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Audio Recorders

Alesis ADAT

Alesis ADAT 8 Track Digital Recorder

The Alesis ADAT recorder when it arrived in 1992, literally changed the world overnight for studios and home musicians alike, by bringing digital recording to an affordable level for small studios and musicians.

Introduction to the Alesis ADAT 8 Track Digital Recorder

In 1991, Alesis announced the arrival of what they had been working on for some time; an 8 track digital recorder for the masses, the Alesis ADAT. 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 Alesis 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 Alesis 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!


Not long ago, the introduction of affordable multitrack recording spawned an era of unprecedented creative development in the music industry. But affordable multitrack could never deliver the quality or flexibility necessary for master recordings. The Alesis ADAT Digital Audio Recorder changes all this and more. ADAT has none of the limitations yet all of the economy of affordable multitrack, while in fact, it is the ultimate professional digital tape recorder. Its astonishing fidelity delivers mirror-image recordings of any performance, while ADATs modular design allows unparalleled flexibility for even the most demanding productions.

The key to ADATs modularity is two exclusive Alesis designs. First, the ADAT Proprietary Synchronization Interface for phase coherent, sample accurate synchronization of multiple machines, and the ADAT Proprietary MultiChannel Optical Digital Interface for flawless digital track bouncing.  ADAT can be used as a stand-alone 8 track or linked to form a custom digital recording system from 16 to 128 tracks. Coupled with ADATs proven, readily available S-VHS cassette tape format, ADAT makes digital recording accessible to literally everyone. The benefits of ADAT to musical creativity and production are inspiring.

For example, professional studio productions involving many tracks can be broken down into working modules on ADAT S-VHS tape cassettes, developed in personal ADAT studios away from budget and time constraints, then later bounced back digitally into the master production..all in perfect sync and with perfect fidelity. And recordings done on a single ADAT are automatically compatible with any larger ADAT system.

So never again does a demo have to be trashed because of poor fidelity or format differences. In other words, no matter who you are or where you’re recording when you roll tape on ADAC it’s for real.  ADAT is the perfect recording medium. It brings standardization to the recording industry that has long eluded the desires of artists, producers and engineers.  ADAT will change the recording process forever.

Superb audio quality/ultra high fidelity digital converters.
ADAT delivers 16-bit linear audio performance using built in 64 times oversampling Delta-Sigma analog to digital converters and the professional standard 48kHz sampling rate (user variable from 40.36kHz to 50.85kHz). The frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz +/- 0.5 dB. The dynamic range is greater than 92 dB. Crosstalk between channels is better than -90 dB, and there’s no measurable wow or flutter. In other words, the sound is about as perfect as current technology can deliver. Or, if you like superlatives ADAT’s audio performance is unbelievable.

The digital converters in ADAT are the latest generation in converter technology. Because of the tremendous economies of scale realized in the manufacturing Of ADAT, these high quality and more expensive converters are included in the ADAT design, rather than offered as a separate accessory box as with some digital recorders. 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.

Standard format S- VHS transport, low tape cost.
The S-VHS transport in ADAT was chosen because it’s a proven professional standard, the is readily available, and it’s easy and convenient to work with. With a proven track record, the S-VHS has delivered years of reliable use in demanding professional environments. Plus, the 8 tracks on 1/2 inch format allows much wider track widths than what is available on other digital tape recording formats and the wider track width is ideal for the storage of digital audio. And the economy Of S-VHS cassettes is taken advantage of because ADAT records approximately 40 minutes of audio on a single, inexpensive S-VHS tape cassette. In fact, a single S-VHS cassette stores the equivalent Of 1.8 gigabytes of hard disk digital audio.

Easy and familiar front panel controls.
Anyone who has used a multitrack tape recorder already knows how to use AI)AT. The play. record, fast forward, rewind, and track select buttons perform the most used functions; just power up the machine, insert a cassette and begin recording. There are no difficult engineering routines to learn and tricky operations like punching in and out are seamless and glitch-free thanks to ADATs perfect digital crossfading.

Sample-accurate synchronization and ADAT Modular Recording.
ADAT was designed to work perfectly as a stand-alone 8 track recorder and performs this function without equal. But the built-in ADAT Proprietary Synchronization Interface allows virtually an unlimited number Of ADATs to lock together in perfect synchronization. So, you can expand the number of recording tracks and acquire more ADATs as budgets and needs expand. This modular design is the key to compatibility between all ADAT studios; from a full blown 128 track professional studio, to a 16 or 24 track project studio, to a simple 8 track home setup.

While extremely sophisticated, ADAT’s sync system is practically transparent to the user. And there’s no assigning Of masters and slaves; just make the simple connections and ADAT’s smart software takes care of the rest. Prior to or during recording. each ADAT tape is formatted with a proprietary Alesis time code that is much more accurate than SMPTE or other time code systems, and allows multiple ADATs to lock to an incredible single-sample accuracy; that is, 1/48,000th of a second, accurate to 1 millionth 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 functional equivalent of one large multitrack digital tape recorder with one wide, seamless piece of tape.

And because ADATs synchronization system is internalized and so accurate, you get machine synchronization without giving up any audio tracks and accurate tam? counter readings without annoying slippage. That’s why ADATs built-in 3 m»int autolocate system performs so accurately.

ADAT Proprietary MultiCbanneI Optical Digital Interface.
In addition to ADATs analog inputs and outputs, the ADAT Proprietary MultiChannel Optical Digital Interface carries all 8 tracks of digital audio simultaneously On a single fiber-optic cable and allows perfect, degradation-free digital dubbing between ADATs, so digital backups Of all 8 tracks can be done in a fast and easy operation. This interface plays a key role in larger ADAT systems under control of the optional BRC Remote…

BRC Remote Control.
The BRC Master Remote Control is the brains of larger ADAT systems. During tracking, the BRC provides remote control of all transport and record functions, as well as sample-accurate auto-location and overdubbing functions; and does this with up to 16 ADATs for 128 tracks of digital audio! Synchronization with external audio and video equipment is easily accomplished because the BRC reads and generates SMITE time code. And the BRC generates MIDI Time Code (MTO and MIDl clocks to provide all the timing references needed to intelligently drive a complete MIDI sequencing system.

But the real power of the ADAT recording system is unleashed with BRC controlling the routing of the MultiChannel Optical Digital Interface. Modern production techniques rely heavily on cut and paste style editing; moving musical passages and phrases is considered normal and necessary procedure. -The BRC meets this need unlike any Other recording device (digital or analog) because it allows the user to separate the digital data stream of the MultiChannel Optical Digital Interface one track at a time, and assign any part of any track to any other track, at any location, without ever leaving the digital domain.

For example, if you like the first chorus on track 8 and want to replace the second chorus on track 24. it’s easy to do with the BRC carrying the timing and sync information while the optical cable carries the digital audio. Most important, the new chorus on track 24 will an exact digital duplicate of the one on track 8.

BRC also offers new creative and cost-effective work methods for busy producers. For example, rather than spend hours of expensive studio time working on instrumental a guide track can be mixed to several ADAT cassettes for the musician to work on in the privacy and unintimidating surroundings Of a ADAT studio…off the clock. The completed tracks can be reviewed by the producer and flown in digitally to the master ADAT recording system under control Of the BRC.

Assembly Editing.
When tracking is finished. and with the BRC Remote Control at the helm, perfect composite performances can be assembly edited from an unlimited number of ADAT cassettes. Do flying edits, move or duplicate parts, Substitute a phrase or note, track offsets…any edit imaginable can be rehearsed on the BRC, time located and then executed effortlessly in the digital domain. Composite vocals are easier than ever with the ADAT/BRC system. Most important, the unlimited editing power of the BRC will never cause the audio quality to suffer from too much bouncing or overdubbing.

The Future of Digital Editing and Mixing.
The future promises to bring a multitude of exciting new products to the digital recording environment, such as digital editing devices, digital mixers and digital musical instruments. Alesis will license the ADAT Proprietary MultiChannel Optical Digital Interface so that users wishing to utilize the full power of digital audio can bridge the unbeatable recording capabilities of ADAT to external hard disk editing systems as well as current and future generations of digital mixers and musical instruments. The dream of fully digital recording, editing and mixing will be assured with ADAT at the center of the system.

AES/EBU Interface.
Alesis also supports the industry standard AES/EBU digital interface with the optional A1-I ADAT to AES/EBU and S/PDIF Digital Interface with Sample Rate Conversion. So, if you need to integrate your ADAT recordings to digital recording equipment from other manufacturers, the A1-I isolates the digital audio signals in track pairs from the master 8-track data stream, and assigns that pair to the industry standard AES/EBU and S/PDIF interfaces. The A1-I also includes a sample rate converter for direct digital connection to other digital audio recorders, DAT recorders, CD mastering, hard disk recorders, synthesizers, and more.

RMB Remote Meter Bridge.
In multi-ADAT systems the RMB Remote Meter Bridge provides localized viewing of 32 channels of LED meters. It’s designed to be rack mountable or to mount on top of the BRC so that you can install your ADATs in a remote rack while you control functions and view critical metering of the recorders directly from one location.

Easy interfacing with professional, project, and home studios.
A 56 pin ELCO connector carries balanced +4 dBu signals for fast and easy interfacing in professional studios. For home and project studios, ADAT includes unbalanced -10 dBV audio inputs and outputs on 1/4″ jacks. All balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs can be used simultaneously.

In Conclusion.
The ADAT Digital Recorder has been called the most incredible advance in recording technology since the invention of multitrack. Its features, performance and benefits will link the professional commercial studio and the personal home and project studio much to the benefit of creative freedom. The future of ADAT, and your music, is very bright.




  • 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

5 Responses

  1. there possibly an owners manual for this. Ive just purchased one and cannot get it to record. I need a basic guide to recording with the adat..

  2. David, it should be a simple matter of arming the track for record using the buttons on the left, under the metering, and pressing record and play.

  3. How do I listen. I don’t see an output headphone jack or speaker Jack’s.

  4. can someone explain to me why my audio cassette does not come out entirely from my Alésis XT20

  5. Does anyone know where I can get a service manual for these? I have a dozen that need various repairs.

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