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Empty Shelves, Waiting Lists After Weekend Debut of DAT

June 25, 1990

CHICAGO (AP) _ Booming business greeted the weekend debut of Sony Corp.’s digital audio tape deck, and by Monday many stores were sold out of the biggest item to hit the recording industry since compact discs.

Nationwide sales figures had not been compiled Monday, but company officials and store owners were pleased.

″I don’t think people stormed the doors, but it was generally very successful,″ said Shari Haber, spokeswoman for Sony in Park Ridge, N.J.

All 18 units stocked by the nine United Audio Centers stores in the Chicago area sold out Saturday, said Bob Goldsmith, manager of a Chicago outlet.

″It’s a very exciting product. I wish we had more of them,″ Goldsmith said. ″I think we could have sold six or seven more of them easily. I’ve got a waiting list with a few people on it now.″

United Audio is the only Chicago-area dealer carrying the high-end unit, the DTC-75ES, released Friday. Sony could only supply two units to each store in time for weekend sales, but Goldsmith said another shipment is due this week.

Sony is the only electronics company selling popular priced DAT machines in the United States. Its DTC-75ES lists for $950. Another model, the DTC-700, will go on sale this week for $50 less, Ms. Haber said.

Digital audio tapes are about half the size of conventional cassettes and about twice as expensive. Sony offers 60-minute, 90-minute and 120-minute tapes for $12, $15 and $18 respectively, Ms. Haber said.

Digital audio tape, or DAT, decks offer the sound fidelity of compact discs. Their introduction to the U.S. market had been held up by record companies, who feared DAT’s ability to make near-perfect recordings of compact discs will encourage pirating and cut into disc sales.

That issue was for the most part resolved last summer, however, when an agreement was reached on new technology that would allow digital copies of compact discs, but not copies of the resulting tapes.

The accord had seemed to resolve the threat that U.S. record companies would sue manufacturers if their DAT machines did not have some type of anti- copying technology.

But George Scarlett, product manager for Tower Records in Sacramento, Calif., noted that for every new technology, there grows a cottage industry intent on cracking it.

″I am sure there are hobbyists at home that will find their way around the circuitry on these things,″ Scarlett said.

Felix Loo, who manages Disc-O-Rama Music World in New York, said he has been selling ″gray market″ DAT machines imported directly from Japan, at an average price of $1,200, for more than a year.

″We’ve sold a lot of units,″ said Loo, who declined to give specific figures.

Salesman David Moseley of Sony ES-By Grove Audio Video in Houston would not say how many units the store was carrying. None will be sold until Saturday when the store carries in ad in local newspaper business sections.

″Consumers are interested. They are cautious. They are confused with all the different formats, but I think that most consumers understand that this will eventually replace the cassette as we know it today,″ Moseley said.

″What will happen is the way the LP and the cassette coexisted happily, we’ll have the CD and DAT coexist happily,″ Moseley said.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the Japan firm that produces the Panasonic, Technics and Quasar brands, hopes to introduce a DAT recorder in the U.S. market some time this year.

Matsushita’s unit will cost about $1,300, the company said at the Consumer Electronics Show here earlier this month.

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