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SONY'S TCD-D8 Portable DAT DECK

 
         
   
 

The TCD-D8 is Sony's portable stereo audio recorder that succeeded the TCD-D7 in 1993.  

This deck has one new major feature (over the previous D7 model), 44.1K analog recording (the standard CD rate allows unconverted direct to CD or digital workstation audio input).  Unlike the D7, Sony now includes an AC adapter & cleaning tape but, still supplies no analog or digital interface cables.
 
   
 

As with the previous D7 model, the new D8 most notable feature is still the ability to record 4+ hours on (4) AA Alkaline cells!

NOTE: Head life on these decks seems only about 500 hours, so best use is mostly for field recording and one time recording transfer to computer/CD if no second standard size DAT deck is available for frequent (second generation backup) tape playback.  
   
  TCD-D7/8 RECORDING TIP#1: To consistently get the maximum recording time (4hrs), set the Phones/Line switch to OFF, do not plug anything into the phones/line jack before/after turning the deck on.

TCD-D7/8 REC. TIP #2: The TCD-D7 & D8 has a complex headphones/line output switching scheme that provides battery saving management and uses only (1)jack for both headphones or line output.  A 3-position Switch (AVLS .... ....OFF....LINE OUT) provides (3) three analog output choices switched into operation ONLY when a plug is inserted into the output jack.

 
NOTE: Removing the output plug turns off the output.
 
   
     
   
  The phones output is dynamically compressed automatically to 'ear safe' limits in the AVLS position; but in OFF, will allow maximum dynamics with 2 volt P-P MAX @ VOL#20.  In other words, if you want Phones only output, plug in the headphones with AVLS or OFF selected.  To change output from PHONES to LINE, 1st unplug the phones, switch to LINE OUT, THEN plug-in the line cable.  
   
 

VERY IMPORTANT:  LINE LEVEL operation MUST HAVE LINE OUTPUT SWITCHED (to full right ON position) BEFORE INSERTING THE LINE PLUG!!

The LINE OUTPUT position allows a very respectable 6 volt P-P (+8.8dBm) output signal.  If you don't have the LINE position when plugging in, the output will clip and distort @ Headphones 2 volt maximum peak.

NOTE ALSO: The TCD-D7/8 has NO ON-OFF switch!  These decks automatically turnoff in 2 minutes when no tape is running and no function button is pressed....However...with NO TAPE INSIDE, instant turnoff occurs (D8 only) by operating the HOLD function.

 
   
 

The new D8 has slightly quieter preamplifier (verses D7) and still of good quality.   Most Sony mic. portable mini-deck preamplifiers have been noisy at high-gain.  Unfortunately, D7/8's quieter preamp has 6dB less gain in the (L)low gain mode over the earlier WM-D6C & TCD-D3 decks.  Those of you who record acoustic sounds (with small microphones) will use the (H)high gain mode frequently giving a bit less safe headroom.  

 
   
  NOTE: The mic. preamp's bass response is -3dB down at ~ 20Hz only when in (H)hi-gain; however, in (L)low gain it's only -3dB @ ~ 7Hz; and only -1dB at 20Hz.  
   
  The TCD-D8 resists infrequent overloads of short duration with good performance.  However, frequent constant VU REC levels above -12dB produces an audible 'soft' distortion (very audible above -6dB VU).  Sony still recommends that VU peak indications (during recording) be best kept to -12dB to avoid momentary 'overload' distortions.    
   
  It does seem that keeping the frequently occurring program peaks at -12dB produces the best sounding recording with D7/D8 DAT decks.  This -12dB VU recording limit for best quality sound recording is apparently consequence of +4 hour penlight cell power recording time and a 'consumer' design approach that still allows Real Professional Quality (RPQ) in a pocket sized affordable DAT DECK if only the recordist allows for these known limitations.  
   
 

D7/8 RECORDING TIP #3: MIC (H) Sensitivity position (the mic. preamp. Hi-Gain setting) is for voice and natural low level loudness sounds, and easily overloaded to produce clipping distortion when recording percussive, amplified, or industrial sounds.

Avoid 1st mic stage preamp clip distortion by switching to (L) SENS (low preamplifier gain) when the manual REC LEVEL knob is being set to #4 and below; meaning the mic preamp input gain on the mic signal is too much.

 
At 1st opportunity, switch to (L) Low gain position and advance the REC LEVEL knob to (~7) for proper VU peaks at -12dB.

NOTE:  MIC SENS must be set properly for all MIC inputs (not Line), even when in ALC position.

   
 

 

 
 
Other notable features:  Date/Time Tape Encoding and Auto Level Control (ALC) with (2)two modes: Voice or Music. The music setting is unprecedented as it works for some music types quite well. [NOTE: MIC SENS. (H)/(L) is always manually set] This means that from Rock to Brazilian to Reggae you could forgo monitoring the VU level.  The very fast attack/very slow release music ALC setting is sufficient to keep 'level-pumping' inaudible with rhythmic music only; that is, a quick/constant bass beat but, not for most jazz and not at all for classical type music. Reports of audible 'distortion type effects' when using the music ALC setting on the previous D7 model suggests caution in using any ALC for best overall recording quality.  However, the Voice ALC setting is perfect for news reporters, interviewers, and documentary researchers who cannot allow the distraction to monitor VU recording levels.  
 
ALC SUMMARY: ALC reduces signal peaks to well below -12dB (as indicated by the VU); not at the -12dB I would manually choose for VU peaks.  Also, some recordists tried music ALC setting and report audible 'distortion' that's not heard in manual.    
 

Remember: ALC function is strictly for the recordist's convenience when viewing VU levels is too distracting or impractical.

 
 
Missing features include:  Display of program selection elapsed time, erase/add or auto-renumbering of ID's after recording.   These function omissions are regained with the RM-D3K ($200.-) system adapter kit with remote control for TCD-D3, TCD-D7/D8 decks; of course, recorded tapes should be full-size-DAT-deck-played to perform these missing functions.  
 
Also, D7/8's HOLD lockout switch prevents useful non-interrupting functions from operating like turning on the display backlight, manually recording a Start ID, headphones volume adjustment, and most everything else. This lockout of primary non-interrupting convenience features remains a Sony oversight!!  In addition, the headphones amplifier is very weak.....not able to drive long corded Prostyle headphones, however, Sony's pro-performance MDR-D77 ($185.- stocked by Sonic Studios) headphones do match this deck perfectly.  
 
TCD-D7/8 RECORDING TIP #4:  These decks can error upon startup (rarely a problem on latest D7/8's) especially after changing the batteries, giving no operation error code.  One of two things likely occurred, a miss-loaded tape or the internal microprocessor system got illegally stuck!  

The Solution: 1. Completely remove power for a least (5) seconds by removing the external power plug.....and....or.....the internal 4-cell battery pack.  Re-powering the deck usually clears the error; although.......sometimes several cycles are needed if power is restored too soon ...or...the deck is indeed defective & needs repair service................

 
2. Carefully remove the tape from the deck checking for tape that's caught up inside & trailing out of the cassette. If so, the tape may be defective (at least the exposed tape section is now damaged) and another cassette should be used in any case.
 

 

In conclusion, I still like the TCD-D7/8's small size (easily fits front pants pocket or compact carry bag, uses only (4)AA cells, the quality mic preamplifier, robust durability (only in supplied jacket case), and notation of date/time.  The D7/8 has proven it's durability in field usage from high mountains to humid jungles where most decks quit.  Even with those 'Quirky' (often times self-defeating) automatic functions, I've found these decks good robust performers (I've dropped mine 3 times & Sun-baked it once at a concert without malfunction) that make great sounding hi-quality recordings rivaling those made on Pro-portable decks.

 
 
 
 
 
     
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