Converting a Tascam 788 to use SD cards


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Hi to all, Has anyone had any luck converting their 788 from a hard drive format to a SD card reading format? I haven't been able to upgrade my unit from version 2.00 and because of its age I'm worried that one of these days the hard drive will die. I love the machine and I'm just looking for any options to keep it working. I have a Tascam DP 01 that I could use a hard drive from if that might work for a backup. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance! dadroadie
Yes, just this week I was able to successfully convert my Tascam 788 to use an SD card reader instead of the original hard drive. Inspiration for this project came from this video on YouTube

I used the same model of IDE to SD card device as specified in the video (with SD35VC0 imprinted on the circuit board). This circuit board is readily available on eBay and Amazon for $15 or less. I've used a 16GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC card rated at 30MB per second. I formatted the card on my PC as specified in the video (although I'm not sure that was necessary). I've been able to record 6 tracks simultaneously with no problems. The only real challenge that I encountered with this conversion is the limited amount of clearance within the chassis of the 788. The original hard drive power connector plugs in vertically to the new circuit board which leaves very little room to reinstall the access plate. Also, my 788 unit has limited slack on the 40 pin connector cable (which makes mounting the circuit board near the back of the 788 nearly impossible.) So, rather than drilling and cutting holes I simply mounted the SD card circuit board to the access plate with medium duty Velcro strips. Since the board is mounted to the metal plate I was careful to isolate the back of the circuit board with electrical tape to avoid short circuits. The disadvantage of mounting the card internally is that I will not be able to quickly change out the SD card, however there is really no reason to remove and reinsert the card anyway (because the data that is written to the card by the 788 is a proprietary format and not useable on a PC). If the SD card ever fails it will be easy enough to open the access plate (6 screws) and replace the card. Watch the video and read through my notes above and I think you will have no problems with the conversion. Let me know if you have questions or run into problems. FYI... I am running version 2.02 of the firmware.


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I'm confused (no surprise there).
There is something from the original poster that I don't understand.
Correct me if I'm wrong.

It sounds like the original poster wants to replace the hard drive with an SD card.
It looks like the video accomplishes that.
If the hard drive dies, that has no effect on the operating system.
The operating system V2.0 or V2.02 is not stored on the HD.
It is stored in the EEPROM, which is not part of the HD.
I have had hard drives die, and I have also replaced hard drives when they filled up, and have never had to touch the operating system.
All I had to do was to format the HD.

If I'm correct so far, I'm not sure I see the advantage technically of converting from a HD to an SD card, since hard drives are readily available.
SD cards are smaller for storing them externally, and are quieter, but other than that.........

Also, I watched the video.
One minor thing that I saw: At about 14:20 he attempts making a new recording.
He talks into the mic, but the level meter on the 788 doesn't move.
My guess is that he didn't have the mic plugged in, but the fact is that he didn't prove that the machine will now record with the SD card drive.
Since TM54 didn't say anything, we'll assume that all is up and running.

By the way, I bought my 788 and CDR drive used in 2001.
I have upgraded the firmware a long time ago to the latest.
And............I LOVE MY 788!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dear Tascam: Instead of upgrading everything and coming out with new models and etc etc etc........JUST BUILD THIS!!!!!!!!!!
REISSUE THE 788!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IDE hard drives are becoming more difficult to find. Most are going to be used pulls, which might be good for a month or 5 years. Smaller drives are not being made anymore. You never see much below about 250GB.

On the other hand, SDHC cards are available everywhere, 64GB cards run about $15-20 a pop. One other advantage is that there are not spinning platters, so there is ZERO noise.

I have an R24 and I use 16 or 32GB cards in the same way people use reels of tape. Do the recording, copy the files to computer for later editing, then file the card away in an envelope for safe keeping. I can keep a hundred hours of recordings in a index card file box.
Talisman-Rich: I think that we are talking two entirely different subjects here.

Once again, somebody correct me if I'm wrong........

The subject of this topic thread is to replace the HD in the 788 with an SD card.
It sounds like this is possible.

However, just to clear things up......................

The 788 HD data is a proprietary Tascam format.
It is NOT WAV or MP3 or anything else.
You are not going to transfer that HD data straight to a computer and do anything with it.
The only way to make your 788 recordings editable on a computer is to burn a CD of WAV files using the 788 and its proprietary CD/CD-RW burner.
Then you can take the CD of WAV files and load it on to a computer.

Your (I'm assuming Zoom) R24 may have a different file format on the SD cards, and it sounds like it is WAV.
If true then you can do that and edit them straight on the computer.

But once again, that is NOT the same as the 788.

If there was a way to get rid of that proprietary CD drive, and burn WAV or MP3 or whatever files straight to an SD card or other medium, that would be a major step forward IMO
Yes, the Zoom does save to wav format, but that's not the point of the exercise.

I understand that the Tascam is proprietary format. I have a Yamaha AW16G that I've planned to convert for fun. The reason is that the drive is limited in size, and like the 788, the only way to get music off is to dump it to CD. It's a proprietary format as well. Once the drive fills up, you have to dump off projects. I recorded some practice sessions and that took up lots of space. I had to export each channel, one at a time to a CDRW just to save them. That took the best part of a day just to save those tracks. The only other way to get the tracks would be to do an analog transfer from the line output, or from an optical digital out to MiniDisc.

It's like having a tape deck, but only one reel of tape.

By converting to an SD card, you could pull out the card, put in a new one and have a clean system to work with. Here is an article doing it with the Yamaha.

The Yamaha is actually a bit tougher to do since the OS resides on the HD, not in an EPROM. It needs to be formatted and the OS installed from a CD.

When they issued the AW1600 some years later, they ditched the optical output and added a USB port. You could then back up and restore the projects to a computer, but it was still in proprietary format. Someone eventually cracked the system and created AWExtract, which let you pull out the bare wav files.
If there was a way to get rid of that proprietary CD drive, and burn WAV or MP3 or whatever files straight to an SD card or other medium, that would be a major step forward IMO
BTW, the CD isn't unique to the Tascam, it was SCSI, which was a widely used protocol from 35 years ago. It was used by Apple, and the Atari ST. I have an old SCSI Syquest hard drive system that used removable platters. I also had SCSI hard drives that were used to run a BBS. SCSI was replaced by USB and Firewire.

That's one problem with old protocols that are superseded by new ones. The old stuff becomes orphaned, just like computer operating systems. You don't see anyone running OS/2, Win 3.1, or Novell Netware anymore for the same reason.
The 788 was my first digital recorder.
It's a great idea to convert it to SD, for reliability and quietness of operation, and to extend the machine's life of operation as regular laptop drives get phased out.
The one thing I remember from the 788 is the persistent reading noises from the drive (which was in good shape).