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DAT arrives late, facing new competition

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

DAT arrives late, facing new competition

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

The Big Guns from Japan are ready to fire at last—three years late.

Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic and Technics, says it will send off the opening salvo in the digital audio tape wars this summer with the introduction of the first DAT recorders in North America.

Sony is likely to do the same thing, although it hedged on the date. Sony did say that it would sell prerecorded DAT tapes here soon.

Both companies made their announcements at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, held every year in early January.

Prices will be in the range of $1,000 to $1,500 or even more. Cheaper DAT recorders are likely to be available before long, if the first ones to reach this continent sell well. That is not at all certain, because DAT recorders will soon have competition from a sturdier recording device—the laser disc recorder.

Sony and other companies have announced machines that allow home recordists to make their own compact discs. Although these record-and-erase CD players won't reach the market for many months—probably not until next year – many manufacturers say they are waiting to see how well DAT recorders sell here before they commit themselves to a product line.

"We're in no hurry to push DAT," the product manager for one of the large importers said. "It's an attractive system, and it's going to have an audiophile market no matter what. But DAT recorders will never be as cheap as CD recorders, and there's no question in my mind that CD recorders will eventually be the standard medium."

CD recorders won't cost much more than regular CD players, and some industry experts say they expect the 1991 or ‘92 CD recorders to sell in the $400 to $800 range. They say DAT recorders, which work in some ways like small VCRs, will never be as cheap as VCRs because they won't be made in such large quantities.

DAT recorders have been sold in Japan for three years. Sales were strong at first and then slumped. A bright spot in DAT sales has been the success of book-size portable DAT machines, which bring ultra-high-fi sound quality to the world of the Walkman.

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