I started in the industry back in the early ’70s, when we wondered what we would do with more than eight tracks – the very idea of this kind of recorder at its price is still astounding to me. I was blown away in 1991 when three blackface ADATS for $12,000 could accomplish 24-track recording at less than half the price of analog! The joint TASCAM/TimeLine-designed MX-2424 breaks new barriers in cost and performance.
Product PointsApplications: Studio recording
Key Features: 24-track hard disk recorder; 44.1/48 kHz sampling at 16- or 24-bit, MTC, MMC and SMPTE sync; 24 channels of analog or digital I/O optional
Contact: 323-726-0303; www.tascam.com
+ Sound quality
+ Rock solid operation
+ Fast lock-up time
+ 96 kHz operation
The Score: I found the MX-2424 to be a reliable and impressive unit with lots of expandability options.
At $3,999, the base MX-2424 comes with an internal 9 GB hard drive. Twenty-four tracks of ADAT lightpipe or TDIF digital ins and outs list for $599 (advertisements that TASCAM ran earlier this year claimed that the “street price” for the MX-2424 included the digital I/O for $3,999).
Analog I/O – at 24-bit resolution – for all 24 channels is provided via an optional card for $1,699 (list) using six D-sub 25-pin connectors. Note: the analog inputs are calibrated to clip at +22 dBu, which puts digital full scale (0 dB FS) at +18 from most analog consoles. This is not adjustable, but should be more than enough headroom to avoid digital clipping.
Making analog I/O optional makes financial sense for those of us with digital consoles or premium-quality outboard A/D and D/A converters. For those who opt for analog I/O, insiders at TimeLine/TASCAM tell us they researched dozens of converters and found the best combination of quality and price. The optional converters are already 96 kHz-capable, so upgrading is a software concern only. (A 96 kHz option will be available later this month.)
A single AES/EBU stereo pair of I/Os is standard, which can be very useful to provide word sync in either direction, even if not used for audio transmission. A stereo S/PDIF in and out is provided via RCA jacks. In addition, BNC connectors are provided for word sync in, out and through. Another BNC allows a video reference signal to drive the MX-2424’s sample rate clock.
MIDI in/out/thru is provided for MTC as well as MIDI Machine Control. SMPTE in/out/thru is accomplished by 1/4-inch TRS jacks. Jacks for in/out-thru of the proprietary TL-BUS allow connection of the TASCAM RC-2424 remote and up to 32 MX-2424 units in a single, sample-accurate sync group. They’re not kidding folks. Do the math – that is 768 tracks of recording/playback. Remember, this machine was designed by TimeLine, a manufacturer with hundreds of man-years’ experience in synchronization.
Travan tape backup and DVD-RAM are currently available from TASCAM. The MX-2424 supports ultrawide SCSI 2 architecture, which uses the new LVD high-speed drives. A front-access drive bay can hold an onboard DVD-RAM, a Travan tape drive or removable hard drive. A back panel SCSI bus can feed an external drive bay with more of the same options. Detailed information, including the entire manual, can be found at TASCAM’s Web site (www.tascam.com). One significant connection on the rear panel is the Ethernet jack. Even if you don’t have a LAN (Local Area Network), for less than $50 you can get an Ethernet card for your Mac or PC and run TASCAM’s ViewNet software.
ViewNet was developed for very large sync groups in the post production realm of the MMR series recorder/players. From ViewNet you can manage all functions of the MX-2424, including cut-and-paste editing and track/ project management of up to the maximum of 32 machines. ViewNet software is included at no extra charge.
The key to the absolute bulletproof operation of the MX-2424 and the MMR series is the genius of the TimeLine engineers. I have used the MMR series in post production for several months, and have used the MX-2424 itself for many projects and never – I mean never – have any of these units ever failed to record or play when engaged directly or when fed time code. I cannot say this for any other nonlinear platform I’ve used.
One other notable observation concerns the single-level-deep menu system on the MMR series, which is essentially the same menu as the MX-2424’s. With just a little bit of acclimation time, one gets spoiled on the “hundreds series” menu system – you’ll wish it was a standard.
The extremely well-planned and well-executed software provides the ability to easily manage upgrades directly from TASCAM’s Web site to your own MX-2424 through its Ethernet cable. An MX-OS version 1.13 upgrade is available for all current MX-2424 users. It supports FAT 32 hard drives over 9 GB and transfer utilities for moving audio wave files between Mac HFS and PC FAT 32 drives. As future upgrades become available (like HFS+), a simple download directly into your MX-2424 is just a click away.
One has to learn a few essentials to set up and name a project. Once done, just enable tracks and press record. All intuitive functions of punch-ins and outs are available. A significant parameter to set before recording is Tape Mode (destructive) vs. Nondestructive mode.
Using Tape Mode destructively records over previously recorded material, making disk space management real easy. Using Nondestructive mode allows multiple takes to be retained, but if you don’t pay strict attention to final edits and cleanup, you can create many unused regions of audio and run out of disk space. I find most recording projects do just fine in Tape Mode. In either case, decide which mode to use ahead of time – you cannot easily switch back and forth. A conversion utility must be run to go from Nondestructive mode to tape mode. Tape mode to Nondestructive mode can be switched at any time.
Another key selection that must be set prior to recording is the bit resolution. Once 24-bit or 16-bit is chosen, all tracks associated with a song or project will be at the same bit resolution. It is possible to change this setting mid-project and have both 16 and 24 bit files coexisting within one project.
The 9 GB internal drive has the following standard recording capabilities: 44.1 kHz/16-bit: over 65 minutes of 24-track time; 44.1 kHz/24-bit: over 45 minutes; 48 kHz/16-bit: over 60 minutes; 48 kHz/24-bit: over 40 minutes. Note: The operating system does not reside on the hard drive; the drive is for recording only. The OS resides in flash RAM.
What’s really neat is the two-sided 5 GB capacity of the DVD-RAM cartridges. At about $30 per removable disk, this translates to $6 per GB, or very close to ADAT or DA-78/98 (DTRS-Hi-8) tape costs. TASCAM’s optional DVD-RAM drive is a Hitachi DVD-GF1050, and sells for $575 list.
Most of the projects I’ve done were using the MX-2424 as a code-only slave. You’ll need very little preroll from an MTC or SMPTE source, as the MX-2424 drops into sync in less than a second.
I’ve used both an ADAT lightpipe-equipped MX-2424 as well as one with analog converters in both cases, the sound quality was excellent.
The 16-segment LED peak-reading meters are easy to work with and get used to. One neat aspect, after working with the MX-2424 awhile, was being able to see or view several channels in a single glance. The 24 vertical bar meters are packed close together in the space of several inches instead of several feet on typical consoles. This allows one to develop a sort of speed- reading skill of a wider field of view, to actually see several tracks of levels without moving your eyes.
At the Conservatory of Recording Arts we have several “Golden Ears,” including our biggest analog hound and Director of Education Mike Jones. Jones, Gherry Fimbres, Andy Seagle and Robert Brock have all engineered gold records, and Jones was on the music-mixing team for the Alien Resurrection soundtrack. All these colleagues can hear when a student project uses our vintage Neve mic preamplifiers, when the quad compressor of the SSL 4000-G series is engaged and when the tubes need replacing in our LA-2A compressors.
In a meticulously calibrated listening test, the TASCAM MX-2424 was compared to the fully loaded Otari RADAR II. The “Golden Ears” said the sound quality was nearly as good as the more expensive Otari.
The panel’s listening tests confirmed my experience with the TASCAM MX-2424. Great sound at an affordable price.