Hands On - Casio DA-7 (part 5)
The worst problem of the DA-7, which I have seen on the two examples of the unit I have handled and therefore presume it to be a software bug, is that it can sometimes get itself in a state of confusion. This may manifest itself as an inability to do anything at all, or you may think the machine is recording when in fact it is just turning the tape. This last one is the real problem, but you can spot it by the fact that there is no Absolute Time indication during recording when there normally always would be. The simple answer in both cases is to eject the cassette and load it again. Simply switching the power off and back on doesnt cure the fault, even though its the standard solution to many of the recording worlds ills.
Another problem which could catch you out is that every time you stop the DA-7 after recording, it winds back a couple of seconds. Im sure it does this for a good reason, but I dont know what. The potential result is that you could clip the end of the last thing you have recorded. I have done it myself and I have seen others do it. The answer is simple however - just record for an extra couple of seconds at the end of the take, or five seconds to be on the safe side.
I make a distinction between problems and drawbacks, and I wouldnt expect absolutely everything to be perfect on a machine at this price. I would however have really loved a back lit display. This one really is very dim and difficult to see. Another drawback, which other machines have too, is that it will only record from the analogue inputs at a sampling rate of 48kHz. Unfortunately 44.1kHz is the standard for CD mastering and your master tapes will have to be copied via the analogue outputs or digitally converted. Also, the DA-7 uses pre-emphasis, a technique which involves boosting high frequencies during recording and cutting them back on replay, which increases the signal to noise ratio. Since most machines will have provision for de-emphasis, and do it automatically, you wont have any problem playing back your tapes, but this technique inevitably reduces high frequency headroom. Compact Disc also has a provision for pre and de-emphasis but its a rare CD these days that uses it. If you are using a DA-7 to collect sample material, then you need to be aware that if you transfer digitally into an S1000 via the IB-104 interface that the pre-emphasis will not be corrected and the sound will be excessively toppy.
The final drawback is of course SCMS, which is as ever an unwarranted intrusion into the lawful activities of home and professional recordists. Fortunately for me I have my pre-SCMS Sony and I can make as many generations of copies as I like as long as I always copy Sony originated recordings from the Casio to the Sony and Casio originated recordings from the Sony to the Casio. And despite having this unlimited copying facility I still dont, after four years of DAT ownership, have any illegitimate copies on my DAT shelf! If I didnt have the Sony, then I would undoubtedly invest in one of the SCMS removing devices which have recently appeared on the market. They shouldnt be necessary though, should they?
Since this is an article in the Hands On series, I think my recommendation ought to be to get your hands on a DA-7 quick before Casio realise that they have an underpriced product on the market. How DAT prices will go in the future I cant tell, as DCC and MiniDisc loom on the horizon for hifi enthusiasts, but here is a machine which, with some limitations, is suitable for professional use and an absolute steal at its current price.