Paul Diamond Blow's Rock Musician Resources

Vintage Gear Review: The Alesis ADAT Studiopack
Review of the Alesis ADAT Studiopack, the World's First Affordable Digital Recording Format

by Paul Diamond Blow

The Alesis ADAT first came out in the late 1990's and made digital recording affordable for home studio musicians. The ADAT Studiopack came out in 2000 and I grabbed one up for $2000. The ADAT Studiopack package included everything you need (except the microphones) for pro quality recording: the LX-20 20-bit ADAT, the Studio 24 8 channel mixer, the Alesis Nanoverb stereo effects processor, the Alesis Nanocompressor stereo compressor, all the cables to hook it all up, plus an instructional video and even an ADAT VHS tape to record on. Here's my review on the ADAT Studiopack, piece by piece...

The ADAT LX-20
If you've never heard of ADATs before, they are digital audio recorders that look and operate like a VCR. The LX-20 features 20-bit resolution, which more than doubles the resolution of the first 16 bit blackface ADATs that revolutionized the recording market. The ADAT is basically built like a VCR, in fact VHS tapes are what you record on (although using cheap VHS tapes is not recommended). The ADAT is an 8-track recorder, and the cool thing is that you can hook several ADATs together to expand to a 16, 24, 32, etc. track studio! To expand, though, you need the BRC (big remote control unit) which costs around $800.

The sound quality of the LX-20 ADAT is exceptional. You can record at either 44.1 or 48 kz, 16 bit or 20 bit. The ADAT is very easy to set up and record with, and even if you are new to digital recording it is easy to learn with the ADAT. ADATs were used in many professional recording studios back in the day, in fact the ADAT revolutionized the recording industry, making it possible for inexpensive, high quality recordings.

The Alesis Studio 24 soundboard
This is the mixing board that came with the Studiopack. The Studio 24 was designed to work with the ADAT, and has RCA ins/outs on the rear which hook up to the ADAT. There are 8 channels with XLR and 1/4" connections, and four more "stereo" channels" with 1/4" connections. So basically, you can hook up to 8 microphones and 4 stereo line-in connections at the same time.

Each channel features a 3 EQ controls (high, mids, and lows - with a sweepable mids), a mute switch, panning knob, solo button, and a 75hz roll-off switch (which comes in very handy to get rid of low frequency rumble). Each channel also has it's own volume fader, and switches to send the signal to either the group faders, or to the left-right mix. Also, each channel has an insert point for hooking up compressors or other dynamics processors, and has two auxilary channels for adding effects (you can hook up two effects processors to this board at the same time).

All in all, this is a very nice board. The sound is very clean, with very low noise, and the EQ works quite well. The board has 2 sets of master outs (1/4" and RCA) for sending your mix to your computer or DAT machine, etc., and also 1/4" control room outs, to hook up to your monitoring system. It also has a headphone jack, of course. The board is nice and compact, and very nicely designed. It sounds great, and works very well with the ADAT or even recording direct to a DAT machine or a computer.

The Alesis NanoCompressor
When you record music digitally, you need a compressor for handling loud instruments (especially drums), otherwise you may get clipping, which sounds terrible. The Studiopack included the NanoCompressor, which is a very small (1/3 rackspace) stereo compressor. I must say that I am very impressed with this compressor -- it works MUCH better than I thought it would. It sounds great on drums, bass guitars, and vocals.! The settings (ratio, threshold, attack and release) are all adjustable, and you can choose between hard-knee or soft-knee compression. This little compressor really kicks some booty, I tell you!

the Alesis Nanoverb
this is the stereo digital effects processor included with the Studiopack. It also is small (1/3 rack space) and has some nice stereo effects: chorusing, flanger, delay, and many reverbs. You can adjust each effect somewhat with the "adjust" knob, but what you can do is limited. However, the NanoVerb is fine for adding basic effects to your mix, and while not as good as some of the more expensive effects processors, it gets the job done.

Final word: I've had my ADAT Studiopack since 2000 (over ten years) and I'm happy to report that it still works. I did have to take the mixing board in for servicing a few years ago, but all in all the ADAT Studiopack was built to last. Nowadays I do most of my digital recording on my computer, but I still use the mixing board and the compressor and digital effects for that. As far as digital recording formats go -- even compared to today's technology -- I give the ADAT Studiopack two thumbs up...