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Q. Can I use my Atari for audio recording?

I have started to become very interested in using my Atari system either as a stand‑alone recorder, or in combination with something like a Korg D16 hard disk multitracker. Is it possible to use Ataris for purely audio work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of using this platform for audio?

Geoff Irwin

Assistant Editor Sam Inglis replies: Standard Atari STs are not really up to the demands of audio recording, but the souped‑up Falcon variant works reasonably successfully as an 8‑track recorder with the appropriate hard drive and software (such as Cubase Audio for Falcon). The main advantages of such a system over a PC or Mac are stability (a properly set‑up system will be much less prone to crashing), simplicity, and quietness (I believe that the Falcon has no internal fan, although any hard drive you used would still make a noise).

The disadvantages are that these systems are no longer supported by many hardware or software manufacturers, making upgrades and finding replacement parts a struggle; their audio quality is unlikely to equal that of a modern PC or Mac soundcard; you may have trouble finding suitable hard drives; Falcon systems are not that widely available even second‑hand, and tend to be overpriced; and most of all, that they are under‑powered compared to even modest Mac or PC systems. Standard Falcons have a maximum memory capacity of 14Mb, whereas Macs and PCs can host the best part of 1Gb, along with larger and faster hard drives. Mac and PC processor speeds also allow real‑time effects and soft synths to be run alongside a sequencer.

If you can find a working Falcon system with all the necessary parts, for considerably less than either a PC or a dedicated hard‑disk recorder, consider it — but only if it's cheap! A good article to check out, in any case, would be 'Living With Cubase Audio On The Atari Falcon' in SOS September 1994.

Of course, if you want to stick with your Atari there's nothing to stop you running your MIDI sequencer on that and sync'ing it (via MIDI Time Code or MIDI Clock) to a hard disk recorder that takes care of the audio side of things.