high. You had to have major backing to be able to afford to record in such a lavish manner. Ordinary mortals had to be content with a measly 8-tracks (16 tracks recorders were also uncommonly expensive). Fortunately, Fostex turned conventional wisdom upside down with the introduction of their B16 sixteen-tracks-on-half-inch tape recorder. This, perhaps more than any other piece of technology, was the motivating force behind the home and personal studio boom of today. Happily, the dark days of megabucks multitrack recording are gone and largely forgotten (although you can still pay a lot of money if you want to!). Anyone who has a serious mind to do so can save up enough money to spend a few hours in a twenty-four track studio emulating the greats of yesteryear (or more usually finding out that getting a good result is harder than you thought it would be). There are a number of 24-track studios around, many with secondhand two-inch machines that in their prime would have been considered the height of technology. Other studios, perhaps more private studios than commercial ones, have gone the route of buying a modern 24-track recorder rather than an antique. Modern, as well as meaning that you buy it new rather than used, means that you don’t get the luxury of recording fat tracks on two inch tape - nor do you get all of the expense! - and the machine itself doesn’t take up an acre of valuable floor space. Buying or hiring a modern 24-track machine means either the Fostex G24S or Tascam MSR-24S - the top of the range multitrack models from these two companies who are the major proponents of affordable recording. Fostex and Tascam should be on everyone’s Christmas card list because we all have a lot to thank them for.

Comparisons

I have chosen to illustrate my Hands On Multitracks article with these two machines because, other than very well-used two inch recorders, there are no affordable alternatives for many studios. (I’m leaving low cost digital multitrack out of the equation for the moment because no matter what its potential benefits may be, no one can say that it is an accepted format yet). Also, despite their relatively low cost, they offer features which have parallels with multitrack recorders which are in the very top flight - machines such as the Studer A820 and Otari MTR90. No one will pretend that that sound quality is every bit as good, but under normal conditions the differences are very very small, and I would say that if you can’t make a hit record with a Tascam or a Fostex, then you’re not going to able to do it with a Studer or Otari!

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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