Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
hussey
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Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 3:39 pm

A friend of mine is selling one, and i would to take him up on it. As you can tell, i'm looking for that lo-fi, warm sound. I'm just a bit sure of how to connect this to my interface. Is there an input and output on the tascam? If so, does it go interface > tascam > tascam > interface? How would it be setup in Live? Thanks for any feedback.

savyurrecords
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Re: Tascam portastudio

Post by savyurrecords » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:07 pm

There are a number of ways of using a portastudio in your setup. However, I will refrain from describing how to use SMPTE timecode to try and sync the two systems together.

The most common way would be to play audio from your computer through your audio interface to the inputs on the portastudio and record the audio to the tape in a non-synced manner. You then play the tape back and record it onto the the computer. Remember there will be no sync between the two recorders so you will have to align the sounds up afterwards. Part of the 'sound' of a tape recorder comes from the fact that the motors never spin perfectly thus giving the audio warble (ie speed modulation).

The actually connections to the tascam depend on what you are after. If you take your audio interface outs (line-level) and connect it to the mic inputs of the Tascam you are granted the opportunity to use the mic preamps as a distortion effect by overloading the preamps. The tascams typically have outputs on headphones connectors and line level RCA jacks.

I would say the best way to do all of this though is through experimentation and not worrying about messing something up because messing stuff up is exactly what you are trying to achieve. A trick that is pretty fun is to record on tape at one speed (3 3/4 ips) and play back at the slower speed 1 7/8 ips. Also use the pitch control wheel (it is really just a transport speed control) to change speeds, even as the audio plays.

This all being said it is a lot of work to run the audio out and back to only get a Tascam Portastudio sound which is actually a bit more 'hi-fi' than you might think. BTW please refrain from using the warm with reference to Portastudios. I spent over a decade with them they are by far warm.

Rich

hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:19 pm

I really appreciate the reply (sorry for using the term "warm"). Are you saying the tascam might not be what i'm looking for? Would you recommend any other tape recorders? My idea was, that if i sent audio out into the tascam, and back into Live, it would give the audio a bit of character, to which I could manipulate. I thought the tascam might fulfill that. I read this article, and it had me thinking the tascam would be a good acquisition if i wanted some lo-fi characteristics to my sound.


http://abletonlife.com/how-to-go-lo-fi- ... ive-part-1

flashy12
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by flashy12 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:31 pm

I use to have the tascam porta 414 4-track machine


if by "warm" you mean "tape hiss" then youl'l get what your after
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hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:55 pm

Thanks, flashy. Did it have a decent sound? I'm still a bit unsure as to how the tascam will the detect the sound from Ableton. I'm aware i send the audio to my interface, and from there, into the tascam. How will I know which channel it's being assigned to? Is there multiple inputs on the tascam, or something like that? Sorry for asking such basic questions.

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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by Simbosan » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:10 pm

Maybe check out s/w emulation: FerricTDS gets some good reviews

EDIT: My old Tascam 244 was the shiznit, and yeah it has 4 inputs, 4 send/return loops.

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leedsquietman
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by leedsquietman » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:29 pm

I recorded on Tascam Portastudios for years - yes, it sounds good so long as it has a nice hot signal (unlike 24 bit digital recording with huge headroom and low noisefloor, analogue recording will pick up noise and be hissy if you record too quiet).

If you use it as a signal processor (like a preamp stylee), just to feed your DAW audio into and then back out again (like a summing mixer), it should not introduce any latency. If you record to cassette then it may be subject to speed fluctuations as said before, and also other tape imprefections such as ferric oxide buildup on playback and record heads, capstan issues etc, which may be sonically pleasing, or not depending on your needs. If you record to tape, you get the benefit of tape saturation/compression if your levels are quite hot and will probably find that unless you throw a bunch of hi end EQ, that your frequency response above 8Khz will be reduced a bit.

If you just use the tape machine on individual tracks and then feed them back to your DAW, you might find you need to play with the alignment a bit.

A guy just got a basic Philips tape recorder and was happy with the sound on another thread on here recently ...

My friend has an Otari BX5050mkIII 1/4" reel to reel with Dolby SR which he uses to 'warm' up his mixes. This is preferable to a Portastudio as it is higher fidelity and lower hiss, while being able to be pushed further for tape compression on it's much larger tape.
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hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:57 pm

leedsquietman wrote:I recorded on Tascam Portastudios for years - yes, it sounds good so long as it has a nice hot signal (unlike 24 bit digital recording with huge headroom and low noisefloor, analogue recording will pick up noise and be hissy if you record too quiet).

If you use it as a signal processor (like a preamp stylee), just to feed your DAW audio into and then back out again (like a summing mixer), it should not introduce any latency. If you record to cassette then it may be subject to speed fluctuations as said before, and also other tape imprefections such as ferric oxide buildup on playback and record heads, capstan issues etc, which may be sonically pleasing, or not depending on your needs. If you record to tape, you get the benefit of tape saturation/compression if your levels are quite hot and will probably find that unless you throw a bunch of hi end EQ, that your frequency response above 8Khz will be reduced a bit.

If you just use the tape machine on individual tracks and then feed them back to your DAW, you might find you need to play with the alignment a bit.

A guy just got a basic Philips tape recorder and was happy with the sound on another thread on here recently ...

My friend has an Otari BX5050mkIII 1/4" reel to reel with Dolby SR which he uses to 'warm' up his mixes. This is preferable to a Portastudio as it is higher fidelity and lower hiss, while being able to be pushed further for tape compression on it's much larger tape.
Thanks, leedsquietman, but because i'm sort of new to production, i don't really understand what you mean. Sorry i'm such a noob.

Basically, I want to send an audio track from Ableton, to the interface, and into the tascam. I would then like to record the audio from Ableton, to tape. I then want to play the tape back, and send it back into Ableton. The sound would then have a bit of character to it, to which I can then play around it. I would repeat the process for each audio track. Savy mentioned earlier that this could be tedious, and questioned whether it would be worth the hastle, just for the sound of the portastudio. I was looking at some reel to reel recorders, but they seem difficult to maintain, and that's what's putting me of them. I know there are plug-ins, which add some tape-sounding effects, so I could have a look at them, but I don't know if they would sound as good. I could look at maybe some cassette recorders (hand held) but I don't know if you could intertwine them with your interface, if you know what I mean. I heard someone say before that you record the sound that's coming into the recorder, with a mic, which sounds cool, but I don't know if the recorder would have inputs, to which sound would come from Ableton. Sorry for the noob mindset. :)

Simbosan
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by Simbosan » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:06 pm

Crazy idea, the quality would probably suck but to save the hassle of recording, then replaying, I wonder if you could use an old tape echo with a single delay =)

S
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hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:18 pm

Simbosan wrote:Crazy idea, the quality would probably suck but to save the hassle of recording, then replaying, I wonder if you could use an old tape echo with a single delay =)

S
Is it that crazy? I don't want the quality to be polished, I want it rough and distorted. For the purpose of it being somewhat lo-fi, i don't think it is a crazy idea. I guess it depends on what music your making. I want to make visceral pieces, you know?

tigali
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by tigali » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:46 pm

What your talking about doing is perfectly normal and done all the time (especially in hypnagogic music). I have a Tascam 414 and it sounds amazing. Yes it's hissy, but it's also very special. Casette tape compression fucking rocks on some stuff. I also have a Tascam TSR 8 reel to reel and the casette can be nicer on some stuff (D.I.'d electric guitar and vox both sound great on casette). There is both ins and outs on the 414. You can use the monitor outs if the sends don't work.

oblique strategies
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by oblique strategies » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:50 pm

Get the model number from your friend & see if the manual is at the Tascam site:
http://tascam.com/legacy/

Even if it isn't, you could downloading a manual or two from other Portastudio models as an aid in getting familiar with the PortaStudio your friend has. If Tascam doesn't have the manual you can search for it online.

My experience with Tascam tape recorders has been positive. They are usually well made, & relatively easy to operate.

I still have my Tascam 238 8-track cassette deck, plus two other Tascam cassette decks. I also have a Sony Pro Walkman for cassette-based field recording.

I'm a tape-head.

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hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:52 pm

So it's cool to use it with Ableton, yeah? I take it it's not to hard to setup in live, is it? Thanks for your input, tigali.
Last edited by hussey on Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hussey
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by hussey » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:55 pm

oblique strategies wrote:Get the model number from your friend & see if the manual is at the Tascam site:
http://tascam.com/legacy/

Even if it isn't, you could downloading a manual or two from other Portastudio models as an aid in getting familiar with the PortaStudio your friend has. If Tascam doesn't have the manual you can search for it online.

My experience with Tascam tape recorders has been positive. They are usually well made, & relatively easy to operate.

I still have my Tascam 238 8-track cassette deck, plus two other Tascam cassette decks. I also have a Sony Pro Walkman for cassette-based field recording.

I'm a tape-head.

Image
It's a 414 mk2, oblique. I know it's going to be tedious to send each audio track, into the tascam, and back out, but i think the sound could be a worthy reward. It's funny you mention the sony pro, I was at Ben Frost on Tuesday, and he was had a mic on his one, switching tapes every so often.

oblique strategies
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Re: Tascam portastudio (tape recorder)

Post by oblique strategies » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:20 pm

hussey wrote: I know it's going to be tedious to send each audio track, into the tascam, and back out, but i think the sound could be a worthy reward.
It's not that big a deal. You'll see. :wink:
hussey wrote:It's funny you mention the sony pro, I was at Ben Frost on Tuesday, and he was had a mic on his one, switching tapes every so often.
Interesting. I'll look into it.

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