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Hard disk recorder

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Title: Hard disk recorder  
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Subject: Music technology, Direct-to-disk recording, Digital audio, Digital recording, HDR
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Hard disk recorder

A hard disk recorder is a type of direct-to-disk recording system that uses a high-capacity hard disk to record digital audio or digital video. Hard disk recording systems represent an alternative to more traditional reel-to-reel tape or cassette multitrack systems, and provide editing capabilities unavailable to tape recorders. The systems, which can be standalone or computer-based, typically include provisions for digital mixing and processing of the audio signal.


  • History 1
  • Popular hard disk recorders 2
    • Stand alone 2.1
    • Computer software 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


Prior to the 1980s, most recording studios used analog multitrack recorders, typically based on reel-to-reel tape. The first commercial hard disk (HDD) recording system was the Sample-to-Disk 16-bit, 50kHz digital recording option for the New England Digital Synclavier II in 1982.[1] The high cost and limited capacity of these solutions limited their use to large professional audio recording studios, and even then, they were usually reserved for specific applications such as film post-production.

With the takeoff of the compact disc, digital recording became a major area of development by equipment makers. Several affordable solutions were released during the late 1980s and early 90s; many of these continued to use tape, either in reels, or in more manageable videocassettes. However, in 1991, Fairlight ESP Pty Ltd developed the MFX2, the first 24 track disk recorder. In 1993, iZ Technology Corporation developed RADAR (Random Access Digital Audio Recorder distributed by Otari Corporation), designed to replace 24 track tape machines. By the middle 1990s, with the steady decline of hard disk prices and the corresponding increases in capacity and portability, the cost of hard disk recording systems had dropped to the point where they became affordable for even smaller studios. Though there are several other types of digital recorder still in use, hard disk systems are rapidly becoming the preferred method for studio recording.

On January 14, 2004, Engineers from Fairlight, Waveframe and AMS were awarded Scientific and Technical Academy Awards for the development of hard disk recording technology[2]

One major advantage of recording audio to a hard disk is that it allows for non-linear editing. Audio data can be accessed randomly and therefore can be edited non-destructively, that is, the original material is not changed in any way. Non-linear editing is not inherent to every hard-disk recording system, however. Different manufacturers implement different degrees of this facility. In addition, hard disk recorders offer some disadvantages, including the limited capacity and relatively high cost of replacement drives, as well as a reduced ruggedness of hard disk recorders as compared to magnetic tape-based systems.

Hard disk recorders are often combined with a digital mixing console and are an inherent part of a digital audio workstation (DAW). In this form complex tasks can be automated, freeing the audio engineer from 'performing' a mix.

A personal computer can be used as a hard disk recorder with appropriate software; nowadays this solution is often preferred, as it provides a more flexible interface to the studio engineer. Many studio-grade systems provide external hardware, particularly for the analog to digital conversion stages, while less expensive software systems can use the hardware included with any modern computer. The major constraints on any hard disk recording system are the disk size, transfer rate, and processor speed. Some systems use "lossy" digital audio compression to minimize the first two factors. This solution is becoming increasingly rare, thanks to rapid increases in hard disk capacity.

Popular hard disk recorders

Stand alone

AKAI professional
  • DPS Series (Digital Personal Studio)
    • DPS12 (Nov 1997) - 16bit 32/44.1/48 kHz, 12tr(Rec8tr), 20ch Mixer, Jaz Drive
    • DPS16 (1999) - 16/24bit 32/44.1/48/96 kHz, 16tr(Rec10tr), 26ch Mixer
    • DPS24 (2002) - 16/24bit 32/44.1/48/96 kHz, 24tr, 46ch Mixer, CD-RW
  • DN-Series
    • DN-60 DV/HDV (Digital Field Recorder)
  • HDR-Series
    • HDR-50 SD/HD-SDI (Rackmounted Video Recorder)
  • D-Series (Digital Recorder)
    • D-80 (1996) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr
    • D2424 - 16bit 44.1/48 kHz 24bit44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz, 24tr(analogRec8tr, ADAT-optical 24tr)
  • LR16 (16-Channel Live recording mixer) 16bit 44.1/48 kHz 16tr(Rec16tr)
  • VF-Series (Digital multitracker)
    • VF-16HD (Jun 2000) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 16tr (Rec8tr w/digital 16tr)
    • VF80(20GB) (Feb 2002) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr(Rec2tr)
  • MR-Series (Digital multitracker)
    • MR-8HD (Oct 2006) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr(Rec4tr)
    • MR16HD (May 2007) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 16tr(Rec4tr)
iZ Technology Corporation
  • D Series (Digital Recording Studio)
    • D888 (May 2006) - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr(Rec8tr)
    • D3200 - 16/24bit 44.1/48 kHz, 32tr(Rec16tr)@16bit; 16tr (Rec12tr) @24bit
  • MR Series (1-Bit Professional Mobile Recorder)
    • MR-1 - 1bit 2.8824 MHz (DSD) 44.1/48 kHz@16/25bit 88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz 24bit, 2tr
    • MR-1000 - 1bit 5.6448 MHz/1bit 2.8824 MHz(DSD)/24bit 192 kHz(PCM)
  • VS Series (Digital Studio Workstation)
    • VS-880 (1996) - 16bit 32/44.1/48 kHz, 8tr(Rec4tr)
    • VS-1680 (1998) - 24bit 32/44.1/48 kHz, 16tr(Rec8tr)
    • VS-2480 (2001) - 24bit 32/44.1/48/64/88.2/96 kHz, 24tr (Rec8tr@64–96 kHz 16tr@32–48 kHz)
  • DP Series (Digital Portastudio)
    • DP-01, DP-01FX, DP-01FX/CD - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr(Rec2tr)
    • DP-02 - 16bit 44.1 kHz, 8tr(Rec2tr)
  • X Series (Hybrid Hard Disk Workstation)
    • X-48 - 24bit 96 kHz, 48tr(Rec48tr)
  • AW Series (Professional Audio Workstation)
    • AW4416 (May 2000) - 24bit, 16tr, 44ch Mixer
    • AW2816 (July 2001) - 24bit, 16tr, 28ch Mixer
    • AW16G (July 2002) - 24bit, 16tr(Rec8tr), 36ch Mixer
    • AW1600 (2005) - 24bit, 16tr(Rec8tr), 36(input) Mixer
    • AW2400 (2005) - 24bit, 24tr(Rec16tr), 48(input) Mixer
  • MRS Series (MultiTrak Recording Studio)
    • MRS-1608 - 16bit, 16tr(Rec8tr), 27ch Mixer(Effect, Rhythm, Sampler)
  • HD Series
    • HD8 (late 2007) - 16bit - 8tr(Rec2tr)
    • HD16 (late 2007) - 16bit - 16tr(Rec8tr)

*Rec = Simultaneous recording tracks

Computer software

See also


  1. ^ Synclavier history
  2. ^ "Results page". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To CHRISTOPHER ALFRED, ANDREW J. CANNON, MICHAEL C. CARLOS, MARK CRABTREE, CHUCK GRINDSTAFF and JOHN MELANSON for their significant contributions to the evolution of digital audio editing for motion picture post production. Through their respective pioneering efforts with AMS AudioFile, Waveframe and Fairlight, the work of these gentlemen contributed significantly to the development and realization of digital audio workstations with full editing capabilities for motion picture soundtracks. 
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