The HD24 FirePort 1394 Interface is a no brainer. If you track to HD24 and then transfer to a DAW to mix, go get one. Even if you don't own an HD24, it may be worth it for your studio to have compatibility. The included FST/Connect software runs on MacOS X and Windows 2000/XP only. The Mac and PC versions have slight differences. Most notably, the Mac version lets you transfer multiple songs at once, unlike the PC version; and the PC let's you have multiple FirePorts, unlike the Mac.

Transfer speeds are about 3 1/2 times real-time. A 4- min 38-sec long 24-track song took 1m40s to transfer to my internal IDE drive on a dual 1.25 GHz Mac. It was even faster going to a FireWire drive connected to the second port on the FirePort. It was about the same on my Pentium III PC. The combination of extreme speed and the ability to carry a hard drive brick instead of the whole recorder to transfer tracks makes this a must have for me.

The FST/Connect software adds other handy functions such as being able to name tracks with long names, not just "track01," "track02," etc. It also adds the ability to group songs into projects. You can export at 16 or 24-bit. Almost mandatory is the ability to scan for and remap bad blocks. The HD24 should really have that function built-in.

With that being said, there are some real problems that may make this unit totally broken for some people in its current state. The worst offender is the fact that on a Mac, if you plug in a drive when the FST/Connect software is not running, the Mac will ask you if you want to initialize the drive. The README warns of this. People don't read READMEs, so they're going to lose data. (Interestingly enough, I tried initializing, and the drive worked as a regular Mac drive through the FirePort.) Exporting a track out of Nuendo 2.1.2 and attempting to transfer back to the Alesis drive did not work. The software said the file was the wrong type. It was not the wrong type. The Nuendo file's icon was blank, so it may be partly Steinberg's fault. But then again, Nuendo's output works in other programs. Some parts of the manual are just wrong-for example, saying the Mac doesn't support multiple FireWire drives, claiming that's why you can only use one FirePort at a time. Software updates are not downloadable-they must be mailed. This is unfathomable in 2004.

Overall this product does not feel entirely done, but it's headed in the right direction. If all you do is track on the HD24 and mix on a computer, this product is worth purchasing right now. ($249 MSRP, $199 street;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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