It's hard to believe, but Mackie's HDR24/96 hard disk recorder/editor has been with us for more than four years; the bargain-priced MDR24/96 (same guts minus the graphical interface) is only a little younger. The MDR and SDR24/96 were discontinued, but the HDR's still in production, with 12,000-plus units in circulation. Try these tips to get the most out of your HDR or MDR.
UPDATES AND UPGRADES
The current operating system is Version 1.4 for the HDR and 1.3 for the MDR. Most recorders left the factory with V. 1.2 or earlier, but the latest OS is free from www.mackie.com. Installation is quick and painless.
PILES OF FILES
Each time you stop recording, a new audio file is created. Punching in a phrase five times to get it right adds five files to the pool associated with that track. The recorder maintains a Project file to keep track of which files belong with which track and when to play them, but when importing tracks to a DAW, you may have difficulty sorting through the files. The new software's time-stamping feature on Broadcast .WAV files makes this easier. If your DAW supports time stamp, then individual files imported to a track can be automatically placed in their correct time positions.
A simpler procedure for DAW track importing is rendering them, which creates a new file containing all of the audio (and all of the spaces) recorded on a track, just as you hear it. Rendering requires a few steps and extra disk space, but it's less confusing to import one rendered file per track than to dig through dozens of files for each track.
BIG HARD DRIVES
If you record concerts or do a lot of rendering, a larger-capacity disk drive is a must. The original HDR/MDR motherboard doesn't support disk drives larger than 32 GB, but a replacement BIOS chip from Mackie ($49 plus shipping) extends this to 120 GB. Officially, Mackie supports only larger-capacity external disk drives with this upgrade and only the HDR, but the BIOS handles internal and external drives equally well, in addition to supporting the HDR and MDR software. With the new BIOS, you can replace the internal drive with a new, big fast one and use larger-capacity removables.
When replacing the BIOS chip, you must change some of the CMOS setup parameters. On the HDR, pressing the [DEL] key during boot-up displays a Setup menu on the monitor. A variation to the CMOS settings that I like changes the power button operation, so it must be held for several seconds before the recorder powers off. This has been a lifesaver on remotes when someone has inadvertently bumped the button, which, with the standard configuration, instantly shuts off the recorder. On the HDR, you can manually change this from the CMOS setup menu. Locate the Power Management menu and change the Soft-Off by PWR BTTN setting to “Delay 4 Sec.”
The units offer eight virtual takes of each track. Generally when using virtual takes, you'll be working with a single track, but here's a HDR shortcut for switching takes on a group of tracks (drums, for example): Choose Ctrl-Click to select the tracks, then Ctrl-Click on the take selector button on any one of the selected tracks. Select the new take from the pull-down menu and then release the mouse button. All of the selected tracks will change to the new take.
EASY MULTITRACK FADE-OUTS
Volume envelopes are a convenient way to fade tracks, but the HDR24/96 doesn't offer a way to copy a volume envelope once you've placed it on one track. However, you can fade out all tracks in a project by taking advantage of the automatically generated fade-out at the end of every region. The default for this fade is 10 milliseconds — just long enough so that you don't get a click at the end of an edit — but it can be as long as you want.
To do this, select all tracks (Ctrl-A). Place the Hand tool in the upper half of the waveform at the end of any of the selected tracks. A fade-out icon will appear when you're in position to drag the start of the fade. Left-click and drag the starting point of the fade-out toward the beginning of the song. A red line representing the fade-out will appear on all of the selected tracks. I suggest using a linear fade for this, although you can change the shape of the fade-out curve from the pop-up menu that appears when you right-click anywhere in the fade-out region of a track.
Mackie's Remote 24 controller adds a feature not available from the front panel — two additional locate points. These can become auto-punch — in/out points at the press of a button on the remote, providing auto-punch capability on the MDR.
Bob Smith wrote a nifty Windows app (downloadable from www.bsstudios.com) providing nearly all of the Remote 24's features. It lacks the meter, but has a large onscreen timecode display and jog/shuttle control with the mouse that's handy for locating edit points by ear. Connect MIDI In and MIDI Out between your PC and the recorder and you'll have a remote control on your desktop.
Mike Rivers is the author of The Last Mackie Hard Disk Recorder Manual (available from Café Press, www.cafepress.com/mikerivers).