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Thread: Tascam 244 Blues - Are My Heads Worn?

  1. #1
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    Tascam 244 Blues - Are My Heads Worn?

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    Hey folks, would you guys spare a moment to help me out?

    I bought a Tascam 244 off eBay recently. The seller claimed everything was tested, but the pinch roller was so gummed up when it arrived, it was blatantly obvious that wasn't the case.

    I got a partial refund, fixed the pinch roller and all the belts are A-OK. But now I run into even more trouble...

    I'm testing with test tones from my DAW. Monitoring through the Tascam, everything sounds fine (so I assume it's not the preamp?)

    Upon playback, there are huge volume and clarity differences between recorded tracks. These differences themselves are inconsistent. On some recordings, it's track 1 that sounds bust. I fast forward onto another part of the cassette, or put in another cassette, and suddenly it's track 2 that's bad. At one point, track 3 was completely silent!

    (Yes, I've cleaned the heads! It helps, but only a little...)

    EDIT: I used some longer test tones. There are little dips and drops in volume within each track too, on top of the volume differences from track to track.

    I cross-checked with another working 4 track I have. I hear these differences too. So I'm quite sure these differences are recorded into the tape, and don't arise upon playback.

    Admittedly, I'm a total newbie to working with these 4 track cassette machines, and analog as a whole. I'm suspecting it's the play/rec head that's worn down, but honestly I have no clue! I now turn towards your collective wisdom.

    If not the heads, what else could it possibly be?

    I've attached some pics here, I hope you guys could take a look? Please help! I feel like I'm about to go mad.

    Thanks in advance, I appreciate it very much!

    Last edited by clivengcy; 06-25-2019 at 08:59.

  2. #2
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    The heads look clean. They look fine. I don't think they look worn. Worn heads would not be my first suspicion.

    There can be many inconsistencies between cassette cartridges, from one to the other, and some of that depends on the brand of tape.

    Large inconsistencies between record and playback volume on tracks, in my experience, is a calibration issue which can be corrected.

    For recorded signal to completely disappear intermittently bears some scrutiny.

    It may be that the settings were wrong or something else simple. It may also be a breakpoint in the signal anywhere in the chain, which might indicate intermittent connectors or switches, due to age and corrosion. Often, switches and faders that are intermittent will correct themselves with some use. Alt, some recommend using contact cleaning spray on switches, faders and connectors. There are many connectors and paths in the signal chain, internal to the Portastudio. Calibration is also setting levels internally on the circuit boards, which requires a legitimate calibration standards tape and can be done at home but is often the realm of professional analog technicians. A lot of people on this board DIY, but it takes investment in tools and solid technical abilities. You need that cal tape as a baseline, and you can't DIY or wing it.

    Having refurbished several 244s and 246s, I've been able to correct level discrepancies as you've described through calibration. It was quite some process. It took me hours to get it dead-nuts-on, because I am a perfectionist and am no longer a professional component-level tech. You also have to keep the head spotlessly clean throughout the whole process.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails im004568-jpg  
    Last edited by A Reel Person; 06-25-2019 at 17:02.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lt. Bob
    ... subtleties of sound make a difference to those who really listen.

  3. #3
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    As Reel Person said, I don't think it's the heads at all.

    I think it's most likely some corroded connections that need to be reseated and cleaned with contact cleaner. I've had similar issues with more than one four-track recorder, and that's what fixed it on more than one occasion.

    Tascam uses a bunch of ribbon connectors in these units, which can be pulled out and plugged back in with your bare hands (or sometimes you may need a small pair of pliers if it's a tight fit). If you're not too afraid, you can open it up and give that a try. Just do it with every one of these connectors you see. (It's very unlikely they all need it, but if you're new to this, then it would take too long to explain which ones need it, and it's not going to hurt anything, assuming you're careful.)

    When unplugging the connectors, never pull by the wires. Always grasp the plastic connectors themselves. They should pull straight out. If some are a bit hard to get, they'll usually come by gently rocking them side to side a bit as you pull up.

    Once you have them unplugged, spray some contact cleaner (such as De-Oxit) on the terminals and in the connector. Then plug and unplug them a few more times before finally plugging them back in for good.

    Do some searching on this forum for the 244 or also on YouTube. I think several people have documented repairs on it, and some of them may tell you exactly how to get inside the unit and what to expect, etc.

    See the attached photo for the type of connectors I'm talking about.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 244-innards-jpg  
    famous beagle

  4. #4
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    It's hard to tell from the pics if the head is worn.If you run your fingernail top to bottom ,is there a lip or visible slot the width of the tape in the head? If you plar back a previously good track,is it bad now? Are you using a new CR02 tape?

  5. #5
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    Does the 244 use mechanical relays for signal switching?

  6. #6
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    In order to tell what is really happening you need to put the right signal into the unit per the service manual. Then using Chrome tape like Maxell XL II then evaluate. Yes there are relays in there but I have also caught channel problem due to bad solder joints. I don't think the heads are bad but this looking is not so easy to see- bad heads are usually having a ripple surface as seen with magnification and good light. My shop has new heads for the deck in case it needed them. Lack of good recording could be use of the wrong tape- I get lots of Porta Studios in with Normal tape in them and or could be the garbage 799 type Korean Chrome tape that is 5dB down right off the bat. I always test my units with Maxell XL II and I have no problem calibrating the decks with that. TDK SA or SAX would also be a possibility.
    Best regards,
    Skywave Tape Deck Repair, Chicago area

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