sv3700/3800 question...


New member
Hi all,
I came across two DAT machines being sold for cheap by a guy upgrading his studio. Got both the 3700 and 3800 for about $150. I knew they had high hours and was gambling that at least one would work well (both look in good shape). Well, both units play and record, but the SV3800 (with 3,400 hours on it!) will play clearly for a short time, but then start sounding very "scratchy," kinda like extreme digital distortion. The "cleaning" indicator flashes on the display, but it continues to sound bad. If I hit "stop" and then play it again, it may sound clear again, at least for a short time.

Anyone have any experience with how these Panasonics degrade over time? Does this behavior mean throw it in the garbage, or maybe just needs some servicing? I'm thinking of just eBaying it starting at $50 looking for someone who repairs these.



Senior Moment
The 38000 can most likely be repaired for a couple hundred (or less) by some one like Gary Parisi. They degrade in two ways - head wear and drying out of rubber guides and brakes. My unit had only 14 hours when I got it yet still needed new guides and brakes (heads were fine).

If you are mastering or otherwise receiving two-track mixes/parts from other studios on DAT, it's worth fixing. If you are simply looking for something to mix to, CDR is far cheaper and can yield greater fs and bit depths...


New member


Thanks for the reply. Good info. But wondering about your CD-R comment. The reason I even thought about a DAT was I went back to some old mixes done on CD-R and found after about 6 years they had really degraded. Even on good quality discs. Getting worried that maybe these things aren't really made for the long haul and should have a second backup source.


Senior Moment
I'd rather be saddled with copying archives every few years to insure longevity than saddled with slightly longer lasting media that's limited in fs and bit depth.

Of course, I have 10 year old CDRs that are only slightly higher in error rates than what I can cut today. Good media + good burner is a pretty good medium...


Active member
ok, the 3800 doesn't need repair....

just clean it with a dat cleaning tape. put in a cleaning tape, press play, wait for 20 seconds, press stop, take it out. Never rewind a cleaning tape, they're meant for one single use on a strip of cleaning tape, next time just press play and continue on from that point of the cleaning tape.

Your machine should be fixed and working for $10 plus change, unless there's something seriously wrong with it, but it sounds like it's just dirty.

I know this is an old post, but I hate seeing misinformation out there. Try the cheap repair first, called basic maintenance.



New member
Sorry Don, but your post was very misguided. Those DAT cleaning tapes are only for minor temporary cleaning. DAT players can be very finicky. This is a big reason why people so quickly moved away from them. In this specific case, the player may only need a little cleaning like mentioned, but it may be much more serious. One of the most common things I see with DAT players is their alignment. When they get out of alignment they start doing exactly what was described above. This is a problem that a DAT cleaning tape will not help at all. Also, most all of your actual repair guys will reccomend that you do not use those cleaning tapes on DAT players or ADAT machines unless absolutely necessary.


Senior Moment
dkelley said:
ok, the 3800 doesn't need repair....
I'm amazed at your powers to determine the issue from afar. No, seriously - I'm not just saying that...

I know this is an old post, but I hate seeing misinformation out there.
This is awesome.

I used to use a Panasonic 3800 with a similar problem that would also eat tapes. I fixed it by buying a Sony.


New member
thank you for this... I used the cleaning tape. but it ran full length, seems like it's ok... but I saw u say abt twenty econds,50 cleans... it did not do anything automatic... and your post that it actually starts when you manually clos the door... it never stopped, but my warning "cleaning" lite went and unit sounds good. tried to ascertain how to email you here, THANKS.. and tell me will a new 50 cleaning tape work if I just use it for 20 seconds (at a time) manually (understood about not rewinding)... using the 20 min "play" as correct cleaning procedure. thanks- I needed that.

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The trouble is rotary head machines of any kind need more specialist cleaning than tapes ever do, or can do. I’m old enough to remember at the tv station having all our rotary head video recorders in racks, on pull out runners, with no lids on, so we could pull them out, squirt the heads, wipe them and get them can up and running in less than a minute. Then heads got smaller and appeared in audio recorders and the size meant much harder to do.

Because it’s old technology, newcomers often don’t know that tape cleaners are not cleaners at all, but just dust removers and polishers. We all had favourites and they fall into two kinds. Gentle polishers, that remove thin build ups of oxide on the protruding bump of the head, plus wipe away loose bits that land on guides. They cannot remove the oxide that builds up in the head slots, either side of the head. Some brands were more abrasive, and recommended strict limits on time, because all tape cleaners are like running sandpaper through a precision machine, at some point they stop abrading oxide and start abrading your heads. Brand new heads protrude a very precise amount from the head surface, and deform the tape as they pass, creating a good contact area. As the tape surface is also slightly abrasive, this bump wears down, and jitters, as in doesn’t make good contact with the surface all the time, and it kind of vibrates over the head. The Panasonic’s have a very good error readout. On a new machine, from memory, it would read 0000, once the tape was moving, then, you’d suddenly notice little excursions up to maybe 80, or around that figure. A few seconds of cleaning tape fixed it. For a few times. Error correction would hide a few errors in 44 or 48 thousand every second, and you would hear perfect sound. Later, the display would jump up to over a thousand and you’d hear that high frequency jangly kind of noise. At this point, you stop using it, and get the solvents out and clean it properly, the cleaning tapes by this time were useless. After this had happened a few times, out came the machine and off it would go for new heads.

When you had multiple machines, another issue pops up. The 0000 readout from one machine would start to read over a 1000 on another as their alignment drifted, so the error correction was working hard to play a clean headed machines tapes! Once it then started to get dirty you had real problems, and alignment back to factory standard was needed. My Panasonic went in the skip last year when it refused to play old tapes. Sitting unused for ten years had baked the oxide solid, and my attempts to remove it damaged the heads terminally. The machine value was less than repair cost, and even as I could do the repair, I don’t have the test gear any longer. I bought a machine on ebay. First one faulty and returned but the second was fine. I digitised five tapes and the machine has not been used since, and I doubt ever again.

Rotary head machines of any type, video, audio or data, have a problem. Their value is less than repair cost. Buying any of them is a limited time risk. Cleaning tapes are like hosing your car tyres down after going off roading. At some point there is no tread left. Cleaning tapes are like the wash down, removing most of the rubbish, but not solving wear at all.