Article about the difference between a Falcon and a PC system when it comes to harddisk recording. Published in the swedish supplement to Atari Computing #2, December 1996. Translated into english by the author.

Claes Holmerup: Why choose a Falcon instead of a PC for harddisk-recording?

I sell and repair computers, I make harddisk recordings just about every day and speak daily to people with different knowledge and expectations. Let me conclude some of my experiences and let it take the form of a fictive conversation between PerCy and STeve.

- All sorts of programs are available for PC:s, but not for the Falcon.

- For the Falcon, there are programs for sequencing, word processing, DTP, spreadsheets, registers, graphics processing, Internet, book keeping, CD- recording... Do I need to continue? The graphics programs often use the DSP for filtering functions and therefore become terribly fast. Let's see when they get the idea in the PC-world to build in a DSP from the start...

- Harddisk recording on PC:s is available with 1000 virtual tracks.

- A Falcon can't have that many virtual tracks (not the current programs anyway), but what's most important is the amount of real tracks (i.e. tracks that can be replayed at the same time). In the PC-programs it's mostly 8 tracks or in best cases 8 stereo tracks. Very often, PC-programs boast about some "smart" compressing algorithms that keep the HD-space usage down. The Falcon version of Cubase Audio works with full DAT-quality in the 8-track mode and doesn't use ANY compression until you use the 16-track mode. This means that in the 8-track mode, the Falcon almost always has a better sound quality than the PC-programs ever have. In the 16- track mode, the soundquality is more comparable between the systems.

- PC-systems can be supplied with professional in- and outputs, while the Falcon only has it's built-in, noisy connections.

- With a standard sound card in the PC, the sound quality is about the same as in the Falcon's standard in/outputs and in many cases, the PC's soundcard produces more noise. Of course, better soundcards are available, but at a much higher price. To get professional in/out for a PC-system, you need Session8 (with8 in and 8 out), which costs about SEK30000:-. For the Falcon you get a swedish unit with 8 balanced outputs (JAM8), which lives up to professional requirements and costs about SEK3000:-, and another unit with 2 professional inputs (JAM-IN2)which costs about SEK2000:-. If you need 8 inputs, you choose JAM-IN8 at about SEK4000:-.

- You can record more tracks at the same time on the PC-version of Cubase Audio.

- True - if you have Session8. Cubase Audio for the Falcon can only handle 2-track recording, but development is continuing there too. Since there are other harddisk recording programs available, which can handle 8-track simultaneous recording, it's only a matter of time before Cubase Audio also can handle it.

- There are systems that can be expanded to 48 or even more real audio tracks for PC:s.

- I know there are, but then we're talking about a couple of hundred thousand SEK and they can hardly be compared to a Falcon system that costs about SEK20000-30000:-, can they? The maximum of audio tracks in Cubase Audio for the Falcon is 16 (with data compression).

- You can expand the midi channels to become more on the PC.

- There are midi expansions with 4 (MO-4) or 8 (MM-1) extra midi outputs for Atari computers too. In addition to the built-in ports, they give 80 or 144 midi channels on 5 or 9 separate connectors. This should cover almost any needs... By the way, when we're talking about midi, I'd like to mention that the midi-timing on a great deal of PC-soundcards is very bad and not really useable other than as toys. If you want good midi-timing, you need a dedicated midi-interface or a more expensive soundcard that handles midi in a better way.

- !?!

- In a studio, you often use a DAT for the mixdown. You can get an S/Pdif interface for about SEK2000:-, which allows you to connect an optical or coaxial cable for transfering to the Falcon. This means that the sound quality of the master mix is untouched and you can burn an audio-CD from the material without quantising and convertion losses. You can also buy software for the S/Pdif that allows you to use the DAT for backup purposes of both audio and data files.

- The PC can use higher screen resolution.

- The original Falcon has 640*480, but this can be enhanced with BlowUp or ScreenBlaster, which give as good resolutions as on a standard PC.

- The PC version of Cubase Audio is in colour - the Falcon version is black and white.

- The colourful version gets messy in my eyes, but of course it would have been nice to have some colour to be able to make some things clearer in an arrangement. My opinion is that the PC-version has too many colours and colour fades, so the overview is still better in the Falcon's monochrome version. If you are to be honest, you can also ask yourself how much these colours have to do with the main functionality of the program...

- ???

- In the Falcon, you have TRUE "Plug- and Play": You copy the program from the disks to the harddisk and you're ready to go. There's no risk of having a problem with settings in Config.sys, Autoexec.bat or Win.ini; all Atari computers have their operative system in ROM, and that's why there's very little risk for problems.

- There are no games for the Falcon!

- It's true that there aren't very many games available, but if you're going to buy a professional HD-recording system, the main thing can hardly be if you can play games on it? The Falcon is a true machine to play with - a tool to make music with! There are games available, both commercial and PD/Shareware - if you want that kind of amusement.Conclution: With a Falcon system, you can afford a HD-recording system and still have money left to be able to make other adjustments in the studio and you get satisfied with the result. He who buys the PC system gets either very poor and satisfied - or saves on some costs and gets frustrated over the limitaions. All the "normal" PC-problems come without any extra charge...

Enough said!