Hands-On Review:Korg D-888 Digital Recorder
A high-powered 8-tracker with a friendly analog feel
By Ron Stillman
The new D-888 Digital Studio is a sweet little package. At first glance, it looks like a basic analog mixer with eight channel strips, each with the usual fader, three EQ knobs, effects level, pan knob, trim at the top, master fader, and XLR (phantom powered, of course) and 1/4" inputs. I appreciated this familiar layout at the get-go because it promised ease of use. But as I came to understand the D-888 more fully, I began to appreciate its thoughtful design as a "capture" recorder. It’s not just easy to use; it’s also powerful.
Gig to computer
The D-888 is made to order for recording performances on location and then linking up with a computer to mix and process. In addition to eight tracks of simultaneous recording, it has eight outputs that can be configured in different ways. In Individual mode, each track has its own output, which is handy for integrating it with existing house sound systems, allowing you to record inline between the mics and the sound system so it doesn’t interfere with the house mix.
When not in Individual mode, the first four outputs are monitor L/R and mains L/R. Channels 5-8 retain their individual outputs, which gives additional patching possibilities, even allowing the D-888 to double as the house mixer and the recorder at the same time. Recording levels are set by the trim knobs, and monitoring levels by the faders, so everybody gets the right volume and mix.
Other strong capture recorder features are a 40GB hard drive that gives you ample recording time, WAV format recording, and a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. This combination allows you to record performances, then quickly and easily transfer your recorded tracks into nearly any computer-based recording software—no conversion needed—and put the final shine on them with computer-based editing and processing.
Eight is great
While eight tracks is plenty for recording onstage performances, some might view eight-trackers as too limited for more complex recording projects. The D-888 overcomes such limitation in several ways. One is a bounce function where you can combine tracks with no loss of audio quality to free up more tracks as you go. The D-888 gives you eight virtual tracks for each real track, which means you can play the same part over and over, and then choose the best performance. Nor is there any set limit to the number of mixes of a song you can create; each one is simply stored as another stereo WAV file.
You can also use the D-888’s eight channels of quality preamps and EQs as the front-end interface with your computer recording system. Its standard mixer layout facilitates the recording process, and its 2.0 USB port makes trans-ferring the recorded tracks to computer fast and easy.
Where digital recording really shines, of course, is the ease with which you can make changes. No waiting for a tape to wind or rewind. With four location points in each song and 100 markers, when you want to go to the bridge, you can do so instantly.
You can cut and paste whole sections of songs, which makes putting together longer songs much faster. You only have to record a section once and then copy and paste it to build out the rest of the song. You can swap tracks, erase entire sections of a track or a single bad note. It also has punch in/punch out capability, and when you make a change, undo and redo buttons let you compare the before and after until you commit to it.
Simple is beautiful
I like the flexibility and powerful features of the D-888, and I also really like its simplicity. Some digital studios are so frustratingly complicated to operate that you have to relearn the basics every time you record. Not the D-888. With its simple operations, standard mixer layout, and tape deck-style recorder controls, it can serve as a creative tool—simple enough to capture a tune or riff quickly without the process getting in the way.
I would characterize the D-888 overall as a machine that gives you all the right features but avoids becoming too complicated. It is simple but very high-end, with quality mic preamps, converters, 40-bit internal processing, and great effects. The D-888 is friendly, flexible, powerful, and surprisingly affordable. There’s nothing even close to its price that can touch it.
Features & Specs:
- 8-channel analog-style mixer with hard disk recorder
- 8-track simultaneous record and playback
- WAV format recording
- 40GB internal hard drive
- 8 XLR and TRS balanced inputs
- 8 high-performance mic preamps
- 48V phantom power on XLR inputs
- 8 analog 1.4" outputs, assignable as L/R mains, L/R monitors, or assigned to individual channels
- 2 headphone outputs each with level control
- High-speed USB 2.0 port
- S/PDIF output
- MIDI out for transmitting time code
- User-friendly panel design
- 8 full channel strips with trim, 3-band EQ, gain, pan, effect send, and fader
- 11 master effect types
- Convenient, nondestructive editing tools
- Undo and Redo functions
- 16-bit /44.1kHz recording
- 40-bit internal processing
- Rugged metal body