360 Systems Short/cut 2000 Digital Audio Recorder Editor

You have probably noticed that your favorite tools work the way you work; the operation, properties and the methods of your favorite tools seem second nature. I found this pleasure with 360 Systems' Short/cut 2000 (software Version 4.0) personal audio editor.
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You have probably noticed that your favorite tools work the way you work; the operation, properties and the methods of your favorite tools seem second nature. I found this pleasure with 360 Systems' Short/cut 2000 (software Version 4.0) personal audio editor.
Product PointsApplications: Broadcast, studio, post production, multimedia

Key Features: Personal audio editor; 44.1 and 48 kHz operation at 16 bits; LCD waveform display; GPI interface; XLR and BNC digital outs; XLR analog I/O

Price: $3,495

Contact: 360 Systems at 818-991-0360 Web Site
Features

With a list price of $3,495, the Short/cut can free up those computers formerly used for audio cut and paste operations for more productive tasks, such as typing. When I last reviewed the Short/cut, Version 1.0 (PAR, 9/97, p. 18), I raved about its features and robust performance in the field. Since that time, 360 Systems has added file format translation, crossfade capability and gain change, and has improved speed in editing, file copy and file import/export.

All the improvements are within the device - the familiar compact footprint (3.7 inches by 17.25 inches by 12.8 inches) is unchanged. Its sloping front panel offers a good view of the LCD and an easy reach to the controls. New users will appreciate the Short/cut's keyboard buffer that allows users to enter keystroke commands even when the Short/cut has not finished with the task in progress - as you become familiar with the commands and your keystrokes become more rapid, you won't have to wait for the Short/cut to poll the keyboard.

The unit comes standard with a 12-hour stereo capacity at 44.1 kHz/16-bit - more than enough time for my purposes. An external SCSI option is also available.

The Short/cut has been designed as a personal audio editor, and as such is structured to allow up to nine users to have password-protected directories for their projects. A typical use would be for a station's air staff to safely store clips, zingers, sound effects and the like, or for a station's reporters to store their audio for stories in progress. A tenth area, known as the Public Directory, cannot be password protected and can act as a central repository for audio files that all may access.

Getting material into the Short/cut is easy: Just press Record. Recordings can be made on either or both channels, and the channels can be monitored individually by pressing the respective Solo button. The Short/cut also has an adjustable-threshold recording mode, triggerable in 6 dB steps between -6 dB and -60 dB. Selection between the analog and two digital inputs is made prior to recording by pressing Soft Key 1.

When the Stop button is pressed, the file is closed and the user is prompted for a filename. To speed up making takes, the Short/cut can be configured to bypass the filename prompt and title each take with your choice of default names and an incremental number.

Once a file is loaded, editing is easy. Select a file for editing by pressing Enter from the files list, and a waveform appears in an LCD fashion - the waves are described in square pixels. At first I was concerned with the resolution, but found that quieter passages can be easily magnified to 16X by repeatedly pressing Alt-Zoom In. To increase the time resolution, simply press Zoom In and, at maximum resolution, the wave is expanded to show two seconds at a time.

Using the weighted jog wheel, the user can scrub through the audio file. When it is time to mark a section for an edit, simply press the Edit In and Edit Out keys. Material between these two marks can be cut, copied, replaced with silence, or the contents of the audio clipboard can be pasted in place of it just by pressing one of the main function keys. If you have a shaky hand, the nudge keys (cursor arrow keys) move the cursor in 10 millisecond increments. Once you have your cursor where you want it, pressing the Edit In or Edit Out will make that spot your new in or out point.

The keyboard transport and editing keys are physically contoured for comfort, and the system does not register an edit action until you release the key. If you start to make a big mistake with cut, copy, insert or erase, and the key is still pressed down, you can negate the operation by simultaneously pressing stop or exit. If the key has been released, you can press the Undo key.

The Short/cut can do linear crossfades between segments marked by edit-in and edit-out points. Not all cuts need a crossfade; pressing the Enter key toggles this feature. Pressing Menu, then 6, quickly presents the crossfade duration dialogue. Values between 0.01 and 30 seconds can be spun in using the jog wheel, or entered using the numeric hot keys.

A crossfade build takes from milliseconds a few seconds to complete, depending on the duration. A percent-completed value is displayed on the screen while the build is in process. The crossfade Undo is instantaneous.

To assist in navigating within a file, Short/cut users can drop up to 500 markers. The file can be tabbed from mark to mark, forward or backward, by pressing the Go-to keys - similar to searching for indices on a DAT tape.

The Short/cut also provides a General Purpose Interface (GPI) that can remotely control the Stop, Record, Play, FF, RW and Speaker Mute functions, and provides tally voltage if you want to build your own standalone remote control box. The GPI is also useful for interfacing with automated and live-assist operations.

Stereo analog line inputs and outputs appear on back-panel XLR connectors. AES/EBU input and output spigots are provided on XLR connectors, and an AES-3ID digital input and output is available on a BNC connector.

Files and entire directories can be sent to a 360 Systems' DigiCart or DigiCartII using the D-NET protocol in near real-time from either the AES XLR or BNC connector. If you need connectivity between two Short/cuts or a Short/cut computer, you can add an external Jaz or Zip drive to the optional SCSI port. A 2 GB Jaz drive holds more than two hours of recorded material. Your recordings can be made directly onto the drive, edited, copied and manipulated and then popped out, ready to be tweaked on your old-fashioned computer.

The Short/cut provides import and export of WAV, Broadcast WAV (BWF), AIFF and SDII files in MSDOS and HFS disk formats.

In use

To exercise the Short/cut, I spent an enjoyable weekend cutting music beds, 27 in all, ranging from the richly textured to the sparse and open.

When I plugged my Grado SR225 headphones into the rear jack for monitoring, I heard a quiet cyclical impulse click when Play is started and disappears when the device returns to idle. The older Short/cuts also exhibited this low-level click, as I noted in my original review (PAR, 9/97, p. 18). This noise is not in the digital outputs, just the analog line and headphone outs.

Despite this, using the Short/cut for music editing is a pleasure. Even though I had not touched a Short/cut for some months, and had been using industrial-strength PC-based editors, my hands easily remembered the keystrokes to make the device dance to my tune. It was most enjoyable to return to the Short/cut's ergonomically arranged controls, and not fuss with a large computer monitor and lightweight pointing device. One can actually exercise one's ears using the Short/cut because its display insists on it.

Some music beds flew together quickly, lyrics simply cut out and music bridges butted together. Other beds were crafted from bands that layered their music, making it impossible to cut cleanly. By experimenting with the crossfade duration, some seamless beds were finessed easily, while the same outcome would have been cumbersome to create on other audio editors - although it seemed unintuitive where, exactly, a crossfade started and ended. The owner's manual described the cut-with-crossfade process as a butt-cut splice made at the edit-in and edit-out points, with a linear crossfade built by splitting the crossfade duration between the two sections.

An insert-crossfade is similar, but with two crossfades being built at each end of the inserted audio. For cutting percussive sections, a crossfade-duration change of .01 yielded audible changes - this is where experimentation took place - and even counting the number of columns on the display to find the exact cut point was not as productive as pure experimentation.

Using the Short/cut's internal ability to conserve file space, it was a simple matter to make different-length versions of the same tune. A quick Alt-Save command saved the file under a new name. To finish the decay at the end of a tune to exact time, the fade-out feature was invaluable; I had made fade-outs by crossfading the music to a segment of silence, but after discovering the fade-out feature in the owner's manual, this became the preferred, quick way to end a tune.

Summary

Overall, the I time spent evaluating the Short/cut was like working with an old friend. With new DSP and file-handling features, 360 Systems has made the indispensible Short/cut even faster and more powerful.