repair of snapped DAT

D120 broken DAT tape

We often get sent Digital Audio Tapes or DATs for transfer to .WAV computer files. As these recordings are already digital or ‘born digital’ the process should be straightforward. Our audio interface cards accept the SPDIF or AES digital audio stream from the DAT machine and record this as a WAV or BWAV file. This file can then be burnt as a CD or delivered digitally on a hard drive or removable media.

The big problems though come with the tape that these digital recordings are made on. The tape is only 3.81 mm wide and moves at a very slow 8.15 mm/sec. The tape is also very thin at 13 microns. The recording system and transport used is helical scan just like in video recording but with the very slow tape speed and small tape dimensions any defects or problems with the tape can result in many errors which may not be correctable by the error-correcting system of the DAT machine.

One problem we’re starting to see more and more are tapes that snap. The tape pictured above was a D120 which was never recommended by the DAT machine manufacturers but was still often used for its extended recording time. This tape snapped without warning a quarter of the way through the recording. There were no outward signs or potential problems just a sudden clean break on a diagonal.

snapped dat tape

To recover this tape it could have been spliced with splicing tape of the correct width like in analogue recording but there is a high risk if not done perfectly of irreparable damage to heads on the drum. Even with this type of repair some of the material would have been lost. A safer solution is to rehouse each spool in another shell. This lets you recover as much as possible from the tape, without the risk of head damage.

Whichever solution you decide, the DAT shell must be disassembled. A small crosshead screwdriver needs to be used to remove all the case screws. There are two hidden ones, accessed by sliding part of the cassette shell down:

disassembling dat shell

You can now carefully lift both halves of the DAT shell apart, making a note of the tape path inside the shell. Be careful not to touch the tape with your bare skin as fingermarks and grease can cause head to tape contact problems and audio errors and dropouts.





Anthony Smith

I have eight full DAT cassettes which I need to have burned onto CD’s. Please could you give some indication as to the cost of this operation?
Thank you.
Best regards,

Michael crisci

I have a broken that table I need to have repaired please contact me thank you

Lisa Williams


I have a video recorder tape of my wedding 25 years ago. I was wondering if ribbon can be fixed?

Hi Lisa

Thanks for your comment – I’ve sent you an email.


jason soltys

Hello there… I have two DAT tapes with issues. One of them is currently stuck in my DAT player because I think it was stepped on by accident and the second one the tape keeps coming out of itself at a certain point in the real.
Is this something you can repair? Or at least salvage the material onto a cd?

Thanks I’m advance for your reply,

Jason Soltys

Hi Jason

We’d be happy to help with your DAT tapes – I’ve replied to you by email.


Kevin Okerlund

I have an old dat recorder from the 90’s. It’s been sitting for many years unused. Do you, or can you recommend, a service shop? If not then I would like to transfer material from my masters.
Any info would be helpful.

Hi Kevin

Thanks for your comment – not many people service DAT recorders now due to parts and skills decline. Do you live in Europe or the US?


I am currently working through an archive of some 80-90 DAT tapes, and currently have one that, when running it through fast before transfer, it ground to a halt and the tape snapped. It first looked to be a problem in removing it from my Tascam DAT player but it released it eventually.
Would you be able to either fix this tape, and/or provide Wave files of the contents? I believe it could be about 90mins in length.
There might be other tapes as I work through the archive, so would be interested to know what you would charge. I live in the UK.
Thanks, Steve.

HI Steve

Thanks for your comment – usually when DAT tapes snap it’s due to mould spores sticking the very thin top or bottom edges of the tape together and in these cases the whole tape needs to be dissassembled, checked for mould and manually wound..
I’ll contact you by email..



Hello…. I have four Dat tapes that are around 26 to 28 years old…. They all look to be in great shape…..Two of them play great and the other two wont play at all…. They are very important to me and I have to have them fixed… I cant mail them because they are too valuable…. I would have to travel to you to have you fix them if possible…. Your expertise is desperately needed …. Hopefully, we can speak further about this…. Thank you.

Hi Antonio

I’ve replied to you by email.


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