We get our hands on Fostex's latest affordable digital recorder — and the company's first ever stand‑alone digital mixer.
Fostex have been doggedly developing ever‑improving digital recorders for several years, but they've seemed content to see them connected to digital mixers from other manufacturers, in the absence of their own. Every manufacturer likes to supply their loyal customers with as many of the bits of the recording chain as possible, though, so Fostex have clearly been working on completing the studio partnership of recorder and mixer with a digital desk bearing their own logo — the VM200.
But doesn't SOS's front cover this month (not to mention this review) bear a photo with two elements in it? It does, because the VM200 is being pitched as the perfect companion to the new VR800 8‑track digital recorder, and we're looking at both. Though the VR800 makes an excellent partner for the VM200, they don't have to work together, and both are perfectly capable of forming attachments to other recorders and mixers. They make a nice couple, though!
Finished in smart pale grey, the VM200 looks businesslike. Panels of darker grey host groups of buttons devoted to various functions, and many buttons illuminate with a three‑colour system to help with differentiation — great in low‑light conditions, less useful in daylight. a notable feature of the panel is a large, adjustable‑contrast backlit display, with a master stereo output LED bar‑graph meter to its right. Other input and output metering is handled by the display, which isn't ideal, because it's monochrome, and the meter displays are quite small and a little sluggish in response.
The VM200 has a clear, spacious control layout and is big enough to look serious without being inconvenient in a small studio. Nor is it so laden with buttons and legends that it's immediately scary, like some digital mixers. Yet it has a decent‑sounding spec, offering eight analogue and eight ADAT‑format digital inputs, two internal stereo effects processors with a preset and user patch library, 4‑band EQ, again with library, motorised faders which transmit their movements over MIDI, as do the other controls, and a 100‑position scene memory for onboard automation.
Though it's partnered with an 8‑track recorder and designed for 8‑track use, the VM200 isn't really an 8‑bus mixer. It's actually more like a stereo mixer but with some routing options which allow just enough subgrouping for normal recording and mixing activities such as track bouncing. The simplest option sends the signal from an analogue input directly to its equivalent ADAT track on a suitably‑equipped recorder — VM200 input channel 1 is routed to ADAT track 1, and so on. For occasions when you'd like to route a mix of several inputs to your recorder, such as when recording a multi‑miked drum kit to a stereo pair of digital tracks, or bouncing down backing vocals, the stereo Record bus is used. The way this works depends on your recorder: if it's an ADAT‑compatible digital recorder, such as the VR800, the Record bus is routed to all the ADAT tracks in pairs — 1/2, 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8 — with the choice of which tracks the result will be recorded on made by the target machine's record‑enable switches. If you were only routing a mono mix, or a single track, you'd use panning to send the audio to the left or right of the Record bus and record‑enable one track on your multitrack. For those working with analogue multitrack, the Record bus also passes out of the VM200 via a pair of analogue jacks.
The upshot of all this is that the lack of real subgrouping shouldn't prevent you from doing anything you might reasonably want to do. But whether you use the ADAT direct or Record bus options, the VM200 has no subgroup level controls: the level recorded to hard disk or tape is exactly that produced by the mixer's input channel faders.
Of the VM200's eight analogue inputs, the first four have both XLR and balanced jack connectors, individually switchable phantom power, an insert point for external dynamics processing, and a gain control with a ‑16 to ‑60dB range. The remaining four simply have unbalanced jacks and a gain control with ‑10 to ‑50dB gain range. The mic/line channels also feature a 26dB pad switch.
Digital inputs are in the widespread 8‑channel ADAT optical format, and there's also a stereo optical S/PDIF input that could be used to bring in DAT/CD audio or connect synths/samplers with digital outputs. The downside of this last feature is that it hijacks a pair of analogue, ADAT or built‑in effects return channels. Fostex's publicity says the VM200 handles 20 inputs on mixdown, but four of these inputs are the returns from the desk's effects processors — so they're not available as inputs for sound sources, or external effect returns.
Though the VM200 doesn't offer an extravagant number of input channels, they're quite well specified: for a start, each has a software‑accessed Phase switch, a feature often lacking on more expensive mixers. Other channel facilities comprise pan, mute, solo (with PFL and solo‑in‑place), 4‑band EQ (again, unusual on a mixer of this price), two sends to the internal effects, and up to four external auxiliary sends. With access to six sends, effects processing capability is very good, but since there are no dedicated effects returns, bringing back stereo external effect outputs could potentially use up all the analogue inputs! (The manual advises using the insert points as effects returns — an odd suggestion, and one that doesn't actually work, producing only a very low‑level, distorted signal!) That isn't the only effect/effect send compromise. For example, if EQ is assigned to all 16 channels, no internal effects are available.
That's the inputs: how does audio get out of the VM200? Obviously, there's an ADAT output, and also an S/PDIF digital stereo output for mastering to DAT or CD‑R. There's plenty of analogue outs too: the main stereo mix out, on unbalanced jacks, a monitor out and 2‑track return (to monitor a mix from an attached mastering machine) on phono sockets, plus the four aux send jacks. Sends 3 and 4 alternately function as the Record bus's analogue output, so using the Record bus blocks access to them. This doesn't affect how many external effects units you can use during mixing, but during certain recording operations you'll be limited to aux sends 1 and 2.
Now you're acquainted with the VM200's features, some of you may be examining the photo and noticing that there don't seem to be enough controls to access them all. Well, like many digital desks, the VM200 uses a reduced number of controls, assigning them to different functions as required. The way this is done is quite comprehensible in practice — probably easier to work with than to explain!
To start with, the function of its 8‑strong fader bank is controlled by three buttons under the display: pressing the first (1‑8 Analogue In) makes the faders control levels for the analogue inputs, pressing the second (9‑16 ADAT In) makes them do the same for the ADAT inputs, and the third (17‑20 Effect Return) causes four faders to control levels for the built‑in effects' returns. Swapping between functions is no problem because the motorised faders jump to their correct positions. The faders have yet more jobs to do — six switches in a Fader Mode panel turn them into level controls for the four external and two internal effects sends.
In the same way as the faders, the three rows of eight buttons above them (lining up with the faders, and labelled On, Solo and EQ Edit) function differently at different times. The buttons in the Key Mode panel determine their operation: at the simplest level (selected with the Channel/Meter switch) the buttons offer mute, solo and EQ editing to the analogue or digital inputs, but there are three principal additional functions (see the 'MIDI Machine Control' box for yet another), as follows:
- Routing/Phase: turns the rows of buttons into routing controls to send input channels to the main stereo mix, the recording bus, or the direct ADAT out. Routing of the S/PDIF input to any stereo pair of input channels is also handled here, and a graphic display illustrates routing choices. Using the buttons as Phase controls summons another simple display. The illuminating buttons even link in with the LCD: for example, reversing a channel's phase causes a box for that channel to go black in the display, while that channel's button lights solidly.
- Pair/Group: allows the buttons to link their corresponding faders in pairs (any changes to EQ and effect send levels will then affect both channels equally). The Group function can set up larger fader or mute groups. Both facilities are useful: the levels of grouped faders are controlled by one, and grouped mutes can turn a selection of channels off with one button push.
- Channel View: offers three functions. The first displays current settings for any input channel in the LCD. Though useful, this is for information only — you can't adjust parameters in this mode. The other two options allow settings to be copied between input channels.
The last set of controls to do double (or triple) duty is the bank of 12 rotary encoders under the display — four on the top row, eight on the bottom. These line up with parameters in the display and can alter them in various system and MIDI setup menus (where such settings as channel solo mode and aux send pre/post fader operation are made), edit EQ, and set channel pan positions during mixing.
In addition to the stereo mix output, there's a dedicated stereo monitor output and a stereo headphone socket, both with level knobs. In normal use, both monitor out and headphones would echo the main stereo mix, though there are options for monitoring the Record bus or each of the aux and effect sends, allowing you to check levels or distortion independently of the main mix. Incidentally, pressing any channel's solo button routes that signal to the monitor out, no matter what's assigned to it.
For providing more complicated monitor mixes while tracking, or when using the desk as a stage mixer, the four aux sends can be made pre‑fader, allowing up to four separate mono mixes to be arranged without upsetting the main stereo mix. Stereo monitor mixes can also be provided by linking aux sends 1/2 and 3/4.
There's one last monitoring option: pressing the 2‑Track In button causes the return from a mastering machine to be routed to the main monitor and headphone out. Unfortunately, it's not possible to add the 2‑track return to the main mix.
Internal EQ with four bands is generous on something in this price range, and it's fully parametric (with a Q of 0.1‑20 for each band). All the frequency bands have quite a wide range, with Low‑ and Low‑Mid both going from an unusually extended 20.3Hz to 4kHz, while the High‑Mid and High bands have a range of 500Hz‑20.2kHz. Shelving operation can be chosen as an alternative for High and Low bands, and up to 18dB of cut or boost in each band is offered. Unusually, the Low and High bands can function as high‑pass and low‑pass filters respectively.
The EQ is a halfway‑house between that of those digital mixers that allow all the EQ bands to be tuned across the whole frequency range, with no limitations, and that of, say, the Spirit 328, whose three bands are preset to behave more like analogue EQ. There's a big overlap between bands, so there won't be any frequencies you can't get at, as sometimes happens with EQ on budget analogue desks. In practice, it sounds very good, with no harshness, and is capable of smooth, musical results.
During EQ editing, values are shown in the display, and a graphic curve, changing as knobs are twiddled, can be viewed. It's all very straightforward. To see what Fostex can do with their own EQ, audition the preset library, containing 50 settings for such applications as drums, piano, bass, guitars, and vocals. They're fairly conservative (apart from the odd extreme one, such as 'Telephone'), but useful, and will certainly put you in the right ballpark. Only 50 user settings can be saved, but the whole library is dumpable over MIDI. In addition, any EQ setting saved as part of a mix scene is recalled when that scene is recalled — possibly a sneaky way of saving extra EQ settings on board, leaving the user memories free for often‑used favourites.
Incidentally, EQ has to be enabled for each channel, using the EQ On switch, so that switch provides a way to compare EQ'd and flat signals.
EQ can be applied to inputs 1‑8, 9‑16, or all 16, but when it's assigned to all 16, the internal effects are disabled.
The effects are based on some new Fostex technology also being exploited in a stand‑alone processor. They're configured as two global processors, both offering the same treatments — 24 reverbs, eight early reflections, four delays, three of which can be set up as timed delays, three modulation effects (chorus, flange and 3D chorus), two pitch‑shifters, and eight dual‑effect options such as delay‑reverb and reverb‑chorus. They're reasonably programmable, but none has more than 12 parameters and most have a lot fewer (choruses have just three). Typically, reverbs offer time, pre‑delay, density, early reflection balance and feedback, room size, diffusion, presence, and low and high ratio parameters. The last two apply a positive offset to the LF and HF reverb times, in relation to a program's overall reverb time.
Though it is, of course, great to have built‑in effects, the reverbs are nothing to write home about. They seem a touch hard to control, with a tendency to a metallic edge. Other effects fare better, with chorus and flange being usable (though there's no proper speed parameter for chorus). Delays are clean and faithful, and though the pitch‑shifters are not totally convincing, they're OK for special effects, with a fine‑tune parameter which allows them to be used reasonably successfully for vocal thickening. There's no discernible noise from the effects, which has to be good news, and a 50‑preset library is provided, with 50 user slots. User effects settings must be edited versions of the presets, since there's no way to initialise an effect. For example: if, while editing preset 1, based on a Large Hall algorithm, you decided you'd rather use a Small Hall algorithm, you'd have to call up an appropriate preset and start editing again from scratch.
As mentioned earlier, using EQ to the full has an impact on effects. EQ can be applied to inputs 1‑8, 9‑16, or all 16, but when it's assigned to all 16, the internal effects are disabled. There are workarounds — during a mix, the analogue inputs will probably be fed with external effects returns or sequenced MIDI synths which may not need EQ, and ADAT tracks could be re‑recorded with their EQ settings and played back flat during the mix. Nevertheless, this kind of compromise makes it clear that limited processor power is being juggled.
All this talk of effects and EQ brings us neatly to dynamics processing — or the lack of it. Perhaps it's too much to expect on a desk of this price, though Tascam's comparably priced TMD1000 redeploys effects power to offer four dynamics processors. Maybe Fostex can do something similar in a software update. For now, we'll have to be content with the insert points on the first four analogue inputs for patching in external compression during recording. Compressing the stereo mix is more problematic. The only way to do this is patch the compressor between the desk's analogue outs and the analogue ins of a mastering machine, somewhat defeating the point of keeping recordings in the digital domain. As signal processing with digital interfacing becomes more affordable, the same result could be achieved via the S/PDIF output, but it's not as elegant as having the processing take place internally.
The VM200 has built‑in scene automation, storing 100 nameable snapshots of virtually every parameter setting, plus three factory preset scenes that offer basic, useful desk settings for stereo recording, overdubbing and bouncing, and mixdown. Scenes can be recalled manually or via MIDI Program Changes.
This facility may well be sufficient for many users, though there appears to be no crossfading option to smooth transitions between scene changes. The Tascam TMD1000 does offer this — but doesn't have motorised faders, so perhaps it's swings and roundabouts. Care in preparing scenes could keep unwanted jump‑cut level changes and so on to a minimum, anyway.
Dynamic automation can also be achieved. Most of the controls transmit MIDI Controller data, which can be recorded into a MIDI sequencer. The faders, EQ and effect parameters, and pan pots are all automatable in this way, though not all control parameters are available at once: you can have up to 114 at one time, organised into an editable Controller table. a preset table with Fostex's mapping of mutes, pans, faders, and so on, to MIDI Controllers, is also available.
Unfortunately, assigning all the faders, pans, effects sends and returns uses much of the available MIDI Controller capacity, leaving little room for EQ and effects parameter assignment. Mute and solo buttons can also be assigned to Controllers, but perhaps it would have been more efficient, given the limited Controller list, if Fostex had allocated MIDI note numbers to these simple switches, so that a MIDI note played back from a sequencer would activate a channel's mute or solo.
MIDI Controller capacity aside, the automation works very well. In practice, a combination of scene recall and dynamic automation would probably be used in a mix: Scenes could contain drastic EQ or effects changes, leaving the dynamic automation to take care of level balancing.
The VM200's rather confused (and confusing) manual makes oblique mention of another automation method, which we think relies on the mixer controls transmitting MIDI NRPNs (Non‑Registered Parameter Numbers) — though this is never actually stated! The use of NRPNs for MIDI automation, as is implemented on the Spirit 328, for example, would mean that the issue of running out of MIDI Controllers doesn't arise, but we weren't able to get it to work on the VM200 during the review.
Digital mixing offers many advantages, but its relative novelty means that newcomers from the hobby studio world may come across tricky concepts. The stand‑out issue is digital interfacing. Connecting a digital mixer to a digital recorder, or a digitally‑equipped synth or CD player to a digital desk, isn't usually just a matter of plugging in leads. Anyone who owns a studio containing two or more pieces of digital equipment should probably start wondering which is going to be the word clock master. Quite a different concept from the MIDI Clock that syncs sequencers to recorders, word clock essentially keeps track of all the bits in a digital signal and makes sure they're sent in the right order at the right time.
To return to the VM200, if it is connected to a digital recorder, such as the VR800, which has a word clock output, the desk will be the word clock slave. If the recorder doesn't have word clock output, but is equipped with ADAT I/O, the desk has an option of clocking to either a 44.1kHz or 48kHz incoming ADAT digital stream. It can can also lock to incoming 44.1kHz or 48kHz S/PDIF digital audio, and lastly can be a 44.1kHz word clock master. (For more on word clock and other digital issues, see 'One Bit At a Time', a series by SOS's digital guru Hugh Robjohns, May‑October 1998.)
One last digital issue concerns the fact that the VM200's S/PDIF output appears to be 20‑bit. As Hugh noted in his review of the Roland VM3100 Pro digital mixer (SOS July 1999), audio with a word length longer than 16 bits will be truncated by a 16‑bit DAT or CD recorder in the absence of any dithering down to 16‑bit by the mixer. We did some master recording of revealing material to 16‑bit DAT, listening for the kind of audible problems that could potentially be caused by truncation (graininess on quiet passages, reverb tails, and so on), but in all honesty could not hear anything amiss.
Fostex's smallest, most affordable stand‑alone digital multitrack is based on the recorder section of their FD8 portable digital multitracker, and is also similar in operation to the professional D108 digital 8‑track (reviewed SOS January 1999 and August 1999 respectively). However, there's no WAV file import/export, as with the D108. The VR800 works perfectly with the VM200, and the two look complementary, both finished in the same grey, with similarly styled controls and display.
The VR800 records up to eight tracks of 16‑bit digital audio, at 44.1kHz, to an optional internal IDE or suitable external SCSI hard drive (fixed or removable). It also provides 16 virtual tracks, allowing different takes to be recorded alongside the main tracks and tucked away on the hard drive. The best eight takes are then assigned to the recorder's playback tracks for mixing.
The VR800 also offers a compressed mode which more than triples recording time. Where full‑bandwidth mode fits 17 track minutes into 100Mb of HD space, compressed mode fits 67 minutes. There's an option for mounting a 100Mb Zip drive internally, although only compressed recordings can be made on this drive. It's not possible to mix compressed and uncompressed recordings on one drive.
A small but useful collection of editing features is available: audio can be copied, pasted, moved and erased on individual or multiple tracks, and there's an Undo facility. As you may have gathered from the rest of this review, the VR800 is equipped with an 8‑channel ADAT interface, and the ADAT connector also functions as a stereo optical S/PDIF interface. The latter seems to be a hangover from the FD8 rather than a feature as such, but it could be useful to some people — say, for bringing in stereo audio off DAT.
The VR800's cute, pod‑like package looks as though it's been snapped neatly off the FD8. Its front panel sports a modest array of buttons, including standard transport controls which double as locate controls and for playing back clipboard contents during editing. There's a strip of eight illuminating track‑enable buttons beneath the 75mm x 32mm backlit graphic LCD, and further groups of buttons deal with the setting of locate and punch‑in/out points, accessing edit pages, selecting vari‑pitch (+/‑6 percent), and setting various time displays. a Scrub button turns the Jog/Shuttle dial into a control for scrubbing through audio, and a Shift button accesses alternate button functions. Important facilities such as MTC and word clock operation and disk formatting are accessed via the Setup button.
The rear panel has MIDI In and Out, ADAT optical I/O, a SCSI socket for connecting to two external hard drives, a word clock output, a mains socket, and a punch‑in/out footswitch socket. There are no analogue inputs (as offered by its big brother, the D108), but Fostex's £199 VC8 interface can replace the ADAT I/O with analogue I/O (see 'VC8 Interface' box later on).
Fostex make some of the best, friendliest and most stable hard‑disk multitracks around, and the VR800 continues their great record. It behaved flawlessly during the review period, and is generally a joy to use.
In common with other current Fostex digital recorders, the VR800 feels very tape‑like, yet it offers the major advantages of digital recording. It's easy to use — once it has been interfaced with a mixing desk, recording a track simply involves arming a track, setting the right level at the desk and going into record. Punch‑in/out can be manual, via footswitch, or automatic, and in all cases is seamless. Once all eight tracks are full, recording further material is just a matter of using 'Track Exchange' to move an existing track to one of the virtual track locations, where it waits safely until you need it. And all eight tracks will always be available even if a sequencer is sync'd to the VR800, since it transmits MIDI clock and MTC for this purpose. It's also MIDI Machine Control‑compatible.
Audio editing is almost as unproblematic as recording, the only real irritation being that audio copied or moved from elsewhere isn't inserted at the edit point, but overwrites the existing audio for the length of the new segment. This can be worked around, but an 'insert audio' option would be better. Also nice would be copying of audio between songs. The only other thing that's really missing is true 'playlist' editing — with the VR800, audio copying uses up extra disk space. Still, with a 5.1Gb drive available pre‑installed for just a £100 premium, most people won't run out of space too quickly. When they do, backup is to an external SCSI drive, DAT or ADAT.
The focal point of the VR800 is the LCD, which provides feedback during recording and editing. Though fairly large, it's not the clearest of displays — frequent contrast adjustment is required, its level‑meter graphics are small, and the screen legending indicating overloading is tiny. Still, the display scores when the Scrub option turns the level meters into a helpful waveform display, while the wheel scrubs through a track one sample at a time. This can be invaluable during editing.
Fostex make some of the best, friendliest and most stable hard‑disk multitracks around, and the VR800 continues their great record. It behaved flawlessly during the review period, and is generally a joy to use. Its editing facilities are almost exactly what's needed, and the additional tracks prove immensely useful. Audio quality, even in compressed mode, is beyond reproach, and the recorder itself is mechanically very quiet — much quieter than a computer‑based HD system. We'd certainly want a VR800 if we were shopping for 8‑track stand‑alone digital.
The picture is a little less clear‑cut when it comes to the VM200. On the downside, it's not really an 8‑bus mixer (though for most people, using the Record bus and the direct ADAT outs will work fine), and there are several instances where processor power is juggled bizarrely, so that using one feature disables or compromises another. The fact that no aux returns are provided is another serious shortcoming. One way to get around it would be to use a submixer for effects returns, plumbing it into two analogue inputs. Having built‑in effects also helps to some extent, but really the dedicated returns should be there. There's also no dynamics processing. Finally, some may find that the VM200 doesn't provide enough inputs; our studio has only an average number of sound sources, but the VM200 doesn't really offer enough inputs even for our needs.
On the plus side, the way the assignable controls work, in conjunction with the display, is admirable. It's great to have built‑in effects, the EQ is flexible and forgiving, and the libraries for both (including some good EQ presets) are welcome. Fostex are also to be applauded for providing motorised faders on a desk under £1000. These really simplify the assignability situation. The Scene automation works well, as does the MIDI‑based dynamic method, and the VM200 is also blessed in terms of some of the more traditional mixer features: four inserts, individually switchable phantom power, four aux sends and good monitoring options. The desk feels solid and professional, and seems very well built, while the choice of the ADAT format for the digital channels is very sensible.
Digital mixing at this price point tends to be an exercise in balancing compromises, and Fostex's compromises could be seen as no worse than those chosen by other manufacturers. The processor‑power allocation problems are aggravating but not terminal, and the limited number of analogue inputs may not be a issue for those who are recording mainly one track at a time. However, the analogue input limitation is further exacerbated by the lack of aux returns.
As a team, the VR800 and VM200 work really well. Considering the price of the two combined, the system makes a viable alternative to the higher‑priced portable digital multitrackers. The advantage, of course, is increased flexibility and the fact that if half of the system is outgrown it can be traded up without affecting the other half. Indeed, the more one thinks about it, the more it seems that this is where the VR800/VM200 partnership is best pitched.
The VM200 mixer offers MMC compatibility and a special mode in which the buttons above the faders become transport and locate controls. The buttons are not physically labelled, but a neat 'crib' graphic in the display shows which are used for what function.
Sixteen locate points can be stored, set in MTC/SMPTE hours:minutes:seconds:frames. Unlike some digital desks, the VM200 doesn't transmit or respond to MTC/SMPTE, so the locate points are entered manually rather than being selected on the fly as timecode comes in. It's still necessary to match frame rates with any attached equipment (24fps, 25fps, 30fps and 30fps drop‑frame are available).
The VM200 has 60mm motorised faders that are smooth and light in use, with surprisingly unobtrusive fader motors. If the small amount of noise they make does bug you, and the visual feedback they provide isn't required, motorisation can be disabled, with automated level changes still playing back as recorded.
The manual notes that a stepping effect may occasionally become audible when the faders are moved. This is simply down to CPU overloads. The answer is to change the fader 'Smoothing' function. However, doing this causes the two internal effect sends to be linked to aux sends 1 and 2 — aux send 1's setting will be the same as internal effect send 1's, and so on. This is an odd bit of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but luckily, even with the less smooth fader option, stepping is barely audible in normal usage. With this and other CPU compromises in mind, why didn't Fostex specify a higher‑powered CPU?
- Frequency response: 20Hz‑20kHz, +1dB/‑3dB.
- Dynamic range: 90dB or higher.
- THD: channel/line in ‑> stereo out, 0.08% or less (at 0dBv output).
- S/N ratio: ch 1‑8 (‑4dB) ‑> aux 1‑4, st bus out, 92dB or higher (IHF‑A).
- Crosstalk: 70dB or higher (@ 1kHz).
- A‑D conversion: 20‑bit, 64x oversampling.
- D‑A conversion: 20‑bit 128x oversampling.
- Sampling frequency: internal, 44.1kHz fixed; external, 44.1kHz/48kHz +/‑6 percent.
- Internal processing: 32‑bit.
- Dimensions: 428 x 118 x 454mm (WxHxD).
- Weight: 7kg.
- 8‑track simultaneous recording via ADAT optical digital interface.
- 16 additional (virtual) tracks.
- Internal 3.5‑inch bay for EIDE hard disk.
- Non‑compressed recording at 44.1kHz.
- Copy, Move, Erase editing with undo/redo.
- Audio scrub with graphic envelope display.
- Word clock out.
- 6 Edit memory, 99 Locate point memory.
- SCSI port for external recording or backup.
- +/‑6 percent vari‑pitch.
- 99 song programs.
- Dimensions: 254 x 100 x 285mm (WxHxD).
- Weight: 2kg.
What if you'd like a digital desk's advantages but are determined to continue working with an analogue multitrack? Or perhaps you like your analogue desk, but want to weld it to a digital recorder? Enter Fostex's VC8 ADAT‑to‑analogue/analogue‑to‑ADAT interface.
This half‑rack device offers two‑way 20‑bit conversion (via phono sockets) for a very reasonable price. It can be used to convert a digital desk's ADAT I/O to eight analogue ins and outs (ideal for use with an analogue multitrack), or to provide the analogue ins and outs necessary to connect an ADAT‑equipped digital recorder to an 8‑bus analogue mixer. a word clock input allows the VC8's digital signal to be correctly synchronised with other digital equipment.
The VC8 offers three input modes, for use with stereo, 4‑bus or 8‑bus analogue mixers. The first two allow stereo or 4‑bus desks to be used with an ADAT‑compatible recorder without repatching, by duplicating the two or four inputs to the remaining ADAT outputs. The unit can also be used as an alternative (possibly higher‑quality) set of D‑A converters with the digital output from a PC soundcard.
- Excellent use of assignability.
- Informative display.
- Onboard effects.
- Nice 4‑band EQ, with good library.
- Scene and MIDI automation.
- Moving faders.
- Four aux sends.
- ADAT interface.
- No aux returns.
- Several CPU power compromises.
- Using S/PDIF input knocks two channels out of action.
- No onboard dynamics.
- Not enough analogue inputs for the average synth‑based studio.
A very attractive desk with a professional feel and desirable features, let down by some odd design decisions.