MORE TAPE MACHINE TIPS FOR...
Tascam DA-88, Alesis ADAT, Pansonic SV-3700 DAT
ã 1999 by Eddie Ciletti
Here: User tips for Panasonic DAT and the TASCAM DA-88 plus...
There: A "MAXI MIDI" Sidebar on interfacing
the DA-88 with the Spirit Digital Console.
THE RATE OF ERROR MESSAGES
In the June Issue, I detailed the procedure for checking Error Rate
on the Alesis Adat XT as well as Panasonicís DAT machines (excluding the
SV-3500 and SV250 series). Based on e-mail feedback some readers didnít
understand the difference between Error Rate, which is a report
of the machineís ability to recover the data from tape, and an Error Message.
To determine the Error Rate ó a four-digit number ó the machine must be
in Play. "0000" is mighty good.
Some tape machine malfunctions come under the heading of a "time out,"
which is the failure of an event to occur within a predetermined time window.
While ALL Error Messages may be displayed rather cryptically ó because
alphabetic characters are mutated by numeric-only displays ó the translation,
in many cases, is the same. "Something electro-mechanical is wrong. Please
take me in for service. I will not eat your tape if you stop now." Donít
ignore repeated error messages. Donít get frantic if the tape wonít come
So many people are used to re-initializing the Alesis adat (Record &
Play while Powering up) that they expect to restore other products to reality
with a similar fix. TASCAMís DA-88 does not have a user-accessible "re-init"
procedure. When an error occurs, machines "freeze" to protect themselves
and your tape. Power cycling ó turning the machine Off, then On ó will
clear most Error Messages on most machines. Repeated demonic behavior requires
a trip to Doctor Tweak.
There is a new jam made from a genetically engineered fruit called a
Label. But seriously, some tape jams are not the machineís fault at all,
but either the userís failure to properly apply the label or the labelís
failure to stay put. Particularly with Hi-8 cassettes, labels should be
on the spine as shown in Photo One. Unlike DAT and VHS tapes, the HI-8
shell has an additional protective shield to completely surround the first
three inches of tape waiting to be threaded. During the loading process,
the shield will lift the label, which will then "catch" in the loading
mechanism, duh! When a tape does not eject, keep cool. Spotting a peeling
label could make extraction easier. When in doubt, call a pro.
As important as it is to document your work, a label that is more likely
to come loose and get caught is not your friend. I take two approaches
to labeling, the clean and the mean. Before applying a label strip, clean
the label area on the cassette shell with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab
to remove any residual lubricant that might result from the manufacturing
process. When dry, the new label should stay attached for a much longer
period of time. (Extreme heat or cold can also affect the life span of
The "mean" method is to write directly on the cassette housing. On a
black shell, a white grease pencil
makes a safe but temporary indication. On any other "colored" shell,
a Sanford Sharpie™ will leave a
permanent mark that can be covered with a label at a later date.