Manufacturers have been trying to miniaturize electronics products since the first vacuum tube was developed at the turn of the century. The problem is, humans have not miniaturized along with equipment they use. As tape recorders have shrunk from bulky reels to microcassettes and MiniDiscs, the devices have become increasingly difficult to use, with teeny buttons, inadequate power sources and flimsy I/O jacks.
Some enterprising radio stations have packed MD and DAT recorders in foam-lined lunch boxes – complete with XLR I/O connectors mounted on the front and superheroes emblazoned on the sides.
With the MD-Report!, Professional Audio Sales and Service (PASS) took the need for insulating these small portable recorders to its logical extreme. Audio professionals will appreciate the MD-Report!’s solid construction and the protection it provides small field recorders.
The MD-Report! ($500) is a one-piece steel chassis with a compartment for mounting an MD or DAT recorder and umbilical cables for connecting its power and audio I/O to the outside world. The compartment, which is open on its top and front, measures 3.75″ deep, 5.75″ wide and 1.75″ high. A slab of hard plastic is screwed into the compartment’s bottom, with a Velcro-brand hook-and-loop pad attached to the top of the slab. Users can then attach it to the underside of their recorder.
The recorder firmly attaches to the MD-Report! but can be pulled away if needed. The soft nylon-like outer case shuts firmly to protect the exposed top and front of your recorder. The soft case is smartly designed with closeable side flaps for access to the battery compartment and the I/O connectors and controls. There is also a zipper pouch for recording media or other essentials.
Powering field recorders is always a concern – AA batteries seldom last the length of a DAT tape. The MD-Report! has a separate compartment to the side of the recorder that houses a hefty lead-acid rechargeable battery. Spring contacts accept four D cells in place of the lead-acid battery for an alternative power source.
A wallwart DC supply is provided for charging the lead-acid battery and operating the MD-Report! from the AC mains.
The control-side panel boasts an interesting array of connectors and controls; two XLR female connectors accept microphone or line-level audio (level selectable by an adjacent input switch), and an XLR male presents a balanced mono sum of the left and right channels. A 1.5″ speaker plays the recorder’s output (mono summed) and is muted when headphones are plugged into the 1/4″ stereo headphone jack
For one-channel recording, the MD-Report!’s initialize switch either routes the left XLR input to the recorder’s left and right inputs for convenient one-channel recording or routes the two XLR inputs to the recorder’s respective left and right inputs for conventional stereo recording.
The MD-Report!’s microphone preamps provide 48 V phantom power by flipping the power switch to ON+P48. An internal jumper can be set to provide +60 dB of gain for low-output dynamic mics.
With the wallwart power supply in the zipper pouch and a lead-acid battery installed (but no recorder mounted), the MD-Report! tips the scales at a hefty 6 lb.
In actual use, I found the MD-Report! features fulfilling a need we routinely have for small field recorders. A built-in speaker, monitor amplifier, input switching, battery with charger circuit and built-in microphone preamps are certainly welcome features. I admired the steelwork of the chassis construction, and the engineering that went into the product, but found fault with the MD-Report! on several points.
When I mounted my Sony TCD-D7 DAT recorder (listed in the User Guide as suitable for use with the MD-Report!) into the compartment with the D7’s transport controls to the front, I was dismayed to find the two cables for input and output were too short to reach the D7’s jacks.
The only logical choice for mounting a recorder with jacks on the right side is to place it in the compartment with the controls to the back. The display is then upside down and the control to open the lid inaccessible against the back of the compartment.
While the D7 fit snugly into the compartment, the audio input and output cable plugs rub against the compartment’s side. Interestingly, with such extreme metal work for the chassis, the crucial miniplugs are alarmingly fragile. They are designed to lay flat where the cable enters the plug at a 90-degree angle, but the plug’s protective cover easily comes off. This reveals the wires soldered to the plug terminals with little strain relief.
I would have preferred a more robust molded plug assembly. With the combination of fragile plugs and the D7’s quirky, slightly nonstandard mini-jacks, I felt this combination of recorder and MD-Report! was inherently unstable
Overall, PASS understands the limitations of tiny field recorders and has made an attempt to address the faults of these recorders with the MD-Report! With additional product and materials engineering spent on the MD-Report! PASS will eventually have a very worthy product for the audio professional.
Contact PASS/PMI at 310-373-9129