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A brief introduction to mixing in the home recording studio
You are probably aware of some of the developments in serious hard disk recorder/editors such as the AMS AudioFile and DAR SoundStation. These are expensive multitrack machines whose main use is in adding sound to picture, although they can be used equally effectively on smaller scale projects. Multitrack hard disk at the personal studio level isnt really a practical possibility yet, and it wont be for some time to come, I prophecy (come on you manufacturers and prove me wrong please!). Hard disk wont replace multitrack recorders in the near future for two reasons: Firstly, they would be much more expensive track for track, and secondly, storing a project is nowhere near as cheap and simple as putting a reel of tape on a shelf. You need a back up device, backing up takes time, the back up media costs money etc etc. But even though hard disk recorders are not going to take over from multitrack just yet, they are still very useful - very useful - for stereo work. They also have applications in assisting the multitrack recording process. Let me explain...
Since we have all thrown away our reel-to-reel recorders, or at least hidden them in cupboards, and converted to DAT, we have become very practised at mixing our multitrack recordings in one take, making sure the starts are nice and tidy, and that the ends fade neatly into silence after the last of the reverb dies away. Or have we? In the days when editing was a simple matter of slashing away at the tape with a rusty razor blade and sticking it back together with Sellotape, we wouldnt think twice about redoing a section that went wrong during the mix and chopping it in among all the other sections that we had spent hours over getting absolutely right. But with DAT, and no editing possible other than at mammoth cost, we have had to forgo that flexibility in return for lower machine cost, lower tape cost and better sound quality. But if you had a hard disk recorder at your elbow during the mixing process, all the old reel-to-reel flexibility would be back, and much more besides. What luxury!