Why do some people use equipment that was designed when dinosaurs ruled the Earth?

Why do some people use equipment that was designed when dinosaurs ruled the Earth?

Do you still use DAT? CD recorders? Outboard effects units? Come on and admit it - you're a dinosaur!

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by David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

Why do some people use equipment that was designed when dinosaurs ruled the Earth?

Do you still use DAT? CD recorders? Outboard effects units? Come on and admit it - you're a dinosaur!

One thing that people forget about dinosaurs is that they ruled the Earth for a lot longer than we humans have, so far.

So we might think we are the most successful species ever, but we haven't quite proved that we can live up to the achievements of the great lizards.

But there are audio dinosaurs too - equipment that really ought to be extinct by now.

One such is the DAT recorder. DAT stands for 'Digital Audio Tape' and in its heyday everyone had a DAT recorder. And anyone who didn't have one desperately wanted one.

DAT was used as a stereo mastering format. Before DAT, which means before around 1987, the only option was to master to analog tape (or other ultra-ultra-expensive digital formats post-1980).

Analog tape may have an interesting sound quality that we might sometimes use as an effect these days. But back in the 1980s people hated its murky noise and distortion. DAT was like pure spring water, distilled three times, in comparison.

But then people started mastering directly to computer files, and storing their backups on writeable CD or DVD. Then they started using 24-bit resolution and 96 kHz sampling rate, where standard DAT was only capable of 16-bit / 44.1 or 48 kHz.

So gradually the point of DAT became less and less. And now the only real use they have is to play back old tapes from the archive.

Except...

Do you know different? Do you have a DAT recorder that you still actively use?

I'll ask the same question about CD recorders. Do you have a standalone CD recorder that you still use?

Outboard effects units? Why oh why when so many excellent plug-ins are available?

If you are still using any of these types of equipment, please tell us about your motives and experiences, and why you refuse to change with the times.

It could easily be that the ancient dinosaurs of audio are right, and the computerized mammals are wrong. Discussion below...

(By the way, the CD burner illustrated is a recently released product. Someone must be buying it.)

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass
Friday January 22, 2010

Short videos from Audio Masterclass...

Readers' comments on this article...

Reggie Thompson, Montreal, Canada
Monday October 15, 2012

Very simple ,I've kept it all!why? 2 reasons
first:I'm comfortable using my "dino" gear second:keeping my dat,adats,pcm 901 ect...
gave them a second life in archiving older sessions,specially for my customers that were
quick in selling their gear,but my "dino" influence ends here.
I'll also have the latest digital recording daws and console with all the bells&whistles.
Simon King, Edmonton, Canada
Thursday July 07, 2011

I still use 'older' gear because I've invested time with the learning curve. Even though my studio has all the latest doo-daas, I constantly go back to the Trident desk, the Studers, the Lex (pcm 70,80) the Ureis, the DBXs, and all the older processing gear. Why? they all have 'unique' sonic signatures, they are easier to use, tney have no latency issues, and what's more, I can put more of 'me' into them, as opposed to dancing around trying to figure out why the so-called professional recording software cause lots of grief. I got tired of replacing computers and software every few months, and don't even mention software 'dongles' that you need to authorise the software you just paid big bucks for. Currently the RADAR has replaced the Pro-Tools system (donated to a local charity).I kept Wavelab around for quickie mastering jobs. The newly 'modded' Trident plus a few select 'old' hard ware, and newly re-issued ones are keeping me and my clients happy and keeping more money in my pocket. The Macs and PCs have been relegated to the front office for accounting and internet duties, and they a very happy there.
Ben, Chandler, Az, USA
Monday May 02, 2011

I have about 2000 Vinyl records and a few turntables. 6.., no 7, DAT machines, two standalone CD recorders and my job bought around 6 of the dual capable HHB CD recorders in your picture. Let me not forget the several reel to reel tape decks I still use (mostly for transfers for clients) and to occasionally play back stuff I recorded 20 or 30 years ago. I've been storing my CD master back ups on DAT as I've encountered to many CD and DVD failures to trust them completely. 20 year old DAT masters seem to still play just fine and one of the best digital backup systems around is still tape based. The worst problem is finding competent service for the DAT machines.., but reel to reel I can take care of myself. OK, I admit it.., I still have the first tape machine I ever bought back in the 50s.., a Wollensak. So there!
Pierre Mayo, Winston Salem, Nc, USA
Monday April 18, 2011

So we all know everything comes full circle, I have DA45 (dat maxhine), DD1000 (optical disc mastering) and a MK2 cassette mastering deck! LOL! It's always about the converters this is why I use it along with everything else. I still use an 02r mixer and some other older technology but I cross breed it with modern stuff, but everyone does unless you are 20 and under because we use what we are comfortable with and what we know. I purchased a record player recently and started listening to 33's again because I like the way it sounds, but I like cd stuff too so it's preference.
Paul Williams, Watford, U.k.
Monday March 21, 2011

Let's go back to the last days of shellac recordings. This is when original Rock and Roll was at it's highest. Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Little Richard etc. were the stars. Now if you ever get a chance to listen to any of these records in 78 format on a decent HiFi with the apropriate stylus, you will be blown away by the quality of these recordings. Even going back further to Jazz recordings of the 30's, there are some realy good recordings. OK I'll agree that shellac was not the quietest as regards surface noise, but other aspects of these old recordings certainly compensate for this. I find that so much is lost when one transfers these old recordings to digital. This is exactly what I have found when transfering recordings I have made on 2" tape to my PC. In conclusion I would state that digital recordings are so far not as good as some of the best analogue sound.
Loudsnares, San Francisco, Earth
Friday March 04, 2011

I SUFFER FROM THE LEARNING CURVE..-I STILL USE MY E-MU SP1200 FOR ALL MY DRUMS AND MOST OF MY LIVE INSTRUMENTATION..I KNOW 8BIT/12BIT AND 10 SECONDS OF MONO SAMPLING BROKEN IN 4PARTS 2.5 SECONDS EACH ONLY BUT THATS ALL I KNOW BESIDES PLAYING MY FENDER RHODES '73,MOOG OPUS,JV5080,jv1010(just bought-lol)dmx,tr-808,mo'phat keys,acoustic snares,few bass&guitars and a korgd16 w/ADATS AND A CD BURNER....AND A BUNCH OF VINYL-O AND A ROLAND MV-8800 FULLY LOADED SITTING IN ITS ORIGINAL BOX-TO HARD TO LEARN..I'D LIKE TO SWITCH TO ALL SOFTWARE AND KEEP MY SP FOR DRUMS;;;
David B Shirran, Lamont, Canada
Tuesday November 16, 2010

I guess I am to some degree, one of the dinosaurs. I still use outboard effects for certain tracks, and built in features for others. It is a personal thing I guess. For myself, I would much rather spend more time actually using the familiar items than trying to learn how to use each and every latest and greatest "new thing" that comes along. It took a long time to learn how to get the most out of the equipment I have. Even longer to nail down that perfect "personal" sound. Why mess with it? I don't want to spend the next year or more learning how to master the use of something simply because it's new, or because it's the latest rave. That being said, I also use a Zoom MR1600CD digital multitrack unit for most recordings. Not exactly the "latest and/or greatest", but 21st century none the less. I chose the Zoom unit simply because it allowed me to incorporate the old gear with the new and in some instances, even enhance it. I read somewhere that Neil Young still uses one of his original amplifiers (even though it would probably turn to dust in a stiff wind), duct tape and all, both on stage and in the studio as well. Why do you suppose that is?
Mike, Atlanta , USA
Wednesday June 16, 2010

Okay, it's time to confess that I'm a gear addict, although the Line 6 Pro that I'm replacing with a brand new Digi Eleven is ten years old. But one of the things that's interesting to me is this: I started as a musician and recordist with guitars and a Teac 15 IPS reel to reel that was considered a top piece of gear 30 years ago. In the early 1990s, I migrated to Pro-Tools Session 8, recording eight tracks at 20 bit/48 Mhz and mixing to DAT tapes. I'm on my umpteenth MOTU system, now with unlimited tracks and countless other upgrades. You know what? The sound quality I achieved 15 years ago was great, in fact, almost indistinguisable from today. But now I'm able to do far more ambitious projects, have layers of sound, use more instruments, tune already great vocals, have convolution reverbs and correct audio problems like sibilance. And freakin' Vocal Rider helped me mix complex vocals in half the time. So in the end, there is some method to my madness and gear lust. But old school gear can be just as good, and for some the simplicity and not having to think about all the technology is ideal. To each his/her own. Let's keep making great music!!!
Bgremixes.com, Richmond,va , USA
Wednesday May 19, 2010

FOR PRODUCING ELECTRONIC SAMPLE BASED TRACKS I HAVE AKAI MPC 2000 (1997) AKAI MPC 2000 XL (1999) AKAI MPC 1000 (2004) Most people making he music styles I make do it all within mac/pc programs like logic, reason or fl studio I just prefer the hands on non mouse clicking music producing.. it's more "FUN"
Juan Alvarado, San Antonio,tx, USA
Monday May 17, 2010

Jeez. I've been using a hi-fi vcr to record my music. I have a DAT as well.
Jody Beard, Laf La, USA
Thursday April 15, 2010

Amazing! If it works, use it. Wow! what a concept.
Ripp, Wilmington,de, USA
Monday March 29, 2010

I don,t see very much info on stand alone recorders and I use 2 of them,DP01 and 2488 MKII.Being a musician this frees me up to record and not constantly have to check computer stuff.seems to me this is a mine is bigger than yours issue.
Aleksander, Stockholm, Sweden
Monday March 01, 2010

I dont move on becouse being modern is not practical for all things if I need to sacrifice certain things I have been used with -- old already bought expansion cards or software. I use even older system -- becouse it has faster response to user, working and I have total control over the system myself (-- and thats the computer salesmans and technicians are NOT interested about). I still use outboard reverbs. I use MINIDISC recorder for improvisation sessions (to computer I record only the ready sequenced things), becouse for improvisation based things there are 101 additional things what can go wrong in computer and have had serious problems. I would use computer if there are more independant things and software. But following all that modern crap I have no choice, but being dependant totally. INdustry what before says as innovation, will render my bought software and expansion cards to garbage... but now it is changing so fast in computer industry that new products will be garbage before they are even released to the market. ;-) If always the OS will be old, then its good to just stick on things which work and dont upgrade. But keep things independent. What about the older VSTs if the new versions and standards are coming? What about expansion cards I want to use? The only way -- to keep the old computer. My old midi synths from 1982 will be still compatible, but not the VSTs after 5 years on new system. There are some positive things about computer things, yes, but if they are not working on critical moments...? Then old ways will work! So its always good to keep the old possibilities. The same purpose serves old computer with older OS -- becouse I have total control over it! Also I am more interested to have the same familiar interface for next 10 years, to use the same expansion units, synths, computer industry and software industry is making it uncompatible, becouse they are more interested about selling... and then again it re-creates the problem of re-installing things. PRoblem is also getting work the old software what I need on new system or using old expansion cards on new system. And I have got enough. External units are what they always work. I have just bought them once and can use always, always compatible, and .. independant, no needing deep compatibility list for hardware and OS!!!
Msmarystrikens, Stirling, United Kingdom
Saturday February 27, 2010

Hi! I really liked your forum, especially this section. I just signed up and immediately decided to introduce myself, if I'm wrong section, ask the moderators to move the topic to the right place, hopefully it will take me well... My name is Mary, me 29 years, humourist and serious woman in one person. I apologize for my English
Lee, Milton Keynes, England
Tuesday February 23, 2010

Even though I use Logic 9 and Reason 4 along with a pile of VST's I still have and use my very trusted Roland SH-101, I love it and could never part with it. to be able to touch something and create a good sound is very refreshing sometimes.
Karel Post, Grou, The Netherlands
Wednesday February 17, 2010

I use: Memorymoog prophet5 Juno's Jupiter8 S1100's Analog desk Outboard effects only! DMX 808 LINNDRUM DPX SYNCUSSION etc... No DAW, but a RADAR24 for multitrack. Analog tape to record guitars and vocals, THEN sample and edit on S1100 and S5000. Drawmer compression (a BIT). Mastering through DCS converters. Why? Because that is MY SOUND, and i LIKE IT... Watch this youtube thingy and maybe you'll understand..: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZCY2hcu91c
On Time Recording, Brooklyn, Ny, Made In Usa
Wednesday February 10, 2010

If they could do it, then anybody who knows what they are doing should be able to take a four or eight recorder and record a four or five piece band with no problem whatsoever. This is so right...."It's not sometimes what you have, it's how you use it.
Angelina, Köln, Germany
Monday February 08, 2010

Why replace parts that still do an excellent job? I still use a TCD-D7 as a backup live recorder. And believe me, there are times I am so happy about this... when all that shiny modern crap simply fails like an iffy diva.
Chris Maxin, Nashville, USA
Tuesday January 26, 2010

I still use my faithful Lexicon PCM-90 and MPX-1 for the simple fact that they still sound awesome and they don't tax my CPU, leaving more processing power for EQ's,compressors, etc.
Daniel, Moscow, Russia
Tuesday January 26, 2010

I use few outboard devices as well as laptops, which I use only for live sound processing and midi-sequencening. There was a time when I used crappy almost dead soviet professional mixing console and amps. I want that stuff back so bad, because all the problems it had could be fixed nowadays with computer-based editing. And on the other hand there is no simpler way to achieve roughness and liveliness of sound than by using those dino-devices...
Drew, Kc, Mo
Tuesday January 26, 2010

Oh yeah and I do also have the "Realistic" 4 track 1/4"..
Drew, Kc, Mo
Tuesday January 26, 2010

The Shure was the line mic mixer it has xlrs on the back and "tophat" knobs on the front rca outs I believe this model was originally made for broadcast use. I still have one at the studio in the cabinet somewhere, I'll look for the model number tomorrow at the studio, haven't plugged one in for years but as I recall the mic pre's were pretty sweet.. Of course the good old days look better now than they did then..
Drew, Kc, Mo
Monday January 25, 2010

I started in the 70's with my old band using a pair of realistic 4 track reel to reels and a shure mic mixer.. I loved the ingenuity it took .. Thanks for the info on Peppers, I agree low tech is cool, and I'm a huge fan, but a lot of young guys these days never used a razor blade on a tape, or a "4 man on the faders" mixing session, it was indeed cool, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have to admit though I'm becoming spoiled by editing in the box, and plugins are less troublesome and WAY less expensive considering in the old days, if I wanted 15 channels of compression, I needed to by 15 compressors, now I only need 1 plug in... My other point is while low tech gear from way back was cool, the good stuff, cost a FORTUNE, the price of a workable studio has come down to 1/10th what it was 15 or 20 years ago, I could never have afforded the gear I'd need, to get the sound I get now, in 1990.
Drew, Kc, Mo
Monday January 25, 2010

Oh and BTW Abbey Road studios had 8 track at the time of Sgt Peppers, and remember too, the old stuff , especially the old GOOD stuff, was anything but cheap!!! Back then it used to take a couple million dollars to make any kind of studio capable of producing major label releases. Now you can do it with a notebook an interface and a copy of cubase.... We all tend to go " back in the good old days" but computer audio has let people like me open a studio for a lot less money and has really evened the playing field..
Drew, Kc, Mo
Monday January 25, 2010

I use a tube mic pre and compressor,but thats about it.. The biggest advantage of DAW based recording is visual editing, emoving all the little blips etc and the 4 conts and even lining up "hits" I remember using razor blades to edit and having to erase out spots manually..
George Michael, Harrisonburg, USA
Monday January 25, 2010

I use outboard effects because I'm not computer based and won't be until my stuff's not worth fixing or parts go NLA. I use a standalone 8-track digital hard disk recorder and can move lightning-fast on it. My front end is a high-end tube mic and preamp, which I record to an Otari 5050, and it's warm as toast, sounds like the old days. I master to an HHB CD recorder and couldn't be happier. No computer crashes or glitches for me :)
Rob Ash, Bridgend, Wales
Monday January 25, 2010

some good points ,i record on a Roland vs 2400 and back up to cd,it still has a lot of things that analogue can never have ,moving faders, undo,on boourd effects,scene,midi,ive just spent£900 on a mac book pro and have to wait before i can add more,but for me the all impotant thing is the song,if its a crap song no end of brilliant equipment can help,if all u had was one dat and two mikes and a mixer,yet you knew you had just written a killer song,would you wait around until you got a pro tools system,hey but then you forgot the song,technology is good ,but its still the performance and the song that counts.