Recording Tricks: Alesis ADAT Recorders

The ADAT family of digital recorders

Alesis ADAT, ADAT XT, LX-20, XT-20: each trick is for all ADATs unless noted

Download manuals for all models here.

Reinitialize deck

Hold down "record" and "play" while powering up. (On the LX-20 only: Just hold down "Record" while powering up.)

Check head hours

If you are an ADAT owner, you MUST keep track of how many hours are on the deck's heads. Here's how:

Hold down "set locate" and "stop." The display shows the number of hours on the heads.

Check software version

Hold down "set locate" and "fast forward." The following are the last versions of EPROM (hard chip) software. According to Alesis (3/2003) these will not be updated any longer so these are final:

ADAT ("blackface"): 4.03

XT: 1.07

XT20: 2.01

LX20: 1.01

M20: 3.00 (not a chip- done by MIDI)

To buy the chips, contact Alesis: (310) 821-5000

Error Rate Display

To access a numerical readout of the error rate, hold down "set locate" and press "record enable 3" (under the level meter for track 3). The display briefly shows "diSP Err," and the error rate shows up in the right half of the time counter. The time is bumped over one column to make room for this new info, and the minutes are now diplayed in the hours column. (I noticed that on XTs and XT20s, if your tapes are formatted at 44.1k, this compact time display may be inaccurate, but the error rate is correct.)

Occasional bursts of error rates up to 10 or 15 are no problem. Rates above 30-40 may indicate the need for a head cleaning or your tape brand may not be a good choice.

To switch the display back to regular mode, hold down "set locate" and press "record enable 3" again. The display briefly shows "diSP rEG."

Cleaning the heads

All versions of ADATs need to be cleaned regularly or they will eat your tape. This is an ugly but neccesary fact. If you don't back up your master multitrack recordings, you are making a major mistake. Don't say I didn't warn you!

The best way to clean the heads is the same method you would use to clean a DAT recorder or other helical scan recorders: with lint-free chamois (such as M.G. Chemicals Chamois swabs #407 or Tech Spray Chamois tipped swabs) and 99+% pure isopropyl alcohol, avoiding any vertical movement of the swab with respect to the tape's path. Improper manual cleaning is potentially much more damaging than using a dry-cleaning tape. Replacing the heads is very expensive, so do it right or don't do it! Dry cleaning tapes are very abrasive and cause head wear each time they are used. Don't use this method unless you are in an emergency situation.

It is worth it to have the deck professionally cleaned and checked if you're getting serious errors or dropouts.

Hidden Shipping Mode

  • hidden "shipping mode" for ADAT XT and XT-20

shipping mode before

If you are shipping your XT or XT-20, put it in this "shipping mode." (See below for LX-20.) It will secure the transport for safer shipping:

  • WITH NO TAPE in the deck, power up the machine while holding down the "record ready/arm" buttons for tracks 1 and 7.
  • Display will read "0 SHiP *".
  • Press "play" and you will hear the transport engaging as if there was a tape in it. Give it a few seconds to complete.
  • Display will read "SHiP rdY". (Ship Ready)
  • Power down the deck. When it is powered up again, the transport will reset to normal mode. Allow a few seconds for this to complete before inserting a tape.

shipping mode after

  • hidden "shipping mode" for ADAT LX-20

Ship Ready procedure for the LX-20 (with thanks to Dave at CMC Studios who discovered this with LX-20 version 1.00 firmware)

  • WITH NO TAPE in the deck, power up the machine while holding down ONLY the "record ready/arm" button for track 7 (not 1 and 7 together as for
    the other machines)
  • Display will read "0 SHiP *".
  • Press "play" and you will hear the transport engaging as if there was a tape in it. Give it a few seconds to complete.
  • Display will read "SHiP rdY". (Ship Ready)
  • Power down the deck by unplugging the power cord. (Pressing Power Off has no effect.) When it is powered up again, the transport will reset to normal mode. Allow this to complete for a few seconds before inserting a tape.

The original ADAT has a slightly more complicated method to get to the "shipping mode":

  • WITH NO TAPE in the deck, power up the machine while holding down the "record ready/arm" buttons for tracks 1 and 7.
  • Display will read "ProG".
  • Press "Pitch Up" seven times, until the display reads "CAP." (Note the period in the display)
  • Press "Autoplay" and the period will disappear.
  • Put a tape just barely into the loading window, holding on to it very tightly.
  • Press "Pitch Down" and the loading mechanism will engage, going down WITHOUT the tape.
  • Press "Stop". The loading mechanism will make a few noises, and then the "Stop light" will stop blinking.
  • Power off the ADAT, and it's now in "shipping mode." It will return to normal when powered up.

Write Protect Override

ADATs can be write-protected by popping out the tab on the back edge of the shell, much like cassettes and DATS. (But the opposite of DTRS tapes.) Some tape brands (such as BASF pre-formatted tapes) have sliding tabs that can be easily slipped out of sight. If you don't have a sliding tab, a better method than popping out the tab is to use the ADAT's "Write Protect Override" feature by holding down the "Set Locate" button while pressing the track one record enable button. The screen will switch between "Prot On" and "Prot OFF." If you have an M20, different keys are used; Hold down "Peak Clear" and the track one record enable button.

Check out this Alesis list for more hidden fucntions.

Alesis XT-20 Only

  • optical output defaulted to 16 bits ("dithered") until version 2.01

The ADAT XT-20 is a 20 bit recorder. The optical digital output (aka "lightpipe") can be used to clone 20 bit ADAT tapes to another 20-bit capable ADAT or to send all 8 tracks to another device. When the XT-20 is reset to its factory default mode (by holding down "record" and "play" while powering up), the XT-20 resets this setting. Before software version 2.01, it would reset the output to "16 bits dithered" instead of "20 bits". Now it defaults to "20 bits". (Hold down "set locate" and "fast forward." to check your ADATs software version.)

There are three settings, selectable on the front panel via the "Digital Out" button:

  • "Out 16" - only 16 bits are sent out, with the extra 4 bits are truncated
  • "Out 16dt" - 20 bits are dithered down to 16 bits at the optical output of this deck
  • "Out 20" - all 20 bits are sent

Alesis M20 Only

  • Check head hours, software version

The Alesis M20 20 bit recorder was a major change from all previous ADATs. It has a different method of checking this essential info. First you must enter a diagnostic mode by Powering Up holding down "rec" 1+7 (red), then scroll to different menu items by pressing the keypad "up (yes)" and "down (no)" buttons.

To Check head hours: Menu Item # 16

To Check power-on hours: Menu Item # 17

The software version is not hidden- it's in the main edit menu. Update your M20 software here. It's done via a sequencer and a MIDI cable.

  • Alternate Hidden Functions (Perhaps added in a later software revision?)

    • Accessing hidden functions involves holding the Peak Clear button in combination with

      the following buttons:
      • Stop

        Displays drum head hours.
      • Eject

        When pressed on the master unit, only the master tape is ejected, i.e. the eject command is not sent to the slaves.
      • Record

        This allows the user to record on a write-protected tape. It toggles between “OVERRIDE WRITE PROTECT” which allows recording regardless of the write-protect tab status, and “SENSE WRITE PROTECT” which only allows recording if the write-protect tab is intact. Note that this function can only be toggled if a tape is loaded. The override is reset to sense the write-protect tab whenever a tape is ejected.
      • Auto Return

        Displays the number of continuous auto-loops.

    • Accessing other hidden functions involves holding the Peak Mode button in

      combination with the following buttons:
      • Stop

        The transport enters deck standby mode. In this mode, the cassette remains loaded in the transport and the tape is completely withdrawn into the cassette.
      • Eject

        This performs an auto-inject. When a cassette is partially inserted (as is the case when a cassette remains in the transport door after an eject command), the cassette will automatically load into the transport.

Alesis BRC: Big Remote Control

The BRC's software version can be found in the MIDI/Utility menu (press the MIDI/Utility button), item #12. (In the manual it is the 7th item, but this might have moved.) The BRC software version was 4.03 as of 10/00. Remember that the software version in the ADAT is independent from that of the BRC.

From the Alesis BRC FAQ:

Does the BRC support 44.1kHz?

The BRC can operate at 44.1kHz only by pitching down -147 steps. Once the BRC reaches -147 cents, the display will read 44.1. To record on an XT which is controlled by a BRC at 44.1 kHz , despite the fact the XT has the ability to run at 44.1, the system must still be pitched down from the BRC to -147 cents. Please note that the BRC can not generate accurate SMPTE while pitched down to 44.1.

What version software BRC do I need to control the ADAT XT, XT 20 or LX 20?

BRC version 2.04 or above is necessary to control the ADAT XT. Versions 2.00 or higher may be updated by software alone. You can obtain the user installable EPROM chip from the Alesis Parts Department if you reside in the United States. Versions below 2.00 require hardware modifications which must be performed at a local service center or at the factory. Customers residing outside of the United States would want to contact their local distributor regarding upgrades.

What software version does the original ADAT require to work with a BRC?

ADAT version 3.04 or higher is necessary in order to have an ADAT operate in conjunction with a BRC. If the BRC has version 2.00 or higher, you would need ADAT version 4.00 or higher. 4.03 was the current version of ADAT software as of 10/00. Versions 3.06 or higher may be updated by software alone. Versions below 3.04 or lower require additional hardware and must be updated at a service center or at the factory.

For more visit or call them: (401) 658-5760.