Tech Tip:An Introduction to Hard Disk Recording, Part 1

An Introduction to Hard Disk Recording
presented by the Roland Corporation


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8


What IS Digital Recording?

Every recording process converts audio to something.


Analog tape
Recording on analog tape converts audio to constantly changing magnetic fluctuations.

Although this process has been in use for many years, it has some inherent problems:

  • Hiss on original tape and more in each copy
  • Wow and flutter of tape media
  • Degradation of tape over time
  • Maintenance: regular cleaning and adjustment
  • Linear access: to get from Introduction to the Ending, you must go through all of your verses and choruses


Digital Recording
Just like music on an audio CD, digital recording changes sound to numbers.

This process has some distinct advantages over analog recording:

  • No hiss, no wow, no flutter: virtually no noise at all
  • Copying with no degradation: you're only copying numbers
  • Lots of processing options (reverb, delay, etc.) with no loss of sound quality
  • Some have random access locating: to get from the Introduction to the Ending, just jump there instantly! HDRs have extremely high quality audio


HDRs have extremely high quality audio


Different Forms of Digital Recording

There are several forms of digital recording:

  • Digital Tape Recorders (such as Alesis ADAT & Tascam DA-88)
  • MiniDisk Recorders
  • Hard Disk Recorders
  • Digital Tape Recorders


Digital Tape Recorders

Record digitally onto tape.



  • Cheap media


  • Linear access: to get from Introduction to the Ending, you must go through all of your verses and choruses
  • Destructive recording: lose the originals when you record over a track
  • No UNDOS
  • Impossible to copy from one section to another using one unit
  • Limited editing without multiple units
  • No virtual tracks
  • Require you to buy external mixer and effects processors Basically, they are very high quality "typewriters" (more on this later).


MiniDisk Based Systems
Record onto a data-type MiniDisk.


  • Low cost


  • Most are limited to 4 tracks
  • Destructive recording without multiple levels of undo
  • Use analog mixers so there is degradation when bouncing tracks
  • No on board digital FX
  • Track level copying or editing is either impossible or takes additional time or disk space. See page 10 - 12 for more details.
  • Can't lock multiple units to increase the number of tracks


Types of Hard Disk Recorders


Hard Disk Recorders (HDRs)
Record digitally onto a Hard Disk. Recording to hard disk has many advantages over the other types of digital recorders. For the remainder of this booklet we will focus on HDRs. These recorders really open the doors to your creativity.


Types of HDRs
There are two basic types of Hard Disk Recorders: Computer Based Recorders, and Dedicated (Stand-alone) Hard Disk Recorders.


Computer Based Recorders


  • Graphics


  • Expensive
  • Require advanced computer knowledge
  • Usually require a powerful computer, cards, cables, and external hardware
  • Often less stable than dedicated units
  • Not portable


Dedicated Hard Disk Recorders
Stand alone systems designed specifically for audio recording and editing. Dedicated HDRs range from units that are basically recorders alone, to workstations (all-in-one boxes with mixers with faders and knobs and digital effects).


  • Great dollar value
  • Familiar layout and controls
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Extremely stable
  • Portable
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Multiple units can be easily sync'd to increase the number of tracks


Check out the rest of this series:

Part 2: Advantages, How tos, & Storage
Part 3: Pointer Based Editing
Part 4: Random Access
Part 5: Virtual Tracks
Part 6: Digital Effects, Mixing, and MIDI
Part 7: Modeling
Part 8: Other Advantages