Digital Recorder


Well-Known Member
I am in a pickel. Well, not literaly, but I have just found out that a local band would like to have me run a recording session for them (that's good news!) the bad news is, I dont have a digital recorder! So, most of this afternoon has been spent looking arround the internet for the best digital recorder I can find, and now I would like your advice.

I will be using this recorder for a w i d e variety of things, from some studio type sessions, where it is ok to do multiple takes, but probably more of the stuff will be 'live' where I will have to get as many tracks recorded as I can in the one pass I have, and then edit later. I am hoping/expecting to get about $800 from the band for equipment, and anything overthat is out of my pocket. (which is a good deal, but they probably wont pay much for my hours but when they are chiping in for my equipment, i dont mind) So, probably arround $1200 is MAX, but I would probably prefer not going above $1000.

I have been primaraly looking at the "Zoom MRS1608 16-Track Digital Recording Studio" ( with the CD drive and the USB upgrade. I like the fact that it has 8 XLR ins, which many others dont have. Other cheeper recorders do not seem to let you record as many tracks at the same time (most allow two, unlike this one's 8) Am I thinking correctly that going with a smaller number of recording channels will end up hurting me bad when i am recording live stuff?

If I were go up in price, it looks like you get into recorders like the "Mackie SDR2496 24-Bit 24-Track Hard Disk Recorder" which are more just for recording alot of stuff without the editing features offered on the other console. This option would proabaly be better for a live recording situation with a post mix done on a computer, right? (about this model, it doesnt seem to have any level controls, does it do all that for you? is that something these higher end models do?)

I guess I would just like to scrape your brains about digital recorders, get your opinions, and any advice you have to give me. Please feel free to suggest other models or brands, or cheaper, reliable, places to get these devices. Thanks in advance! (Did I mention that this band would like to start recording next week if possible?! so time is a bit important! :) thanks!)
The SDR2496 is a hard-disk substitute for a 24-track open-reel studio recorder. No level controls because you're expected to use your mixing console for that.

On the MRS1608 - it lets you record up to 8 tracks simultaneously. You can do a pretty good recording, either live or studio, with that. For live, though, I'd also get a small, cheap mixer that would let me take 6 or 8 mics and mix them down to two tracks. Use that to do a good stereo mix of your drums on two tracks of the MRS1608 and you've got enough tracks left for bass, two guitars, a keyboard and two vocals. It leaves you with a lot of freedom when you mix down and the drums will sound better (assuming you really do a good drum mix live) than if you tried to catch the whole kit evenly with just two mics.

Thanks DMX Tools!

Anyone else?

A teacher at school today suggested i go with something that will bring the audio right into my my laptop, basicly just an interface between the mics and my laptop. I dont know of any examples of this or if they are any good. If anyone has ideas about this I would appreciate it. Thanks again!
If you've got a decent computer already, you could pick up something like a MAudio Delta 1010 - that's a PCI card that has 10 line ins, 10 line outs (2 channels digital, 8 analog), 24 bit digital recording. I've got a Delta 66 and it does quite nice recording.

And pick up something like Cubase (software package) to handle the actual recording.. that'd give you 8 lines recorded, but it isn't XLR, it is quarter inch.

Glancing around, that'd be about $450 for the 1010 and about the $500 for Cubase. That'd give you a half decent recording /and/ audio editing package, less, of course, monitors and all the nice to haves like midi control platforms and stuff.

Generally in that case, you'd be running feeds from the FOH mixer, but if that's not an option, you'd need a mixer to provide sufficient pre-amps (and probably, as DMX Tools suggests to mix down the drums to 2 channels)

Of course, all this is predicated on you have a PC you could use for the job :) There are Firewire and USB Multi channel audio cards that'd work with a laptop, but I've never seen one with decent latency. I am, however, about a year+ out of date in the home recording field. You could ask the 'Home Wreckers' over at Home Recording BBS - - they'd be up to date on this stuff.

As well, with regards to your laptop, if it has firewire (stay away from the USB ones, they are generally aimed pretty low) - MAudio has a Firewire1814 (18 in, 14 out) at
which is about $600. Note that only 8 of the 18 are analog and thus available right away, most of the rest are ADAT style light pipes. You can, however, get additional components that will take, say, 8 channels of analog and turn them into ADAT, so this option might have some expansion potential in the future.

I've never used this gear, though, so no personal recommendation :)


I've used some of the Roland VS series recorders and they are really nice. This one ( is an 18-track recorder with the integrated digital mixer and it's $999 from Musician's Friend. It is on the high end for your price requirements but it's an incredible deal. It comes with a great onboard effects processor and an internal CDRW drive. This would serve you very well for your current project and many more for years to come.
again, thanks a bunch! I have a realy beefy laptop, although it has no Firewire, so i would have to go with a USB option. One of the things holding me back from the PC option is, I dont have a studio i work out of, I cary my equipment with me (and computers have a tendancy to be heavy) so the laptop works out well.

I cant look up all the products you suggestd right now b/c i am about 20 mins away from the start of a DJing rig, but i will be sure to look at them when i get home
I have the Alesis HD24 and use it for a whole range of tasks - and it works great for all of them. What type of mixing console will you be using when you record live? Does it have direct outs? That is how I record all the live shows and then simply mix back down through the console later and burn to a CD. The HD24 does have a Fireport option - just pop the drives out of the machine and into the Fireport and you have a Firewire connection to a DAW. I have not used it - I personally like mixing back down through the console - but from what I understand it works well.

I just can't bring myself to record directly to a laptop - working with computers daily I see just how unreliable that realm is - but I took the jump from ADAT to the HD24's hard drive and have not had any problems what so ever in the year I have been using it. It also works real slick for recording multi-layered sound cues for shows where they are called for. You can also record all the sounds cues for a show to it and use it that way. I'd at least take a look at it....IMO
I would go with either the multitrack computer interface witha a laptop, or the mackie.

With the mackie, there are lots of editing tools built in. I'm pretty sure that you can hook up a monitor and a keyboard and mouse. This is usefull in a live situation if you already have a mixer and plan on using the direct outs, then say when you get home you can edit, transfer to computer, master, whatever.
I am in the process right now of reading up on all the models you suggested, (the dance went well tonight) and will post again in a few mins, but I just wanted to let you guys know that sometimes I will have a mixing board to go through, and other times I will not (at least until i find the money to buy a mixing board) which is one of the reasons i like the recorders with more XLR inputs, so i can go streight in from mics. I'll be back in a min or two with more!
ok, my other question with alot of these that you are suggesting, is it possible/easy to record to them without first running through a mixing board? specificially with the Mackie SDR2496 (the Alesis HD24 only has 2 XLR inputs :-( ) I do not own a mixing board, so often i would be without one. unless......

How much would you guys incourage me to get something like the Roland VS2400CD Digital Workstation with CDR ( ? It seems that this board covers everything, mixing and recording. Is it (and things like it, (i havent found any others yet)) something that tryes to do too much, and doesnt do anything well? If I were to splurge abit more, does that open me up to much great posibilities?

Ok, as I am writing this, and reading more and more product discriptions I am getting more and more confused and undecided! I really should get some sleep now (I am taking SAT2s in the morning). Thanks again for all your help!
It depends on what you want, Peter.

Going witha computer based system gives you the most flexibility. You can add an infinite variety of filters, effects and virtual instruments. You can use the computer to control MIDI based instruments and machines. You can get (ie, buy) physical faders for every track you have and the number of tracks is, for modern machines, essentially limitless - or, rather, limited only by your budget :). On the downside, computer based systems tend, especially if used as a multipurpose computer as opposed to being dedicated to this purpose, not as reliable.

If you go with the ADAT equivalents (the Mackie or the Alesis above) what you get is essentially a virtual 24 track tape reel. It has a few advantages over the tape, but what it is really designed to do is put tracks on disk. Editing those tracks is more or less designed to be done elsewhere. This is designed to be used with a mixer, though you can pick up half decent (especially used) 16 track mixers fairly cheaply. These things tend to be rock solid reliable, because they are replacing the workhorses of the industry. Pros expect nothing less.

The digital workstations are wonderful if what they do is ALL you want. They are, in general, difficult to expand (ie, you can do things like sticking a mixer in front to mix down drums to save tracks, but it is difficult to add more capability). They tend to very solid, too. These are the spiritual grandchildren of the 4 track that all the bands used to demo on.. but much more capable. If what you want can be done by one of these... I'd go with one of these. If you think you want to make it a vocation, go with one of the other two options.

ok, I am starting to figure this stuff out i think! What I am thinking would be the best way for me to go is wht the ADAT type sytems, but I would like a way to run it without a mixing board. When running it with a mixing board, do you generally record post fader or prefader? (I am indirectly asking because at one of my biggest events every year I use a mixing board to amplify a guitar, but i really need to record the singing which is not being amplified. However, good part of the year I do not have access to a mixing board) Ok... I'm Rambling.... sorry :)

Does anyone have any thoughts on the Roland VS2400CD Digital Workstation with CDR ( Or what would you suggest if I were to go all out and get a mixer and a recorder (ADAT type or MAYBE a computer one (although again, I dont have a PC to work with)) or combo of the two. (although obviously I would have to get cheaper models of both)

Thank you SOOOOOoooo much for your help on this. [I am trying to figure out where to get my hands on some actual equipment in stores around my area, but there arnt exactly a ton of them around] Thanks again!
I can't comment specifically on the Roland VS2400CD - it looks good, but I've never used it or anything similar. It may be the way to go if you're looking for simple and all in one. If you go for it, make sure you can return it if you don't like it :) You realize that it is really only 8 track capable out of the box, right? (It only has 8 A/D's built in). However, with that limitation, it looks like quite a decent box. Paired with a small mixer (say an 8 channel - and those are quite cheap) you could handle quite the band. Mix the drum kit on the small mixer to 2 channels - that's 2 of the Roland. That leaves six for vocal, guitar and bass. That's pretty darn good. Mixing down the drum is fairly harmless - you can do tricks with eq later to, say, kick up the bass drum or whatever.

You'd generally go postfader going to the ADAT types, because you're using the mixer both as a pre-amp and to control the recording levels going to the ADAT recorder. I picked up a half decent 1604 (not the VLZ) Mackie mixer on Ebay for less then $300 USD. You could go (shudder) Behringer as well to save money.

Honestly, if you can try the Roland before you buy it.. and you can afford it, that might be your best bet.

Ok, I think I have come right arround to where I started! Has anyone heard of Zoom? The more I look at it, the more I am thinking that the Zoom MRS 1608 (linked above) is my best option. I can use it stand alone, (with 8 XLR inputs) or, from what I can tell, I could use it just like and ADAT type by setting the levels streight across and sending the signal to it out of my mixing board.

From what I cant tell too, if worse comes to worse, I can use it as a mixing board with it's sub out and main out running to whatever amps might be arround (or my crazy jurry rig system of speakers in my room).

I like the fact that I can do some editing without a computer, although with the small screen, it doesnt look like it has nearly the editing capability of the Roland VS2400CD, but it looks like it would do a decent job. Also, I almost certainly would go for the USB add on (my only question is what format the audio would be in when accessed from the computer... my guess is WAV, but nothing I can find on the internet says what it is). With this add in, whenever I can scrounge the $$ for Cubase or something like that I can do the editing on my computer.

(the Roland looks really sweet, but I think it's above my budget right now, I'll have to see how things go, and who knows maybe in a while I can sell whatever I get now, and upgrade!)

I guess now my question continues along the lines of finding other products similar to the Zoom MRS1608 and comparing them (setting aside the ADAT type).

Thanks again for your help. This is helping me alot, both the input you are giving me, as well as forcing myself to slow down enough to clearly think through everything.
Ya, the Boss one does look good, (although I am trying to figure out what makes it the $400 more, considering it doesnt have any of the drums effects that the coom has (although i probably wont use the drum stuff anyway))

Right now, it looks like it is between the Zoom and the Boss. The Tascam 2488 ( is similar, but only has 4 XLR inputs, (i could use converters for the rest but....) and it doesnt seem to have too much editing capability onboard, and doesnt look like it would be as easy to use as a mixer, but hey, maybe other people have thoughts on that, and I would be more then happy to hear them!

One complaint that many people seem to have about the Boss system is ineffective transfer of wav files over USB. There is a program available, however, that seems to fix this problem. Maybe if i decide on this model, I can talk down the price to compensate for the cost of this software (~$40).

Does anyone see any other models that should be considered as I close in on a decision? (my dad approved me getting one this evening... so that's a fairly big step b/c it will be his credit card!) Also, does anyone see the major $400 difference between these two boards? Thanks AGAIN (ya, I am starting to sound like a parrot, but that's why I'm 'Pete the Repeat parrot!'
digi recorders

The Boss has all of the mastering tools you would need to completely record and master to CD. I've owned the 864 and do anything larger on my PC with a MOTU HD192. However, already being familiar with the Boss interface makes it the hands down choice for me.

With either choice, Zoom or Boss, you will be probably be very happy. Anything "bigger" than either of these put you in a price range of a computer and an interface which is expandable. This kept me from the Roland. I can hang several more 192's or other model MOTU interface off each firewire channel.

Side note. You were concerned about micing. Is it possible for you to record the instrumentation on the 8 channels, then move them to virtual channels and simply record the vocal tracks, or any additional instrumentation?
Ok, since people are obviously still reading this, I'd better update you.

The orignal group who really really wanted me to record them had one of their parents change their mind, so that parent is no longer paying, which made the other parents not pay eather, so basicly that means it's not happning, at least not now :-(

I am still super interested in purchasing equipment like this, but I just dont know my time frame now, I have a big week of recording seceduled for the end of June next year, so that may be my new deadline.

For most of the stuff I do, (including the week in June) I cannot go back and rerecord ANYTHING. I am bascily recording live preformances with the main focus being the live part, and defanatly NOT the recording. I have enough of a fun time making sure everyone is singing into mics let alone having them do it twice to record it in parts.

The MOTU HD192 looks like a very good solution, but it looks like it is not super portable, (and I would need to bring a PC with me too). Alot of the stuff I do is on the road, and since i travel with my family and it's usualy for weekends or weeks, we are usualy loaded up with luggage without equpment.

Does anyone know if there are any devices that will plug into a laptop's PC Card slot? I know there are USB2 and Firewire, (and i have been told to avoid the USB options, although, right now that's all my laptop has). Thanks!

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