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The Philips Digital Compact Cassette was introduced in 1992 at the same time as the Sony MiniDisc. The sales and marketing hype was that it was backwards compatible with the popular and established analogue cassette tape. The DCC system had a very impressive technical specification and provided CD audio quality recording and playback. It was Philips plan for DCC to be the successor for the 1964 analogue cassette tape, but it turned out to be a multi million pound blunder, but a great lessons learned for the whole audio industry. Production of the DCC machines ceased on the 31st October 1996 when Philips finally accepted that this digital tape format had no hope of success just four years its introduction. Why is DCC so cheap?DCC uses a fixed head mechanism - like a cassette recorder - as opposed to DAT which uses a helically scanning head system - like a video recorder. The Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) format was designed to allow users to record and play digital DCC tapes, as well as remain compatible with analog cassettes. To accurately reproduce audio at a quality level that can be compared to DAT, the DCC format uses Precision Adaptive Sub-band Coding (PASC) to encode the incoming audio signal.
The DCC130's LCD display can display the tape name, track name, or artist name while playing a prerecorded DCC cassette.
Although the ability to play analog tapes back in the DCC130 is a nice feature, in hindsight the public didn't really care too much if DCC equipment was "backwards compatible". The DCC130 has a very nice LCD display, which has a green backlight when plugged into an AC power source.
So far in this series I've looked at how changes in music formats have affected the way that I consumed music and made 'playlists'. Having successfully induced a large proportion of the record-buying public to migrate from analogue vinyl to digital Compact Disc, the music industry next attempted to migrate consumers from analogue cassette to a new digital alternative. I didn't try out every new format that the industry developed, and never succumbed to the marketing hype around the new digital cassette formats. For example, the move from vinyl to CD offered a significant advantage in the amount of storage space required.
The DAT and DCC tapes were completely different sizes, with different transport mechanisms, so there was no prospect of there ever being a hybrid deck. And there was a bigger problem, namely that the standard Compact Cassette was pretty much good enough for slinging into the car or carrying around in a Walkman. Neither DAT nor DCC could claim to be immune from the same flaws that using any type of physical magnetic tape entailed. I never used DCC myself, but in the early 1990s I did use DAT regularly in recording studios as the media that my bands recorded mixdowns to. Despite the best attempts of the music industry to get me to buy DAT or DCC, the next major change in my music listening habits was prompted by the arrival of Sony's MiniDiscs. This is one of a series of posts looking at the different ways that I have made musical playlists over the last 30-or-so years. You might also be interested in Reckless Records RIP, a series of posts about my time working in London's busy second-hand record shops during the 1990s.


Although the two types of cassette construction where very different, the basic physical size was similar allowing the DCC player mechanism to accommodate the older analogue cassette for playing in the DCC players. But the public expected "instant audio track access" on high technology digital products (as the optical CD and MD) and the DCC "tape format" was seen as past and outdated technology and had very poor general customer appeal.
Because the new generation of DCC machines utilises 18 bit recording the dynamic range is greater than that of DAT or CD.
Consequently the mechanics of the DCC's transport is much simpler, and therefore less expensive to manufacture.What's the difference between the DCC951 and the DCC730?Very little apart from styling.
The DCC format is built to accomodate dropouts that can occur on the tape and includes a reliable error-correction algorithm to ensure reliability.
It also incorporates a 3-step bass boost circuit, and Dolby B noise reduction for analog tapes. With the DCC format, the user was able to slowly upgrade to a new digital format, without the necessity of leaving an older format behind altogether. Anyone who could afford the DCC130's hefty price tag was generally not concerned about playing back analog cassettes anyway. The progress has pretty much followed the same pattern as the overall progress of music formats - up until the introduction of the Compact Disc. The mistakes made have been well documented, but essentially, the new formats did not offer a significant increase in either quality or convenience to be worth upgrading for.
At least both DVD formats were based around a 5" disc, and you could envisage that eventually at some point there might be players that incorporated the technology to play back both types of discs. Plus, unlike the new generation of DVD players, neither DAT nor DCC were the same size or shape as the Compact Cassette, so there was no equipment that was backwards compatible with a popular format which had been around since the mid-60s. Sure, sometimes they got chewed up by an over-enthusiastic tape machine, or unspooled themselves if they were thrown around too much, but essentially, as the cheapest and most disposable music format they did the trick. The tape might snap or unspool, and inevitably the encoded magnetic signal would deteriorate over time.
There were some commercial releases on DAT and DCC that might have found their way into my collection if I was still being strictly completist (Depeche Mode released 'Violator' on DCC in 1992, and New Order's 'Technique' album was available on DAT), but I never actually purchased one.
Although it was never a mainstream success, it was one of those formats much loved by the people who did use it. I’ve spent nearly twenty years building digital products for the likes of the BBC, Daily Mirror and Sony. The views expressed are my own, and do not reflect the views of any current or former employers or clients. Most aficionados agree that DCC sounds as good as sub ?1000 DAT machines, and many say that the overall sound isn't as brittle - its more natural and "analogue-y". The 951 is designed to match the 900-Series of Philips audio components, and incorporates an additional bus for communicating to other 900 series units - but for 95% of users this is of no use.
The DCC130 was a play-only DCC portable, and was an attempt by Philips to satisfy the public's desire for a portable DCC unit. Both analog tapes and digital tapes could be played back on the DCC130, and any other DCC equipment.


This backlight is invaluable when it comes to editing between the DCC130 and another DCC deck. Well, except, oddly, in the USA, where for a long time CDs were sold with a completely superfluous extra cardboard 'long box' bringing the total package size up to closer to 12" tall. In fact, the most experience I ever had with DATs was using them to backup the stock database at Reckless. The fact that the plug is a full-sized Toslink is significant, since even the latest Minidisc and DAT portables lack this important feature. When analog tapes are played back in the DCC130, a frequency range of 20 Hz - 18 kHz can be heard, with a dynamic range exceeding 90dB.
These have much bigger buttons, faster rewind, infra-red remote, and titling, and for studio use are much easier to use day-on-day. This digital output allows easy connection to other digital audio equipment without the need for any kind of adapter. This reliability is also seen in many of Philips other first-generation DCC equipment, such as the DCC900.
However, like the analog-tape compatibility feature, the general public couldn't care less if the portable they are buying will last 100 years.
It isn't just a case of listening to music that doesn't sound as good a quality as when it was first recorded, it was a case of tape being unusable. Whether you play the new 18 bit pre-recorded tapes or make recordings from analogue sources, the DCC has a role of its own.''Hi-Fi World''I've used a good quality DAT machine for years and am no stranger to the way digital tape can render analogue sound dry and antiseptic.
But the Philips simply wouldn't entertain the possibility, giving a surprisingly warm and fulsome rendition. The bass was particularly well-rounded and lacked the sense of sterility so common with digital.
DCC's ability to handle any sampling rate you can throw at it might even precipitate a glut of second-hand DAT machines!''So Philips have produced an 18 bit portable DCC for 250 quid. Nevertheless it's here, and the lessons of of price and consumer willingness to invest in a new format have been well and truly learned by their marketing team. Digital transfers of recordings to both formats were played back, and blindfold listening tests were carried out using four different sized speakers in different environments.
Words such as "spacey", "airy" and "more exciting" were used to describe the DCC170 sound, and the MZ-R2 did seem to lose some of the recordings ambience and presence.
If I wanted to bootleg an essential concert this [DCC170] is the one I would choose.'PRESS AWARDSDCC730 'HiFi World' - 4 Globes 'Which?



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