Is pre-recorded software available for DCC? Not anymore. There used to be some prerecorded tapes but they're sold out everywhere as far as I know (even the Philips shop doesn't carry them anymore). Anyway it seems that at least here in the Netherlands there were never any prerecorded MD's either.
What are the advantages of pre-recorded DCC software? There are three kinds of DCC: prerecorded tapes, user tapes and super-user tapes. With prerecorded tapes, the subcode track on the tape carries a continuously repeated stream of data with tape title, song titles and artist names and (possibly) lyrics. User tapes (which are the tapes that are made by recorders that don't support text such as the DCC-900) don't contain any text data (just markers), and super user tapes may contain text data attached to each track-starter mark.

That means with prerecorded tapes you can search by title, because the player can retrieve the entire list of titles from everywhere on the tape. By contrast, super-user tapes cannot be searched by title because the recorder can only retrieve the title of each song at the start of that particular song. Also, as far as I know, the tape title and artist name cannot be recorded by any current recorder except the DCC175 (and only if you connect it to a PC, and the DCC175 can't display text data on super user tapes) and most recorders have limitations on the characters you can enter for the song title (for example, only capital A-Z, 0-9, + - and *). The limit of the song title, artist name and tape title is 40 characters each.

Can I record "pre-recorded" software on my own deck? No. Even the DCC175 attached to a PC records super-user tapes only, although you don't need to make a separate pass through the tape to record the text data: it can be recorded on-the-fly while recording audio from harddisk.
Is it possible to use analog tapes as DCC tapes? This is probably the most frequently touched subject on DCC-L. Lots of people tried drilling holes in analog tapes to turn them into DCC tapes, with varying rates of success. In theory, it's just not supposed to work: the data rate for PASC is 384kbits/sec, which results in a 48kHz frequency range per head, and analog tapes are just not designed to take that amount of data. That is why Philips decided to use the same tape as in video cassettes, in addition to improving the mechanical properties of both cassette and head assembly (see the Philips DCC page)

If you want to try it yourself in spite of this, here are some tips:

  • Use a chrome tape; the Magneto-Resistive heads can't record well on metal tape, how unlikely this may seem. Fuji and TDK SA-X give the best results according to those who have tried.
  • Use a new cassette if possible; an old tape may have been damaged or stretched slightly by a bad analog recorder.
  • Drill the holes (you need at least two) in such a way that no debris ends up inside the cassette. Use a piercer instead of a drill, and/or hold the cassette upside down while you're doing it.
  • Remember that the recording-blocking taps work reversely for DCC: hole=record; tap=protect.
  • Don't record anything valuable on a fake DCC: even if you don't get drop-outs right away, the recording may deteriorate rapidly for various reasons: tape quality (mechanical as well as magnetic), cassette quality (mostly the pressure pad behind the tape), recorder state (dirty heads) etc.
Are there any cleaning tapes? Philips used to have a DCC cleaning cassette as SBC3500 which was also included with the DCC824 car stereo. It works with 5 pads and 2 bristles that clean the capstans, pressure rollers and heads with propyl alcohol. However it is probably sold out by now.

If you want to clean the heads of your stationary recorder, you'll have to open it up (unless it's a portable where the heads are easily accessible) and clean them carefully with a soft cloth and a bit of alcohol. Don't use a swab or spirit because that may leave more dirt behind than it cleans up.

Last updated: November 23, 1997.
Author: Jac Goudsmit (jacg a xs4all.nl)
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