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Replacing your DAT recorder with
The thought of getting a DAT recorder these days is usually followed by a bunch of questions by the home studio owner. The big one is: Do you really still need one? You might not. There are many ways to print an audio file these days. You can master straight to .wav files right on your computer, then burn cds from there; you can get a solid state portable recorder that processes your analog mix, or you can simply make MP3 files and distribute them that way.
There's also some disadvantages to the DAT format. The tape is more expensive than a blank CDR disk; it does not last as long, even with careful handling. They are tedious to back up. Unless you have 2 DATs, you will have to make a digital pass back to the computer and back again to a blank tape. The copy has to be made in real time too, so it takes longer. So why the heck bother with DAT?
1. If you used a DAT to make master recordings for nearly a decade and your deck breaks down, you have no option but to get another one. I urge anyone with DAT tapes from the 90's not to wait another day before cloning the data to another medium. A lot of DAT tapes that they sold us in the 90s were pure garbage and they might only have one more pass, depending on how well you stored them.
2. The more professional your studio gets, sooner or later you will have clients who bring in masters on DAT. Lets hope their prized dying tape does not shred in your aging machine.
There are some of the good reasons to get out of DAT while you can and never look back.
1. A portable digital recorder still is now the undisputed king of field recording, so if you are a sample collector, having a one is the only way to get better than cd quality recordings on location. It is quite unbelievable how quiet and good sounding the motorless solid state recorders are. I have the Zoom H4 and as long as I don't move it while recording, the sound is excellent, even from the built in mics.
2. Recording on a portable recorder is fast and simple. You hear something you like, set levels and you press record. There's no formatting disks, no opening audio applications, just set the levels and forget its on. A portable makes a better "audio scratchpad" than CD does. Say you have a cool idea in your sequencer one night but you are under the gun to get paid work done, it's a simple matter to record the riff and come back later. When you do want to go back to it, you don't have to remember how your synths were configured or how the board was set up. You hear it the way you heard it at the point of inspiration.
3. Using USB on a portable recorder, if it is available, turns it into a near perfect computer peripheral. You simply connect by USB, a directory open on your computer and you just transfer files.
4. If you have as many years of recording as I do (with thousands of songs) you need major storage, and a backup as well. What if the HD fails?
5. Your portable may have better converters than your soundcard. If it has balanced inputs, it's easy to connect your mixer to the recorder. You don't have to bounce or render to some 2 track format, just record it, and move faders on the fly if you want while its going down.
So there you have the advantages and disadvantages of using a portable recorder in your home studio.
1. The amount of memory you can use. Older portables might be restrictive in how much memory the machine can access.
2. Readability of the display
3. Does the unit use non-standard cables or have too many accessories that are proprietary?
4. Check the internet to make sure the USB transfer functions are working with your OS of choice.
5. You definitely will appreciate the speed of a USB 2.0 interface when you transfer files.
|Today's alternative to DAT
Rich the TweakMeister
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