On DATs and portables, from AUDITORY

Subject: On DATs and portables, from AUDITORY
From: Kevin Austin (kevin.austin@videotron.ca)
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 10:05:54 EDT

This is a forward of a compilation of responses to a portable DAT
question on the AUDITORY list.



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Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 15:51:09 -0400
From: David Schwartz <schwartz@NEURO.DUKE.EDU>
Subject: Compilation of responses to DAT query

Thanks to all who responded to my query regarding DAT recorders. I
have compiled the replies I received (below). On the basis of the
advice I received, I think i will go with the Marantz PMD670, which
writes to=20
compact flash storage media and can be directly transfered to a
desktop computer.

Now I need to settle on a microphone. Based on my background
research, the models that have the specifications I deem necessary
frequency response, low (i.e., <25 dB) intrinsic noise, large dynamic=20
range) all cost well over $1,000, which seems rather a lot. Do you=20
know of any research quality microphones at lower cost that are=20
suitable for outdoor recording of speech?

Many thanks.


From: dpwe@ee.columbia.edu

David -

This may not be the advice you're looking for, but I would recommend
buying a portable hard disk recorder instead. The NeurosAudio is an
interesting option: apparently, the audio input circuitry is high
quality, and it will record directly as WAV, or encode to MP3. The
biggest drawback compared to a DAT deck is that it doesn't include a
mic preamp, but I've been using the in-line preamp available with the
SoundMac mics quite effectively.


A hard-disc recorder is probably more robust and cheaper than a DAT
deck, and transferring the recorded files to a PC is just a matter of
drag-and-drop, should be much faster than a real-time playback

If you browse the outwardsound site, you'll find loads of other
options in this space. But beware: some of the MP3 recorders impose
limits on what you can copy off them, in an effort to reduce music

The PMD670 is definitely trying to be a direct replacement for DAT
decks; it was too expensive for me, but it sounds good!

MD has the problem that the format is compressed, so you have a
relatively high background noise, as with MP3. Of course, it's all
perceptually hidden, but it can make you a little nervous to
corrupt your data at source like that, when maybe you don't know
for sure what later processing you are going to do (that said, I'm
happy to do my field recordings, of environmental sound ambiences for
automatic classification, in MP3 format).

That's why it's nice that the Neuros also records directly to wav, but
without the convenient mic input circuitry and ergonomics of the

Flash cards are very appealing to me because they are silent (annoying
with the Neuros that I sometimes hear the disk spin in my recordings)
and low-power (I have a flash recorder that runs 20 hours on 2xAAA
batteries). But they are small, and I haven't found a high-quality
low-cost device yet. If you're recording to MP3, then a 512M flash is
plenty. But if you want to record at full CD-audio rate, that's less
than an hour of recording (maybe enough, but not plenty).

From: robhukin@ntlworld.com

Hi David,

I really wouldn't bother getting a DAT recorder at all, unless for=20
example you already have stuff on DAT that you have no other way of=20
playing back. There are a number of hard-disk or RAM-disk recorders=20
available that will work in uncompressed formats at higher bit-rates=20
and depths than DAT can normally support for about the same price.


From: mgordon@utm.utoronto.ca

I have used the Sony TCD - D100 on several occasions and been=20
pleased with its performance. It was fairly easy to use and the=20
recordings were of very high quality. My recordings were captured using
binaural microphones that were equipped with their own pre-amps.

   When I surveyed the available equipment it seemed that the Tascam=20
would have been a better choice if I did not supply a pre-amp. However,
for my purposes the Sony was a good deal smaller, better priced and=20
with comparable options. The models also listed fairly analogous=20
acoustic specs for SNR, distortion, etc.

   The other thing I found, when last shopping for a DAT recorder, was=20
that only Tascam and Sony still had a product available for purchase.=20
If you do hear of an alternative company that has a comparable product
please let me know.

   Good luck with your purchase, and let me know if I can offer any=20
additional help.


From: francisa@purdue.edu

I use earlier versions of the TCD-D100 and find them quite acceptable=20
(not usually outdoors, though). But I recommend looking into some of=20
the newer, non-magnetic-tape based devices.

I think Marantz is now making something that digitizes directly to .wav
(basically no loss) and thus saves you the trouble of having to either
transfer/convert the digital record on the DAT to something you can=20
deal with on a computer, or (what I do) put the DAT signal out as=20
analog and re-digitize on the computer. That's what I would be looking
at if I hadn't already spent my money on a DAT. Which works perfectly
well for what I want, and I like it just fine, but it's still
yesterday's news...


From: mas19@cus.cam.ac.uk

We have a 10-yr old TCD-D3.

(a) the NiCd battery had very low capacity after about a year: too much
memory effect: maybe the more modern chargers handle this better.

(b) the miniature 3.5 mm connectors used (gold-plated) spring wire to make
the contacts, not tongues of metal as in the cheaper fittings. This
has a drawback in that if the 3.5 mm plug has gaps or grooves between the
insulators and the rings, the wires get trapped in these. Removing a plug
is then impossible without destroying the socket: very expensive. Use only
high-quality 3.5mm plugs.


From: D.Reby@sussex.ac.uk

The DAP1 is definitely more robust and easy to use in the field than=20
any of the sony walkmans.
You may want to consider the Marantz PMD 670 recorder which records=20
directly on a compact card - you can then transfer the data to your=20
hard drive via USB.


From: mva@comdis.umass.edu

I have been using the Tascam DA-P1 for the past 9 years. It is great. I
strongly recommend it.


From: safergus@ku.edu

I don't have any DAT suggestions, but rather am wondering - why DAT? Why
not a direct-to-digital recording? You're going to want digital files
anyway, and tape is such a fragile medium. This is actually more of a
suggestion than a question, I guess <g> - I'd skip the middleman if I
were you. I don't do field recordings so I'm afraid I don't have any
tips about portable digital recorders, but a good place to start looking
would be on Full Compass.


From: seeber@calmail.berkeley.edu

Hi David,

I previously used one of the early Sony's and found the mechanics to be
fragile - it had to be repaired a couple of times. We also used the=20
Tascam in Munich for quite a while and it seems to be better build=20
(well, it's larger, too), it still works, and it has the controls and=20
inputs for the mics.

For desktop DATs we completely abandoned the consumer DATs from Sony as
they all failed after a few years. I was told that the Tascam DA-40 has
better mechanics than it's smaller brothers. All Tascams still work...


David Schwartz
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Duke University


919 684 3318

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