Fostex D2424LV or Alesis ADAT HD24?

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Sonarerec, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I also posted this over at the 3dB board, but I do not think many of you hang out there....

    I am looking for a low-priced multi-track HD recorder to function as a backup machine only on location jobs where I run line-level from the mics into the control room. For now I will simply split the analog signal and send one side to my Mytek A/Ds and the other to the HD recorder. In the future I will add the ADAT cards to the Myteks in order to bypass the internal converters of the recorder.

    I must be able to do 16tks of 24/48 or higher. If the worst were to happen and I would need to go to the backup for the data, it would be VERY nice to be able to either drag the files into the DAW via ethernet, or pull the HD and pop it into my Wiebetech FW dock

    My question: if both units are the same price (which they almost are), which do you recommend and why? First-hand experience is best rather than "a buddy had a friend who heard of a guy who had brand X."

    Rich
     
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Rich, I can tell you a lot about the Fostex from my own personal experience. (I own & use one.) Feel free to contact me directly if you need more than what I'm posting here....

    I originally purchased it as part of a project that fell though (transferring some old 24 track analog tapes of a well known 70's band for a DVD 5.1 remix....ah, industry weasels! ;-) ) But I've put it to good use as my second live remote recording rig since then.

    Anyway, the machine does exactly what it says it does, no more and no less. I like the removable drive caddies, too. (I bought two more from Fostex for extra drives, ready to go.)

    It will do 24 tracks of very good 16/44, 16/48, 24/44 and 24/48, with of course less HD space available as you go up.

    And then the track count starts going down for 88 and 96k. I don't think you can record more than 8 tracks at a time for 24/96. (Never used that many at that rate. (Also be aware the manual states you cannot use the ADAT digital signal for 24/88 and 24/96. That sorta makes sense...)

    Virtually all of the machine's many many functions are accessible via the jog wheel and input buttons on the removable remote control panel. NEVER lose the manual, either, unless this stuff comes naturally to you. There are many commands you'll never find without the manaul. I have a PDF on file back at home base, while the quick-start guide and complete (50-some pages) travels with the machine in its rack at all times. (even the analog balanced/unbalanced inputs/outputs are programmable, too!)

    Also expect to buy the 30' extension cable ($49.99) for the remote control front panel; it's pretty useless the way it comes from the factory, unless you're able to mount it right where it is on the front panel and work it that way. With the extension cable, you can have your controls almost anywhere, but keep the unit itself down and out of the way, in its own rack area.

    The price for the thing when I got it was/is ridiculous for what it does: about $1200-1300 at the usual online outfits...Musician's Friend, Sweetwater, etc. (but it only ships with ONE 30gig drive, and no extension cable for the control panel.)

    In no particular order, here's some of the good and bad about it:

    1. The HD format is NOT windows compatible; it is a proprietary FOSTEX format (as far as I know) and you cannot use it in any other device - you can only swap the drives with OTHER Fostex systems. (which I supose would ONLY be other 2424s.)

    2. For greatest reliability, you must at least do a quick HD format -but total formatting is HIGHLY recommended, and it takes quite a long time - more than 24 hrs to do an 80 gig drive, one byte at a time. (I've had spotty results with doing this...not sure if 80 gig is too much for it's OS; every time it got near to completion, it would give me an error message as it was completing the format....after whole day of running the thing! Grrrrrrrr), but so far, aside from one very terrible glitchy problem (Maybe I'll post it in the horror story column someday) it really is solid, reliable and does what it says it does.

    No idea what happens with formatting a 160 gig HD...hehehe....

    3. It ships with a 30 gig HD in a caddy for bay 1, and one open (empty) bay 2. They claim the second bay can be used with a DVD-drive, but be aware it's the now-dead DVD-RAM (Cartridge-style) drive format, and the cost along makes it pointless and stupid. (Where ELSE are you going to use of these, and the COST of them is ridiculous compared to everything else out there. ) This is NOT DVD+/-R, this is DVD-RAM, a whole 'nother smoke, and a waste of space, IMHO. (You can always buy another HD bay, if you want, too.) This was a dissappointment for me after I boubt it.

    4. The Ethernet card is a POST-MARKET ADD-ON, and costly. The card itself sells for about $450 (I THINK...it's been a while now since I priced it). You will also have to ship it back to them or a reputable dealer to do it. You cannot buy it with the card ahead of time. (Stupid, IMHO). They DO NOT recommend doing it yourself, and it voids the warranty if you do. (Doubtful you can even get them to sell/ship you the ethernet card anyway.) My good friend Eddie Ciletti (Manhattan Sound Technicians - now in St. Paul MN) is a Fostx licensed repair center, and even HE said: Ship it to FOSTEX in CA if you're going to do it at all. And, just to frost your cake: The unit and its shipping box are NOT small and NOT light, so you can imagine the FEDEX costs to ship it to/from CA. (You're on your own for that, it's not covered in the cost, either...)

    5. Oh, don't forget - the ethernet card is SLOW.... I'm told it's slower than realtime, so you're looking at hours and hours (probably overnight, at least, for most projects to transfer) and (again, it's been a while since I checked into this) I believe it's only a computer to computer hookup, I DO NOT believe you can run it on a LAN as part of a peer to peer hookup, I'm fairly certain you can only run it from the ethernet card to your "host" computers ethernet card. Sorry again, it's been a while since I researched this, and decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

    The GOOD news is, you can transfer 8 tracks at a time out of the ADAT optical ports to another computer, playing in real time. (There are 3x8 inputs, and 3x8 outputs, all ADAT optical.) So, I keep my "old" MOTU 896 parked right there in my garage/shop to do transfers as soon as the rig comes back in from a remote. It's not terribly slick, but it works. I use the ADAT optical to a laptop with a firewire drive, and THAT is how it get the audio out of the thing (again, 8 tracks at a time) to a Windows-friendly Firewire HD.

    You may find it's not worth the hassle (in spite of the tempting cost!), and as they always say: There's no free lunch. But the unit is relatively cheap, sounds great (sounds like NOTHING, actually) does what it says it does (all via software/keystrokes), and the price of HD's keep dropping. Not bad for a backup unit as you've mentioned you're looking for.

    For a while, I was considering getting a SECOND unit, just to have in my studio, and do the ADAT-optical transfers there, the HD caddies from machine to machine. (It's still the same procedure, but not relegated to the garage with the laptop and MOTU... ;-)

    One of my helpers/assistants has the similarly featured Mackie HD recorder (which I think is now discontinued by them?), and he says THOSE drives are Windows compatible.

    When I got this about a year or so ago, I got the distinct impression that FOSTEX was done with any upgrades or improvements. I really haven't followed or kept up with it, actually. I'm surprised they haven't come out with anything else or better, but I guess that's the way of stand-alone DAWs these days.

    Don't know if I've helped you or confused you, but that's how it is for me. Let me know if you need any more info on it. (Wait another few months and they'll probably be dumping them on ebay....)
     
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Rich,

    It sounds like you came to the right place. Joe has experience with the Fostex and I've got the Alesis.

    I think in general, the Fostex is more feature rich. The Alesis is what it is, a 24 track HD recorder. It will do 24 channels at a time up to 48k and 12 at 88.2 or 96k. I have found this unit to be incredibly stable - so much so that I have done numerous gigs on it without backup.

    Here are the positives and negatives IMO about the HD24:

    Positives:
    - Stable, rock steady, stable, stable stable...
    - Easy to use
    - When used with the Firewire adapter (usually sold seperately, but totally worth it!) you can transfer a 24 track 1.5 hour oratorio to your pc in under 15 minutes.
    - Quicker to format than the Fostex (20 minutes for a 160 gig drive)

    Negatives:
    - Built-in ethernet device is useless (b/c of speed - 10 Mb/sec), though you can patch it into the network
    - Converters (IMO) Suck! Hopefully, you will use this with externals


    Hope this helps!

    J...
     
  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    It appears that the Fostex does not write WAV files but some propriatory Fostex format, does the Alesis write WAV files to a FAT32 partition?

    In a hard disk recorder, it is vital, I think, to have the disk formatted in a PC compatible large partition (FAT32) and use a standard file format ie BWAV.
     
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    David,

    You make some good points here. The Alesis does not write in .wav either. It uses its own proprietary format (other than FAT32) and its own file type.

    Not to sound like a sales person for Alesis (cuz I'm not a big fan of most of their gear - HD24 and Masterlink excluded), but their formats have some distinct advantages over the standards.

    1. Because it uses FST (File Streaming Technology) vs. FAT32, NTFS, or other, it is actually a bit more stable. There aren't maximum file sizes.
    2. It also writes data successively on the disc instead of scattering it like on FAT or NTFS. (Meaning you never have to defrag the drive).
    3. Once you delete a file from the disc, the location of the free space is noted in the drives TOC (for lack of better terms) and accessed the next time around.
    4. Using the Firewire interface, you can download/upload files in .wav or .aiff format It basically converts from its proprietary format into these standards. You can also use the ethernet to do this same thing, but it's dreadfully slow. BTW, the conversion is a lossless one.

    Hope this helps.

    J...
     
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jeremy's describe the way both of them handle the info on the disc, I believe. You don't need to defrag the Fostex either, for about the same reasons.

    There's no free lunch, sadly.

    Maybe you can consider a used Mackie HD?
     
  7. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Thanks to all who opined-- I thought I'd let you know my decision was for the Alesis for the following reasons:

    - can use larger HDs (up to 1TB when it becomes available<G>)

    - formats the HD MANY times faster than the Fostex

    - Firewire is easily and cheaply available-- the Fostex is several times as much and the unit would have to go to the factory for the install

    - with the Fireport I can just drag WAVs over

    - drive caddy easier to use

    - takes the S/MUX from my Mytek, eliminating clock issues (and i do not ever plan on trying to SEND digital from the deck-- I will simply drag the files if I ever need the backup material

    - same price used as a refurb Fostex

    - the Fostex logo is just SO EIGHTIES (just kidding)

    Thanks again for everyone's input.

    Rich
     
  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    What could be more stable than a standard OS, ie one that has been installed and operating in millions of PC's?

    Large audio files are written contiguously as well, if the space exists. The WAV file is a header (RIFF) and then a limitless length or stream.

    but that surely leads to fragmentation if the rewrite is larger than the available file gap.

    Excellent, it needed to be so.

    Thanks for these good points. But I cannot get interested in non-standard file formats. Requiring the machine for the transfer of data off the drive is a big negative.

    My Nagra V writes to a FAT32 partition and in BWAV or WAV format. Once the audio is written, "anything" can read it. This is a masterstroke of Nagra and indicates clear thinking.
     
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

     
  10. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member

    Cucco-

    I also have/ use a HD24 on site, and while I agree with almost all said here about it's advantages & disadvantages, I would like to ask you more about your opinion of the converters.

    While they ain't Lavrys or Myteks, I have found the Alesis' converters to work very well in my rig. BUT: in my rig, I master-clock the HD24 to an Apogee PSX100. This is because my Pyramix rig (which recieves dig outputs from the HD24) sees the digital outputs from the HD24 as 'not quite' 44.1khz, but as 44.1443khz (or something)-- unless I use the Apogee clock as a master. Using the Apogee as master, all is well with thruput to PMX. Clearly, this shows a problem with the Alesis' master clock, but I have never actually A/B'd the Alesis converters using the clock/ no clock scenario to try to HEAR the difference.

    You clearly don't like the Alesis converters-- can you be more specific about what you hear/ don't hear that you dislike? Have you ever used the HD24 while clocking it from an Apogee or Mytek or Aardvark, etc?

    Also- Joe H- You said that the Fostex "sounds great- sounds like nothing, actually". Are you saying you like the Fostex converters? Or are you saying that the unit is transparent using the digital inputs? I have heard others badmouth the Fostex 2424 converters. Since this thread compares the two boxes, have you (or others here) heard the two unit's converters back-to-back? Any first-hand, real-life-experience comments comparing the two conversion processes?


    thanks!

    Exsultavit
     

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