digital tape recording system (DTRS / DA-88)

Tascam DA-88 and Sony PCM-800 8mm multitrack audio cassette tapes
rectangular, dark blue plastic cassette labelled Metal-P for DTRS, FOR PROFESSIONAL USE

Sony DARS 113MP DTRS cassette tape

introduction to DTRS transfer

The DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) / DA-88 series of professional multitrack (8-track) audio recorders were first introduced in 1993 by Tascam. They utilised Hi8 video tape, to record digital audio in the DTRS format. This allowed up to 108 minutes of recording time on a single tape. Studios would synchronise machines to record multitrack sessions of 24 tracks or more.

At Greatbear, we carefully restore and digitise all variations of DTRS audio, as well as DTRS-compatible Sony PCM-800 tapes. There were two versions of DTRS: 16-bit and 24-bit. We are equipped to handle transfers from both types of machine.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our audio transfers. Following International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives TC-04 guidelines, we deliver 24-bit / 96 kHz high resolution Broadcast WAV files, together with MP3 audio file or audio CD listening versions. We're happy to create any other digital audio files, according to your needs. We can also digitise to 24-bit / 192 kHz, if required.

We can provide the appropriately-sized USB delivery media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system - MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

DTRS / DA-88 recordings vary in duration and in the extent of physical tape degradation, so we always assess tapes before confirming the price of a transfer.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

DTRS machines

  • 3 x Tascam DA88 DTRS 8-track digital multitrack tape
  • 2 x Tascam DA78HR DTRS 8-track digital multitrack tape
  • 3 x Tascam DA98HR DTRS 8-track digital multitrack tape
  • We can support multiple (synchronised) machine sessions of 8, 16, 24 or more tracks
  • 16-bit or 24-bit recordings in standard or High Resolution (HR) mode, 48 kHz, 96 kHz or 192 kHz can all be migrated to BWAV audio files.
  • Sample-accurate direct digital transfers using Tascam’s proprietory TDIF digital interface. No unnecessary DA and AD processing for these ‘born digital’ recordings.

DTRS format variation

DA-88 / DTRS formats supportedsample-accurate digital transfer supportedsample-accurate digital transfer of sessions >8 tracks supportedpreservation of timecode in Broadcast WAV file supported
8 channel 16-bit - 44.1 / 48 kHz
8 channel 24-bit - 44.1 / 48 kHz
4 channel 24-bit - 88.2 / 96 kHz
2 channel 24-bit - 176.4 / 192 kHz
end view of dark blue cassette with protective shell open showing black magnetic tape

DTRS cassette shell open, tape width: 8mm (5⁄16")

stack of 2 machines. Top black 'Mark of the Unicorn'. Bottom large grey and black machine labelled High Resolution DTRS

Tascam DA-98HR DTRS machine & MOTU Digital Timepiece

rectangular, dark blue plastic cassette with rulers indicating width 9.5cm and height 6.25cm

DTRS cassette dimensions: 9.5 × 6.25 × 1.5 cm

DTRS risks & vulnerabilities

The Tascam DTRS format is an 8-track digital multitrack audio recording system using 8mm tapes, originally developed for video recording. The helical scan design (similar to DAT), has the 8mm tape wrapped around a high speed spinning head drum. Any physical damage to the tape will cause catastrophic problems for transfer.

Tape-based digital formats like these are arguably more at threat than older analogue formats. They will also be much harder to restore and recover when degraded. It is highly recommended to transfer these tapes to a file based digital format such as .WAV or Broadcast WAV now.

The machines, while popular, have fragile tape transports which can often develop ‘tape chewing’ problems. Never load a valuable, un-transferred master tape into a machine with an unknown history, it’s asking for trouble!

Tapes very similar to Hi8 video tapes were designed, made and marketed specifically for this format. Below are the tapes suggested in the Tascam DA98 manual:

brandmetal particle tape (MP)metal evaporated tape (ME)
AmpexDA8 MP
TDKHi8 MPHi8 ME Position
Hi8 MP PositionHI8 ME Pro
FujiHI P6-DS N
M221MP P6-
M221MP P5-

DTRS recording history

The DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) aka DA-88 series of professional multitrack audio recorders were first introduced in 1993 by TASCAM / TEAC, followed in late 1994 by the Sony PCM-800 system. In 1995 the DA-88 won an EMMY award for technical achievement.

Both DTRS and Sony PCM-800 have similarities with their larger (VHS) format competitor (and predecessor) ADAT. DTRS and ADAT are both examples of Modular Digital Multitrack (MDM) technology.

The majority of DTRS tapes we digitise at Greatbear are master sound tracks for television post-production companies.

In 2012 the DTRS format was officially discontinued. It is still used in a few video post-production and remote recording environments, but music-only digital recording studios have moved on to hard drive recorders and Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).