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Christmas Gift Guide
MP3 Players

Studio in a box: Yamaha AW1600

Tired of dealing with decrepit flea-pit studios on the seediest street in town? Wish you could have a studio's worth of equipment on your desk without the hassle of buying a computer? Yamaha has the answer

Gone are the days when recording a band on sixteen tracks meant booking Abbey Road. No longer are studios filled with racks of hot valves, reams of tape and mop-haired engineers who wander off every quarter of an hour to eat Smarties. The future is here. Yamaha has jammed all of this hootenanny into a single, dedicated, digital music unit.

The whole audio chain is catered for, from powered XLR inputs for your microphones through to a CDR drive for burning your mastered album. Sure, all this can be done with software on a home computer, but in our experience dedicated hardware like the AW1600 is the most sensible option.

We've been testing this multi-tracker for a week, and it's seriously impressed us. It's easy to forget that software emulations of a mixing desk don't come close to the tactile experience of the real thing. Moving sliders and twisting knobs on the AW1600 isn't just appealingly retro, it's also the most intuitive way to make rapid changes to the levels you're recording at. We also found ourselves more focused on the task at hand, rather than messing around with filters and troubleshooting problems. There's just less distraction with a hardware unit.

The £700 AW1600 includes eight XLR inputs and records at up to 24bit onto two internal hard disks. If you want to use the desk in the field and then bring your tracks onto the computer back in the studio, it's easy to transfer them using the multitracker's built-in USB. There's not enough room here to list everything the AW1600 is capable of, but the musicians among you should start praying to find one of these under the tree next Sunday. -CS