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Alesis ADAT – Affordable Digital Multitrack (part 13)

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Head feedback


Related to and caused by the above, this happens when you try to bounce a signal
onto the adjacent track, as you might if you were compiling vocal harmonies
onto a single track. Unless you are careful with the level you will get a high
pitched whistle (potentially speaker blowing) which is caused by feedback within
the head. Once again, it doesn’t happen with a digital multitrack.


Noise reduction problems


Noise reduction systems a great. No doubt about it, but they are not perfect
and even if they can fool the ears of most of the people for most of the time,
experienced engineers will still be able to hear their artifacts. 16 bit linear
digital recording uses ‘brute force’ techniques to give a clean, quiet
recording without any psychoacoustic trickery.


High frequency squash


Analogue tape isn’t very keen on recording high frequencies. As you try
and put more level on the tape high frequencies become distorted before mid
and low frequencies, which most people would say is not a good thing although
it does contribute to the analogue ‘sound’ which is liked by some.
Digital recording treats all frequencies equally so your lows, mids and highs
will all be equally clean.

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Threading and run-off


Yes there are reel-to-reel digital recorders, but eventually all recorders
will use cassettes of some type. We thread tape now because we have to. In a
few years time we’ll think of it as something from the dark ages as we
put another cassette into the slot. And how much session time is wasted rethread
tape that has accidentally come off the reel? There are ways and means of avoiding
this, but they take up time too. It’ll never happen on an ADAT.


Counter slippage


“Let’s go back to the beginning of the first verse”, says the
producer and you press the appropriate locate button which you had thoughtfully
pre-programmed. Unfortunately, this was some time ago, and with all the shuttling
of tape that has gone on the counter has shifted and the tape comes in halfway
through the first line. This may seem a minor point, but many minor errors in
location add up to a lot of wasted time. If the tape has a time reference recorded
on it then location can be bar-accurate every time. You can use timecode on
an analogue tape for this purpose, with the correct equipment, but a digital
format can have this built in. ADAT has.


Cleaning?


Yes, cleaning analogue recorders is a chore, but it has to be done otherwise
your recordings suffer. Cassette based digital recorders are a fairly new invention
so there isn’t a lot of data available but it seems that we are going to
have to consider what cleaning routines are necessary. I used my DAT machine
for around three years, with regular applications of a cleaning cassette, before
it developed a transport problem. I opened it up and oxide was caked around
the pinch roller and on several of the guides, so obviously the cleaning cassette
is only a partial solution. There is no advice in the ADAT manual other than
to clean the external surfaces with a damp cloth, but I suspect that this is
one area where digital multitracks will not have an advantage over analogue
– we’ll still have to keep them clean.

David Mellor

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David Mellor