Small Space Home Recording – Jeff Jourard Surveys the Choices

I haven’t had a working home recording corner in years. Now, I’m signed to a label again and can’t wait any longer to record song ideas for my band mates.

Any choice is easy if you go for the maximum, like I usually do. But this time, I’ve done a 180… I want simple. I’m not making records at home, not even doing real demos, I’m just throwing down song ideas, rough & ready. If I’m onto something hot, I want to go in and get it down, not power up the command bridge of the Galactica.

The Criteria:

  • At least 8 tracks
  • Recording onto SD flash memory
  • Some built-in effects (close-enough is OK this time)
  • Some kind of built in beat box
  • Option to get the audio files into a computer if I want to take something a little further
  • Option to use the thing as a control surface (set of knobs) for the DAW in my computer (Reaper).

Problem is, everything is in flux. Models leave out capabilities they used to have and add features I don’t need, the buttons are worse… plus most companies are kind of losing interest in the all-in-one product, all the action is over in the computer area.
Been there, done that, I don’t want the size, complexity and TEMPTATIONS of a “you’re never finished” computer system.

I narrowed it down to four: the Roland BR-800, the Tascam DP-03, the Zoom R24 and (almost) the Korg Sound On Sound…

Roland BR-800

The BR-800 looks cool, nice and dark, and it has a big COSM section that allows you to make your same guitar record as a bass, a 12-string, an acoustic and all the heavy amp sounds too. Very tempting! It doubles as a control surface for computer audio.

But… no buttons, just a flat surface with labels, it has a CD-burner which I don’t need and you have to mix down to stereo before you can transfer anything to computer for further editing. Almost went for this. Price around $450-500

Tascam DP-03

The Tascam DP-03 is a great pure recorder. If my goals were different, I would have snagged this one faster than a hungry dog on roadkill. Better knobs, familiar Tascam workflow, no superfluous bells & whistles like amp models, drum machine, also doubles as a control surface for computer editing. It’s a clean machine and Tascam has always been great.

But… no drum machine – need it this time around and more than one blog/forum commented on how many places you have to arm it and prepare it before you can record anything. I want go-go-go. Kind of sad this isn’t the one. Price around $450-500

Korg SOS

The Korg SOS is a completely unique animal. It’s tiny. You just overdub and overdub. It’s got drums, amp models, effects, loops…everything. The takes are all stored as individual WAV files so you really could dump them onto a computer and keep going. But… to do that, you have to take out the tiny microSD card and read it with your computer. I would drop and lose that little thing on the first day, guaranteed.

But… too much menu scrolling and it’s actually TOO small! It’s so small and light that I can just see yanking it to the floor the first time I plugged in a guitar and headphones. I’d love to take this on trips with me, but not really in the running for this purpose. It took a long time to count this one out, really wanted it to be the one. Price about $200.

Zoom R24

The Zoom R24 got the nod in the end because it’s not black… sort of. I like to work in low light so I expect this one to be easiest to read and use. It has real buttons, amp models and lots of FX, but not quite as rich as the Roland.

A nice simple layout, doubles as a control surface and produces all WAV files which can be loaded into a computer if needed. It has a drum machine which is generally razzed for being impossible to edit, but we’ll see. Most owners love this thing. We’ll see if I end up being one of them. Price around $450-500.

Now that I picked one, of course I already miss the two I didn’t choose! The gear you don’t pick seems to have that bright, green-with-envy button you can’t stop looking at. But I don’t want to over-think it. Music tech moves so fast, it changes while you’re still deciding! So you pick something, run with it, and get on with why you bought the damn thing, right? Let’s write some tunes already!

Be Sociable, Share!