Alesis ADAT 8 Track Digital Recorder

The recorder that when it arrived in 1992, literally changed the world overnight for studios and home musicians alike.

Alesis ADAT

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Alesis ADAT Introduction

In 1991, Alesis announced the arrival of what they had been working on for some time; an 8 track digital recorder for the masses. It would forever change the recording world when it was finally released in 1992 for both home musicians recording their demos as well as smaller studios wanting to get into digital recording.

Looking back from where we are today, it is hard to imagine the impact a hardware based 8 track digital recorder could have, but for those of us old enough to remember, it was huge. To give it some perspective, most home studios of the day had Tascam Portastudios (themselves game changers in their day) which were either 4 track analogue cassette (running at double speed) or if you were a well off musician, you might have been using the higher end Tascam 8 track Portastudios in either cassette format or the massive reel to reel version.

If you were a large recording studio back in the day, you would have by this time removed your old Studer A827 2″ analogue multi-track and replaced it with something like a Sony PCM3324 DASH recorder for a mere US$150,000 or a Sony PCM-3348HR DASH Recorder offering 48 tracks of high quality digital multi-track goodness for only US$250,000.

All of a sudden, along comes the Alesis ADAT, offering 8 tracks of digital recording for only US$3,995. The bonus being that you could synchronise multiple units together (up to 16 units) to form a 24 track digital recorder for less than US$12,000. It was a great time to be alive! At the time it did not matter that they sounded terrible compared to the high end Sony DASH recorders, but Alesis sold a boat load of these machines. I myself off loaded my trusty Tascam Portastudio and dived right in. Combined with that other game changing hardware release in the early 90s, a Mackie 1604 mixer, my new studio was in the digital age.

While I hated the sound coming off the ADAT and failed to do anything worthwhile at the time, the Alesis ADAT is responsible for recording some amazing albums, such as Lisa Loeb’sTails‘ album which was recorded on three Alesis ADATs synchronised together and went on to be a big success. Loeb was the first recording artist to score a number one hit that was recorded with an ADAT. (Billboard, August 20, 1994)

But the greatest success the Alesis ADAT recorded, would have to have been Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morrissette’s monster hit of 1995. Recorded in Glenn Ballard’s home studio in Los Angeles. Once again using three Alesis ADAT’s synchronised to form a 24 track recording system, Jagged Little Pill has since sold well over 33 million copies!

The Alsesis ADAT relied on the use of S-VHS Video Tapes to record in a helical scan format not unlike the Sony PCM-1630 and Sony DMR-4000 combo did. Where Alesis were clever was in the use of relatively inexpensive S-VHS tapes and of course ‘off the shelf’ mechanisms for the tape drive and recording system. This was the key to being able to deliver a cost effective system. So love it or hate it, you have to acknowledge the enormous impact the Alesis ADAT had, and what it brought to the recording world at that time. Bravo!

Alesis ADAT Overview

You’ve just purchased an incredible piece of recording equipment. Here are a few of the features that make the ADAT Digital Recorder perhaps one of the most important advances in recording technology since the invention of multitrack. These features are of equal significance to the professional commercial studio and the personal home or project studio:

  • Low tape cost. ADAT records approximately 40 minutes of audio on a standard S-VHS® tape cassette. This is the same tape that is used with S-VHS video tape recorders. It’s readily available and relatively low in cost for the purpose of multitrack recording. We chose S-VHS because the cassette shell, tape hubs and guides are precision crafted in the S-VHS format to treat the tape gently and interface in a precisely controlled manner with the ADAT transport over long periods of recording. We recommend you always use S-VHS tape to protect your valuable recordings. Your ADAT was packed with a complimentary Alesis S-VHS Mastering Audio Cassette. It should perform to your highest expectations. You can order more through your Alesis dealer or directly from Alesis. See the accompanying flyer for information on how to order.
  • Superb fidelity. ADAT uses 16-bit linear analog-to-digital conversion, the professional standard 48 kHz sampling rate (variable from 40.4kHz to 50.85kHz), and 64 times oversampling for better-than-CD quality sound.
  • Ultra high fidelity digital converters. The digital converters in ADAT are the latest generation in converter technology. Because of the tremendous economies of scale realized in manufacturing ADAT, these high quality and more expensive converters are included in the ADAT design (rather than having to be purchased as a separate accessory box as with some recorders) in spite of ADATs low overall cost. This converter technology allows recording and reproduction of the very highest quality. Plus, ADAT’s design dedicates separate converters to the inputs and outputs of each individual track. That’s 16 converters in all – no multiplexing.
  • Easy and familiar front panel controls. If you’ve ever used a multitrack tape recorder, then you probably already know how to use ADAT. Familiar controls like play, record, fast forward, rewind, and track select buttons perform the majority of functions you’ll need. There are no difficult engineering routines for you to learn.
  • Sample accurate syncing capabilities. ADAT was designed to work perfectly as a stand-alone 8 track recorder and performs this function without equal. But its design goes much further to include a built in synchronization system that allows multiple ADATs to lock together in perfect synchronization; so, you can expand the number of recording tracks and buy more ADATs as your budget allows and your needs expand. Nothing in the system will become obsolete and ADAT’s modular standard is the key to compatability between your studio and everyone else’s; be it a home studio or fully professional commercial studio. You might have purchased 3 or four ADATS and the optional BRC Remote Control for a 24 or 32 track system, or you might even plan to build a large ADAT system of up to 16 ADATS and the BRC- that’s 128 tracks of digital audio! Multiple ADATs, the BRC and other accessories (like the RMB Remote Meter Bridge) form what we call the ADAT System. Each ADAT tape is “formatted” (a simple operation that can be done before or during recording) with a proprietary Alesis time code that is much more accurate than SMPTE or other time code systems, and time-stamps the tape to an incredible single-sample accuracy; that is, 1/48,000th of a second. Why is this important? Because of such incredibly tight sync performance, multiple ADATs are virtually free of the evils of incoherent phase between tracks playing on different machines. This means that when you lock 2 or more ADATs together, you’re really creating the equivalent of one large digital tape recorder and one very wide, seamless piece of tape. And because ADAT’s sync system is internalized and so accurate, you get machine synchronization without giving up an audio track, accurate tape counter readings without annoying slippage, and intelligent sample-accurate autolocation functions with the BRC.
  • Modular recording. This is the feature that makes ADAT and the ADAT System perhaps the most flexible multitrack recorder ever designed. Because ADAT’s SVHS tape format is so inexpensive, you can easily record alternate versions of vocals, solos, background accompaniments; whatever your creative urge dictates.
    Modular recording means you can build as many tracks as you desire while you’re recording and do composite editing with the BRC and ADAT’s Optical Digital Interface (see next section) before the final mixdown.
  • Optical digital interface. In addition to conventional analog inputs and outputs, a “master” digital I/O carries all eight tracks simultaneously via optical cable, allowing for perfect, degradation-free digital dubbing between ADATs. And with the addition of the optional BRC Remote Control, you can assign any part of any track to any other track in a multiple ADAT system. This means you can do complex composite editing. Like the chorus on track 2? Want to replace the chorus on track 15? Easy to do with the BRC carrying the timing and Sync Information while the optical cable carries all the digital audio. The new chorus on track 15 will be an exact digital duplicate of the one on track 2. Feel particularly inspired one day, but can’t make up your mind about which lead solo to go with? Fill five or six tracks of a single S-VHS cassette tape with your hottest playing. Take the best performance, or the best parts of each one and recompose the entire solo on a new track. All in perfect sync, all sample accurate, all in the digital domain. The popular recording practice of composite vocals is just as easy, and more effective than ever with ADAT to support your efforts.
  • AI-1 AES/EBU and S/PDIF Digital Interface with Sample Rate Converter. If you need to integrate your ADAT recordings with digital recording equipment from other manufacturers, an optional accessory box, the Alesis AI-1, can isolate the digital audio signal 2 tracks at a time from the optical interface’s 8-track data stream, and assign that pair to the industry standard AES/EBU and S/PDIF interfaces. This allows for direct digital connection, with sample rate conversion, to and from other digital audio recorders, DAT recorders, CDs, hard disk recorders, synthesizers, and more.
  • LRC Remote Control. Each ADAT is supplied with the LRC Remote. This handy device duplicates ADAT’s front panel play, record, fast forward, rewind, stop and 3 point autolocate system. You can also control the monitor select functions.
  • Highly sophisticated and comprehensive optional BRC Master Remote Control. The BRC is the brains of the ADAT System. It supplies sophisticated synchronization and overdubbing functions for multiple ADAT machines, remote control of virtually all recorder functions, reads and generates SMPTE time code, and generates MIDI Time Code (MTC) and MIDI clocks. The BRC can control up to 16 ADATs for a total of 128 tracks of digital audio.
  • RMB Remote Meter bridge option. When using the BRC in a multi-ADAT system the RMB Remote Meter Bridge provides localized viewing of 32 channels of LED meters. It’s designed to mount on top of the BRC (or be rack mounted) so that you can install your ADATs in a remote rack and control functions and view critical metering of the recorders directly from one location.
  • Easy interfacing with professional, project and home studios. ADAT includes a balanced 56 pin ELCO connector for +4dBu interfacing, typical in professional studios. For the home and project studio using -10 signals, ADAT includes unbalanced -10dBV inputs and outputs on 1/4″ jacks. For convenience, the balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs work simultaneously.
  • Voltage-tolerant power supply. ADAT accepts any AC voltage between 90 and 250 volts, without the need for external converters.
  • Compatibility with multi-channel mixdown formats. ADAT is ideal for quadraphonic, surround, and theatrical sound applications that require more than two channels for the final master.

Alesis ADAT Specifications


  • Recording Format: ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) Rotary head digital recording using S-VHS cartridge
  • Recording Time: 40 minutes typical per S-120 cartridge
  • Fast Forward/Rewind Rate: Approximately 20 times play speed unwrapped/ 10 times play speed wrapped
  • Fast Audio Scan Rate: Approximately 3 times play speed


  • Number of Audio Channels: Eight
  • Audio Conversion:
    • Record (A/D): 16 bit linear audio, Delta-Sigma 64 times oversampling , single converter per channel
    • Play (D/A): 18 bit linear, single converter per channel
  • Sample Rate: 48 kHz nominal. User variable from 50.8 to 40.4 kHz (+1, -3 semitones)
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.5 dB
  • Dynamic Range: Greater than 92 dB from 20 Hz-20 kHz , A weighted
  • Distortion: .009 % THD + Noise @ 1 kHz , 0.5 dB below maxium output, A weighted
  • Channel Crosstalk: Better than -90 dB @ 1 kHz
  • Wow and Flutter: Unmeasurable

Analog Inputs/Outputs

  • Connectors:
    • Balanced: Single 56 Pin ELCO connector block 
    • Unbalanced: Sixteen 1/4″ phone jacks (8 input, 8 output)
  • Input Impedance:
    • Balanced: 10 k ohms
    • Unbalanced: 11 k ohms
  • Output Impedance:
    • Balanced: 510 ohms
    • Unbalanced: 510 ohms
  • Nominal Input Levels
    • Balanced: +4 dBu
    • Unbalanced: -10 dBV
  • Maximum Input Levels:
    • Balanced: +19 dBu
    • Unbalanced: +5 dBV

Digital Inputs/Outputs

  • Connectors: Two EIAJ fiber optic jacks (1 input, 1 output)
  • Communications Protocol: Alesis Fiberoptic Multichannel (8 tracks)


  • Remote Control Connectors: Two 1/4″ phone jacks (transport Remote Control and/or Locate/Play footswitch jack and Punch In/Out footswitch jack)
  • User Remote Functions Accessible (and available on LRC): Play, Stop, Fast Forward, Rewind, Record, Locate 0, Locate 1, Locate 2, Set Locate, Auto 2-1, Auto Play, Auto Input Monitor and All Input Monitor
  • Sync Connectors: Two 9 pin D-Sub connectors (Sync In and Sync Out)
  • Sync Capability: Automatic Master/Slave Syncing between up to 16 ADATs (128 audio tracks)


  • Front Panel Controls and Indicators: Transport controls and LED indicators for Play, Stop, Fast Forward, Rewind , Record and Eject. Record Enable pushbuttons and LED indicators for channels 1 thru 8. Pushbuttons for Set Locate, Locate 0, Locate 1, Locate 2. Pushbuttons and LED indicators for Auto 2-1, Auto Play, Pitch Up (+100 cents), Pitch Down (-300 cents), Format Tape, Digital/Analog Input, Auto Input Monitor and All Input Monitor. 15 segment LED level display for channels 1 thru 8 (0 to -60 dB range). 7 segment LED display indicates tape position (time) or pitch change. AC Power pushbutton.
  • Rear Panel Controls and Connectors: Sixteen 1/4″ phone jacks for unbalanced inputs and outputs (8 in, 8 out), One 56 Pin ELCO connector block for all balanced inputs and outputs. Two fiberoptic connectors for digital input and output, three 9 pin D-Sub connectors for external Sync In, Sync Out and Meter Bridge , two 1/4″ phone jacks for LRC Remote Controller and for Punch In/Out and Locate/Play footswitches.
  • Power Requirements: 90-250 VAC, 50-60 Hz, 50 W maximum
  • Operating Temperature: 10-40_ C for specified performance
  • Operating Humidity: 80% maximum with no dew condensation for specified performance
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 5 1/4″ x 19″ x 14″ (127mm x 483mm x 56mm), 3U IEC rack mounting
  • Weight:15 lbs (6.8 kg)
  • Shipping Weight: 30 lbs (13.6 kg)
  • Accessories Included:
    • LRC detachable 1/4″ phone plug Remote Controller
    • ADAT Digital Multitrack Recording System Video
    • Alesis S-120 Master Recording Cassette
    • Fiber Optic Cable
    • IEC style AC power cord
  • Optional Accessories:
    • BRC Master Remote Controller
    • RMB Remote Meter Bridge
    • AI-1 AES-EBU, SPDIF and Sample Rate Converter Interface
    • AI-2 Multipurpose Audio/Video Synchronization Interface
    • Alesis Sync Cables
You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette
Stay by Lisa Loeb

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