THE IZ Technology Radar hard-disk multitrack-recording system has been around for two decades, with major revisions appearing approximately every five years. This year, the company released Radar 6, a stellar update that is smaller, quieter, faster, and cheaper than the previous incarnations, while offering a host of improvements in its feature set and audio quality. Yet, the system has retained the same uncompromising design principles that have guided all previous versions: to provide a rock-solid, dedicated recording system that emphasizes sound quality, ergonomics, and reliability. (During the eight years I’ve used my Radar V system, it has never crashed.)
That’s Dedication Although Radar 6 is a multitrack digital recorder, the philosophy behind its design is closer to an analog tape machine than a full-featured DAW: It offers no plug-ins, automation, or mixing capabilities. Radar 6 is designed to be the core of a larger hardware ecosystem that includes a mixer and outboard processing.
The Radar 6 system starts with a purpose-built engine that runs a proprietary operating system. The majority of its connectivity is located on the rear panel of the 4RU box: AES/EBU, S/PDIF, MIDI, SMPTE LTC, Word Clock, Ethernet, and DVI ports. The front panel has transport controls, removable drive bays, a Blu-ray/DVD-R combo drive, and USB 2.0 and eSATA ports for connecting external drives. The DVI output supports a standard widescreen LCD monitor (up to 1,600 x 900 resolution), which displays all session and waveform information within a single page view. An optional touch-sensitive LCD monitor ($700) shows the same information and lets you control the system from the front panel.
Audio I/O options are configured to the user’s preference and budget, and include the Classic 96 ($1,295 per 8 channels) and Ultra-Nyquist ($1,995 per 8 channels) analog I/O cards, as well as AES ($1,995), MADI ($1,995), ADAT Lightpipe ($995), and TDIF ($750) digital cards. The Ultra- Nyquist has a redesigned D/A, resulting in the lowest noise floor and least distortion of any Radar analog I/O card yet. All Radars I’ve heard share a smooth, rich sound, with a big low end, punchy midrange, and detailed but understated high end, without the abrasiveness in the high frequencies that lesser-quality converters sometimes display.
Radar 6 has internal system and archive drives, and it can hold two high-capacity removable SATA solid-state record drives ($395 each for the standard 120GB drive). You can also record directly to USB 2.0 hard drives and solid-state thumb drives as long as they are fast enough. Sessions can be archived to the Blu-ray/DVD-R combo drive, and files can be transferred directly between Radar and your Mac or PC via FTP over Ethernet or using a thumb drive with one of the frontpanel USB ports. This makes it possible to track within Radar, then transfer the files to your DAW for additional work.
The KC24 dedicated keyboard ($195) or the Session Controller Pro Remote ($1,995) are used to control Radar 6. The optional meter bridge ($995) bolts to the top of the Session Controller. With its jog wheel and dedicated function keys, the Session Controller Pro Remote can control as many as eight Radar 6 systems via RadarLink quickly and efficiently, resulting in 192 tracks of sample-accurate 192kHz recording.
From V to 6 Because the Radar system is a mature product, improvements tend to be incremental rather than revolutionary. Still, it offers significant hardware updates between Radar 6 and Radar V. The CPU is now a 3GHz Pentium, increasing the data transfer speed threefold. The custom SCSI bus has been replaced with a high-speed SATA bus, allowing the chassis to be 40% smaller and 14 pounds lighter. And the redesigned, high-efficiency power supply runs much cooler than the previous unit, eliminating the need for additional fans and significantly lowering the noise that the unit generates. (A complete list of updates can be found on the iZ website.)
The workflow and setup are similar enough in Radar 6 to have any Radar veteran up and running in minutes. For this review, I disconnected my Radar V chassis and replaced it with the Radar 6. It uses the same DB25 analog cabling and the same connection to the Session Controller Pro Remote. I only had to swap the older VGA monitor with a newer DVI widescreen monitor, and I was recording right away.
Radar 6 costs a bit less than Radar V, but there is no sacrifice in quality. You can purchase a bare frame for as little as $4,495, but a typical system with a touchscreen, two record drives, 24 channels of Classic 96 I/O, and a Session Controller will run $12,523. Software updates are expensive, but these prices must be taken in context: Radar 6 systems have a lifetime measured in decades, and the price includes 10 years of free tech support by iZ experts.
Top Notch Radar 6 is not for everyone. It is a premium product with a price tag aimed at professionals. But if your emphasis is on capturing expressive performances from musicians who can lay it down without a great deal of editing, and you like a streamlined workflow, then Radar 6 is a superb choice.
Nick Peck is a composer, sound designer, and audio director, based in Studio CIty, CA.
STRENGTHS: Excellent sound quality. Reliable performance. Variety of connectivity options. Optional touchscreen and remote control. A decade of free tech support.
LIMITATIONS: Requires mixing console and outboard processing gear to use it at its best. Premium price.
$4,495 MSRP and up