iZ Technology RADAR 24 24-Track Digital Audio Recorder

Studios, producers and engineers have been salivating at the mere thought of the new RADAR 24 for months now. The third generation of RADAR (Random Access Digital Audio Recorder) hard-disk recorders is finally shipping.
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Studios, producers and engineers have been salivating at the mere thought of the new RADAR 24 for months now. The third generation of RADAR (Random Access Digital Audio Recorder) hard-disk recorders is finally shipping.
Product PointsApplications: Recording studio, post production, location recording

Key Features: 24-track hard disk recorder; 24 channels of TDIF digital I/O; 2 channels of AES and S/PDIF standard; many other I/O options, including A/D (up to 192 kHz) and optical and AES; video and word clock I/O

Price: $4,995 (base unit)

Contact: iZ Technology Corp. at 604-430-5818 Web Site

Plus

+ Sound quality

+ Flexible configurations

+ Reliable and easy to use

Minus

- Does not accept plug-ins

The Score: The R24 is a fantastic recording environment. If you are looking for a hard-disk multi-track recorder, the iZ Technology RADAR 24 should be high on your list of considerations.
In 1992, after entering into a marketing agreement with Otari, the original iZ Technology RADAR was shipped under the Otari name. The RADAR was the world's first standalone 24-track hard disk recorder. With a list price of $25,000 it was beyond the reach of the typical project studio. Now, less than a decade later, iZ Technology has taken marketing into its own hands with the introduction of the RADAR 24 multitrack hard-disk recorder.

Features

The new R24 (RADAR 24) provides 24-bit recording at sample rates up to 192 kHz. It offers a wealth of features at a base price well within the reach of the serious project studio -$4,995.

Many of the hardware features that shipped standard on the Otari RADAR and the RADAR II are options on the R24. This is one way iZ Technology has been able to sell the new box at a substantially lower price than the RADAR II's.

The philosophy behind the R24's design is that there is no need to pay for features that are not going to be used. If you plan on using the box with the Mackie D8B, the Sony DMX-R100 or any other digital desk, it is likely that you won't need A/D or D/A converters - so you don't need to buy them. If you need them down the road, they can be added later.

The R24's rear panel can be equipped with connectors to interface the box with virtually any piece of studio equipment. If the machine is equipped with the analog option, six DB-25 connectors (wired to match the TASCAM standard) provide 24 channels of balanced analog input and output. Inputs/outputs may be connected balanced or unbalanced depending on the studio's wiring scheme. The R24 operates at +4 dBu with four user-selectable reference levels.

The R24 comes standard with 24 channels of TDIF digital I/O along with an 18 GB Seagate Barracuda hard-drive, two channels of AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital I/O. Three DB-25 connectors provide the standard TDIF digital I/O. Connector space is also reserved for the installation of the forthcoming optional AES or lightpipe interface boards (Price TBA).

By using the AES/EBU or S/PDIF connections, the R24 can digitally record on any two tracks and can output digitally from any two tracks. The box can simultaneously output analog and digital signals and track input can be assigned as either digital or analog.

Sync Reference BNC in and out connectors and Digital I/O Sync (word clock) BNC in and out connectors are included to ensure clock sync between the R24 and other digital devices. MIDI in/out/thru ports are also included. A standard PC or Mac can control the R24 via SMPTE or MMC. A PC parallel port allows a printer to be connected.

RADARlink provides in and out ports (both 9-pin) to allow up to eight R24 units to be linked together for a total of 192 tracks. The Sony 9-Pin Serial Machine Control port allows the R24 to be controlled by the transport controls of any externally connected device that supports the Sony 9-pin interface.

The VGA port provides a graphical display of waveforms, track meter values, sync settings and edit parameters via any standard VGA monitor (not included). The use of a monitor is necessary when using the included KC-24 keyboard as a controller, and helpful - but not required - when using the optional Session Controller remote ($1,195).

All the controllers provide dedicated track-arming buttons and transport, auto-locate and edit controls. In addition to providing a recording environment with the feel of a traditional tape remote, the Session Controller also includes lighted buttons and a jog/shuttle wheel that greatly simplifies editing.

The optional controller includes 48 track- arming buttons so a single controller can easily operate two R24 units as a single 48-track system. The Session Controller's macro keys enable common button-press sequences to be stored and recalled at the touch of a button.

An optional 24- or 48-track meter bridge ($495/$795) connects to the controller or to the Controller Port (if no optional controller is being used) on the rear panel of the R24. It can be attached to a controller or placed anywhere in the studio, but it can also be placed in another position (e.g. on top of the console meter bridge) with the purchase of an extension cable. In larger format configurations, a second meter bridge may be mounted next to the standard one, for level display of 48 tracks.

The external SCSI port allows the R24 to be connected to an external disk-drive chassis, allowing additional SCSI drives to be connected for additional recording capacity.

The R24 also comes standard with an Ethernet port for networking and 2 USB ports for future applications. The R24 can be shipped with the optional 192 kHz S-NYQUIST high-resolution board set ($3,995) or the 48 kHz RADAR 24 classic board set ($1,695), which is identical to the RADAR II. With the plain NYQUIST card, 24 tracks can be recorded at 48 kHz or 12 tracks at 96 kHz. With the S-NYQUIST card, the option of recording six tracks at 192 kHz is added (an excellent option for 5.1 mixing).

My test unit was equipped with the 96 kHz NYQUIST board set ($2,995), which I found to have outstanding audio quality. The improvement over the RADAR II sound is significant.

The R24 can handle up to 99 projects with each project containing up to 99 locator positions. Each project, locator position and track can be labeled via the Session Controller or an external computer keyboard. The R24 will support import and export of the Broadcast WAV file format via DVD-RAM in the soon-to-be-released 3.10 version of RADAR 24 software. This will allow drag and drop file importing into PC- and Mac-based DAWs using DVD-RAM or DVD-ROM drives.

The long list of R24 options includes additional hard drives (9, 18 or 36 GB $475 to $895) and 24- and 48- track meter bridges. For backup purposes, the R24 can be optionally equipped with 2X DVD-RAM, Exabyte Eliant 820, Exabyte Mammoth, Exabyte Mammoth LT or AIT.

iZ Technology has done a commendable job with operational documentation. The QuickStart guide is the size of a CD case and contains all you need to get started. The complete manual is included on a CD-ROM packaged in the back of the guide's back cover.

In use

I put the R24 to the test over several weeks and its operation was flawless. While Ioften use Pro Tools, in a tracking situation it simply cannot compete with RADAR 24. RADAR perfectly blends the feel and reliability of an analog 24-track machine with the mobility of the ADATs and DA-88s.

I only wish there was a way to implement plug-ins. I realize the R24 is not a DAW, but onboard auto-tuning, EQ and compression sure would come in handy.

Unlike the RADAR and the RADAR II, which are built around DOS machines, the R24 is based around the BeOS operating system. This means it boots in a fraction of the time and is more stable than ever (the RADAR II was already the most stable hard-disk recorder on the market). In bouncing back and forth between the R24 and the RADAR II, I was amazed at how much quicker the R24 came to life at power up.

The R24 is backward compatible with RADAR and RADAR II files, and an thing recorded on the R24 is compatible with the RADAR and RADAR II - if it is in an audio format supported by one of those machines.

I used the R24 to mix Waterdeep's new album. The project was originally tracked on 20-bit ADATs, which are reasonable-sounding machines. After the material was digitally transferred into the R24 via my Otari Universal Format Converter (UFC) (iZ Technologies' UFC is $2,995), I was amazed at how much better the tracks sounded. The sound of the R24 is simply stunning, even with lower bit rate and lower sample rate material. For the Waterdeep project, I have been working with both 9 GB and 18 GB drives and both have performed flawlessly.

Before I started the Waterdeep mix, I did some recording at 96 kHz and I had wonderful results. I am convinced the R24 is one of the best-sounding digital multitracks I have heard.

Summary

I must confess that I entered this review process already loving the RADAR II, so perhaps I am a bit biased, but I am even more sold on the RADAR 24. In comparison to the RADAR II, R24 has better sound, more features and is less money.