Hitting the right track

28th October 2005 at 01:00
Yamaha AW1600. Digital Audio Workstation 16 track, 24-bit portable recorder with 40 GB hard drive, integrated CD-RW drive and 8-voice sampler pound;925 inc VAT. Tel: 0870 445575 www.yamaha-music.co.uk

Create your own sounds and mixes with Yamaha's latest. Tom Cole reports

Years ago, if you were a musician and wanted to commit your ideas to tape, the chances were you'd be faced with two options: either fork out for a 4-track cassette recorder with all the sound quality of a Dictaphone or pay some condescending engineer pound;50 an hour for the use of his studio.

However, times have changed and, thanks to products like the Yamaha AW1600, musicians finally have access to decent easy-to-use audio equipment, and at an affordable price.

Marketed as a "professional audio workstation" designed for use by musicians themselves, the workstation boasts an impressive degree of user-friendliness. A pre-installed demo recording shows the way around the workstation, such as how to use faders and track assignments - a useful feature for any audio recording novices. For quick-start recording, the workstation's "sound clip" feature allows you to plug the microphone or instrument into one of its channels and record straight away without worrying about assigning the instrument to a fader or opening a new file to record on to.

The unit's menus and function keys seem daunting at first glance, but a quick browse through the manual means that even the least experienced user can begin recording after a few simple steps. Recording is simply a case of plugging your instruments or microphones into the eight input jacks on the console and, with the aid of a few menus, assigning each input jack a fader on the mixing board. After that, it's simply a case of pressing Record and playing. Indeed, within an hour of plugging in the AW1600, I'd recorded a four-track song and saved it to the unit's hard drive.

If a teacher demonstrated this process to students, they'd be ready to record within minutes. As well as being a 16-track recording suite, the workstation also acts as a sampler, allowing you to import audio samples from CDs or a computer for via a touchpad panel. Also included are sound effects that users can add to their recorded tracks, such as atmospheric effects like reverb.

As a unit for music production, the AW1600 offers mixing, overdubbing and editing facilities for additional polishing and tweaking. From here, you can burn finished audio tracks on to a recordable CD for playback on a sound system or a computer. The AW1600 is a compact, professional-standard audio workstation for musicians and it's also an ideal piece of audio hardware for introducing users to each aspect of the professional recording process.

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