The Casio DA-7 is one of the cheapest DAT recorders on the market, yet it is
eminently suitable for mastering to a very high standard. David Mellor reveals
its better features and finds ways round a couple of problems.
If you have a nose for a bargain then you have probably bought yourself a Casio
DA-7 already. It has plummeted in price since its launch and you can have one,
if you shop carefully, for not much over £300. Is this low price an indication
that the unit is no good and potential purchasers are snubbing it in favour
of more highly specified machines, or ones with better sound quality? If you
buy one now will you live to regret it? Well I have to say that I used to have
doubts about low cost DAT recorders. The technology is complex, the scale of
the recording process itself is microscopic, and if the end result is a less
than perfect master tape surely low cost DAT must be a false economy. It wasn’t
until I saw a Casio DA-7 in regular use, receiving its fair share of abuse as
well, that I realised that I wouldn’t have to pay over £1000 for
my second DAT machine, I could buy a DA-7 for £350 (its price a few months
ago) and leave the rest in the bank to gather interest. The fact is that I can’t
understand why this machine is so inexpensive right now? Are Casio still making
any money out of it I wonder?
Despite its better qualities, the Casio DA-7 does have a few failings and
if you are a professional sound engineer then you are more likely to prefer
a proper professional model, but I and many others are prepared to work around
certain deficiencies as long as the end product isn’t compromised. As you
know there are other fairly low cost DAT machines available such as the Aiwa
HD-S1, the Sony TCD D3 and the Casio DA-100. For me, these are ruled out completely
by the connectors used. Phono connectors are small, fiddly and potentially unreliable
if you don’t inspect them regularly, but if you treat them with a bit of
respect they will do the job. Mini jacks however are out of the question for
my purposes because I need to know that when I am recording a live concert that
there is absolutely no possibility of coming back with a tape that is anything
less than complete and perfect.
One problem with the DA-7 is that it is very difficult to figure out how to
operate its finer functions without recourse to the manual. Obviously there
is a limitation on front panel space, and I have to say that I very much prefer
to have the basic transport controls presented on large well-spaced buttons.
The last thing you need when your client is asking to hear a particular section
of a recording is to have to fiddle about with miniature buttons as found on
the smaller recorders. And while I am on the subject of problems, let me point
out that there is a bug in the DA-7’s programming. You may find yourself
at any time and for no apparent reason unable to control the machine. Is this
a cue for panic? No – just follow the simple procedure that I will outline shortly.