Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

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Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:15 pm

So based on our previous conversations about how the computer/mouse sort of hinders creativity, I have been spending some time the few couple of days researching hardware recorders...

The truth is, the idea of a self-contained hardware recorder seems better than the actual reality of it. I see that a lot of people that use them now, just use them to record basic live tracks that then get dumped into a DAW for additional tracking and mixing. Still, there are some decent examples of songs made with them, but they are few and hard to find... there's not that many songs out there, at least on youtube, that were made directly in one of them, and most of them just plain suck. Which isn't really the fault of the equipment - garbage in, garbage out...

So what did I find?

-Roland units. I think they're revered in the hip hop world to this day, as they seem to command the highest prices of all units, even though they are all used now and between 10-20 years old. They seem to be the most full featured but also more complex to use than an actual DAW. But they do have the tactile feel for most things and the motorized faders that some have are very cool, but they are known to give a lot of issues now.

-Yamaha AW series - another one that is still highly regarded. Hard to find songs done with it, and almost impossible to find a good one for sale like the AW2400.
The major downside is that the screen on these is really small which makes editing and mixing quite difficult...

-Korg. The D3200 seems to present the best balance of features and ease of use and is the most tempting of the bunch. But they are getting old now and a lot of these units are starting to have problems. And just one effects send/return might not be enough for mixing a project.

As for the new units:

Zoom. The R24 looks good and has a built in drum machine so I guess it's ideal as something to just throw together ideas. Most people seem to bounce the initial tracks they did to Cubase (I think it comes with it) and then finish the song on a DAW... which kind of defeats the purpose. Still, it works very very well as a field recorder so it has that going for it.
Another negative is that the preamps are supposedly pretty weak sounding, comparable to the most basic entry level soundcards...

Tascam. DP24SD and DP32SD. There's a guy using the DP32SD to record his sequenced synths and it sounds very good. Like, very very good. The older discontinued units they made had subpar preamps, but these new ones seem to sound very good. There's effects on board (not many of them) but what is there is alright. The problem is that some, like compression, are apparently only available when recording and not when mixing. That would make mixing a bit more difficult... Also, it has two external effects send (I can live with that) but on the other hand, it has no effects returns. So you need to hook up your effects units and run your recorded tracks through them and record the effects as additional tracks to be able to have them on your songs. That to me is a bit bonkers...

The new units are very well priced for what they offer so it's almost a no-brainer to get the Tascam DP-32SD... except I find myself thinking I wouldn't really be happy with how little it can do. Should I jump anyway and do it like the old days when they recorded everything with effects on (mostly) and just use the thing to mix down? Or just man up and use Reaper and ride the mouse into the sunset? Or get something like a Nektar Panorama P1 Control? Or find a way to finally configure my Novation Zero in a way that I can actually use? (I Never was able to...)
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby ClavAnother » Sat Apr 28, 2018 2:59 am

As someone who has enjoyed recording sound for nearly 40 years, I'd say any way you can manage it is worth it :thu:
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:30 pm

christianrock wrote:So based on our previous conversations about how the computer/mouse sort of hinders creativity, I have been spending some time the few couple of days researching hardware recorders...

The truth is, the idea of a self-contained hardware recorder seems better than the actual reality of it. I see that a lot of people that use them now, just use them to record basic live tracks that then get dumped into a DAW for additional tracking and mixing. Still, there are some decent examples of songs made with them, but they are few and hard to find... there's not that many songs out there, at least on youtube, that were made directly in one of them, and most of them just plain suck. Which isn't really the fault of the equipment - garbage in, garbage out...

So what did I find?

-Roland units. I think they're revered in the hip hop world to this day, as they seem to command the highest prices of all units, even though they are all used now and between 10-20 years old. They seem to be the most full featured but also more complex to use than an actual DAW. But they do have the tactile feel for most things and the motorized faders that some have are very cool, but they are known to give a lot of issues now.

-Yamaha AW series - another one that is still highly regarded. Hard to find songs done with it, and almost impossible to find a good one for sale like the AW2400.
The major downside is that the screen on these is really small which makes editing and mixing quite difficult...

-Korg. The D3200 seems to present the best balance of features and ease of use and is the most tempting of the bunch. But they are getting old now and a lot of these units are starting to have problems. And just one effects send/return might not be enough for mixing a project.

As for the new units:

Zoom. The R24 looks good and has a built in drum machine so I guess it's ideal as something to just throw together ideas. Most people seem to bounce the initial tracks they did to Cubase (I think it comes with it) and then finish the song on a DAW... which kind of defeats the purpose. Still, it works very very well as a field recorder so it has that going for it.
Another negative is that the preamps are supposedly pretty weak sounding, comparable to the most basic entry level soundcards...

Tascam. DP24SD and DP32SD. There's a guy using the DP32SD to record his sequenced synths and it sounds very good. Like, very very good. The older discontinued units they made had subpar preamps, but these new ones seem to sound very good. There's effects on board (not many of them) but what is there is alright. The problem is that some, like compression, are apparently only available when recording and not when mixing. That would make mixing a bit more difficult... Also, it has two external effects send (I can live with that) but on the other hand, it has no effects returns. So you need to hook up your effects units and run your recorded tracks through them and record the effects as additional tracks to be able to have them on your songs. That to me is a bit bonkers...

The new units are very well priced for what they offer so it's almost a no-brainer to get the Tascam DP-32SD... except I find myself thinking I wouldn't really be happy with how little it can do. Should I jump anyway and do it like the old days when they recorded everything with effects on (mostly) and just use the thing to mix down? Or just man up and use Reaper and ride the mouse into the sunset? Or get something like a Nektar Panorama P1 Control? Or find a way to finally configure my Novation Zero in a way that I can actually use? (I Never was able to...)


I see you HAVE done your homework grasshopper...lol
Truthfully I've been where you are in researching digital multi-track hardware recorders, and was seriously looking at the Korg 3200 since at the time it seemed like the best of the bunch. Many years ago I cut my teeth on the Roland VS880 and I found myself oddly liking the compressed recording speed(it gave you more time on your HD), but I got tired of the menu diving and sold it.
Back some years ago I longed for a hardware box again so I went with the Tascam 2488NEO and I have to say I loved the sound. The Tascam units seem to at least to my ears have a similar warmth as analog, but I would almost have to describe it as this "sheen" that coats it. I don't know, it might be the A/D converters that do it, but it has a nice overall sound.
Effects are ok.
I would highly recommend the Tascam over all others, especially the Roland VS series. Most of them have been used and abused and passed around like a doobie at a Grateful Dead concert.

From what I've read, most hardware recorder users use them for sketch work or demos, or import the tracks into the DAW and then do editing and mixing there, and as you said, what's the point?
And even with the Tascam DP32 there is a lot of button pushing/routing etc.

You mentioned using Reaper, are you using it now?
If you can, please share what your setup is now as far as DAW software.
I know you've mentioned it before, I just can't remember what thread or post.

I'm getting ready to attempt to do some recording using my Fostex A8 L/R 8 track reel to reel and the Tascam M308B 8 channel mixer I bought locally on Craigslist last year. It's in excellent cosmetic/electronic condition.
I've been messing with recording with them both, learning my way around and I have to say I'm quite happy with the way it sounds.
It's challenging recording tracks in mono, but I'm finding it forces you to get more creative, and I realized how much I've been spoiled by the digital recording process and DAW where everything all the time is stereo.
It's amazing to me how much more space instruments have when done in mono and then panning to find just the right sweet spot for that instrument. This means less effects as well.
My goal is to use the analog set up for guitars, a bit of synth, piano, etc and vocals and approach it more organically and less electronics...we'll see tho. ;)
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby gregwar » Tue May 01, 2018 7:03 pm

there was a rapper who came to my studio and he was surprised i didn’t use my roland fantom g8. i think he had the fantom f or something and chopped beats on it.

there are 20+ tracks on my g8, hundreds of midi tracks, faders, mic pres, drum pads, etc but i came up using computers and could not part with the depth of features, plug-in quality, etc of logic after like 20 years.

i have two cassette tape machines, one is a 8 channel fostex (?) and the other is a tascam porta studio. they are really good for lofi stuff but an extended tape jam always runs of out of space and ends up getting edited on the computer lol.

my dad recently caved and got a macbook with logic cause he’d written a bunch of stuff. i made him a template where he just opens his laptop and double clicks on it and everything is set up ready to go. best of both worlds imho.

it totally sucks troubleshooting that always kills my creativity and mood lol
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Wed May 02, 2018 3:04 pm

So to answer the question as to what my workflow in a DAW is like...

I have a really nice sounding interface (Steinberg MR816x, which can incredibly be had for under 200 dollars now and sounds top notch). That is linked to a 2011 Macbook Pro which is still pretty handy (16Gb memory helps).

I also have the Novation Zero Mk II which I wanted to use to control Reaper but I never got that to work. So it's basically a MIDI entry point for the Alesis Fusion, since the MR816 does not have a MIDI input.

So I'll create drum tracks in Maschine and export that to Reaper.

Then in Reaper I'll add audio tracks (guitar, keys, bass, etc).

Then at the mixing stage is where it gets really frustrating. I just hate mixing a track using the mouse to change parameters, it's not intuitive, it's not exact enough, it takes time to do simple things that in a hardware mixer I would just turn a knob or press a button.

The Maschine/Reaper integration also sucks because if I want to change anything in the drum tracks I have to leave Reaper and go to Maschine to do it where I don't have the rest of the track to go by.

It's all so frustrating to me that it's one of the reasons I basically stopped recording.
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Wed May 02, 2018 4:15 pm

christianrock wrote:So to answer the question as to what my workflow in a DAW is like...

I have a really nice sounding interface (Steinberg MR816x, which can incredibly be had for under 200 dollars now and sounds top notch). That is linked to a 2011 Macbook Pro which is still pretty handy (16Gb memory helps).

I also have the Novation Zero Mk II which I wanted to use to control Reaper but I never got that to work. So it's basically a MIDI entry point for the Alesis Fusion, since the MR816 does not have a MIDI input.

So I'll create drum tracks in Maschine and export that to Reaper.

Then in Reaper I'll add audio tracks (guitar, keys, bass, etc).

Then at the mixing stage is where it gets really frustrating. I just hate mixing a track using the mouse to change parameters, it's not intuitive, it's not exact enough, it takes time to do simple things that in a hardware mixer I would just turn a knob or press a button.

The Maschine/Reaper integration also sucks because if I want to change anything in the drum tracks I have to leave Reaper and go to Maschine to do it where I don't have the rest of the track to go by.

It's all so frustrating to me that it's one of the reasons I basically stopped recording.


Thanks for explaining your workflow CR.
I see one thing in common that is giving you difficulty and disrupting your workflow, and that is Reaper.
Both with Maschine and your Novation controller seem to be having compatbility problems with Reaper.
These are both widely used and there HAS to be an answer as to how to fix it so you can use them as they should be used.
If I may suggest joining over at KvR. It's a great site, and many of the manufacturers have forum pages you can post in.
A lot of members there have a plethora of knowledge and experience about ALL of this stuff, and I think a couple of posts from you explaining your issues, you may get up and running and be surprised what a simple solutions solved your compatibility issues.
http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/

Another suggestion for your mixing problems might be something like this:
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... ol-surface
or this...
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... ch-compact

These suggestions will allow you to keep your present set up and just refine it a bit to fit into your workflow.
I think you're almost at the finish line and just need a couple more bottles of water to finish the race. :wave:

I about as hardware as I can get, but I find the availability of editing and workflow using my DAW to be so much easier than just hardware based.
I happen to like both worlds, and depending on my mood and/or project I can choose.
I don't think a hardware multi-track will do any more than you already have, and just think, things will be calm at home.
My wife goes crazy whenever I start getting an itch to change up my studio or buy and sell stuff.

We're here to help you brother, and I know in my heart your music deserves to be created and to be heard.
I think being able to be creative allows you to keep a part of your identity and at the same time, allowing yourself some "me" time working on music will help you be a better husband and father because it's a wonderful stress reliever. :grin:

I've got time during my day to help do research for you, so I'm here for you. Just let me know what you need to know and I'll put Mister Top Cat Detective Hat on fer ya!
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Wed May 02, 2018 8:47 pm

I have combed the internets for solutions to the Novation/Reaper issue (or really, Novation Zero vs anything...)

I've seen people with the exact same questions that I would ask... and they went unanswered. KvR is ok but the Reaper (cockos) forum is where usually people deal with these kinds of questions (as I want DAW control, not plugin control - haven't even bothered with that...).

Apparently there's a "Padre" template and some other templates that work with DAWs and Novation Zeros but I couldn't get any to install correctly. I might need to retry this one I found recently, as it's been a while.

I had seen that Nektar P1 and mentioned it in my first post... but I hadn't seen that Behringer controller. I have to say it's far better than the Nektar in concept - motorized faders AND midi in! That would allow me to sell the Novation Zero which could get anywhere from $50 to $100-plus on Ebay apparently.

I must research that Behringer more... yes I must...
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Wed May 02, 2018 10:08 pm

...or maybe a touchscreen computer is what I need??



A Dell 19.5 inch touchscreen desktop starts at around 350 dollars... and a nicely featured 24 inch Acer (which is a brand I like) goes for 900 dollars: http://www.microcenter.com/product/4968 ... p_Computer
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Wed May 02, 2018 10:34 pm

christianrock wrote:...or maybe a touchscreen computer is what I need??



A Dell 19.5 inch touchscreen desktop starts at around 350 dollars... and a nicely featured 24 inch Acer (which is a brand I like) goes for 900 dollars: http://www.microcenter.com/product/4968 ... p_Computer


As cool as that is, I think you lose the fine detail of control when using touchscreens, even the larger ones. I have a touchscreen on my Korg Kronos and it can be frustrating, and although I haven't tried it yet, many users wind up using a stylus pen.
I get the impression you're old skool like me, and need the feel of hardware under your hands and fingers.

Have you tried demoing any other DAW software such as Cubase?(I guess Sonar is off the table for now).
I know they give Cubase Lite away with a lot of electronic gear purchases.
It would seem if you're having compatibility issues both with Maschine and your Novation the problem has to be with Reaper... :idk:
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Thu May 03, 2018 2:12 pm

The Maschine "issue" is just how Maschine works. It runs as a VST but if you want to make changes, you have to make them in the actual application.

And Automap for the Novation SL series is also a pain for any DAW. That's why they sell for basically nothing nowadays... I don't think switching DAWs and spending money that way would get me any closer, honestly... but I'd love to be proven wrong before I actually spend the money :)
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Thu May 03, 2018 3:07 pm

christianrock wrote:The Maschine "issue" is just how Maschine works. It runs as a VST but if you want to make changes, you have to make them in the actual application.

And Automap for the Novation SL series is also a pain for any DAW. That's why they sell for basically nothing nowadays... I don't think switching DAWs and spending money that way would get me any closer, honestly... but I'd love to be proven wrong before I actually spend the money :)


Oh I totally agree with you about switching DAW's if you don't have to. I've never used Reaper and have used Cubase since the beginning, except for a couple of years using Tracktion software.

I hope you can get it straightened out and start making music again bro. :)
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Thu May 03, 2018 3:56 pm

So while reading some threads about touchscreen DAW control... a lot of people comment back saying "well, I never used it as much as I thought I would, because since my finger is already on the mouse, I just use the mouse..."

...so maybe I just need to suck it up, get used to the idea that in this day and age knobs and buttons are a thing of the past, and just get...


...a better mouse? :horse:

There's a whole generation of people producing music now that just uses the mouse on a computer.

My whole thought process when creating the studio was that eventually Maschine would add audio tracks, and I think my workflow would have been perfect because I would do everything from the Maschine controller. People have talked about that for ages, how they expected some day NI would do this, but they decided to keep it just a groovebox that runs from your computer. A modern take on the MC-909 basically. If they haven't added audio tracks by now, they never will, and the way they think about their workflow, it kind of does make sense. That's why the MC-909 never had audio tracks either, you need to just work with samples. So that was where I went wrong.

I should have just kept my 16-track 1-inch tape and Mackie mixer. But that ship has sailed now and I could never convince my wife to spend the money required to get something like that now, as the prices have clearly gone up quite a bit on analog tape multitrack recorders.
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Mon May 07, 2018 1:13 pm

christianrock wrote:
I should have just kept my 16-track 1-inch tape and Mackie mixer. But that ship has sailed now and I could never convince my wife to spend the money required to get something like that now, as the prices have clearly gone up quite a bit on analog tape multitrack recorders.

Hey CR, maybe something like this would work for you. I love my Fostex 8 track, I think I prefer the Dolby NR on it over the DBX on the Tascam stuff. And like mine this runs at 15IPS I believe.
Budget priced enough the wifey might not mind. :)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Fostex-Model-8 ... SwklJa7LVU
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby christianrock » Mon May 07, 2018 2:13 pm

Yes that looks quite good and the mixer that is included is a great bonus!

Alas, I can't swing it right now (add the cost of tapes and the 125 dollar shipping and it starts to add up easily). And there's a problem with the recording head (not printing to one track) so that would need to be replaced as well.

I'm not in a hurry (and with some new expenses coming in I'll have to wait a while anyway). But I'll keep an eye out for those... do you still use yours at all? Just wondering.
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby topcat » Mon May 07, 2018 4:26 pm

IMG_1499 (2).JPG
IMG_1499 (2).JPG (22.96 KiB) Viewed 679 times
Yeah I was curious about that track not recording, especially since they said it was serviced and the heads relapped. That's why I thought it might've been something else, maybe simple to fix, if he as using the mixer(bad cable, output, etc).
But those Fostex 8 track reel to reels are pretty good in my opinion, I have the A8L/R which has VU meters and the L/R version allows recording on all 8 tracks.
Since we moved in the fall of 2014 I've had it in a box, and then when mom moved in I had no room to set it up.
Last year I found a Tascam 308B mixer on the Tampa Craigslist and picked it up for $300. Cosmetically it looks near mint to me and the VU meters are nice and bright.
Now that I'm back in my studio I've set it up and am learning my way around it. I love it.
I was comparing recording one day on my Tascam 644 midistudio 4 track cassette deck vs the Fostex A8 and there really is enough difference in the quality of recording to keep the reel to reel, even tho the Tascam is 40-16,000. Plus I think recording at 15ips helps a lot as well.

So my goal now is to do some complete recordings on the Fostex and then mix down to my Revox A77 reel to reel for mastering.
I've also got a MINT Tascam 246 4 track cassette in the shop right now to find out why it was eating my tapes. I had put a new belt on it when I bought it off ebay before mom moved in and it was working fine then... :idk:
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Re: Hardware Multitracks. Worth it?

Postby gregwar » Tue May 08, 2018 3:57 am

i have a novation sl 37 mk 1. it has worked for me for like 6-7 years at least. i’m on automap 4.9, logic 10.4.1 and a 15” macbook pro.

the faders on mine are small but they work, so do the mute & solo buttons with some set up i did a while ago. i don’t really use the faders for mixing.

i use the novation to control plug-ins. it took a really long time but over the years i built many custom templates, some with whole pages set up just for osc, etc. i love using the faders for envelopes as i came up when analog synths were $50 at the pawn shop.

as far as maschine goes i get close to pulling the trigger but it seems like a counter intuitive way of working. there are so many things it could do but i took that plunge 12 years ago with kore and kind of wish they had just made that instead
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