> At 10:46 AM 2008-01-31, Jeff Willens wrote:
>> Unfortunately, the major label archives have many hundreds of
>> thousands of one-of-a-kind digital masters still on this format (and
>> nowhere else) that it's going to become an archiving nightmare very
>> soon. Sony wants to pretty much forget it ever made the 1630, so
>> they won't support it anymore. Hopefully, someone can take up the cause...

The Sony PCM-1600/1610/1630 format was designed primarily to be a production
master for the audio compact disc, and it was never designed to archive
"one-of-a-kind digital masters".

There was also a similar JVC system as well - which some preferred.

In the early to mid 1990s, a complete Sony 1630 system cost just under
100,000USD, with annual maintenance costs said to be about 5,000USD for the
U-Matic machine. With a cap rate of about 5%, that would indicate total
pre-tax ownership costs of about 200,000USD on an annualized basis. Clearly,
this was an engineered solution - for a narrow, specific purpose.

In my discussions with a matrix department of a major US pressing plant, I
was told in the 1990s that:

1) in general, the 3/4" U-Matic format itself was problematic, and

2) in particular, a certain US manufacturer of 3/4" tapes had significant
quality control problems (specifically, the tapes and spools were
excessively loose in the cartridge housing).

In the early 1990s, the US National Archives did not permit digital media
for any archival audio purpose. While that policy has changed significantly
in recent years, no prudent policymaker back then would have permitted tying
up so much financial and artistic resources in "one-of-a-kind digital
masters" in the 1630 format.

The 1630 format was 44.1kHz/16 bit resolution, and was specifically designed
to pre-master audio CDs. Any properly manufactured audio CD can be used as a
master to replicate the manufacture of additional audio CDs. Maybe
collectors have copies of these 1630 masters in audio CD format? Happy

Parker Dinkins 

PS - As Konrad Strauss has said, the Sonic Solutions system with the Sony
CDW-900E was far superior to the 1630 system. I think Mr. Strauss speaks
from the horse's mouth!

Parker Dinkins
MasterDigital Corporation
Audio Restoration + CD Mastering