Hands On - Casio DA-7 (part 1)
The Casio DA-7 is one of the cheapest DAT recorders on the market, yet it is eminently suitable for mastering to a very high standard. David Mellor reveals its better features and finds ways round a couple of problems.
If you have a nose for a bargain then you have probably bought yourself a Casio DA-7 already. It has plummeted in price since its launch and you can have one, if you shop carefully, for not much over £300. Is this low price an indication that the unit is no good and potential purchasers are snubbing it in favour of more highly specified machines, or ones with better sound quality? If you buy one now will you live to regret it? Well I have to say that I used to have doubts about low cost DAT recorders. The technology is complex, the scale of the recording process itself is microscopic, and if the end result is a less than perfect master tape surely low cost DAT must be a false economy. It wasnt until I saw a Casio DA-7 in regular use, receiving its fair share of abuse as well, that I realised that I wouldnt have to pay over £1000 for my second DAT machine, I could buy a DA-7 for £350 (its price a few months ago) and leave the rest in the bank to gather interest. The fact is that I cant understand why this machine is so inexpensive right now? Are Casio still making any money out of it I wonder?
Despite its better qualities, the Casio DA-7 does have a few failings and if you are a professional sound engineer then you are more likely to prefer a proper professional model, but I and many others are prepared to work around certain deficiencies as long as the end product isnt compromised. As you know there are other fairly low cost DAT machines available such as the Aiwa HD-S1, the Sony TCD D3 and the Casio DA-100. For me, these are ruled out completely by the connectors used. Phono connectors are small, fiddly and potentially unreliable if you dont inspect them regularly, but if you treat them with a bit of respect they will do the job. Mini jacks however are out of the question for my purposes because I need to know that when I am recording a live concert that there is absolutely no possibility of coming back with a tape that is anything less than complete and perfect.
One problem with the DA-7 is that it is very difficult to figure out how to operate its finer functions without recourse to the manual. Obviously there is a limitation on front panel space, and I have to say that I very much prefer to have the basic transport controls presented on large well-spaced buttons. The last thing you need when your client is asking to hear a particular section of a recording is to have to fiddle about with miniature buttons as found on the smaller recorders. And while I am on the subject of problems, let me point out that there is a bug in the DA-7s programming. You may find yourself at any time and for no apparent reason unable to control the machine. Is this a cue for panic? No - just follow the simple procedure that I will outline shortly.