Last month we gave you a tip on using portable DAT recorders, so this month we picked one to take a brief look at. We chose the SV-250 from Panasonic, which is getting its fair share of exposure. After a few hours of playing with it, we were pretty impressed with this small package.

Weighing in at a mere 3.2 lbs, with the battery, the unit at first hits you as amazingly small. What's amazing is that this little box, whose dimensions are only 9" X 1 3/4" X 5 3/8", carries a list price of $2700! The larger studio units can be had for under $2000, so one must assume that the portability has a big price. As a DAT recorder, it basically offers nothing more than the studio units do, other than its portability; so you tend to say, "get out of here" at the price tag; but when you take the unit outdoors and record traffic or birds or children playing in a park, then play it back, you realize the power of PORTABLE DIGITAL recording, and the price doesn't look as high.

One feature that boosts the price of the SV-250 up a bit is the digital output on the unit. Someday, these outputs will mean something to radio production, but for now, the digital output will appeal more to the musician who wants to bypass the Digital-to-Analog converter when making a dub.

The LCD display gives you plenty of information, including record/playback levels, current program number, a battery charge indicator, and even a "dew" indicator which will come on when moisture is detected inside the machine (due to condensation).

Program number recording (start ID's) can be either automatic or manual, and you can program playback of up to 32 programs in any random order you wish.

The battery can be recharged and will hold its charge for about 2 hours. Some "energy saving" functions have been added to conserve energy when the unit is in the PAUSE mode for an extended period of time. Of course, the unit does come with an AC adapter.

This is a stereo recorder with balanced XLR inputs and stereo line outputs (RCA plugs). The 2 inputs can be switched for either mic level or line level. When using mics, a built-in limiter can be activated to suppress sudden level surges, such as the sudden sound of a contestant screaming as you whip out that one thousand dollar bill. There is no speaker on the SV-250, but it comes equipped with a stereo headphone jack with adjustable levels; and, there is no "cue/review" mode that lets you hear audio in a fast forward or reverse mode.

Other specs include a 48kHz sampling frequency for recording and both 44.1 and 48kHz for playback (switched automatically). Frequency response is 10Hz-22kHz, and the S/N ratio is at 88dB.

Features and accessories will vary between models. Sony makes one as does Technics. We've found the SV-250 priced at $2400 and were told it can be had for less from large volume dealers. Regardless of your choice, you'll still get the digital quality in a portable unit, and that is something the quality conscious producer will love when it comes to out-of-the-studio recordings; and if this review seems even the slightest bit harsh on the Panasonic SV-250, it's probably because the reviewer can't afford one!

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