Review: iZ RADAR studio Recording System/Multiplatform DAW - ProSoundNetwork.com

Review: iZ RADAR studio Recording System/Multiplatform DAW

By Russ Long. RADAR studio runs DAWs natively: e.g., Pro Tools.
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The new iZ RADAR Studio offers an entirely new approach to the acclaimed RADAR recording system. The device, which looks like a regular RADAR with touch screen and transport controls on the front, can be booted into RADAR mode offering the classic RADAR operation that so many people know and love. Alternatively, it can be booted into Workstation mode, allowing it to natively run the user’s DAW of choice (Sorry Logic users—RADAR studio runs Windows OS.) Harrison’s Mixbus DAW comes pre-installed and, for an additional $10, iZ will install Avid’s Pro Tools 11 (with more DAW installation options available in the future, offers iZ). While Mixbus is actually a license, Pro Tools is only an installation; it requires an iLok. RADAR Studio runs Pro Tools at near HD specs, but it is not running HD so it doesn’t require an HD license.

RADAR Studio is entirely customizable, too; I/O is available with either the Ultra-Nyquist or Classic 96 converter options and is available in banks of eight, allowing for eight, 16 or 24 channels of analog I/O. The Ultra-Nyquist cards support sample resolution up to 192 kHz while the Classic 96 cards support up to 96 kHz. Digital I/O options include AES, MADI, ADAT and TDIF. In addition to converter and I/O options, iZ offers configurable drive bays, external media, DSP cards and peripherals. The built-in touch screen makes many functions extremely easy.

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The heart of the RADAR Studio and the key to its unmatched sonic performance is the Adrenaline DR Recording Engine that houses iZ’s proprietary tried-and-true Trinity Chip; it provides a near-zero jitter clock by utilizing a frequency synthesized digital PLL. The Adrenaline DR engine also frees up the host processor to provide better DAW/plug-in performance.

The optional Session Controller (essentially a remote) provides full tactile control of up to eight RADARs; it has been mapped with operational shortcuts for seamless integration with Pro Tools. Additionally, there are three banks of 16 programmable macro keys providing more DAW operational customization. It takes a little time to learn, but once you get comfortable with it, driving Pro Tools with the Session Controller is an absolute pleasure and a huge time saver. (Lynn Fuston adds: “Macros are incredible time-savers on big orchestral sessions. Unarming 48 tracks and arming 18 more for the double requires only two keystrokes. Very speedy.”)

Depending on the configuration, a RADAR Studio system ranges from $7,500 to $21,000. The iZ website has a “Price a RADAR” page (http://www.izcorp.com/dealers/price-a-radar/) that allows easy pricing for a custom system. There, I virtually built my dream rig; it came in at $16,940. At first glance, this seemed like a big number but once I examined all that is included, it is actually quite comparable, if not cheaper, than other high-end recording scenarios. iZ continues its tradition of exceptional user- support, too; I owned a RADAR for several years and their customer support truly is unbelievable. iZ offers great upgrade paths for current RADAR owners and each RADAR studio rig includes 10 years of free technical support.

RADAR Studio’s front panel touch screen in use with Avid’s Pro Tools.

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The unit I reviewed was equipped with 24 channels of Ultra-Nyquist converters and the pristine signal path sounds absolutely wonderful. With its ample RAM and high-speed SSDs, RADAR studio performance is quite remarkable. Boot time from completely powered down to being ready to record in RADAR mode is less than 30 seconds and boot time into Pro Tools—including creating and naming a new session—is 52 seconds. This is quite possibly the fastest system available today. In RADAR mode, total I/O latency is an impressive 1.75 ms at 48 kHz and 1.33 ms at 96 kHz. In Workstation mode, latency is just under 6 ms at 96 kHz and just over 10 ms at 48 kHz: not quite as impressive, but still good. Synchronization options include Wordclock/video, AES two-channel, S/PDIF, MIDI and SMPTE. I was disappointed to find that MIDI and SMPTE are currently only supported in RADAR mode, but I’ve been informed that a future driver update will add their support in Workstation mode.

Having been a staple in high-end recording studios around the world for nearly a quarter of a century—the first RADAR was released in March 1991—it is arguable that iZ knows hard disk recording better than anyone else. Back in the 90s and before the rise of the DAW, when the industry was still in transition from analog to digital recording, RADAR became the standard in many, if not most, Nashville studios where I spent hundreds of long days working. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve ever had to restart because of a problem. Comparably, I’d say it’s rare for most DAW users to go a week without having to restart at least once. RADAR studio runs a stripped down version of Windows that is free of unnecessary bloat, ensuring iZ’s reliability standard continues in RADAR studio. During my two months of testing RADAR studio, not once did I restart the machine because of a hiccup or crash.

The concept behind RADAR Studio is that users simply turn it on and it’s ready to use. My experience is that it does exactly that, since it is essentially a high-performance PC optimized for audio. With up to 24 channels of I/O, it is equally effective connecting to a console or a summing box, or summing internally utilizing a DAW’s audio engine. Regardless of approach, it sounds fantastic.

Top engineers have always been drawn to RADAR because of the sound quality. Since that immaculate sound is now packaged into a single box that contains a full DAW, I expect to see RADAR studio finding its way into more and more of the world’s top studios and workflows.

Russ Long lives and works in Nashville, engineering and producing a wide variety of music and film projects. russlong.ws