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Alesis M20 - Setting A New Standard

   For most of us, 16-bit digital audio is the best thing since, well… analog. After all, that's true CD quality! Still, there are certain studios (and individuals) who need something better. So, just for them, those thoughtful people at Alesis built a brand new digital multitrack — and it's their best ever! What's more, it's shipping right now and we have them in stock in our giant warehouse!

   The new M20 Professional 20-Bit Digital Multitrack Recorder ($6999 list) was specifically created for commercial audio recording facilities, as well as high-end video and film post-production studios. Its sophisticated full-servo direct-drive transport and 20-bit audio capability means you get finely detailed sound that unquestionably surpasses even the best analog mastering recorders. The M20 was engineered for demanding, around-the-clock applications which require the highest standard of audio quality as well as low maintenance,
Want one in your rack? The M20 offers 16 times the audio resolution of a 16-bit multitrack.
Want one in your rack? The M20 offers 16 times the audio resolution of a 16-bit multitrack.
quick response and built-in SMPTE/EBU time code synchronization. It uses the very same S-VHS tape and sample-accurate multi-unit synchronization that made the Alesis ADAT the most popular digital multitrack ever made.

   Though completely compatible with original ADAT formatted tapes, the M20 features the new ADAT Type II format (also found in the XT20 and LX20 — see last issue) which records eight tracks of true, linear 20-bit digital audio onto tape without external converters or multiplexers. 20-bit recording offers much greater sonic detail than 16-bit recording since each additional bit actually doubles the number of values that can be recorded. A 20-bit recorder can then record an amazing 16 times more audio data! While 16-bit formats (like the original ADAT or CD players) divide the audio spectrum into 65,536 values in a single sample, the 20-bit M20 captures 1,048,576 values. So if you thought 16-bit sounded good, you're not going to believe how great 20-bit sounds!

   To offer this incredible fidelity, the M20 employs built-in, high-resolution oversampling A/D and D/A converters. The M20's ADAT Type II format meets or exceeds the specifications of almost everything else in a professional studio (and goes considerably beyond the specifications of the Compact Disc). Unlike some hard disk recorders, the M20 uses a linear recording format, meaning that no data compression of any kind is applied to the signal going to or from tape. Plus, a 60-minute tape recorded in the ADAT Type II format holds over 3 gigabytes of audio data, with no upload or download time required — just pop in a new tape and you're ready to start recording.

   The ADAT Optical ports and ADAT Sync jacks on the back of the M20 use the exact same format as all previous ADAT models use, even when in Type II mode, so M20s may be combined in a system with all existing ADAT-format recorders. The M20 will send out 20 bits per track on its ADAT Optical output, and is capable of dithering its 20 bits to 16 bits on the ADAT Optical port for higher fidelity when received by Type I machines. M20s, ADATs, and ADAT-XTs can all be linked together into a single system using the same 9-pin DSUB ADAT Sync input and output cables ADATs have always used.

   Part of the advantage for professional studios to employ an M20 recorder is its compatibility with the original Alesis ADAT, the ADAT-XT and other ADAT Type I-format 16-bit recorders. Since the M20 will automatically detect whether an S-VHS tape has been formatted in the ADAT Type II 20-bit format or the original ADAT Type I 16-bit format, commercial studios can provide their high-end services to clients who have already created their basic tracks in an ADAT-based project studios. These existing tracks can then be sweetened using the 20-bit system by overdubbing or rerecording parts to take full advantage of the greater fidelity of the M20. When it's time to start a new project, you simply tell the M20 whether you want the tape to be formatted in 16-bit or 20-bit mode. Sorry, Type II tapes are not "backwards" compatible with Type I systems, so you can't play an M20 tape in an ADAT XT.

   Of course, the M20 was designed for use in full-blown professional time code applications. That means time code, MIDI, word clock, and video reference in and out jacks are all built into the back panel, so you don't need to purchase any optional cards or external boxes for a complete chase-lock system. For location recording and post-production applications, a new read/write SMPTE/EBU time code track allows discontinuous time code to be printed onto a special subcode area of the tape without using up a track, so different sections of tape can be uniquely identified without having to manually change offsets from the built-in sample accurate ABS time code of the ADAT format.

   The M20 has a built-in SMPTE/EBU time code reader/generator that can operate at any time code frame rate (30 FPS and 29.97 FPS drop or non-drop, 25 FPS, and 24 FPS) and can synchronize at any of the industry-standard sample rates (48 or 44.1kHz, plus pull-up and pull-down rates). With this internal chase-lock synchronizer, you need only a set of XLR cables to synchronize the Alesis M20 directly to time code. You can also use the M20's MIDI IN jack to receive MIDI Machine Control (MMC) commands from a sequencer or other controller without external converter boxes.

   Those of you who need all these features (and there are many others we just don't have space to mention) and the stunning fidelity of a 20-bit system will want to call their Sweetwater Sales Engineer immediately for special pricing or more detailed information.

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