Why are CD recorders like buses? Paul White investigates.
Wrong answer. CD‑R recorders are like buses because they come in loads of different colours, and with lots of different company names on the side, but the chances are they're all made in the same couple of factories! In the case of the Fostex CDR200, the innards share a common heritage with the HHB CDR800 machine reviewed back in August 1997, and even though there are now machines on the market that cost even less, it's probably still fair to say that this particular mechanism (which is actually built by Pioneer) provides the basis of the least expensive pro machines that can use the low‑cost, non‑consumer CD‑R blanks. In fact, the Fostex machine comes in marginally under the cost of its HHB rival, which leaves you enough change for one or two blank discs.
The appeal of the stand‑alone CD‑R machine is that you don't have to spend ages messing around on a computer, creating Image files, adjusting PQ track ID points, then swearing at the monitor when you get a buffer under‑run and have to scrap the disk. On the other hand, most stand‑alone recorders — including this one — won't let you back up computer data. All you need is a DAT tape with the track IDs in the right place and the recorder automatically converts these to track IDs. Of course, copying is limited to real time, but you can always be doing something else while it's going on. You can also record from other digital sources, such as MiniDisc, DCC, CD or computer workstations with S/PDIF outputs, but if you're coming from a computer system that doesn't transmit track IDs, you'll have to enter these manually or use auto silence‑detection to do the job for you. When you're working from a source with no track IDs, the CDR200 can recognise the silences between tracks and add IDs automatically, but of course this is only suitable for conventional albums with discretely‑spaced tracks. Live albums with audience noise between the tracks will need to be ID'd manually. The track gap recognition is preset to two seconds, which may not suit all material, though the detector threshold that decides what should be interpreted as silence can be reset if needed. Unfortunately, because CD‑R is a write‑once process, manual track IDs have to be entered during recording, and if you get one wrong you can't change it. The CDR200 is also not equipped to write to re‑recordable CD‑R.
The Fostex CDR200 is a neat, 3U rackmounting machine with...