Digital Audio Tape

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Digital Audio Tape
Digital Audio Tape (logo).svg
Dat cartridge.jpg
A 90-minute DAT cartridge, with a AAA battery (LR03) for size comparison
Media typeMagnetic cassette tape
EncodingLossless real-time
CapacityUp to 120 or 180 minutes (consumer tapes on non-LP mode)
Read mechanismRotating head
Write mechanismRotating head, helical scan
Developed bySony
UsageAudio storage
Extended toDigital Data Storage
Released1987; 36 years ago (1987)

Digital Audio Tape (DAT or R-DAT) is a digital signal recording and playback medium developed by Sony and introduced in 1987.[1][2]


Predecessor formats[edit]

The first consumer-oriented PCM format used consumer video tape formats (Beta and VHS) as the storage medium. These systems used the EIAJ digital format, which sampled at 44.056 kHz at 14 bits. The Sony PCM-F1 system debuted in 1981, and Sony from the start offered the option of 16-bit wordlength. Other systems were marketed by Akai, JVC, Nakamichi and others. Panasonic, via its Technics division, briefly sold a digital recorder that combined an EIAJ digital adapter with a VHS video transport, the SV-P100. These machines were marketed by consumer electronics companies to consumers, but they were very pricey compared to cassette or even reel-to-reel decks of the time. They did catch on with the more budget conscious professional recordists, and some boutique-label professional releases were recorded using these machines.[3]

Other examples include dbx, Inc.'s Model 700 system, which, similar to later Super Audio CDs, used a high sample-rate delta-sigma modulation rather than PCM; Decca's 1970s PCM system,[4]


Sony released its last DAT product with the DAT Walkman TCD-D100 in 1995 and continued to produce it until November 2005 when Sony announced that its remaining DAT machine models would be discontinued the following month.[5]

Anti-DAT lobbying[edit]

DAT recorder

In the late 1980s, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) unsuccessfully lobbied against the introduction of DAT devices into the U.S. Initially, the organization threatened legal action against any manufacturer attempting to sell DAT machines in the country. It later sought to impose restrictions on DAT recorders to prevent them from being used to copy LPs, CDs, and prerecorded cassettes. One of these efforts, the Digital Audio Recorder Copycode Act of 1987 (introduced by Sen. Al Gore and Rep. Waxman), initiated by CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff, involved a technology called CopyCode and required DAT machines to include a chip to detect attempts to copy material recorded with a notch filter.[6]

This opposition by CBS softened after Sony, a DAT manufacturer, bought CBS Records in January 1988. By June 1989, an agreement was reached, and the only concession the RIAA would receive was a more practical recommendation from manufacturers to Congress that legislation be enacted to require that recorders have a Serial Copy Management System to prevent digital copying for more than a single generation.[7] This requirement was enacted as part of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which also imposed taxes on DAT recorders and blank media. However, the computer industry successfully lobbied to have personal computers exempted from that act, setting the stage for massive consumer copying of copyrighted material on materials like recordable CDs and by extension, filesharing systems such as Napster.[8]


Pre-recorded albums[edit]

DAT Recorder (Kenwood DX-7030)

In December 1987, The Guitar And Other Machines by the British post-punk band The Durutti Column, became the first commercial release on DAT. Later in May 1988, Wire released their album The Ideal Copy on the format.[9] Several other albums from multiple record labels were also released as pre-recorded DATs in the first few years of the format's existence, in small quantities as well. Factory Records released a small number of albums on the format, including New Order's best-selling compilation Substance 1987, but many planned releases were cancelled.[10]

Computer data storage medium[edit]

The format was designed for audio use, but through the ISO Digital Data Storage standard was adopted for general data storage, storing from 1.3 to 80 GB on a 60 to 180 meter tape depending on the standard and compression. It is a sequential-access medium and is commonly used for backups. Due to the higher requirements for capacity and integrity in data backups, a computer-grade DAT was introduced, called DDS (Digital Data Storage). Although functionally similar to audio DATs, only a few DDS and DAT drives (in particular, those manufactured by Archive for SGI workstations)[11] are capable of reading the audio data from a DAT cassette. SGI DDS4 drives no longer have audio support; SGI removed the feature due to "lack of demand".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Digital Audio Tape (DAT)". Technopedia. 11 November 2016. Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Sony History". Archived from the original on 25 June 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  3. ^ "1981 Sony PCM-F1 Digital Recording Processor-Mix Inducts Sony PCMF1 Processor into 2007 TECnology Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  4. ^ G. Mancini (March 2004). "The Decca Digital Audio Recording System". Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007.
  5. ^ "Sony Drops DAT". Anime News Service. 15 November 2005.
  6. ^ Holt, J. Gordon; Gold, Alvin (1987). "Copycode: Diminishing DAT". Stereophile. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Michael (21 September 1989). "Labels Back Down on DAT". Rolling Stone. No. 561. p. 26.
  8. ^ Knopper, Steve (2009). Appetite for Self-Destruction. Simon and Schuster: Free Press. pp. 78–9.
  9. ^ Media, Spin L. L. C. (December 1988). "Back in the Days of '88". Spin. 4 (9): 71. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  10. ^ "DAT and Copycode (Q Magazine article c.1988) – Factory Records".
  11. ^ "Can you Rip DAT audio? (Ask Slashdot forum thread)". Slashdot. 1 October 1999. Retrieved 25 October 2007.
  12. ^ "DAT/DDS hardware". 26 March 2003. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007.

External links[edit]