Do the Access Jacks on The 388 Only Work With Unbalanced Jacks?

You should be able to interface balanced and unbalanced equipment just fine with the 388 insert points, but as always you should consult the operations manuals for both devices to rule out if there are any caveats, and always follow the cabling/connection instructions. Often times there are specific instructions for how to interface the balanced device with an unbalanced device. If you want more help you’ll need to be much more specific…specifics about your cabling and specifics about the device or devices you are interfacing with the 388 insert points.
I acquired a Behringer Ultrapatch which has balanced 1/4" sockets on both sides. So I bought a pair of 8 to 8 snakes/looms with balanced 1/4" plugs on each end, assuming that a balanced plug inserted into the unbalanced 1/4" sockets on the 388 would pass signal as per normal. Turns out that's not true.

I bought an 8 to 8 unbalanced snake from Thomann to see if I could get away with having a balanced jack in one socket and an unbalanced jack in the other. It still didn't pass signal through the patchbay to the monitor buss (and, yes, the monitor buss is working). So my next move will be to get another unbalanced snake for both send and receive and see if that fixes it.
God, I'm confused. Tried it with unbalanced patch cables. Didn't work at first until I noticed that I'd forgotten to arm track 1 for record. Then it worked. Also with balanced patch cables. But, I swear that when I tried it with the snakes I had track 1 armed and nothing was happening then.
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I’m confused…am I correct in deducing you don’t have any effects devices involved at the moment, you have a snake plugged into the SEND jacks of channels 1-8 of the 388 and that snake terminates in a patchbay, I assume to the top row of 8 jacks in the back, and you have a snake plugged into the RCV jacks of channels 1-8 of the 388 and that terminates in that same patchbay to the 8 jacks in the rear just below the 8 jacks to which you have the SEND snake connected? And if that is all correct do you have those patchbay jacks configured as normalled or half-normalled?
Yes. Which is why it's confusing. And those channels on the patchbay were set to half normalled in both instances
Well, I don’t know what to say about what is going on…it is possibly user error and I don’t say that to be critical…I’m working through some of the same things as I get my Tascam prototype console setup…plenty of “oh duh” moments. It shouldn’t matter with that patchbay and the 388 if you use TS or TRS snakes, the critical thing is the SEND jacks connect to the top row of patchbay jacks in the back, the RCV jacks connect to the bottom row in the back, and each patchbay jack set must be configured normalling or half-normal. If setup that way the 388 should work just like you have nothing plugged into the SEND/RCV jacks. Now, there is one caveat…if you haven’t used the insert points on the 388 very much and depending on the conditions in which it’s been used and/or stored during its life there could be some oxidation on the contacts in the SEND/RCV jacks. And this will manifest as intermittent connections that seem inconsistent. I know people berate the RCA jacks on the old Tascam stuff and others, but honestly they tend to perform more reliably at age compared to the TS jacks because of the way the contacts mate to the plug…there’s something of a more positive mating with the RCA jacks. The down-side to the RCA jacks, at least those that are PCB mounted to phenolic boards is compromised solder joints. So I find sometimes with the RCA jack PCBs I have to re-flow solder joints, but the jacks themselves work better even when visibly oxidized, and with the TS jacks they need a bunch of exercising, maybe some clearing with canned air, and even a little spritz of DeoxIT D5. Maybe try some of that and see if it helps. I just dealt with this with a Tascam PB-32R patchbay…it’s really clean and nice on the outside and I assumed it would be fine, but there was no end to the futzing with the jacks…I cut my losses and swapped in one of my Neutrik NYS-SPP-L TRS patchbays…16 more points, easier to configure, glass fiber PCB material for the jack sets…tight positive contact jacks. Problem solved. This is not your problem as far as at the patchbay end, but you might be struggling with the same issue but at the machine end.
Good deal. If problems crop up again with a given channel try first exercising the plugs at the SEND/RCV jacks for that channel.