U.S., Japanese and European Industries Agree on DAT Standard
NEW YORK (AP) _ Digital audio tape players that combine compact disc-quality sound with recordability could be in stores in this country by Christmas, under an accord to be announced this week.
Under the agreement, all DAT players sold in the United States will contain a chip that limits copying of digital tapes. Record companies insisted on the copy protection for fear that widespread, digital-quality copying would cut into their sales of compact discs.
The Recording Industry Association of America said Wednesday it would have a statement later.
The copy-protection system, Solo, was developed by NV Philips, the Dutch electronics giant, according to North American Philips Corp. vice president Albert Ruttner.
With the chip, a DAT player can make a digital recording from a digital source such as a CD, but it is impossible to make copies of the copy. That means people would be able to make copies of CDs for their own use but would not be able to start up a piracy operation of high-speed tape-to-tape copying.
It was expected to take several months for the manufacturers to add the copy-protection circuitry to the machines and bring the devices to market.
DAT machines are being sold in Japan and some parts of Europe and in limited quantities in the United States. Most of the models sold in the United States are not through manufacturer-authorized channels and therefore do not carry warranties. The sales, however, are legal.
Sales of the new machines may be slow at first. Recorder prices start at about $1,000, blank tapes are $12 to $18 and pre-recorded tapes $24 to $30. Moreover, pre-recorded DAT cassettes are scarce because there is a small market for them and that is limiting sales of the equipment in Japan and Europe.
The sound quality of DAT is excellent, with none of the hiss of ordinary tape. DAT also seems to produce a deeper sound than compact discs.
Digital audio tape records sound as the ones and zeroes of computer language, in contrast to conventional tape, in which sound is recorded as an ″analog″ version of actual sound waves.
The Philips-developed Solo chip leaves an inaudible electronic ″flag″ on a DAT cassette. A recorder that detects the flag will not copy the cassette.
Philips says the Solo system does not affect the quality of the music in any way, unlike a system proposed by CBS Records that was criticized by testers from the government’s National Engineering Laboratory.
Still, the controversy over copy protection, which already has delayed the official U.S. introduction of DAT for more than a year, could make some potential buyers feel that DAT players with the Solo chip are somehow inferior.
″If just one person in a magazine says there’s an audible difference, people will say I’m not going to buy it. I don’t know how much of it is psychosomatic,″ said Kevin McEvoy, director of national sales for 6th Avenue Electronics City Inc. in New York, which sells DAT machines acquired in Japan through unofficial channels.
Japanese electronics makers, which manufacture most DAT equipment, have refrained from actively selling DAT machines in the United States because of opposition from the U.S. record industry and the threat of copyright- infringement lawsuits.
An exception is Nakamichi America Corp., which sells a $10,000 consumer model without copy protection that is so high-priced it has not been opposed by the U.S. recording industry. Professional DAT equipment also is available in the United States from several foreign manufacturers.