Bob Irons (Bob.Irons@ccmail.adp.wisc.edu) contributes
his impressions of the Sony 4-track MD recorder
Have had my Sony MDM-X4 for a week, just got a chance to try it over the weekend. Impressions: It appears to work flawlessly and has editing possibilities I never dreamed of, like the ability to over-dub onto an existing track, combining the new track with the old track, while still saving the original track elsewhere on disk. Or being able to bounce down as many times as you want, while still saving all the individual tracks for a possible remix later.
A copy of a CD made through the line inputs was indistiguishable from the original. The mic preamps are a little noisy. Yes, if you use an insensitive mic and a quiet instrument (dulcimer) and all four tracks, the hiss from the mic preamps is very audible, resulting in a noisier track than using good mic preamps with a 4 track cassette. However, all my serious recording will be done with mics that require a phantom power supply, so I won't be using the internal preamps for anything serious. The results should then be as good as the CD copy above. Testing the internal pre-amps with an old electrovoice dynamic mic and close miked flute resulted in no noise problems.
The testing with close miked flute resulted in no audible noise from the MDM X-4 itself, when the mic was two feet from the unit. (The units disk spinning motor makes a slight hum, but would be totally inaudible in any realistic scenario).
I had trouble getting external effects to work. Warning: there are three amount controls for external effects, not two, as on Mackie mixers. One at the channel, one master send (this is the one I couldn't find for a couple of hours), and one master return. And the one at the channel works in a screwy way (one nob controls amount and chooses bus 1 or 2).
I had trouble getting the MTC and MCLK to sync with my sequencer (Power Traks 3.5 on an IBM notebook with a Voyetra midi interface). I used another midi interface and the problem mostly dissappeared (at this point the sync can vary a few hundreths of a second from playback to playback, not spot on all the time. I plan to continue experimenting, swapping components to try to get it perfect, but it works plenty well enough for now).
All in all it meets my expectations - to be able to produce pro quality audio tracks that sync to my midi sequences resulting in CD quality recordings without a lot of hassle. It may be capable of even more. More on that later.