Fostex 260 four-track
This is not an average four-track cassette recorder/mixer. It's an altogether classy and considered package, taking Fostex many steps beyond their original 250 Multitracker both in terms of layout, sound quality and, most importantly for us, usefulness.
It looks the part. Fostex have souped up their original rather grey 250 (drab, actually) and have gone for a sleek black box angled towards the user, cool colour-coded knobs, and all the interconnections, knobs and gadgetry ranged over the top of the working surface. Nothing is hidden away on the back or sides. Everything is to hand. That's the way to do it.
There are good ideas all over the place: you can switch the Dolby C noise reduction on and off; the meters are big and clear, moving from yellow to red segment LEDs as the zero dB level is crossed; and the EQ is wide and thoughtful.
The EQ is actually a distinct improvement over the fixed bass and treble of the 250 - the 260 offers a control that will move the frequency you're adjusting for high and low frequency, and another for the level of cut or boost at that chosen frequency.
Having fiddled around and made some recordings with the 260, we're big fans. We cocked up the least we've ever cocked up on a four-tracker (and that's a lot of four-trackers). If we happened to come across the 260 and Tascam's 244 at the same price we'd go for the 260. And if you asked us why, we'd say (again) it feels better. We'd also say it sounds better, and we'd admit that both these things are subjective. But we'd point to the simple fact that Fostex have used very sensibly the two or three years they've had since the 244.
There are a couple of niggles, both tiny. Pushbuttons are used throughout for things like input and tape selection on the channels, left and right record switching, and so on. It can be hard to tell whether a little black pushbutton is in the up or the down position when it only moves a few millimetres between each stage against a black background. Our few cock-ups mentioned above invariably come from pushbutton blindness. Nasty.
The other niggle concerned the very small digital counter read-out. Just that, really - it's small and can be tricky to see if you have a strong light near it.
Full marks to Fostex. This is the best top-end four-tracker on the market. It proves that the company have listened to the comments on their previous models, and have channelled much effort into the production of this update: it should be around for a long time. We're starting to save our pocket money already.
Review by Tony Bacon
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