Yamaha's MD4

by Keith Mohr, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%%

Technology: Ah yes, I love that word! And I love the breed of digital 4 track recorders that hit the stores in '97. Imagine producing multi-track CD quality recordings in the privacy of your own home for less than most professional studios charge for ten hours of recording time! Sound too good to be true? The Yamaha MD4 was the first unit based on Sony's MD Data format to have made its way into the home recording market, and was designed to make your job of recording music easier and better sounding. What makes the MD4 such a great value is features, features, features and price, price, price. In the late '80s, when I was just getting started with my home studio, I was excited if I could just hear my music above the noise level created from poor tape or noisy recorders. These days, with the trusty Yamaha MD4, there's practically no noise to worry about. The MD4 will record your musical inspirations at 44.1k or CD quality (the same as the big expensive digital machines), and it has a frequency response of 20 hertz, all the way up to 20 kilohertz (basically, whatever goes in comes out!). And the MD4 has a signal to noise ration of 85 dB, plus no measurable wow or flutter! Compare those specs to what was happening in tape based systems just a year earlier and you'll say wow too!

Since the MD4 is based on the MD Data format, you actually have a hard copy of your work to carry around with you. It's hard to explain to your wife, "Honey, my song is right in there," as you point to your computer's hard drive with pride. So that's a plus in my book. Each mini disc holds 148 minutes of mono recording. Slice it in half if you want both of your ears to hear the music, and dice it by four for good old multi-track heaven, with 37 minutes of recording time. Pretty cool! Add to that a very capable four channel mixer complete with three band EQ centered at 80 Hz for the lows, 1k for the mids and 12k for the crispy highs. Plus, Yamaha says it operates best at between five and 35 degrees Celsius and between ten and 95 percent humidity. So my friend, if you live in Antarctica, you'll have to move!

Stupid humor and endless specs aside, this thing sounds great and is easy to operate. Just for starters, you can title your songs and set up a cue list to play all or even parts of songs in any order. Also, you can have up to eight markers, or location spots, inside each songs, and you can divide songs into sections, or even combine songs together for that cool off-time 3/4-7/4 jazz blues tune.

The absolute neato coolo feature about the MD4 is that you can record all four tracks and then bounce (merge) them onto one of the four tracks. Let's see you do that with a tape-based recorder! That will free up the other tracks so that you can do that cool David Foster arrangement residing inside of your head. I remember back in the old days if you bounced more than once, your tune sounded like it was coming out of a Burger King drive-thru speaker. Not gonna impress anyone except your mama.

And if that wasn't enough, the MD4 has a MIDI out port for MIDI time code and even MIDI Machine Control. You don't even have to record time code on a precious track. The MD4 places it within the digital code. If you have a keyboard with a sequencer or if you do sequencing on your computer, this is a great feature to have. It allows you to "lock" the two units together so you can keep MIDI tracks in MIDI and analog stuff in digital (confused yet?). In simpler terms, they can work together in perfect harmony. Hmm, maybe a jingle?

In review, the MD4 is a great unit at a great price, retailing for just $1,199.00. The MD Data technology found in the MD4 will help you produce the sweetest, cleanest, punchiest sounding tracks this side of Antarctica! Clear off the snow, push aside the penguins and dig in, you'll be glad you did!