One of the problems with DATs is that there is no one machine that can play
all formats. For example, there was the 32kHz LP format (12 bit) that cannot
be played on some 32kHz capable machines. There were also two flavors of
time code, the regular SMPTE version, and LTC on the PCM-2000. The DA-45HR
was a 24 bit machine, and there were probably other varieties as well.

The problem with playing DATs digitally out to a workstation is that
workstations need some time to lock to the input; if a DAT has a sample rate
change or a surprise on/off/on cycle (and they often do), then the DAW will
usually choke, and lose much more program material than necessary.

To illustrate, when we used to supply CD masters on DAT, we needed to supply
120 seconds of digital black before first audio, and 30 seconds after last
audio. While not particularly on topic, this particular DAT format was
accepted as the cutting production master, provided it was striped with 30Hz
ndf time code and frame accurate start-of-track marks. It was, of course,
44.1khz, 16 bit.

We just preserved/reformatted/archivally re-recorded (take your pick) almost
100 very informally documented DATs, and they all played beautifully - once
the proper format was discovered.

Some of the biggest problems can occur with consumer DAT machines, and not
surprisingly, the least problems occur with the PCM-7000 series machines.
And there are still good high end machines to be found. Recently we were
able to find an unused PCM-7040 (with no hours) to replace a PCM-7050 which
was destroyed. 

Parker Dinkins
MasterDigital Corporation
Audio Restoration + CD Mastering

on 2/17/07 3:55 PM US/Central, Tom Fine at [log in to unmask]

> Richard is 100% right. And, unlike reels and disks and cassettes, it's hard to
> argue with any science behind you that you cannot get EXACTLY what is on a
> non-damaged DAT and put it on your hard drive, using a simple digital cable.
> If a DAT was recorded at 44.1K sampling rate, then the same can be said about
> a simple S/PDF or AES connection between a DAT machine and a CD recorder.
> So I can't see any reason to make a big deal about "preserving" DATs. I CAN
> see making a huge deal about transferring DATs to other digital media ASAP
> since DAT mechanisms are no longer made and it is a fast-submerging format
> that is unlikely to be usable in a decade or two.