Sonic State Studio / Recorders / FOSTEX MR8HD

Average rating: 8.0/10 out of 10

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Thomas Gregory a hobbyist user from USA writes:
I am a user of this device for the past two years. I would like to comment on the device and the previous review.

I agree with the statements in the previous review, but I have more of a problem with the sound quality of this device.

It is true that for a beginner this is a good device for recording sounds. I have had no hardware or software problems during standalone recording. The only problem I have ever had with it is when it is in "USB Mode" for uploading data from the MR-8HD to my computer via USB cable. The problem is that, sometimes, after the data has been transferred to the computer, the MR-8HD will not exit USB Mode or respond to any other user input. At these times, I have to simply unplug the MR-8HD and turn it back on. It always works fine when re-booted. This has never caused a failure to transfer the data, or any data loss, or any other system diffculties. It's just something to note.

I agree that the effects on the unit are not of much value. The analog distortion available on Input 1 is actually quite good, but the digital reverb and delay effects are not good; they are very harsh and trebly.

The A-D converters are made by the company Cirrus Logic (model number CS5351-KZZ). They are of very high quality. If you are OK with recording to 16-bit (which most home recordists should be), they are more than good enough for any purpose.

The preamps and trim pots on the inputs are another story. Unlike the previous reviewer, I have run into the sonic quality limitations of its preamps. Any line-level instruments like guitars or synthesizers that are recorded directly into the MR-8HD sound great because the internal preamps are not turned up. However, as the previous reviewer stated, they are, "...touchy for recording mics; there's only a very small range of useful gain adjustment when using a condenser." I would actually go one step further and say that these preamps are not actually usable for recording. They are reasonably noiseless for dynamic mics up to about the halfway point, but at that point they really still are not providing enough gain to get a strong signal.

More than halfway and they are truly just too noisy to get anything more than a "low-fi" "bedroom recording" sound quality. I would like to say at this point that it is good that digital recorders are so cheap and easy to use now. The convenience of this unit is very high. However, I think it is safe to say that the sound quality of the preamps means that the sound recording quality is probably no higher than that which could be achieved with a home-recording 4-track cassette recorder.

When using the +48v phantom power with electret or condenser mics, there is even more noise added to the signal. It is not just more white noise like before, but actually a chirping, clicking, rough sound mixed in with rising and falling very-high-frequency tones. It is downright weird. This noise intrudes on the signal when the trim pots are turned up even a little bit, which renders any recording made with condenser mics useless.

If you are planning to use this unit to record microphone signals, please by all means plan to buy external stand-alone mic preamps. Anything from the M-Audio DMP3, to the Rane MS1S, to the FMR RNP8380 or something like that will make the MR-8HD usable. The trim pot on the MR-8HD can then remain all the way down, and the phantom power will not ruin the signal.

I also agree that auxiliary outputs for a post-processing loop would be a massive improvement on this design. I believe the MR-16HD now has an auxiliary output which can be used for this purpose. The added price may be worth it for that feature alone.

All in all, this is a successful offering from Fostex. Once you begin to grow into your recording life, it will become necessary to take measures to improve on the sound quality available from this unit. However, for the price, I think there is (and probably never will be, because of the move to PC-based recording) no competitor to the MR-8HD.

Rating: 7 out of 10 posted Thursday, 31-Dec-09 at 8:28
Bob Jenkins a hobbyist user from USA writes:
When I bought this device one year ago, it was easily the single best 8-track hard-drive digital recorder available. It cost me $350 on sale (down from $400), and can now be had new for as low as $300. A year later, I still don't see any new multitracker that can compete with the MR-8HD's performance for price, especially with the latest price drops. I had never done any home studio recording before buying this, but I knew I was definitely going to want the 4-track-at-a-time recording. Most others in this price range seemed to offer two-track simultaneous recording at most. Each input channel offers phone jack or XLR inputs, and 48v phantom power. It records at 44.1k, 16 bit quality, which is fine with me. 24-bit would be nice, but nothing near this price offers 24-bit. Maybe in a year or two. As far as its actual functionality, it does everything I want it to. I record in my bedroom, then take it to the computer in the kitchen, hook it up via the USB 2.0 cable, and start going to town in Sonar. I am much more comfortable with the portability and independence of a separate hardware recorder. The preamps and trim pots on the inputs are touchy for recording mics; there's only a very small range of useful gain adjustment when using a condenser. There's no mic/line switch for the channels, just a range from "line" to "mic" on the pots. This can be a little aggravating when trying to get just the right level (especially in 16-bit), but whatever. I have become pretty skilled at getting a good level over the past year. The insert in/out on channel 1 is an essential feature that I never would have anticipated using so much when I bought this. If only there were an insert on each channel! The menu operation is easy as pie for creating new songs, recording, overdubbing, deleting tracks, etc. I don't use the extensive track or part editing features of the recorder since I use the software sequencer for that. To be honest, I think it would be a nightmare to try to create finished songs using only this device. On the other hand, it is completely possible. Basic MIDI control over the start/stop and tempo of external boxes is a great feature for doing synced overdubs that I'm just beginning to exploit. It's very useful. The system has been completely stable. It has never frozen on me or deleted information (which had apparently happened to a few people leaving reviews that I read when comparison-shopping, but it sounds like user error to me). I haven't come close to using up all the recording time, which is pretty amazing considering the amount of music that's on it. The effects are pretty much not worth using. Probably, most people who use one of these are going to use external effects processors anyway. One major shortcoming that I never would have thought to notice when I bought it is that it doesn't have any auxiliary outputs for re-processing already-recorded material. No other recorder of this type in this price range (or much higher) offers this either, but anyway it would be nice. All in all, a totally successful recorder. Especially for a beginning recorder like me, it has been a faithful friend in the studio. I have not run up into the sonic quality limitations of its preamps, a/d converters or anything. Only now am I actually beginning to fully utilize the 4-track-at-a-time recording potential. It looks like, because of the excellent design of this machine, I will not need to upgrade to another recorder in order to capture my growing vision for quite a little while.

Rating: 9 out of 10 posted Thursday, 29-Nov-07 at 15:10
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