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Digital Audio Cassette (DAT)

Updated: Feb 7, 2019


DAT Was Born

In 1987 Sony, the company that invented the first Walkman in 1979 once again brought new innovation to the audio industry by creating a whole new digital cassette format called the Digital Audio Cassette or DAT. DAT looks similar to a regular cassette tape but the recording is digital rather than analog.


Sony DAT Recorders

Sony portable DAT recorders

Professional models include:

PCM-2000, PCM-2300, PCM-2500, PCM-2600, PCM-2700, PCM-2700A, PCM-2800,

PCM-7010, PCM-7030, PCM-7040, PCM-7050, PCM-R300, PCM-R500, PCM-700.


Professional portable recorder:

PCM-M1, TCD-D10 Pro, TCD-D10 Pro II


Consumer models include:

DTC-55ES, DTC-57ES, DTC-59ES, DTC-60ES, DTC-75ES, DTC-77ES, DTC-87ES,

DTC-300ES, DTC-500ES, DTC-670, DTC-690, DTC-700, DTC-750, DTC-790,

DTC-1000ES, DTC-1500ES, DTC-2000ES, DTC-A6, DTC-A7, DTC-A8, DTC-A9,

DTC-M100, DTC-P7, DTC-ZE700, DTX-10, SBM-1.


Consumer portable recorder:

TCD-D3, TCD-D7, TCD-D8, TCD-D10, TCD-D100


Portable player - playback only:

WMD-DT1



SONY Portable DAT Recorders


TCD-D3

In 1990, Sony launched its first portable DAT player the TCD-D3. It is about the size of a typical Walkman cassette player. The TCD-D3 can be powered by a proprietary Ni-Cad battery or a 9V AC power adapter. It can record and playback at 3 different sampling rates, 32kHz, 44.1kHz and 48kHz .

The TCD-D3 came with a proprietary cable - the POC-DA12. One end of the cable has a 7-pin plug to connect to the TCD-D3 the other end has two optical leads, one for input and the other for output. Recording is possible via microphone, line inputs or optical inputs. The TCD-D3 was very popular, thousands and thousands of units were sold!



Sony TCD-D3

POC-DA12

Features :

1-hour charge NiCad batteries with 2-hours autonomy

99-tracks AMS search at x100 speed

x3 or x25 music search

auto/manual 3-seconds ID marking

ID renumber function

16-times rehersal ID marking

10-seconds ID shifting


Specification:

Recording time: LP Mode (Long-Play) 240 minutes Recording time: SP Mode (Standard) 120 minutes Sampling Frequency: 48kHz, 44.1kHz, 32kHz Standard: 48 kHz 20-22,000 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Standard: 44.1 kHz 20-20,000 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Long-Play Mode: 32 kHz 20-14.500 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Standard Mode: >87 dB Long-Play Mode: >87 dB (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Standard: <0.008% (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Long-play: <0.09% (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Wow & Flutter: Below measurable limit (less than + or - 0.001% W Peak) Impedance: 4.7 Kohms Minimum Input Level: 0.4mV Rated Input Level: 500 mV Minimum Input Level: 80 mV Audio: Stereo Minijack Impedance: 27 ohms Rated Output: Line Out 500 mV Maximum Output: Phones 5 mW + 5 mW Load Impedance: Phones 32 ohms Load Impedance: Line Out >10 Kohms Digital I/O-REMOTE jack : Digital input/output, remote control operation and timer-activated operation is possible Power Requirements:

* DC IN 6V Sony AC power adapter for use on 240v AC, 50 Hz * DC 6V four LR6 batteries

* The car battery cord DCC-E160L (not included) for use with 12V car battery of DCC-E260HG (not included) Power Consumption: 1.2W Dimensions: Approximately. 132.6W x 36.7H x 88.2D mm (5.25W x 1.5H x 3.5D inch Weight: Approximately 500 gram with battery


Supplied accessories

BP-D3 NiCad battery pack

ACP-D3U AC adaptor/recharger

POC-DA12 optical input/output


Optional accessories

RM-3DK system adaptor

CPA-2 cassette adaptor

CPM-D3 car mounting arm

ACP-D33 multi-voltage adaptor

LCH-D3 hard carrying case

RK-DA10 coaxial input cable

DT-10CL cleaning cassette

POC-15 optical cable



TCD-D7

The TCD-D7 was a successor to the TCD-D3. It is lighter and more capable. It also fixed one of the major problem that the D3 suffered, the battery. The D7 can be powered by 4 AAA batteries or AC adapter. MSRP for the TCD-D7 was $699 US dollars.



Sony TCD-D7

Specifications:

Recording time: LP Mode (Long-Play) 240 minutes Recording time: SP Mode (Standard) 120 minutes Sampling Frequency: 48kHz, 44.1kHz, 32kHz Standard: 48 kHz 20-22,000 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Standard: 44.1 kHz 20-20,000 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Long-Play Mode: 32 kHz 20-14.500 Hz (+ or - 1.0dB) Standard: >87 dB Long-Play Mode: >87 dB (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Standard: <0.008% (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Long-Play: <0.09% (1 kHz IHF-A, 22kHz LPF, LINE IN) Wow & Flutter: Below measurable limit (less than + or - 0.001% W Peak) Impedance: 4.7 Kohms Minimum Input Level: 0.4mV Rated Input Level: 500 mV Minimum Input Level: 80 mV Audio: Stereo minijack Impedance: 27 ohms Rated Output: Line Out 500 mV Maximum Output: Phones 5 mW + 5 mW Load Impedance: Phones 32 ohms Load Impedance: Line Out more than 10 Kohms Digital I/O Remote Jack : Digital input/output, remote control operation and timer activated operation is possible Power Requirements

* Car battery cord DCC-E160L for use with 12V car battery of DCC-E260HG * DC IN 6V jack accepts the Sony AC power adaptor for use on 240v AC, 50Hz * DC 6V four LR6 (size AA) batteries Power Consumption: 1.2W Dimensions: Approximately 132W.6 x 36.7H x 88.2D mm (5.25W x 1.5H x 3.5D inch Weight: Approximately 500 gram with battery.




DAT Cassette Tape

The DAT Cassette Tape is 3.81 mm wide and looks like a mini VHS video tape. It is approximately half the size of an analog cassette tape at 73 mm × 54 mm × 10.5 mm. Similar to video tape, DAT can only be recorded or played in one direction. Many of the recorders and players can automatically rewind the cassette to the begin when it reaches the end.





A broken DAT Cassette Tape


DAT's Success

DAT achieved moderate success in the professional recording industry. DAT is capable of recording a higher sampling rates than CD at 48kHz / 16bit. This enable studios to record at the highest quality possible with more accurate sound. It also supports recording at lower sample rates at 44.1kHz or 32 kHz respectively at 16 bits quantification. Even today, there are still studios recording their master tape using DAT machines such as the Sony PCM-7040 or TASCAM DA-60MKII etc.



Some of the professional DAT recorders from Sony, TASCAM and Atari

Legal Struggles - The Opposition

DAT can be used to make an exact clone of a CD when recorded via digital source. This seem like a great feature to an average consumer but the music industry was concerned that people can easily make unauthorized high quality copies of their music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) even went as far as to lobbied against the introduction of DAT devices into the United States. The Digital Audio Recorder Copycode Act of 1987 introduced by Sen. Al Gore and Rep. Waxman was one of these efforts to impose restrictions on DAT recorders to prevent them from making high quality clones.



Sharp DAT Recorder

Legal Settlement

In 1989 Sony finally reached an agreement with the RIAA, which require that recorders have a Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) to prevent digital copying for more than one generation. This means that you cannot create a new copy from a copy.





The Consumer Market

The DAT format was never widely adopted by the consumer market especially in the United States. If the legal restrictions imposed by the RIAA wasn't enough to slow its adoption, the cost certainly was. For example Sony's top of the line DTC-2000ES cost $2500 US Dollars in 1994. There were less expensive consume models available but even at a quarter of the price, it is still quite expensive for most consumers.



Sony DTC-2000ES DAT Recorder (Botton)

Other Usage

DAT can also be used as a computer storage medium. Companies like Sony, HP used to sell devices for backing up servers. The cartridge used in these backup devices is called DDS (Digital Data Storage, it is essentially the same as DAT, certain models can be for audio recording as well.





The End

There were many other major manufacturers produced DAT recorders back then but Sony was the major player in this field. Even though DAT achieved moderate success in the music recording, television and movie industries, Sony had only sold about 660,000 units ending November 2005 when it was discontinued the following month.





The Current Market

Today, DAT is still being used by many professional recording studios as well as music enthusiast. Some of the rare models such as the Aiwa HD-S200 are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. They often end up selling for hundreds or even over a thousand U.S dollar at auction sites such ebay or Yahoo! auction.





My Thoughts ...

I own many of these DAT machines myself so I can easily understand why the professional high end models were highly sought after by audiophiles. You can record or backup Vinyls, Cassettes, CD or simply create a mix tape that sound at least as good as the source with DAT. In certain situations I even think that it sounded better once it is converted to DAT format most likely due to the awesome DACs found in these high end machines. The DACs are so good that many of the audiophiles use professional DAT as a dedicated DAC in their system. I believe that the material used in tapes somewhat somehow makes the music sound smoother and warmer, a characteristic that DSD or any of the lossless, HiRes format lacks. If you are an audiophile, it is worth checking out the DAT, you may fall in love with it just like I was.






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