The Definitive DTRS Guide, Chapter 3: Session Setup

Silent Way's Definitive Guide to the
DTRS Modular Digital Multitrack Recorder

Part of the tips and tricks public archive, courtesy of Silent Way Remote Audio Recording and Media Asset Management in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2010 Silent Way. Unauthorized reuse is prohibited.

(For more, download the DA-88 Manual)

Setting up a multiple DA-88 system:

Multiple DTRS machines sync together by means of sample-accurate ABS (Absolute Time). You must assign an ID number to each machine to asign an order in the chain, and this ID is briefly displayed during startup. The first two DTRS machines, the DA-88 and the Sony PCM-800, use a zero-based index. The rest start at 1.


First Machine ID

Further IDs

Where to set ID


0 1, 2, etc. On back, tiny orange knob

Sony PCM-800

0 1, 2, etc. On back, tiny orange knob


1 2, 3, etc. Press "Shift". Then go to Menu--> id.SEL


1 2, 3, etc. Press "Shift". Then press "Menu" --> System. Press "Sub Menu" --> id.SEL


1 2, 3, etc. Menu Group 3, Mcn ID

So for DA-88 and PCM-800, the "Machine ID" orange rotary knob on the back of Machine 1 (tracks 1-8) should be set to "0."  The ID switch on Machine 2 (tracks 9-16) should be set to "1". (Machine 3, tracks 17-24: ID "2" etc.) There is only an ID 0 on the DA-88 and PCM-800. All other DTRS machines refer to themselves as Machine 1, Machine 2, etc and the ID is selected in a menu instead of a tiny knob on the back.

Make sure all power is off. Connect the sync cable with trapezoidal 15-pin connectors from the jack on Machine 1 marked "Sync Out (to DA-88)" to the jack on Machine 2 marked "Remote in/Sync in (From RC-848/DA-88)". Secure the cable by turning the thumbscrews, but not too tightly! These are easy to strip and don't need to be too tight. For more decks, use the same procedure. Then, connect the termination plug to the jack on the last DA-88 marked "Sync Out (to DA-88)".

If you are using the RC-848/RC-898/RC-828 Remote Autolocator, find the remote cable marked "RC-848" (898/828); this cable has 15-pin connectors on each end, but note that pins 5-9 are missing. This differentiates this cable from an ordinary sync cable. With all DA-88 power switches off, connect this cable from the jack on the remote marked "REMOTE OUT (To DA-88)" to the jack on Machine 1 marked "Remote in/Sync in (From RC-848/DA-88)." Click here for replacement cable info.

This completes the serial chain: Remote-->Machine 1-->Machine 2, etc.-->Termination plug.

Analog audio in/out:

(For info on choosing the right cables, see the section on DTRS cabling.)

Note ahead of time what type of fanout you will need: +4 dBm balanced female XLR, male XLR or 1/4" TRS fanouts; for short cable runs, -10 dBV unbalanced RCA or 1/4" is another option. Also, if you are interfacing with balanced equipment, check if it is PIN 2 HOT or PIN 3 HOT.

Click here to download a diagram of the pin-out configuration of the DB25 jack on the DA-88.

To use the balanced (+4dBm) I/O, attach the DB25-to-XLR (or DB25-to-1/4" TRS) snakes to the jacks on the DA-88. The DB25 end of all snakes are male.

DO NOT connect DB25 analog snakes to the TDIF Digital I/O port expecting AES/EBU! This requires the IF-88AE interface unit for the DA-88, or a differently wired fanout for the Sony PCM-800. However, digital dubbing between two DA-88s just requires the PW-88D cable connected between these ports. A diagram of the TDIF jack can be found here (unofficial, but still useful).

To use the unbalanced (-10dBV) RCA connectors, just plug into the phono-plug RCA jacks.

Finally, connect the standard IEC power cords to each DA-88 and plug them in.

Double check that all connections are appropriate and secure, and turn on the power to all DA-88s.

For cable part numbers see the section on DTRS cabling.

Digital audio in/out:

TDIF is a digital 8 channel i/o protocol, which uses one cable for both in and out. There has been one revision in TDIF (v 1.1, used in every model except the original DA-88) which added Emphasis On/Off, Word Clock and Error Check bits to the stream. There was also reportedly a change in the polarity of word clock with this revision, and TDIF digital devices, such as I/O cards for digital mixers, have switches to allow for either type of TDIF clock. (See descriptions of the Yamaha 02R and Panasonic DA7 digital mixers.)

AC power:

All digital recorders and their internal clocks are sensitive to power fluctuations, and can be adversely affected by irregular AC. A Furman Pro Power Conditioner/Regulator or an equivalent professional regulator will flatten out any AC power feed and will provide the DA-88s with a steady, spike-free 117 volts. Make sure that the DA-88s and any other digital recorders, including DATs, are powered by a power conditioner. At a few hundred dollars, it will foster a cleaner recording and it's cheap insurance.

Standard household powerstrips are not adequate, especially for on-location recordings. For generator-powered recordings, you MUST use a power conditioner. Venues that seem to provide steady power often don't do so, because the stage lighting, PA and even the bar/kitchen may be on the same circuit. Also, certain industrial parts of a city can have major fluctuations. Without proper protection, the results may be dropouts, errors, loss of sync between DA-88s, or even damage to sensitive circuitry.

To Record:

With each preformatted tape in the appropriate machine, push CHASE on slave machine(s). (See Chapter Two for the formatting procedure.)

Engage Record Ready on all of the tracks you wish to record on by pushing each REC FUNCTION button, located directly under the Peak Level meters. To start recording, using Machine 1's controls, hold RECORD and push PLAY. The machines are synchronized when all the REC lights on all of the decksstop flashing and glow a steady red.

If possible, plan to start your recording after the first three minutes, because the deck shifts into a slower shuttle speed when rewinding across the 3 minute mark, and this can become annoying when mixing.

An interesting overdubbing side note: When "punching in" across multiple machines, the first machine will punch in a bit quicker than the rest. So if you have a 24-track DA-xx system, and you arm tracks 1, 9 and 17, the punch will start a few milliseconds later on tracks 9 and 17.

For more details, download the DA-88 Manual.

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