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Missing the User Manual? Find It Online!

6:00 am Home Recording

Most audio software packages have their documentation stored in electronic form as part of the product. The user manual may appear as a PDF file on the distribution CD or may be accessed via the Start Menu or as a set of Help files you can access while the program is running. It’s kind of hard to “lose” the manual for the software when the manual is actually part of the software!

Alas, the situation for hardware units is much different. Here, it’s relatively easy to lose the manual by simply mislaying it, or forgetting which bookshelf you put it in, or even by accidentally discarding it. Or, you may have purchased the unit used and without a manual, the original owner having taken care of losing it for you!

Probably the worst piece of gear to have the no-manual problem with is a multi-track recorder. If you can’t find the manual for your compressor unit, well heck, you can probably figure it out from the control markings (unless it’s a digital unit with coded menu entries or something). But multitrack recorders tend to be (a) complex, and (b) idiosyncratic. No two units seem to use even simple terms like “monitor” in quite the same way. So who knows what all those buttons do?

Fortunately, user manuals for many recorders and other equipment are available online, for free, if you know where to look. Here are three sources I have used to track down those missing manuals.

1. Check the manufacturer’s website.

Sometimes a hardware manufacturer will make the user manuals for their equipment available online, either as a selling tool or as a service for their customers. For example, if you happen to own a Fostex unit, you can probably download the user manual (and supplements, and brochures) from this page on the Fostex website. They even offer service manuals for some of their gear, in case you’re a do-it-yourselfer!

If the website does have user manuals, they will probably be found under “Support” or “Product Documentation,” as they are on the Fostex website.

2. Check online vendor websites.

Lots of times, the description page for your unit at one of the music vendor websites will offer a free download link for the usual manual. The theory is “try before you buy,” or at least “read before you buy.” Except that you’ve already bought - but they don’t know that!

Here’s an example. If you happened to pick up a used Korg D3200 recorder for a song, but it was delivered in a trashbag without a manual (or if you just can’t find your copy of the manual, to be less dramatic), you can download a replacement from this page at the Musician’s Friend website or this page at the American Musical Supply website, among others. On the Musician’s Friend page, the manual is prominently listed in the “Research Center” area at the top of the page, whereas for some reason AMS hides the link for the manual waaaay down at the bottom of the page, under “Manual.”

3. Go for the Google.

I have been surprised by how often I have been able to use Google to locate the official user manual for a hardware unit I had on hand or was thinking of buying. I use a search that restricts the result to PDF files, since most online manuals (including all of the ones in this article) are in that format. I also limit my search to pages where the “official name” of the product appears in the title of the page (that’s the text in the Windows frame, all the way at the top).

This approach is especially good for units that are not recorders but are nonetheless inscrutable sans manual. For example, let’s say you have a nifty Alesis iMultimix 8 USB mixer (with integrated iPod dock) but you can’t figure out how to work the thing and there’s no manual. Even the Musician’s Friend page lets us down on this one. No problem! Just get on the Google and enter this search (you can just click on it to see the result if you’re online now):

intitle:”alesis imultimix 8″ + filetype:pdf

Voila! The very first entry in the result list takes us straight to the Alesis manual. In this case, it turns out to be found on the AMS vendor site we looked at earlier, but much of the time the manual turns up on an obscure site, sometimes in an obscure country! Hey, I don’t ask questions, I just download the file.

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