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Mackie MDR24/96

Disk-based digital multitracks keep becoming more affordable. No strangers to building low-cost/high-performance gear, Mackie now breaks the oxide ceiling

Disk-based digital multitracks keep becoming more affordable. No strangers to building low-cost/high-performance gear, Mackie now breaks the oxide ceiling with its MDR24/96, a 24-bit, 24-track disk recorder at a rock-bottom street price of $1,999.

The new MDR24/96 is essentially similar to Mackie’s acclaimed $4,999 HDR24/96 — without the sophisticated editing features and keyboard/mouse/screen-based GUI. Although the MDR24/96 lacks large-screen editing/control, it includes basic, nondestructive cut/copy/paste editing functions with up to 999 levels of undo, which is certainly enough for most studio tasks, including comps, vocal or solo takes, and basic arranging. According to Mackie’s Scott Garside, the new recorder “provides a perfect recorder alternative for users who don’t require the advanced graphical editing capabilities of the HDR24/96, but would still like a ‘plug-and-play’ machine — essentially, people who are more interested in making music than reading manuals.”

Like its well-known sibling, the MDR24/96 is a stand-alone (no computer required) 24-bit/24-track re-corder housed in a four-rackspace chassis. From the front panel, the two machines look similar — with good reason. By having the two products share common parts and technologies, Mackie was able to keep the MDR24/96’s quality up and the price down. Fully compatible with Mackie’s HDR24/96, the MDR24/96 includes an internal 20GB Ultra-DMA hard disk, providing more than 100 minutes of 24-track recording at 48 kHz, and a second bay accepts interchangeable media, such as Mackie’s M90 22GB removable hard drives or 2.2GB Mackie PROJECT cartridges.

With a few exceptions, the MDR24/96 looks and operates a lot like most MDMs, so most users can begin recording minutes after un-packing the unit. Familiar-looking, tape recorder-style keys (RW/FF/Stop/Play/Record) handle basic transport functions, along with a bank of 24 (selectable) peak/VU LED meters with track-arming lights and buttons beneath each track.

A large, bright, numerical LED shows locations in hours/minutes/seconds/frames or bars/beats/ticks, and includes status LEDs indicating clock and bit status. A floppy drive allows users to load software up-dates, tempo maps or re-install the system software, should the user later install a larger internal hard disk. (A 20GB drive is included as standard equipment.)

The MDR24/96 uses the same card format as the HDR24/96 and Mackie’s D8B digital console, and the new unit ships with its three card slots filled with 8-channel, 24-bit, 48kHz analog I/O cards. Each analog card has eight analog inputs and eight analog outputs (all are +4dB line-level), terminated as two 25-pin D-sub connectors that are pin-compatible with the Tascam DA-88 connectors, so all the user needs to do is connect some DB25-to-XLR (or TRS) snakes and start tracking.

Alternatively, users can mix and match from a variety of optional cards, such as the $450 DIO-8 (eight channels of Tascam TDIF and ADAT Lightpipe digital I/O); the $399 PDI-8 (eight channels of AES/EBU digital I/O on a single DB25 connector); or the bargain-priced OPT-8 ($99), with eight channels of I/O in ADAT Lightpipe format. The recorder also supports 96kHz recording (which halves the number of tracks to 12) by using three of the PDI-8 AES cards in Double-Wide (double-wire) mode, fed from external third-party 96kHz A/D converters.

Standard sync and clocking capabilities include MID IMMC/MTC, SMPTE, video black burst and wordclock. A standard 100BaseT Ethernet port for connection to PCs and networks is included. The recorder also stores audio in standard .WAV format, making DAW transfers to/from the MDR24/96 a snap. The MDR24/96 is also compatible with Mackie’s $1,499 Remote 48 Pro remote control, a comprehensive autolocator/remote/synchronizer that can operate two Mackie hard disk recorders from a single control surface, allowing an MDR24/96 and a HDR24/96 to function seamlessly as a full 48-track digital recording system.

The MDR24/96, with a street price of $1,999, is slated to begin shipping by the time you read this.

Mackie Designs, 16220 Wood-Red Road N.E., Woodinville, WA 98072; 425/487-4333, fax 425/487-4337;