The End of Analogue - Is analogue multitrack recording dead? (part 5)
Should you decide to go digital, and whether you should Ill consider later, then at the moment you have two options: buy an Alesis ADAT now or wait a month or so for the Tascam DA88 near-equivalent. Now isnt the time to advise which to go for, but either way you will encounter a whole new set of circumstances. All of the analogue problems that I have mentioned and discussed will have gone completely out of the window, but will life now be perfect? Dont bet on it!
You will undoubtedly have noticed that the two affordable digital multitracks are both 8-track machines. In this day and age eight tracks are not considered to be nearly enough and you will have to synchronise two to get sixteen tracks or three for twenty-four. With the ADAT, and apparently with the DA88, synchronisation between machines does not require any lost tracks for timecode, and at least with the ADAT synchronising is very quick and efficient compared to other systems I have seen and used. However, having said that its quick, it is not instantaneous and using two ADATs is definitely not the equivalent of operating a single machine. Tascams product may be better on this point but its too early to know. On the upside, using two 8-tracks synced together means that you have the ability to use one cassette for backing tracks and maybe several cassettes for overdubs, compiling the best overdubs later onto one cassette for mixdown. Remember that digital copying involves no quality loss.
Other analogue advantages you will lose include spot erase, for ferreting out those unwanted clicks, and the ability to do real reverse reverb by turning the tape over and recording backwards. Spot erase on the Alesis ADAT is hit and miss (although the forthcoming BRC controller may improve this) and if you need to record anything backwards, then its back to analogue Im afraid.
If you want to use the Alesis ADAT or Tascam DA88 with timecode as they stand, then you will lose a track, which is a bit of a problem if you only have eight to start with. Fortunately all is not lost because Tascam are promising a synchroniser card for a sum of money that is not totally unreasonable and this card will allow you to take full advantage of all eight digital tracks, and have SMPTE at the same time. Whether or not this will be subject to analogue degradations remains to be seen. In the case of the ADAT, all I know at the moment is that you will have to invest in the BRC controller for this facility, which will set you back a much bigger wodge of cash. I did hear however that JL Cooper will be producing a device which translates Alesis proprietary timecode, which emerges from the multipin connector on the rear panel, to MTC. If this unit appears in the UK it will be very popular with ADAT users I am quite sure.