Next on the list of attractive features is the 4-head design of the PCM-2700. Most DAT machines are of 2-head design -- one record/playback head for each channel. The PCM-2700 adds an additional playback head for each channel which provides monitoring of the playback signal during recording. This is important in the production studio if you're mixing to DAT and have any processing (like a compressor/limiter) in between the console and the DAT. Monitoring playback during recording ensures you that you're recording what you think you are. This 4-head design is similar to the 3-head format of a standard 2-track reel-to-reel which brings to mind the question of "tape echo." Yes, you can get tape echo from this unit, but it's not quite the same as what you get when you crank up the playback of a reel-to-reel during recording. To begin with, in the Standard Play mode (48 or 44.1kHz), the delay is very short -- approximately 120ms. That translates to about eight repeats per second. In the Long Play mode, you get about four repeats per second with the delay at about 240ms. In comparison, the "tape echo" delay of the PCM-2700 in Long Play mode is still not as long as the delay of an analog reel running at 7.5 ips.

The other interesting feature of DAT "tape echo" is that you're feeding an extremely clean, digitally recorded signal back into the input. So, instead of tape echo that slowly drops in level as the noise level rises, you get consistent, clean repeats of the input, and it goes on and on and on. The only way to get the "fade away" effect of tape echo is to actually drop the level of feedback at the console. The effect is really no more interesting that analog tape echo, but, nevertheless, you can get it. Most important is the ability to monitor playback while recording.

Another nice feature of the PCM-2700 is the built-in date function. If you keep track of when spots and promos are mastered to DAT, you'll appreciate the unit's ability to automatically "stamp" each recording with the current date and time from an internal clock that is set upon installation. (A battery backup retains clock/date settings for about five years even when the unit is shut off.)

Most of the other features are either technical or minor in nature, and we'll cover those as we tour our front and rear panels. Beginning on the left side of the front panel, beneath the power ON/OFF switch, is the remote Sensor. The PCM-2700 comes with a wireless remote, and an optional wired remote is available. One of the switches below the sensor selects wired or wireless remote control. Virtually all the buttons on the front panel are on the wireless remote control. Also, the wireless control adds a "music scan" function. The optional, wired remote (RMD7100) only has tape transport controls and an INPUT MONITOR button.

Under the remote wired/wireless switch is the INPUT SELECTOR switch. When on "Digital," the unit will record whatever is connected to the digital input on the rear panel. When the analog inputs are used, the switch is moved to "Analog" and selects sampling frequencies of 44.1kHz or 48kHz. (32kHz sampling frequency is selected by engaging the Long Play mode.)