The Cheat Sheet: DAT Bill, HDCD, Sony MD

cheat-sheet-logo2Recently, I've spent entire Cheat Sheets introducing new products. Only one problem: the world doesn't stop for Flip. The more decisive I was with my topics, the more the news poured in. From a tip in a tiny town in Virginia to a source as big as the New York Times, I'm pleading guilty to withholding some interesting tidbits. (sfx: jail door slam), and my sentence is to share my findings.

DAT BILL - Digital Recording Act of 1992: In early October, congress approved a bill that imposes a royalty on all consumer blank digital media and digital recorders sold in the U.S.. Nicknamed the DAT Bill, it also mandates copy limiting techniques on recorders (Serial Copy Management System or SCMS). Although this bill does not directly affect professional products, those of us who rely on the (cheaper) consumer DAT recorders can expect to be affected by this copy limiting function. At press time, the DAT bill was still awaiting the signature of the President. The bill has the full support of the electronics industry and music publishing groups, so it shouldn't have any trouble going through.

HDCD - High Definition Compatible Digital: "Perfect sound, forever," Sony's 1982 promise for the CD. Do you remember? Well, according to many audiophiles, recording engineers, musicians, etc., the digital recording of a CD sounds artificial next to a great analog recording. Why? According to Pacific Microsonics Inc., the process of sampling analog sound to create a digital version (sampling at 44.1kHz) simply fails to capture high-frequency or low-volume signals. The reason: a technological wall. The data has to fit on the disk, and there is only so much room for so much data. Well, no more. High Definition Compatible Digital, is a new breakthrough that offers improved sound while remaining compatible with existing CD or digital tape players. This new process samples the source several hundred thousand times a second and is encoded into 20-bit "words" (instead of the usual 16). The signal is analyzed, and only the sound data that cannot be processed by the brain is discarded. This compresses the signal, making a more efficient, less distorted digital recording. Early reviews have been very favorable. "I thought it was stunning," says John Atkinson, editor of Stereophile. More on this topic in a future Cheat Sheet.

SONY MD ADS: 8-pagers! If you haven't heard of it by now, wow! The Mini-Disc is on the move. Just pick up the latest Audio Magazine. You'll find an elaborate, 8-page Sony ad. They call it, "Once a dream. Now a reality." I call it, "impressive, and expensive." But what's really important is how our medium will perceive it, and that's one answer this Cheat Sheet doesn't have!

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