MASTERLINK ML-9600 ($1,699)

As a recording project’s final destination, the mastering recorder is a critical piece of gear. If you master in software, you have lots of choices. But many people would rather master to a removablemedia device that is acceptable to CD replicators, such as DAT or CD-R. CD-R is increasingly popular for this purpose. Unfortunately, CDs are restricted to 16-bit resolution–at least, they were until Alesis introduced the Masterlink ML-9600.

Masterlink is a standalone mastering device that combines a 2-channel hard disk recorder with an internal 4.3 GB hard drive, digital effects, and a built-in CD burner. Right there, you have an extremely useful combination of features rarely found in a stereo device. (How many DAT machines have you seen that have digital effects and a CD burner?) The onboard DSP effects include a compressor, a peak limiter/normalizer, and a 3-band parametric EQ. That’s a pretty complete array of mastering effects.

The recorder lets you add fades, organize tracks into multiple playlists, combine audio with different sampling frequencies and word lengths in the same playlist, and perform sample-rate conversion and word-length reduction as you burn a CD. Sure, you can find these features elsewhere, but not in your average DAT deck or CD-R burner.

But what sets Masterlink apart is its ability to deliver 19 minutes of 24-bit, 96 kHz stereo audio on-a regular CD-R blank in the Alesis CD24 format or 24-bit: AIFF files in the ISO-9660 CD-ROM format. The latter lets any DAW with ISO-9660 CD-ROM capabilities read a Masterlink-created disc. You can’t do that with any other CD burner. Of course, the Master-link can also read and write standard 16-bit Red Book CDs and 16- and 20-bit AIFF files, so it’s compatible with your older discs and devices.

This is the first stereo recorder in a long time that completely changes the way we master. It boasts high-quality sound, enough hard drive space for several CDs, all the essential mastering effects, and a straightforward user interface–all at a very reasonable price. Giving it an Editors’ Choice award was a no-brainer.

COPYRIGHT 2001 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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