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DAT’s not good…but I’m back in the business

Filed under: digital,Tape Aging — 2011-10-02 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2013-02-05 by Richard L. Hess

The long-term maintenance of digital formats that I do not get a great call for has become a burden. While I would like to have all formats available for all people, I have such a backlog of analog, that I will not be accepting digital-only projects in many formats that I used to.

The formats that I am currently committed to transferring are:

—DATs with two options:
         -straight transfer where we listen for glitches and look at the waveform for glitches (four Tascam DA-20 MKII)
         -error-logged transfer where the machine logs all of the errors it has concealed (Sony PCM 7030)
—PCM-F1 on VHS or Betamax (multiple machines and multiple ES-601 and PCM-F1 decoders)
—Sony DASH (3202 or 3402) 2-channel reel (two each Sony PCM-3202 and PCM-3402)
—MiniDisc (normal stereo in regular and HI-MD, but not porta-studio multitrack; multiple )
          (Sony MZ-RH1 Hi-MD Minidisc recorder with USB download; Sony MDS JE-530 and two other MD players)
—Digital Files on CD, DVD, hard drive, USB drives, etc.

I will only do these formats as part of a larger package, but prefer not to take these as stand-alone projects. These are somewhat problematic as I only have one machine in each of the following formats.

—Digital Compact Cassette (DCC)
—20-bit ADAT (8 track)
—DA-38/DA-88 DTRS tapes (8 track)

DATs have become especially problematic of late,but I have now finished transferring my DAT library and have obtained four Tascam DA-20 MKII machines and a Sony PCM-7030. The PCM-7030 is reserved for high-end master tapes where we want to review the log of error corrections that it keeps. The pricing for that will be higher plus there will be a time charge for resolving individual errors. The DA-20 MKII machines have performed well.

What caused my pulling out of the DAT world was that in 2011 I discovered, when attempting to play a client DAT, that two of my four machines, which I had considered backups, were non-functional after having been in storage for about a half-dozen years without use. So, my Sony DTC-670 and two Panasonic SV-3800 machines were all essentially dead in the water. The four Tascam machines ended up costing me about the same as repairing the two Panasonic machines–if they were even repairable. I sold off the three to someone willing to fuss with it.

One thing that appears to be happening is that DAT tape may be in need of baking. I have had success with one tape, but more research needs to be done. It turns out that others are having success baking reel-to-reel digital multi-tracks (Sony PCM-3348 for example, a format I don’t do, though I do the two-track version).

As with all formats, my ability to transfer them is limited by available working machines. While I did not make a big announcement about dropping 8-track analog cassettes, it was uneconomical to maintain the machine for that format as well, and I sold it.

I have listed other resources that might be of assistance on this link for dedicated digital audio formats and this link for digital audio formats that used an adapter with a VCR.

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