Technology

Field Test: Digidesign Digi 002 Rack

Digidesign's Digi 002 Rack is the latest in the series that started with the PCI-oriented Digi 001, followed by the USB-connected Mbox, both intended for home studio use. 12/01/2003 7:00 AM Eastern

Digidesign's Digi 002 Rack is the latest in the series that startedwith the PCI-oriented Digi 001, followed by the USB-connected Mbox,both intended for home studio use. The landmark Digi 002 came next,offering higher audio quality, a nice hands-on interface and FireWireconnectivity. Catering to the “pro-sumer” — not quitehome studio, but not Hollywood either — the 002 hasgreat-sounding mic pre's, good converters and an eight-fader controlsurface to help old-school engineers feel at home. Now, the companyextends the studio-in-a-box concept with the 002 Rack, bringing 002features to a 2U rackmountable unit.

WHY THE RACK?

Digidesign created the Digi 002 Rack specifically for people likeme, who already have a control surface but want quality audio and thereduced latency of the fast FireWire connection. I was initiallydoubtful of a sufficient market to support this product: Why wouldn'tsomeone simply go all out and purchase the original fader-ladenversion? The answer: price. The original unit, at $2,495, is a verygood value, but the rack version, at $1,295, is a truly excellent deal.If you already have your control surface, then you save $1,200; thepurchase of a Digi 002 Rack becomes a no-brainer. As for portability,FireWire connectivity turns your laptop into a remote studio witheither solution.

With the addition of a large FireWire hard drive and an 002 Rack, aTitanium or Pentium 4 laptop becomes a very powerful studio, indeed. Ifyou like to use the expensive mic pre's in your rig, then simply plugthem in and run with it. The ability to take a Pro Tools system mobilefor tracking and then return home for overdubs and mixing is veryappealing, particularly for home recording enthusiasts. Even in thestrictly pro domain, though, it's nice to have mobility and then comeback to the studio and mix on a TDM system.

THE SPECS

The 002 Rack features eight balanced (¼-inch TRS) analog insand outs and eight channels of either ADAT or 2-channel S/PDIF via anoptical I/O. The main (1 and 2) outputs are mirrored on two separatestereo outputs, balanced TRS ¼-inch (with a dedicated front-panellevel control) or unbalanced RCA at a fixed level. The unit sports fourhigh-quality mic pre's, which sounded excellent with my condenser mic.Phantom power is available but, unfortunately, it's on the back of theunit, switchable in pairs. There is also an alternate source input(stereo RCA) for 2-track monitoring and a headphone jack with adedicated front panel level control.

A/D and D/A conversion happens at 16 or 24 bits, and at 44.1, 48,88.2 or 96 kHz. These are high-quality converters that sound very good.One disappointment is that the Core Audio driver does not allow the useof the Digi 002 Rack's digital outputs as the main system outputs forthe Macintosh. It would be nice to be able to represent the Mac'ssystem audio at the S/PDIF output.

RACK IT UP!

I loaded the 2U box in my rack and plugged it right into theavailable FireWire connection of my dual-processor 1GHz G4. The 002Rack shipped with Pro Tools LE Version 6.0, and I upgraded to 6.1.2 viadownloads from Digidesign's Website. My initial test drive comprisedplugging a nice tube condenser mic into the 002 Rack and recording acappella vocals. It was easy to set up a session with a nice reverb anda little compression on the vocals. After an hour or two, I had builtup a nice little piece. My rough mix in the Pro Tools domain soundedfine, but I wanted to hear how my Tascam DM-24 would do. I connectedthe 002 Rack's ADAT optical output to the ADAT input of my mixer, andthen re-assigned the individual tracks to individual inputs. It wasthen very easy to do a more traditional hands-on mix with the Tascamconsole. Just for fun, I also did synchronized transfers to and fromDTRS, and it was swimmingly simple.

FINAL WORD

The 002 Rack's FireWire speed allows for a low-latency,multichannel, high-quality Pro Tools interface with four excellent micpre's. The included MIDI (1-in, 2-out) functionality is another nicetouch. If you don't need a built-in control surface, then the Digi 002Rack will turn your computer into a high-powered portablestudio-in-a-box.

Digidesign, 650/731-6300, www.digidesign.com.


John McJunkin is the chief cook and bottle-washer for AvalonAudio Services in Phoenix, and is currently pondering the idea oftechno remixes of West Texas Swing music.

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