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Digital tape recorder operation

The correct operation of a digital tape recorder, including DAT.


Digital recorders are completely different to analog cassette recorders. Do not make the mistake of thinking that they are similar.

You must...

  • Record a one-minute section of silence or unwanted audio before the start of the audio you want to record. Two reasons...
    • The tape near the start of the cassette is often damaged during the manufacturing process leading to an increased error rate
    • Occasionally the tape is damaged during the load or eject process. If you always wind the tape to the start, then such damage will only occur during the one-minute silent section.
  • Allow sufficient time for the recorder to come up to speed
    • 15 seconds is not too much. That's a full 15 seconds. If you do not do this, the start of your recording may be clipped. Also, when your recording is copied in a mastering suite, the machines may take several seconds to synchronize.
  • Allow a full 15 seconds extra running time at the end of your recording before stopping the tape. Some recorders 'back up' the tape before coming to a complete halt. Your next recording may erase the end of the last recording you made.
  • Never allow over-levels to occur. If you see a red light, back off the recording level. Unlike analog cassette decks, there is no such thing as a little bit of distortion. A red light indicates clipping and clipping is always a bad thing. You can't always trust the meter. On some digital recorders, the meter is driven by the incoming analog signal, not the digital signal being recorded onto tape. On some recorders, the meter can under-register short peaks by as much as 10 decibels.
By David Mellor Monday February 17, 2003

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