JoeCo BlackBox Recorder Review

Jul 27, 2010 2:40 PM, By Kevin Becka



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The BlackBox features record/playback of 24 channels, 9-pin and MMC control, and SMPTE sync.

The BlackBox features record/playback of 24 channels, 9-pin and MMC control, and SMPTE sync.

JoeCo is a new startup founded by Joe Bull, who founded SADiE, the UK-based company that offers high-end DAW solutions for music, post, broadcast and mastering. When SADiE was purchased by Prism Sound last year, Bull moved on to produce the BlackBox recorder, the first new product released under the JoeCo banner. The single-rackspace, 4.5-pound unit comes in four versions: the BBR1 with unbalanced I/O; BBR-B with balanced I/O (reviewed here); BBR-A with ADAT I/O; and the BBR-D with digital I/O. The BlackBox records to any external FAT-32 formatted-USB 2 drive operating at least at 7,200 rpm, making it easy and affordable to purchase storage.

The unit is designed to work across a variety of applications. For instance, you can use the BlackBox as a zero-latency “thru” recorder where input is fed instantly to the output across the insert of a console. This way, even if power to the BlackBox fails, you still have output. You can also feed the D/A converters to the outputs so that you can use an existing recording for soundcheck. The box can be controlled via MIDI (MMC) or 9-pin, and can slave to existing SMPTE or clock itself internally. Whenever you push Record, tracks are recorded in BWF and are stamped with the date and time in an auto-named folder on the drive. You can rename items after the session or by using a keyboard plugged into the unit’s PS2 port.

The maximum sample rate is 24-bit/96kHz, and all but the BBR-1A record up to 24 tracks at that rate. The BlackBox with ADAT I/O drops back to 12 channels at 96 kHz because of the limitations of the Lightpipe interface in SMUX 2 mode. If you need more than 24 channels, you can chain multiple units and run them from a single interface.

Right off the bat, the BlackBox requires some explanation: It isn’t a punch-in/punch-out studio recorder; instead, it is a simple capture box for recording a live performance. And although the BlackBox looks simple, behind the curtain is a range of features that makes it a real contender for those wanting minimum haul and maximum results.

The front of the box is rich with visual feedback. It offers 3-segment confidence meters with a selectable sticky-peak feature and separate LEDs for indicating record arming, disk activity and playback lockout. An easily readable, color LCD offers a large timecode display, menu options, date/time, sample rate and more. The unit also has large Record, Stop and Play buttons; a scroll wheel for navigation; and Back, Mark, Loop and Menu/OK buttons.

All buttons have no moving parts and are designed to last. However, this is a bit disconcerting because the buttons are capacitance- sensitive and trigger easily, even within close proximity. This takes a bit of getting used to; more than once, I accidentally triggered Record or another menu feature until I got the hang of it. Speaking of menus, they are well laid out, intuitive and easy to navigate once you’re familiar with the buttons.

The back of the box is loaded with I/O and control options. The BBR-A offers 24 channels of balanced I/O on six D-Sub connectors (Tascam format), external clock I/O (RCA), 9-pin control port, PS2 keyboard port, MIDI input, DC power in (wall wart), headphone out, USB 2 drive port and a double-duty LTC/footswitch input for remote record/mark or external time code input.

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