Just Gimme Five Minutes!
ã 1998 by eddie ciletti

Hello Yíall!

Time for more tape machine tips. These are Sir Loin, fer sher.

This first tip will minimize tape-related errors and provide some "insurance" against potential damage. We all know that tape machines occasionally get hungry. If this does happen, you hope the important stuff is not dinner. 
Figure one shows three formats ó DAT, 8mm and S-VHS ó each wound five minutes from the top. See how little tape is used?  Take advantage of this non-critcal space  by printing a reference tone, just so the tape doesnít appear blank. Alesis automatically "burns"  two minutes during the formatting process.


A few times this summer I was able to solve easy DAT problems over the phone. The conversation went like thisÖ "Hello. My DAT machine looks like itís recording, but thereís nothing (or mucho digital fuzz) on playback." Uh, ever hear of cleaning the heads? Contrary to popular belief, cleaning tapes work and donít do damage if you donít abuse the privilege, especially for DAT. DTRS users should only use them in an emergency and/or when the error rate goes up. Adat users have NO excuse. Those machines are just too easy to clean!

Sure, you should manually clean the heads as part of a routine maintenance plan, but even I get the "cleaning" message ó at the worst possible time ó and I stick in a cleaning tape, first! Usually this solves the problem on the first or second try and is certainly more convenient that yanking the offender out of the rack in the middle of a session. Just be sure to check the error rate immediately afterward.

The other occasional phone caller is a bit more perturbed. "Hello? You fixed my DAT almost a year ago and now itís doing the same thing." This time I wasnít so inspired for fone fix. In comes the machine and customer, both in a hurry. As the chief-cook and bottle-washer, I want my children to behave. I pop the hood and swab the deck. (On the bench, I never put ANY tape in a machine without manually cleaning it first. Like a computer virus, ya donít really wanna spread that schmutz around!)

The customer looked on while Iím going through lint free cloths like a bag of Doritos. After about fifteen minutes ó alternating between wet cloth followed by dry ó Iím still pulling off dirt. Then I asked, "Have you ever cleaned the heads since it was last serviced?" The answer was negative. I never "just" clean the heads because most people wait so long for service that their machine always needs major attention. You canít blame the machine except that all of Ďem should permanently display the Error Rate. When the CLEANING light comes on, itís whey too late.


Apply a lint-free cloth moistened with 99% Isopropyl alcohol to the side of the head. Use a free finger to rotate the head, counter-clockwise. (Direction doesnít really matter on a DAT or ADAT, however, direction is mission-critical on a DA-38 / -88/ -98 or a Sony PCM-800!!! Counter-clockwise ONLY! Remember to follow the "wet" cloth with a dry one to wick away residual alcohol as well as dirt. Allow a few minutes for evaporation. Spinning heads must be dry or else tape will wrap around Ďem in a heartbeat. Always use a non-critical tape first, before inserting your valuable master.  The rest of this site has more machine-specific information.  ( A link is at the bottom of this page. )

Possible cause of ADAT "Error-7" message: Funky connector on Linear Head

Once in a while I do get momentarily stumped, especially if a problem is intermittent. After connecting an Adat XT to a scope, I let it run in Auto Play mode waiting for the demonic missive to appear, which it eventually did. During the cosmic disturbance, I noticed the RF waveform ó the signal from tape ó had lost lock. On a whim, I reseated the connector on the linear head. See Figure Two

Surprised at first that normalcy returned, I then "pulled the plug" to confirm reappearance of said demon. It did! I cleaned the male connector on the head stack and removed the female pins from their plastic house ó pinched them to make a better connection ó then reassembled and havenít heard from the offender since.


DA-88 S-ERR 11

This one you canít fix, but donít panic if it does happen, especially if your machine is between serial numbers 250000 and 340000 (give or take a few). Only on rare occasions does the problem arise from either the tape or the shell. To avoid potential contamination of your tape, please be sure to keep it wound to either end (head or tail) when not in use. Always store in the case.

I recently saw one tape that must have picked up a bit of moisture on the backing. It stuck to the shell and the machine couldnít even thread it!  (S-error11) Other times, Iíve seen the plastic reel flange come unglued from the hub, intermittently restricting motion.

Remember, I said; "donít panic." A qualified tech can extract the tape with minimal, if any damage.
 DA-88 CAM (one of two)

On the left is the cam, the damaged portion of the wall is the darkened "tail" toward the center. You can see plastic debris that has collected in the bottom of the "cam valley."  Failure of the cam is caused by the locating pin from the sector gear (right image above).  This pin must be .085 inches long when measured from the rear of the gear.  A mere one-hundredth (0.01) inches less is enough to do damage.  The short pin rides "high," in the more vulnerable area of the plastic cam, prematurely wearing it out.


EQ online has been getting a major face-lift. If you havenít been, there is a fairly comprehensive listing of manufacturers, their access numbers and addresses (www.eqmag.com). Need a more extensive list that includes video? Then visit ó http://www.avinfo.com/ ó it includes links, often with phone numbers and addresses plus a search engine.

Ciao for now!

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