by Jerry Vigil
DAT is alive and well. This format remains an affordable and reliable way to record, master, and archive digital audio. As the years pass, manufacturers continue to serve up decks with new features and improvements, and the price continues to drop within the reach of more and more serious audio pros. Brand new from Otari is the DTR-8S, a 2-head professional deck which incorporates all the features of the DTR-8 (March 1996 RAP Test Drive) and comes in at an appealing list price of just $1,395.
Balanced XLR connectors provide the analog I/O with switchable +4dB and -10dB operating levels. AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital I/O is available on XLR and RCA/coaxial connectors. The AC power connector and parallel remote interface wrap up the rear panel.
The attractive front panel is gray with black buttons and knobs. Above the power on/off button at the far left are the SAMPLING FREQUENCY and INPUT select switches. The DTR-8S supports 48kHz, 44.1kHz, and 32kHz/Long Play mode sampling. (Recording times double in Long Play mode.) The DTR-8S will record 32kHz in Standard Play mode when a 32kHz signal is fed to the digital inputs and the SAMPLING FREQUENCY switch is set to 44.1 or 48kHz. The INPUT switch selects between Analog, Coaxial or AES/EBU.
The tape drawer is above the display just left of center. When closed, the door can be opened with your fingers to display either of the labels that might be on the tape. To the right are the transport controls. You get the usual STOP, REWIND, PLAY, FAST FORWARD, RECORD, PAUSE, RECORD MUTE, and OPEN/CLOSE buttons. The STOP, PLAY, REWIND, and FAST FORWARD buttons are twice the size of the others. During playback, pressing the FAST FORWARD or REWIND button plays the audio back at three times normal speed. A nice touch to this cue/review mode is that you don't have to keep your finger on the FAST FORWARD or REWIND button. Pressing it once and letting go engages the 3x playback speed. And, if you do hold the button down, the DTR-8S plays back the audio at five times normal speed. Press the PAUSE button first, then press either the FAST FORWARD or REWIND buttons, and the audio plays back at half normal speed. The pitch remains the same at all three speeds.
There is no instant start function on the DTR-8S, so "cuing" is more a process of auditioning rather than cuing the tape to a point at which you want playback to begin once the PLAY button is hit. Cuing a DAT without instant start is like cuing an analog cassette. Good luck! I'm surprised the instant start function has not become a standard feature in most professional DAT decks by now. RAM is cheap, the technical aspect has already been developed and proven, and the benefits, especially in audio production, are well worth any reasonable increase in the price.