by Jerry Vigil

Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks to DAT decks, particularly when the application is the radio production studio, is their inability to cue precisely and start instantly. (Even 2-track reel-to-reel decks can do this better!) Of course, there are a few decks out there with "instant start," but the cost of these units is a little more than most care to pay for a DAT deck. With the Panasonic SV-4100, you get the best of both worlds: "instant start" and cuing features like the high dollar units, and a price not too far from decks without these features. At a list of $2,695, the SV-4100 should appeal to many who are looking for the convenience and quality of DAT, together with the precise cuing and "instant start" associated with disk-based digital recorders.

Rear panel connections include balanced XLR analog ins and outs along with XLR I/O for AES/EBU digital signals. There are coaxial and optical I/O terminals for the IEC 958 digital format. Word Sync and Video Sync terminals provide external synchronization capabilities. There's an 8-pin Parallel Remote jack for remote control of the SV-4100, and a ΒΌ-inch GPI input jack for remote control of the Play and Pause/Rehearsal functions.

The front panel provides a friendly user interface, and basic DAT functions are easily accomplished right out of the box. However, you will need a few intimate moments with the manual to understand how to use most of the special features of the SV-4100. The common DAT controls include the Start ID, Skip ID, End ID, ID Write, ID Erase, Renumber, and End Search buttons which are located on either side of the large Shuttle Search dial. There's a headphone jack and level control below the power on/off button at the top left. This is a drawer-loading type deck with the open/close button to the right of the drawer. There are two input level controls and an input select switch--analog 44.1kHz, analog 48kHz, and Digital. You get the usual DAT transport controls (including large Play and Stop buttons), but some of these have multiple functions depending upon whether the unit is in the regular operating mode or the Quick Start mode.

In the regular operating mode, the SV-4100 operates like a standard DAT deck. From the regular operating mode, pressing the Quick Start button engages the Quick Start mode and lights a red LED above the button. Let's assume we're using a DAT with programs already recorded on it. The wireless remote control or the Skip/Setting buttons on the front panel are used to select a program. Once the Start ID is located, the SV-4100 records about five seconds of audio into a RAM buffer. Once this is done, "instant start" is accomplished by pressing Play.

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