Let’s face it, the current star of the music technology firmament isn’t surround, DVD-A, SACD, NetMD, 24/96, or any of that AES kinda stuff: It’s the almighty, inimitable iPod. Clearly, people like their audio small, portable, convenient, and with a high instant gratification factor. Which maybe explains why recording — not just playback — is learning to “get small.” Really small. Like “laptop on an airplane” small.


The biggest surprise in mobile-land was Edirol’s R4 recorder (see “AES Buzz Box”). Frankly, I think the response even surprised Edirol. But Edirol was also playing the double whammy card with their R1 ($550). It’s only a bit larger than a pack of cigarettes, and records MP3 (for maximum recording time) or 24-bit WAV (for best fidelity) onto a CompactFlash cartridge. There’s a built-in mic, metronome, tuner, and effects (mic simulator, noise suppressor, hum cut, EQ, reverb, center channel cancel, and so on). That “thud” you just heard was broadcast journalists dropping their Minidiscs and the last of the portable DATs.


And hey, what about MOTU’s Traveler? It does the FireWire interface thang at up to 192kHz, with 20 channels and four mic ins. It’s just like MOTU’s big guys except, well, smaller (14.75” x 9”). And it also follows the “Make It Easier” trend, with front panel digital input trims offering 1dB resolution — you don’t have to adjust gain from software alone. Power it from FireWire (9 watts), battery, or DC adapter. And yes, you can take it with you.

Want something even smaller? The PreSonus FireBox ($449) provides 6 ins (two mic, two line, S/PDIF) and 10 outs at 24/96, then pumps it all through FireWire to and from your favorite host (although if you don’t have a host, it also comes bundled with Cubase LE). Go for bus power or battery.