With the release of the Mackie HDR24/96 hard disk recorder, Mackie enters the increasingly popular hard-disk recording market. The HDR24/96 is a 24-track, 24-bit, 96 kHz-capable hard disk recorder/editor with a base price of $4,999.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: 24 track, hard-disk recorder; 24-bit/96-kHz capability; onscreen control and editing by adding a SVGA monitor, mouse and keyboard; many I/O options available
Contact: Mackie Designs, Inc. at 800-258-6883 425-487-4333; Web Site
+ Great sound
+ Tons of editing features
+ Flexible (and D8B-compatible)I/O card options
– Only three IO cards can be installed at a time
– Punch out/punch in was sluggish
The Score: The Mackie HDR24/96 recorder/editor sounds great, is feature-packed, extremely affordable and easy to use.
The four-rack-unit-high HDR24/96 accepts AC power via a standard IEC connector and a rear panel switch allows the box to be switched between 115V AC/60 Hz and 230V AC/50 Hz operation. Rear panel connections are provided for remote, mouse, keyboard, monitor, SMPTE, clock in and clock out, Ethernet, MIDI and foot switch. The foot switch can be assigned to Punch, Stop/Play, Next Cue or New Cue.
The HDR24/96 has four available I/O cards. The AIO-8 ($399) offers eight +4 dBu analog inputs and outputs via two 25-pin D-sub connectors. The D-sub’s pin wiring is to the TASCAM standard; old DA-88 cables can be put back to work. The DIO-8 ($450) features eight channels of digital I/O with both ADAT lightpipe and TASCAM TDIF formats. The OPT-8 ($99) is an ADAT optical-only version of the DIO-8 card offering eight digital inputs and eight outputs via two optical connectors (lightpipe). The PDI-8 ($399) carries four stereo pairs of digital inputs and outputs on a single DB25 connector. The HDR24/96’s cards are competitively priced and are conveniently interchangeable with the D8B Digital 8-Bus console.
During my testing, the Version 1.0 software did not offer 96 kHz recording, so all testing was done at 24-bit/44.1 kHz. Subsequent software and hardware upgrades will provide 12 tracks at 96 kHz.
The HDR24/96 includes a GUI and built-in DAW-style editor accessible by simply adding an SVGA monitor, two-button PS/2 mouse and a standard PC keyboard. The fan-cooled HDR24/96 is a little noisy, so the added SVGA monitor is a must, allowing the actual recorder to be placed somewhere other than the control room.
Although I found the HDR24/96 easy to use without the monitor, once I plugged in the monitor, I realized there was no going back. The monitor is so visually informative I cannot imagine using the recorder without it. The box has eight Virtual Takes per track. This allows the recording of multiple passes without having to change routing and bussing assignments or use additional tracks. The idea of virtual tracks was a little awkward to me at first, but once I got used to it, it worked surprisingly well. Everybody I know with one of the Roland VS boxes – which is at least half the population of Nashville – loves the virtual track approach, so I anticipate this will be a treasured feature.
Mackie recently announced the upcoming release of its D8W Integrator, which promises superior performance when using the HDR24/96 with the Mackie D8B Digital 8-Bus Mixer (reviewed in PAR, 4/00, p. 52).
This package includes a card for the HDR24/96 along with special software that allows the two components to act as a single workstation with full editing, recording, automation and plug-ins, along with a dedicated control surface. This setup allows the equipment to be operated using one keyboard, one mouse and one monitor.
After spending an hour or so familiarizing myself with the operation of the HDR24/96, I was ready to put the machine to work. My first order of business was to digitally transfer an existing song from another hard disk recorder into the HDR24/96.
The unit that I received included three AIO-8 cards and three DIO-8 cards. Unfortunately, only three cards can be installed at a time. This caused some frustration as I realized that when doing a digital transfer from another hard disk recorder to the HDR24/96 while working on an analog console, there is no way to monitor the transfer until after it is complete and the DIO-8 cards are swapped for AIO-8 cards. I would not have encountered this situation if I had been working on a digital desk.
Once the audio was in the HDR24/96, I found editing to be easy and instinctive. Cutting, copying and pasting is simple with the HDR24/96, and 999 levels of undo is a nice feature to have. Crossfading, bouncing, looping, snapping to grid and analog-style scrubbing were just a mouse-click away and easily accomplished.
My next session with the HDR24/96 was tracking a full rhythm section (through the AIO-8 cards). The machine performed flawlessly. The sound is wonderful. I was surprised that a $399 card could sound that good. The artist, who had been skeptical of non-tape-based recorders in the past, commented several times on the impressive sound quality.
The HDR24/96’s operations are so intuitive I rarely found myself referring to the Quick Start Guide. I was surprised to learn that the HDR24/96 is built around a 433 MHz Intel Celeron motherboard. Despite the inexpensive processor, the operation seemed up to snuff in most cases. I did encounter some difficulty when recording vocals and needing to punch out for a word or two then punch back in. The HDR24/96 needs a little thinking time before it is ready to go back in Record. Ultimately, I found that better results were attained by piecing multiple takes together rather than by quick punches.
The HDR24/96 is a powerful recorder that combines the features of standalone hard disk recorders with those of computer-based DAWs, such as Digidesign’s Pro Tools and Emagic’s Logic.