by Dave Oliwa
Analog or digital? Hard disk or RAM? ADAT or 8mm? There's a world of choices out there. So what is it to be a digital workstation or a digital multi-track? Don't answer so quickly! You could be surprised.
Take the Tascam DA 88 digital multi-track recorder. Its Tascam designed and manufactured transport works with Hi8mm video tape, with 108 minutes of recording time on a 120 tape. A direct challenger to the Alesis group's ADAT technology, which uses S VHS video tape, the DA 88 will no doubt confuse the "standard" of video tape based digital multi-tracks for some time to come.
The front panel is mostly beige with a large grey panel of controls directly under the transport. The panel itself is 19 inches wide, and the rack ears are not removable unless you care to pull out a Dremel tool. Four rubber feet are easily removed with a phillips head screwdriver. The DA 88 is four rack spaces, or 7 inches, high.
The power button is recessed, and, upon power up, all 45 of the Tascam's LEDs ignite in an impressive show of lumens. The eight, 15 segment bright yellow VU meters go crazy when the unit is first turned on, that is, until you stand back to see they are actually spelling out "Tascam" in big letters ala Times Square. After the power up, the unit settles in with the Sample Rate, Absolute Time, Internal Clock, and Stop LEDs illuminated. The time display, in Hours, Minutes, Seconds, and Frames, sits with dashes, waiting for a tape to be inserted.
The tape itself is slightly smaller than an audio cassette and about twice as thick. It's built like a VHS or DAT tape with a main case and a protective cover on the front that flips up. The only drawback to this package is the safety tab. When opened, it can be recorded on; closed, it cannot the direct opposite of DAT, cassettes, VHS, and floppy disks. Users just have to "remember" the safety tab works in just the opposite manner of other tapes.
Putting a tape into the DA 88's front slot causes the display to read "LOAD" while the Cassette In LED flashes. It takes about six seconds for the transport to seat the tape, read the absolute time, and come to a stop with the display showing the tape's position, lighting the Cassette In LED steadily. Rewinding to a stop, the end of the tape is displayed with the letters "b O T" (beginning of tape).