Zoë Blade's notebook

DAT

DAT tech specs

  • Released: 1987
  • Company: Sony
  • Bitrates: 768 kbps, 1024 kbps, 1411.2 kbps, 1536 kbps
  • Sample rates: 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz
  • Sample resolutions: 12-bit (at 32 kHz only), 16-bit
  • Tracks: stereo

DAT (short for Digital Audio Tape) was a format invented by Sony.

Just as CDs had replaced vinyl records as a random-access format for prerecorded music, Sony made DAT to replace cassette tapes as a sequential format you could record to.

Although it flopped as a consumer format, it was popular within the music industry, where it was useful to be able to record and give other people your own music in full CD quality. Portable DAT recorders were also favoured by musicians for field recording, being higher quality than even mini reel to reel setups, and almost as small and convenient as cassette tape. (While the format itself was smaller, the players weren't at first, given that it was a new technology.)

As with CDs, DAT evolved out of Sony's earlier videotape-based PCM work, storing digital audio on U-Matic tapes with the PCM-1600, then Betamax tapes with the PCM-F1, in music studios and consumer setups respectively. Also as with CDs, removing the intermediate analogue video layer allowed the technology to be further miniaturised.

Unlike CDs, DAT supports multiple sample resolutions and rates, including a longplay mode allowing users to store twice as much audio. (2 channels at 12 bits and 32 kHz use 768,000 bits a second; 2 channels at 16 bits and 48 kHz use 1,536,000 bits a second.) The longplay mode was later reused in NT, an obscure and absurdly tiny offshoot of DAT used for dictaphones.

Quotes

I will record onto DAT and then fuck the tape up in different ways — like put a hair dryer on the tape, or sprinkle stuff onto it, or crease and fold the tape. You can get really mad sounds doing that.

— Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), 1993[1]

First I recorded to cassette, then DAT, usually on longplay. Sean Booth said to me once, "do you record all your tracks on longplay?" Ha, apart from him nobody ever said that to me before. Good ears that he noticed.

— Richard D. James, 2014[2]

References

  1. "Cagey, Canny, Krafty" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jul 1993
  2. Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview Part 1 Dave Noyze, 2014

Formats: CD | DAT | Floppy disk