Music Gear Central: Boss BR-1600CD: Digital recording studio at its affordable finest

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Not long ago, making a demo of a band’s music was a complicated and often expensive process. In the ’80s, I remember following local bands around and paying close attention to the ones that actually had professionally-recorded demos. These were the acts that seemed to have escaped the blue-collar musical grind of having to depend on hand-held recorders to capture themselves on tape and do whatever it took to get booked.

In my first year of college, I became friends with a musician who was the talk of the campus because of his stellar guitar playing and the fact he had converted his dorm room into a recording studio. His “studio” consisted of a four-track cassette recorder, a Casio keyboard that doubled as a drum machine, a guitar, bass and a $12 microphone. We stayed up for days laying down tracks that we thought would spin us into rock stardom. One of the guys we jammed with even sketched a rendering of our future tour bus. We didn’t break out, but some locals took notice for a while, and some of our tapes circulated around town.

Times have changed. Tapes are things of the past. Today, for a nominal price, it’s possible for any musician using a digital recorder to make a short demo CD or produce an entire album in the privacy of his or her home.

The Boss BR-1600CD Multi-track Digital Recorder is literally a compact recording studio that fits into a single box. This recorder does not offer everything you would get by booking professional sound engineers and producers, but it comes fairly close for a small unit.

This 16-track recorder is loaded with tools. The 40GB hard drive is capable of storing hours of music and recording them all on disk using the writable CD unit. Recording live performances is easy using the eight XLR inputs, and laying down vocal and guitar tracks is a fun experience with this model. The overdrive and distortion features work very well. Vocals can be tweaked using the Vocal Tool Box utilizing the 16-track EQ and vocal compressors.

The BR-1600 is also stocked with a step and real-time sequencer and a mapping feature, which allows loop exchanging through its standard USB port. A line-out volume control is lacking. However, after getting used to how the mixing processes work, I was satisfied. The BR-1600 also lacks a carrying case. However, a well-padded business bag, laptop case or accessory pouch may suffice.

The BR-1600CD lists for $1,499. With recording equipment and other electronic products, significant differences between suggested retail and dealer prices are not very common. Dealer cost on this type of gear tends to be higher because of ongoing technological advances. However, manufacturers usually offer additional discounts, such as mail-in rebates and extended warranties. Expect to pay between $1,300 to $1,400 here.

Jim Hagerty is a staff writer for The Rock River Times. He’s also a singer/songwriter and drummer. He can be reached at 703-7383 or

From the Jan. 3-9, 2007, issue

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