Digital Recording – Breaking Free From Your DAW

Step away from the screen

Laptop with Headphones
It’s almost too easy these days to treat your home computer, laptop or tablet as your go-to device for recording. Everything is there, from effects to virtual instruments, enabling the entire process to be managed from inside the box.

Indeed, you’d struggle to find a studio now that doesn’t have some sort of computer reliance. It hasn’t always been the way though. Back in the day, things were very different, with the entire process cut physically onto 2″ audio tape, which was then chopped up (with scissors) to allow for fades, the punching in of overdubs and all sorts of weird and wonderful creative effects.

The tactile act of pressing a button, which made a red light appear signalling you to start playing, is fast disappearing as we gravitate towards computers and screens.

The problem is that a lot of us spend the majority of our days, and often nights, sat in front of a screen. And when every item in your pandora’s box of tricks is only a few clicks away, the temptation is always there to fiddle with your recording, instead of focusing on your playing. Thankfully, there is a solution to this, and one which bridges that gap between screenless and on-screen digital recording. Here’s a few ideas to get that creativity flowing, without cutting the cord from your computer entirely.


Zoom R16 Recorder

As far as crossovers go, this one hits the nail squarely on the head. If you truly want to go screen-free, and capture your playing without the temptation to tinker, then this could well be the solution. It features eight tracks of simultaneous digital recording capability, and 16 tracks of playback. Built in condenser mics allow for the recording of acoustic instruments and vocals too. And it can all be done without a computer.

Alternatively, it can co-exist with your existing computer setup, instead functioning as a quality audio interface and DAW control surface. The choice is yours. It can even run on battery, so you could record outdoor gigs or busking sessions (if that’s your thing) before later transferring your efforts to the computer for mixing and mastering. A host of Zoom’s famous effects and tools are included, making this a true ‘all-in-one’ solution for recording your songs.


Boss BR800

In direct competition with the Zoom is the Boss BR800. Both have very similar feature sets, however the Boss unit comes complete with a drum machine built in, along with effects plucked directly from the Boss hall of fame. It also benefits from having an EZ record function, which allows for quick and easy setting up and digital recording of different instruments, with optimum settings already in place.

As with the Zoom unit, the BR800 has capability to link up with your DAW should you require, or you could use the bundled Sonar LE software to get you started.


Tascam Portastudio DP32SD

Stepping up the range, you have the Tascam Portastudio DP32SD. This larger unit offers 8 tracks of simultaneous mono recording and a further 12 that can be switched between stereo and mono. It features higher quality sampling capability than a standard computer, which means your recordings will be pristine, as well as MIDI and USB connectivity for communication with other hardware devices.

Eight built-in effects provide the perfect ammunition for mastering, and a built-in CD-R/RW means you could be listening to CD quality versions of your recordings in no time at all. There’s also an SD card slot (2GB card included) for saving your recordings to. When compared to a traditional hard drive this means faster running times and more stable performance.


Gibson Memory Cable

Coming slightly from left-field is this interesting new product from Gibson, called the Memory Cable. It replaces your existing guitar lead, and operates silently in the background, recording everything you do. Perfect for those moments when you’ve written a blinder of a riff, but don’t have recording equipment to hand. The Memory Cable, developed in conjunction with Tascam, gets around it by simply recording everything you play, ready for upload and editing at a later stage.

It can capture up to 13 hours of playing off a 4GB memory card (included), and works with bass, synth and line-level signals. There’s also a handy re-amping function, which opens up a world of possibilities for changing or altering your tone after it’s been recorded.


Olympus LS12

Finally, a handheld alternative which opens up amazing opportunities for field-recording, i.e. recording and sampling everyday noises and mangling them into interesting new musical ideas. The LS12 records in high fidelity (24 bit/96kHZ) and can run for around 50 hours before the batteries need changing. Not only that, it records in stereo, which further increases your options should you decide to take your recordings back onto the computer at a later stage.

So, as this article hopefully demonstrates, you needn’t be a slave to the screen all the time. By reverting back to the physical act of moving faders and pressing a button marked ‘record’, you could free yourself and reinvigorate your passion for producing your own music.