greatbear analogue and digital media > audio tape transfer > DAT / Betamax PCM

DAT / Betamax PCM

Tascam DA45 DAT Machine

DAT transfer to WAV / Audio CD

We can transfer Digital Audio Tape, often referred to as DAT to CD or any other analogue or digital audio format. Almost all DAT machines could only record at 48, 44.1 or 32 kHz and at 16 bit resolution. A few later machines could record at 24 bit depth too which we can support.

We can also transfer the earlier Betamax digital PCM audio recordings made on video tape, usually Betamax but sometimes VHS or Umatic, that the DAT machine made obsolete. Having extensive racks of video machines makes these possible using the Sony PCM-701ES for PAL / SECAM recordings and the Nakamichi DMP-100 for NTSC recordings.

Many valuable audio recordings were made on video tape either as a standard video soundtrack in mono or stereo or using the higher quality FM recording system.

We offer a range of delivery formats for audio transfer including Broadcast WAV (B-WAV) files on hard drive or optical media (CD) at 16 bit/44.1 KHz (commonly used for CDs), 24 bit/96 KHz (the minimum recommended archival standard) and anything up to 24 bit / 192 Khz.

We can also provide access copies on Audio CD or as MP3 audio files.

Please feel free to contact us for a free and friendly discussion about your needs.

DAT problems

We use Sony PCM 7030 / 7040, Fostex and Tascam DAT machines. The PCM 7030 has probably one of the best transports of any DAT machine built and is one of the more serviceable machines made. This is important as DAT as a format for recording is now obsolete yet there are many, many DAT tapes surviving and the machines, if not looked after, are slowly decaying!

Helical scan digital tape recordings such as 2 channel DAT, ADAT Tascam DTRS, DA88 and DA38 are potentially very vulnerable to damage and as playback machines in good order become more scarce it’s really worth transferring any valuable recordings from the tape to another digital format, preferably in two places for safety.

Physically the DAT tape is fragile and narrow (4mm). If there are physical problems, or if it snaps, it can’t be spliced successfully like an analogue tape.

DAT is an early digital tape format and essentially it is a video format adapted to record audio. Its longevity is similar to any video tape because of the rotary head system used to record and read the tape is subject to degradation and requires specialist tools to fix the playback machines effectively.

The problem of acquiring the relevant spare parts to keep DAT machines working, like many of the machines we use, is also an issue because spares are no longer manufactured.

DAT history

In appearance the DAT is similar to a compact audio cassette, using 4 mm magnetic tape enclosed in a protective shell, but is roughly half the size at 73 mm × 54 mm × 10.5 mm. DAT ‘tapes’ are between 15 and 180 minutes in length, a 120-minute tape being 60 meters in length. DAT ‘tapes’ longer than 60 meters tend to be problematic in DAT recorders due to the thinner media. DAT machines running at 48 kHz and 44.1 kHz sample rates transport the tape at 8.15 mm/s. DAT machines running at 32 kHz sample rate transport the tape at 4.075 mm/s.

The technology of DAT is closely based on that of video recorders, using a rotating head and helical scan to record data. This prevents DATs from being physically edited in the cut-and-splice manner of analog tapes, or open-reel digital tapes.

DAT was used professionally by the audio and recording industry in the 1990s as part of an emerging all-digital production chain. DAT’s proponents envisaged the format to supersede audio cassettes but it was never commercially popular because recordings were not made available and machines were expensive. DAT was also used for digital storage because it could store 1.3-80 GB. In 2005 Sony announced that the remaining models would be discontinued.


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