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June 29th, 2001


Digi001 Digital Audio Workstation
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Digidesign
Product Home Page: http://www.Digidesign.com
Description: Mid range digital audio station that allows up to 24 tracks of 24-bit audio and 128 tracks of midi.
Address: 3401-A Hillview Avenue Palo Alto, CA 94304 USA
Price: MSRP $995
Telephone: 800.333.2137
Fax: 1.888.USE.DIGI
Requirements: Any Mac or PC with an available PCI slot, secondary 7200RPM or faster hard drive, at least128MB RAM, OS 9.0 or 9.1, CDROM the drive to make music. TMO recommends having two displays.
System Used For Testing: PowerMac G3 350MHz, 192MB RAM, (2) 6GB HD, DVD
[Review]
Make A Home Music Studio For Under $1000 - Digi001 Reviewed
by Chris Rogers

Introduction

Music enthusiasts rejoice. Creating music at home has never been so easy nor has is it been so much fun. Not too long ago, Digidesign released the Digi001. Since it's release the Digi001 had swamped the consumer audio market. At Guitar Center there are skyscrapers of them, and they fly out the door every week to amateur musicians everywhere.

Documentation

Once the black and green box is opened, the user is presented with ProTools LE installation CDs for Windows and Macintosh. It also includes all of the registration information and of course the documentation. The Getting Started guide is superb. It guides you through installing the Digi 001 PCI Card, connecting the PCI Card to the Digi001 "breakout box," as well as configuring your computer for the best performance. What we really appreciated was the step by step instructions with accompanying illustrations. This made installation and configuration a breeze by letting us know where to click and what settings to make. A big thumbs up for the documentation.

Hardware

The hardware consists of a PCI card, an I/O Box, rack ears, and I/O connector cable which connects the PCI card to the I/O Box, and an optical cable for connecting to such devices as an ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape). The PCI card has 3 ports. One of the ports is a high speed SCSI-like connector that connects the computer to the Digi001 I/O Box. The other two ports are the Optical input and Optical output that allow up to 8 channels of ADAT information or 2 channels of S/PDIF information.

The Digi001 I/O Box is my favorite part of the whole system. It contains 18 inputs and outputs that can be used simultaneously. There are 16 analog (RCA) ports, 8 for input and 8 for output. Each port is controlled independently from one another through the software. Also on the Digi001's I/O Box are left and right channel speaker outputs. These are what you're speakers (monitors) connect to. Through the Optical ports you have 8 channels of ADAT information and 2 S/PDIF channels. All of these at 24-bit (DVD Quality) sound.

What really blew us away was that there was more to this box. It included a built in MIDI interface with 1 input and one output for communication with such devices as a keyboard, drum machine or MPC. With just one input and one output the Digi001 gives you the ability to connect 16 MIDI devices in a "loop."

Digidesign is a smart company, they knew that sometimes while working on a mix down the hours fly by. Off into the night the engineer may work so they installed a headphone output with a dedicated volume control so you don't have to wake up your family during the wee hours of the morning.

Lastly, Digidesign decided to throw some icing on their cake and added a 1/4" foot switch port for QuickPunch recording.


The DIGI001 PCI Card

Installation

Installation of the Digi001 was simple. The first thing we did was remove the Digi001 PCI card from it's shock protective bag. Next, we opened up the G3 by pulling the handy-dandy lever located on the side of the G3 (Getting inside will be different if you own a machine older than the Blue and White G3) Using a Phillips screw driver, we removed the screw that holds the PCI cover and installed the PCI card into the next available PCI slot**. A simple twist of the Phillips screw driver and a swift movement of the hand to close the side of the machine and the dirty work was done. The last hardware setup we had to perform was the connecting of the I/O Box to the PCI card. We were done with the basic hardware setup in less than 2 minutes. This is the type of installation that we love to see. Lastly came the installation of of the ProTools LE 5.1 software.

I booted the G3 and immediately followed Digidesign's recommendations of setting the Extension Set to "Mac OS 9.1 Base." After doing that, we went to the Memory control panel and disabled Virtual Memory. Then came the moment to double click and install ProTools LE 5.1. Installation took 3 minutes to install ProTools LE and OMS (Used for controlling MIDI devices). In under 10 minutes we had the entire system setup.


Image of PCI Card Install

Closeup look of connection

Larger view of connection

Operation

Once the G3 restarted we immediately double-clicked the ProTools LE application. Opening the Demo Session supplied with the Digi001 I was presented with 2 main windows. The Edit window and the Mix window. The Edit window contains all of the track information and is the part of the software with which you would mostly be working. In the Edit window you can solo, mute, record tracks, and control volume and panning. The Mix window contains your virtual mixer. In this window you can adjust the volume panning, recording, inputs, outputs, inserts and sends. The greatest part about this virtual mixer is that it can be completely automated which means you can automate every variable in the mixer at anytime during a project. Its impossible to go over ALL of the features in ProTools LE because there are too many to point out in this review.

After studying the documentation and toying around with the Digi001 for about a day, we quickly picked up the basics of editing and mixing. In the span of about a month, we did a remix of two songs into one for a concert and we produced a track for a local band. Doing both a mix and a recording was very simple but it will take a few attempts at toying around to become a pro and make your mixes and recordings sound professional. The ProTools LE interface is so intuitive that it took no longer than a week of playing around to get the hang of it! If only there was more software like this!


The Edit Window

The Mix Window
Click the thumbnails for larger images

Performance

Performance was excellent on the Digi001 using the standard configuration of our test G3. We did notice a slight lag when recording to the internal 5400 RPM IDE hard drive but Digidesign noted that it's best to use a separate hard drive (preferably SCSI) of 7200 RPMs or higher. When we used the secondary hard drive (IDE 7200 RPMs) the lag disappeared. The Digi001 responded instantaneously when doing everyday tasks such as muting, soloing, recording and panning tracks.

The Bottom Line

The Digi001 is one of the most complete audio packages available on the market. With many other cards you need to buy extra equipment like a MIDI interface. The Digi001 incorporates many features you will use in the present as well as many features you will use in the future such as Optical inputs and outputs. The most outstanding part of the Digi001 is it's price. The Digi001 has a MSRP of $995 but dealers have been known to slash the prices. Our recommendation for anyone interested in making their own music, start with the Digi001. It will be the only "001" you will need for a long time!

If you'd like to get a taste of ProTools before you buy, go to www.Digidesign.com/ptfree to download a free version of ProTools that will allow you 8 tracks of audio and 128 tracks of MIDI.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Thumbs Up)
4 1/2 Thumbs Up
Pros:
  • Powerful
  • Can use any Sequencer available that is ASIO compatible
  • High-quality plugins
  • Multiple ins/outs
  • Built in MIDI interface
  • Good case design.
Cons:
  • Priced out of range of above entry level budgets



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