As it is coming to the end of the year, there is a tendancy for you to get a little reflective and nostalgic for times passed. I realised that I created a section of my blog to look at the various equipment I’ve used and I’ve ignored this section completely. So this is my attempt at redressing the balance.
My dubious recording career began around 1990 when I went to college and spunked a percentage of my grant cheque on my first piece of serious recording gear. It was a Vestax MR-44 four-track tape recorder. In those days, I used to read Sound on Sound magazine religiously (and I still do) and I can say that I’ve learnt all I know about sound recording from that publication. Anyway, I remember seeing a review for the MR44 and deciding that this was the recorder for me for reasons long forgotten. The thing was that multi-track recorders cost a fortune back then and I needed something that was within my budget.
The Monster MR44
Again, I can’t remember who I ordered the unit from, but this was before the Internet and I sent a cheque and my order via the Royal Mail. And then I waited and waited and waited and waited. There was no “next-day” delivery in those days – people had to wait for cheques to clear and the statement “Please allow 28 days for delivery” was the watchword. So the rule of thumb was to leave it a month before complaining because invariably the assistant on the end of the phone would always snide at you: “Well you haven’t left it 28 days yet…”
So after about six weeks I walked to the phonebox and gave them a call. Again, in those days mobile phones were the size of a small child and only Yuppies could afford to own and run them, and we didn’t have a telephone. I called the shop and my MR44 had been sitting there for six weeks for some unknown reason – the cheque had been cashed, but the recorder hadn’t been sent to me. So I politely complained and it arrived two days later. Internet shoppers today don’t know they’re born! 🙂
My immediate memory of the Vestax MR44 was that it felt as if it had been salvaged from a Russian submarine. It’s design had what only could be described as a Soviet aesthetic and it had the same solid reliability of a breeze block. The buttons were small and there was an equally small LED tape counter – no fancy display screens or touch sensitive panels. The buttons clunked and clattered when you engaged the unit to record as if a series of pulleys and gurneys were being rattled into place.
There were four sturdy volume sliders and EQ knobs to play with. In terms of sound quality, the unit was pretty neat and I spent much time bouncing down rhythm tracks and putting together silly little songs. In total, I think I recorded four CDs worth of material with this four-track, reasoning that The Beatles had recorded “Sgt Peppers” with just four tracks of recording power. What I forgot was that they were consumate musicians, they had the facilities of Abbey Road at their disposal and talent of George Martin behind the desk.
Ahhh, the foolishness of youth!

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