The Philips DCC130
|About the DCC130|
The DCC130 was Philips first-generation portable Digital Compact Cassette (DCC). It was a play-only unit which supported 16-bit resolution.
The Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) format was designed to allow users to record and play digital DCC tapes, as well as remain compatible with analog cassettes. The advantage of the DCC format was that the sound quality of the digital tapes far surpassed that of analog cassettes, and the DCC format itself was capable of sounding equal to or better than an audio CD. Some reviews claimed that DCC was surpassed only by Digital Audiotape (DAT).
To accurately reproduce audio at a quality level that can be compared to DAT, the DCC format uses Precision Adaptive Sub-band Coding (PASC) to encode the incoming audio signal. This process involves coding the audio as nine seperate bands of information on the tape; 8 data tracks plus one control track. The DCC format is built to accomodate dropouts that can occur on the tape and includes a reliable error-correction algorithm to ensure reliability.
The DCC130 was the first portable DCC unit produced. It was released after Philips had introduced the first-generation DCC component decks. The DCC130 was a play-only DCC portable, and was an attempt by Philips to satisfy the public's desire for a portable DCC unit. It even included such advanced features as an SP/DIF optical output, a remote control on the headphone cord, and a rechargeable battery. However, even at its introduction the DCC130 showed obvious signs of being "rushed" to market.
The "new" DCC130 package included the following:
The DCC130's specifications are classified below according to its digital and analog components:
The DCC130's LCD display can display the tape name, track name, or artist name while playing a prerecorded DCC cassette. It also incorporates a 3-step bass boost circuit, and Dolby B noise reduction for analog tapes.
Click here to download a DCC130 user's manual (1.4 MB zipped .pdf document). Note that while the original manual was published in many languages, I have only scanned the English part.
The DCC130 has a digital SP/DIF output. Most consumer portable digital equipment produced since the early 1990's conforms to the SP/DIF standard, and the DCC130 is no exception. The output plug provided is a full-sized optical Toslink connector. The fact that the plug is a full-sized Toslink is significant, since even the latest Minidisc and DAT portables lack this important feature. This digital output allows easy connection to other digital audio equipment without the need for any kind of adapter. By comparison, Sony's first Minidisc recorder, the MZ-1 (also released in 1992), had an SP/DIF optical output which used an optical miniplug, which required a special adapter or a special type of cable before it could be used with other digital equipment. This made Philips the first to provide such a feature on a portable.
Plays regular analog and digital DCC tapes
This was the main selling point used by Philips to sell the DCC in 1992. With the DCC format, the user was able to slowly upgrade to a new digital format, without the necessity of leaving an older format behind altogether. Both analog tapes and digital tapes could be played back on the DCC130, and any other DCC equipment. When analog tapes are played back in the DCC130, a frequency range of 20 Hz - 18 kHz can be heard, with a dynamic range exceeding 90dB.
Although the ability to play analog tapes back in the DCC130 is a nice feature, in hindsight the public didn't really care too much if DCC equipment was "backwards compatible". Anyone who could afford the DCC130's hefty price tag was generally not concerned about playing back analog cassettes anyway. Therefore, this "advantage" went virtually unnoticed by most consumers.
The DCC130 is built like a tank. The exterior feels like it is made of cast iron. It is heavy as a brick, and will very likely last forever. I have never seen a DCC130 fail. This reliability is also seen in many of Philips other first-generation DCC equipment, such as the DCC900. However, like the analog-tape compatibility feature, the general public couldn't care less if the portable they are buying will last 100 years.
Backlit display on main unit
The DCC130 has a very nice LCD display, which has a green backlight when plugged into an AC power source. The display makes it very easy to see the LCD screen. This backlight is invaluable when it comes to editing between the DCC130 and another DCC deck. The DCC130 can be used to play digital tapes and edit them on a recording deck.
Optical output usage is limited
Digital decks like the DCC130 are valuable in that they have onboard DA and AD converters. This digital conversion is necessary to encode digital information onto tape, and to decode it later. Obviously the DCC130 has no need to convert analog signals to digital; only the other way around. It is perhaps for this reason that Philips implemented the DA conversion in the way that they did. The SP/DIF optical output, perhaps the best feature of the DCC130, is limited in its use. It will only operate when the DCC130 is plugged into an AC power source, thereby meaning that in order to use it, the unit must no longer be "portable". Also perhaps the worst part is that the digital output will ONLY work when a digital DCC tape is being played. It will NOT work when playing analog tapes and therefore cannot be used as an A/D converter. If Philips had implemented the DCC130 so that it could convert analog tapes into digital output, the DCC130 would have sold out very quickly indeed. Yet another marketing opportunity missed by Philips.
Limited battery life
Since the DCC130 is supposed to be a "portable" unit, one would expect battery life that would make it "portable" for all practical purposes. However, the manual says that the DCC130 will attain a maximum 2.5 hours' battery life, and in "real world" usage the battery life falls to something less than 2 hours. Pretty disappointing for a "portable", given that at the time the DCC130 was new, Aiwa cassette walkmans were being sold with a play time of approximately 14 hours on a single charge. In addition, the DCC130 uses a special Philips battery pack and cannot use regular AA or AAA batteries. Combine this with the fact that the DCC130 is very awkward to recharge (explained later), and you have a portable digital tape player with some serious limitations. The user is truly limited to the use of the included battery pack with its short life. Most early digital recorders fell victim to this problem of high power consumption. A later attempt was made by Marantz with the PMD601 professional digital recorder to become more "portable" by increasing the size so that it could accommodate 6 "C" cells; however this made it far too big to be of interest to any "average" consumer.
Recharging requires a recharging stand
The DCC130 cannot recharge its batteries while inside the main unit. To recharge the battery, the user must remove the battery pack from the unit and lock it into a special recharging stand. The recharging stand itself is quite large. Now the unit becomes much less portable: In order to take the DCC130 on a trip and use it for a few days, one must haul around the DCC130, the recharging stand, and the mains cable.
Plugging into AC power
Of course, the entire point of the DCC130 was that Philips needed a "portable" DCC unit. In 1992, Sony had launched its "portable" Minidisc recorder, the MZ-1. And although the MZ-1 was larger than most paperback books and weight in at a weight that made it hard to think of as "portable", it was still more portable than the early DCC component decks. The DCC130 was supposed to bridge the void left by the lack of a portable recording DCC until the later-generation DCC portables (still in development) could be ready.
The DCC130 however was a disappointment as a portable. Running the DCC130 on AC (mains) power requires the most complicated setup I have ever seen on a piece of consumer equipment. The DCC130 itself is not designed to accept an AC adapter; instead it relies on the battery charging stand as an AC/DC transformer. Therefore, this is the sequence one must follow in order to connect the DCC130 to an AC power source:
If the average consumer can really follow the above chain and enjoy doing this every time, he/she is really ready for the world of pro equipment. Philips, on the other hand, could have thought of a simpler approach, considering the DCC130 was meant to be a "consumer" portable.
The DCC130 came with a remote integrated into the headphones. The remote controls tape play, direction and volume. It also incorporates an LED to let the user know it is operating, and this light is helpful in the way it flashes during track access times. The problem is, this remote in integrated into the headphone cord. If the user wants to use other headphones, this remote cannot be used anymore. This is a bad design since normally in a consumer situation, the headphones will need to be replaced after a year or so, and many people do prefer to buy better headphones for their portables anyway. Without the remote, the DCC130 is difficult to operate as a "portable". This headphone design is typical of early high-end portable audio devices. Within a few years all electronics manufacturers had redesigned the inline remotes so that there was a headphone plug on the remote itself, which allowed the user to either change headphones or choose not to use the remote if it wasn't needed.
This unit is "portable"?
The DCC130 is very big and heavy. Although it comes with a carry case, it would seem to be embarrassing to be seen carrying this monster around in public. The DCC130 is bigger than a portable CD player. The carry case makes it awkward to change tapes or even access needed tape functions such as "play" and "stop". Although the DCC130 was designed as a "portable", it is perhaps best described as "luggable". Indeed, the DCC170, a recording portable DCC produced a few years later, is smaller and lighter than the play-only DCC130.
The DCC130 was an attempt by Philips to popularize the DCC format. Philips initially had high hopes for DCC, since it was seen as an extension of the analog cassette, of which some 3 billion were sold worldwide each year by 1992. The DCC130 itself was a very high-quality machine, which included such features as dynamic bass boost and Dolby B noise reduction. However, to Philips' disappointment the DCC format only caught on as a niche product for high-end audiophiles, and this market segment alone was not enough to sustain the format.
The DCC130 perhaps best functions as a backup play-only DCC in case other DCC equipment fails. Being of sturdy construction and the fact that it was a high-end player in the first place, the DCC130 will ensure years of trouble-free operation. As with other DCC equipment, the sound is incredible. Close your eyes and listen to a prerecorded DCC; you won't believe your ears. Blind listening tests performed at DCC's debut showed a clear preference of most listeners for DCC. However, most consumers are not audiophiles; perhaps the quality of sound is lost on the general public.
For my purposes the DCC130 has and will continue to serve as a backup unit. The DCC format itself is now defunct; therefore there is not much chance of finding the DCC130 or any other DCC unit for sale anymore.
| To learn more about
DCC in general, there are a number of sources of information; including:
The DCC-L: The DCC mailing list, the official homepage for the DCC and a good resource for information.
The DCC FAQ: A good place to get answers to general questions about the DCC format.
Peter Frank’s DCC page: Pictures of many different DCC models.
Maarten Eijkhout’s page: In-depth information about the DCC175 (a portable DCC recorder with a PC interface) and general DCC information.
DCC-Info: A German DCC site with information and pictures of many DCC models.
The DCC Preservation Association: A Japanese site with links to a few other DCC sites and information.
Introduction to DCC: A copy of the original information posted by Philips on the DCC format.
The DCC900: My "other" DCC page, with information on one of Philips best DCC component decks.
The DCC134: Information about the portable DCC player DCC134.
The DCC170: Information about the portable DCC recorder DCC170.
The DCC175: Information about the portable DCC recorder DCC175 with PC link.
|Questions? Corrections? email me.|
|Last modified September, 2000||
accesses since September, 2000