I originally thought that the PS-04 had seperate tracks one and two and then four open tracks for recording all else (kind of like a 6 track recorder). Is the only way to record with the drum and bass as a "backing band" is to bounce them to two of the four tracks?
That's pretty much it - or else it would be called the PS-06. Think of the PS-04 drums/bass as firmware midi archives on a rom chip inside the PS-04.
Perhaps I am looking more towards the MRS-8?
I think so. It has 8 recordable tracks, plus the firmware drum/bass.
does the new H4 have a drum/bass section?
No. Try the MRS-8 for the same price as the H4 ($299). Or, if you want small, try the Boss Micro BR for the same price, but it has drums only, no bass.
(BTW, the PS-04 I found is selling for $145 new).
That was the lowest new price a few months ago. Now I find them unavailable at that price, although there are a few listed here and there new for $199, which is what I paid for my PS-04 in 2004. You can finid the PS-04 on eBay
for much less, but be careful.
If you want to do all your production on the portable unit, you'll need to reserve two tracks for bouncing the final mix to for the master stereo pair. You can take the line output and plug into your sound card to record the final stereo pair, but that means going from digital to analog to digital, and you'll lose some fidelity and possibly introduce some hum, hiss, or other noise.
Most users of the above recorders will export recorded tracks and bounced drum/bass sounds onto thier computers for mixing/mastering using DAW software. Look at Audacity and Kristal, both free. The tracks and sequences can be moved in either direction - to or from the computer - so we sometimes take them off the unit, play with them on the computer, then put them back on the portable unit for more work.
You can free up tracks by moving them to the computer. This is especially nice if you want to use the unit for recording but want to use your computer for mixing/mastering. You can also use v-takes on the unit to free up tracks as well.
The maximum number of tracks that can be played back at once is different for each of the above units, and you still need to keep in mind leaving a pair of tracks to bounce your master to if you want to do it all on the recorder.
Again, most will move the tracks to the computer. The process is slightly machine-dependent, but generally works the same. You need to use the manufacturer's software to convert to wav files, etc. Drums/bass can be edited on the computer using third party software and put back on the recorder, but that's an extra feature that gives the PS-04 and MRS-8 a little edge, and is beyond the scope of this thread.
I'm not recommending against the PS-04 if you can get one new for $150 or less. However, if you are in the position to spend twice that much with no problem, if it were me, and I wanted the features you seem to want including drums/bass, I'd go for the MRS-8. If I could spend twice that much, the HD16.
See also this thread: