Fostex MR8: Ugly portable recording bargain?

Today, the combined brains of Engadget readers are recommending the best portable recording gear (link). So far, the usual suspects are coming up - M-Audio Microtrack, simple minidisk recorders (which is what most radio pros use), iRiver mp3 players, and tiny Olympus recorders. One person suggested the Fostex MR8, which has good specs - uncompressed wav recording, 16/44 recording, powered by AA batteries, XLR ins and mic preamps - all for $250. Problems: No phantom power (You'll need a ART Phantom II and more cables), and it's possibly the ugliest, reddest, cheapest-looking piece of music gear I've ever seen.


Comments:
It looks like something my dog refused to eat.
In fact, it IS what my dog refused to eat.
 
is phantom power a big deal for a "portable" podcasting solution? how many people are going to be walking around with a condenser mics.
 
welcome to 3 years ago.
 
reminds me of this:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0002DUW44/103-0578666-1540620?v=glance

It's not red, and costs about a 100$, but it's damn ugly AND it uses tapes.

Who the hell needs something like this?
 
oops here is the correct URL:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0002DUW44/103-0578666-1540620?v=glance
sorry for the spammage
 
It comes in black also..
The newer models are black. But they're generally $50 more since the red is discontinued.
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/g=home/search/detail/base_pid/240281/
 
I use this thing extensively to "bootleg" all our band's shows. I bought a (crappy but functional) Autdio Technica twin-element condensor mic, intended for video camera work. It's self-powered, works great with the MR8. I get pretty decent results after I EQ and compress the recording.

I originally bought the MR8 as an audio sketchbook. It sat around in a closet for a year, and then I started playing with lots of other people... out came the MR8 for quick and dirty recordings of acoustic jams. It works even better for tracking our loud rock band.

One very important thing to note about the MR8, for people interested in trying one out... the headphone amps SUCK. They're super-noisy, crackly, shitty-sounding... BUT... that is NOT what's going down on tape. It records a very clean signal.

It's easy to use if you're sitting around layering yourself and having fun. The effects are absolutely worthless, except in a "Yep. That's something that sounds vaguely like reverb... I guess it's better than just my voice..." In other words, use this as a capture device, mix and add effects in your computer. The MR8 has "mastering" utilities, but I would only use them if I had nothing else.

I was worried, after this thing had sat in my closet, that I'd paid premium price (I pre-ordered the thing before it actually came out) for something I was never going to use... and then I started playing with people and it started coming with me everywhere I went.

It is NOT the "ideal" portable device. It's big, ugly, and big. But it's easy to use, it seems very reliable, and dammit, it's just been hellishly useful. Our band has gotten better because we have recordings of almost every jam, wherever we went.

I give it an A, but not an A+.
 
I use this thing extensively to "bootleg" all our band's shows. I bought a (crappy but functional) Audio Technica twin-element condensor mic, intended for video camera work. It's self-powered, works great with the MR8. I get pretty decent results after I EQ and compress the recording.

I originally bought the MR8 as an audio sketchbook. It sat around in a closet for a year, and then I started playing with lots of other people... out came the MR8 for quick and dirty recordings of acoustic jams. It works even better for tracking our loud rock band.

One very important thing to note about the MR8, for people interested in trying one out... the headphone amps SUCK. They're super-noisy, crackly, shitty-sounding... BUT... that is not what's going down on tape. It records a very clean signal.

It's easy to use if you're sitting around layering yourself (eight tracks, and it's easy to bounce down to stereo and keep going) and having fun. The effects are absolutely worthless, except in a "Yep. That's something that sounds vaguely like reverb... I guess it's better than just my voice..." kind of sense. In other words, use this as a capture device, mix and add effects in your computer. The MR8 has "mastering" utilities, but I would only use them if I had nothing else.

I was worried, after this thing had sat in my closet, that I'd paid premium price (I pre-ordered the thing before it actually came out) for something I was never going to use... and then I started playing with people and it started coming with me everywhere I went.

It is not the "ideal" portable device. It's big, ugly, and big. But it's easy to use, it seems very reliable, and dammit, it's just been hellishly useful. Our band has gotten better because we have recordings of almost every jam, wherever we went.

I give it an A, but not an A+.

Oh, and my mom hooked me up with the padded Fostex MR8 gig bag for xmas (thanks Mom!) - if you get the MR8, get the gig bag.
 
Well, crap. Sorry 'bout that.
 
This looks like a much more useful piece of equipment. It has XLR in effects on board, and it has eight tracks for recording. It's also quite a bit cheaper, and comes with 128 Mb CF card. It is bigger and I don't think 6 batteries is a great idea, but all in all it seems like the better solution.
 
I thought you liked ugly gear?
 
I also thought this unit would make a great budget field-recording setup. If you use something like the Rode NT4 stereo mic there's no need for Phantom,

:)
 
Anyone know how the mic pres and a/d compare on this to an edirol R1?

It's about £80 cheaper than an R1 in the UK, and i want to use external mics wth either anyway...


Aahzekiel! good review. how is it for recording quiet acoustic stuff?
 
Some months ago I found one of this
http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/mrs4/index.php
on ebay. Paid $90, new. Sampling rate in hi-fi mode is 31 khz, but nonetheless the sound is good. Uses CF cards and you can download an application for converting data to .WAV

There is a website with good info at
http://www.network54.com/Realm/virtual_track/
 
Sorry, the correct link above is
http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/
products/mrs4/index.php
 
Very cool blog you have check mine out at Daddy-Yankee
 
The onboard electret mic is actually not bad if what you're after is a sketch of a musical idea. Got that fantastic riff you just want to make sure you remember? You're golden. I had better results than I expected on a Thanksgiving trip to the inlaws with a battery powered Radio Shack lavalier (sp?) mic pinned to my collar while I played acoustic guitar and sang.

The MR8's preamps have to be cranked way up to pick up acoustic stuff, at least with the mics I've tried. One issue is that one of its input channels has a "distortion" knob, while the other doesn't. They sell this as a guitar distortion simulator. It seems to be a post-pre gain. On one channel. Which makes matching the two channels up, easily, for a balanced stereo recording, while your band is waiting for you to get your ass on stage and pick up your bass, can be iffy. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, but my latest few recordings have had to be corrected during mixing. Someone know what I'm missing here?

I've been happier with what I've gotten by sticking my AT stereo condenser mic out in front of our band than what I've gotten tracking acoustic stuff. This could easily be attributed to my choice (or lack thereof) of microphones. The MR8 seems ready to record cleanly from whatever you send it. I should explore it with some better mics...
 
Sample recording, if you're interested... recorded on the MR8 through an Audio Technica Pro 24 XY twin-element condenser microphone. Slapped about a bit in ProTools.

The muddy vocals are my fault, PA eq sucks. Tiny gig, no sound guy, blah blah blah.

Fun, tho. :) Dig the crowd noise.

Click me, I'm an ugly, terribly formatted link. Song is called "Coalminer's Daughter", by The Mike Smith Band.
 
I work at a Sam Ash in Cerritos and I just sold one of these to a buddy of mine based on this writeup.. It is a bargain despite its flaws. A small battery powered 8 track that sounds pretty good, with 2 XLR, CompactFlash storage, and USB connection so you can do your restoration, mixing, and such on your DAW of choice. Sounds good to me - this is way cheaper than the M Audio stereo recorder and does about the same thing. Shame about the phantom power but that can be worked around for a small fee...
 
Only US$50 more gets you a Tascam DP01 with 40gb hardrive and lots of other goodies. If you must have Phantom power the DP0FX has those, plus built in effects (how good - I don't know).

http://www.tascam.com/Products/dp01.html

I think that going past certain price point, the allure is lost. Maybe $250 is that price point. $300 or $350 starts to compete with things like Tracktion 2 and a Big Knob on your laptop, which is much more versatile than the stand alone recorders.

For the cheap prodution or idea sketching, I think that the Zoom MRS-4 looks promising, but "hi-fi" equals 31khz is a bit iffy. That is probably why I am still tinkering around with my Yamaha 4 track cassette (that and the meters look cool in the dark).
 
If that Tascam had been around when I was shopping the MR8, I would've gotten the Tascam... but one of the things I've really liked about the MR8 and the AT stereo mic is that the whole rig is battery powered.
 
I think it's great! My boyfriend records like this! I think its a good investment.
 
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