Going DAW-less

As far as dawless, I have 16 track tape and a desk. For a sketch pad, a Yamaha MD4 mini disc.

I see Tascam da88s going dirt cheap. They used to be so damn expensive. Wonder if that’s still a viable non-daw option.
As far as dawless, I have 16 track tape and a desk. For a sketch pad, a Yamaha MD4 mini disc.

I see Tascam da88s going dirt cheap. They used to be so damn expensive. Wonder if that’s still a viable non-daw option.
Its a great option if you know how to clean the cassette deck, which is not hard at all. The 88s have more parts available to buy and some have less than 400 hours on the drum head. The tapes are still available too.
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Well, of course you use what you have and as/ when the need arises. My son who has the very decent setup I mentioned has a Tascam hand held recorder and uses that sometimes for a scratch guitar recording (if you have bloody good eyes you could even track bounce and edit on it!)He has a Citronics USB mic pretty permanently hooked into his laptop to Skype me and uses that sometimes when he can't be arsed to set the mics up!

From when I got my first digital "studio box" (Tascam 788) both consciously and un-consciously that was my path:
I wanted something intuitive that wouldn't get in my way, and I never wanted to get bogged down in plugins and 100-track decisions.
I don't do hard rock, hip-hop or club, just mainly acoustic music (piano/bass/guitar). Drums I get via a player on Fiverr.

This has meant first the 788, then the 2488.
Today, I have the DP24SD Tascam.
I use it for: Tracking, simple mixes. No built-in effects, no submixing, just straight tracking.
The rest is outboard:
A four-pack of clean pres for mics,
A four-pack of older pres using two permanently for my piano input.
2 Opto compressors
A very good stereo reverb.

For me, the Tascam is as simple as you can get, in terms of not only use, but just settling into.
I raise the faders to the same "unity gain" levels each time.
Apart from tweaking my compressor on the way in, I know exactly what my gain staging is, and I have plenty of headroom, no need to look during tracking.
That in itself is pleasure, just turning on and playing...I believe in getting tracks as finished as possible going in.

For anything additional, the files go to My Win10 PC with Audacity; it does whatever small experiments or tweaks I feel like trying. Again, simple software.
The Win machine has a FocusRite 2I2 interface in front of it, just for plugging in for a quick scratch track.

This balance works for me. What I have found is how easy it is to get away from the important stuff (like practice and writing) as soon as more gear gets in the way.
I become more of a "full time engineer" rather than the amateur musician I am.

I like what I have now. It's good quality and, most importantly, it flows with my way of working.

With the user name of Richard Tascam repair I am assuming you repair these older tape based machines. Thus, being able to illustrate how one can go dawless with 90's type tape based machines might behoove you because when they fail....and they will, you can fix them.

That said to achieve what the title of this thread speaks of...going Dawless e.g. multitrack recording without a computer, the zoom L series offers several options up to 20 tracks...Below is a video of the L-8 demonstrating how to record 8 tracks with no computer directly to a SD card... One can do what you are asking for for between $350 and $900 at sweetwater Here and be using a non mechanical brand new piece of recording equipment with a ton of effects and editing possibilities built in.

I mostly repair cassette, DAT, ADAT and some of the newer stuff if it hasn't been fried by some sort of overcurrent. There is a lot of legacy gear from the 90s that I come across. I have little experience in reel-to-reel but Ive heard its a bit more straight forward than the newer stuff.
I recently put together a little DAWless Recording board for myself... mainly to be able to lay down ideas in the Living Room. However, I've learned that it's much harder for me to record anything "worthwhile" other than a quick "demo" on this DAWless setup. Having just a little "click/click" metronome sound and without any visual cues (I usually have markers/regions already setup in my DAW when recording songs) to keep track of where I'm at in a song at any given time makes it hard to get the best takes laid down for me... punching in is not very good as it's impossible to punch in at exactly the right spot (which is super easy on a DAW where you can see). So... while I view my DAWless setup as neat to have for the Living Room... it'll never be able to replace my DAW. Any "serious" work will still need to be done on my Audio Workstation PC in my DAW.


It is handy to be able to record some tracks in between periods of hockey games on the couch though. ;)

I think I should probably get some standard Drumloops setup in a couple different Tempos to import as my "backing track" to keep me in time better while recording these "ideas" from the comfort of my Living Room couch.
The DAW-less topic is a new one
I wouldn't say that was entirely true.
and it causes the legacy guys to scratch their heads and wonder why some guys would go backwards

I don't know who "the legacy guys" are {they sound like the enforcers for a bunch of insane and unscrupulous will and property lawyers !}, but it is true that there has long been a Kabal that questions the choice of those to not follow their computer-housed ways.
My reasonings come mostly from living in a "musical winter"
OK, I'll bite.
What does that mean ? Why am I reminded of the White Witch, Aslan and Narnia ? 😆
Basically, new music sucks and needs a new place and approach to get the gold
I disagree and I agree. I don't think "new music sucks" because I don't even listen to 98% of "new music." What is "new music" ? Is it new product by artists that have been around for 30, 40, 50, or 60 years ? Is it stuff by people one has never heard of ? Is it stuff by artists and bands that have never released music into the public domain before ?
Can it ever be fair, let alone in any way sensible, to ever classify "new music" with all its disparate artists, genres, styles and scope, much less to say it "all" sucks ?
But I do agree that finding new {in reality, that should read: "different"} approaches for specific individuals can usually be a healthy thing ~ if that is what they feel needs to be done and that is what they choose.
This might include "going backwards" as you put it. But that doesn't intrinsically guarantee the creation of music any fresher or more original than what has already been. Neither does it mean that the methods one turns one's back on could not bring about the desired results.
Yes, computers are very efficient and loaded with options but can be expensive
I'd say that now, there are computers for just about every price point in existence. You want one for £100 ? Great. You want a £2000 model ? Stump up the cash, pal.
most guys will fall down into the lonely one-man-band category that makes for a project that may be dull due to all ideas coming from one person
Of all the things said in this thread, nothing grabbed me by the short and curlies more than this.
Is this true ? Bear in mind, you've said "most" guys.
Taking it in its constituent parts, it is not untrue that many home recorders will find that they are in the "one person band" category. But why should that be a pejorative ? And is it wise to dismiss the reasons why many may end up as sole operators ?
It didn't prevent Paul McCartney coming up with a good album when he provided all the input into his first solo album. It didn't stop Stevie Wonder hitting paydirt with "Innervisions" where there are songs where he's the only participant. And before anyone says "but they're more talented etc" that's neither true nor relevant to the point which is about lone operators. There have been so many artists that have done the work on their own. And I'm talking about the days before there ever was such a thing as a DAW or digital recording.
There is also that feeling like Im not closely connected to the sound because everything is behind a screen
If you feel that, then that's on you. The reality is that every recording machine that multitracks, whether analog, digital, DAW, console or whatever has a visual element, be it waveforms, level bars or simply vu meters. I would say that to be well-rounded, one should be acquainted with whatever they need to be visually while always making sure that one's ears {or ear} have the pre-eminence.
The music is always somewhere other.
Anyone ever try to use those gloves in an incubator to codle a preemie baby? Yeah, thats what it feels like
If that was me, I'd simply tune my head to the reality of the situation and coddle the baby and emit my love to it rather than worry about the fact that I'm having to wear these weird gloves.
Theres obviously many other reasons for going DAW-less.
I never have a problem with a person's reasons for going DAWless or anything else, after all, they've arrived at that point for their own reasons. But I do carefully examine the reasons and so often, they fall into that realm where in order to conclude A, B must be shown to be the bad guy. And that's when I might get a little shirty.
There's a feeling one gets when going against consumerism
Thing is, one can be part of the consumerist, capitalist system every single day, be buying things, and still go against consumerism. Not making music on a DAW doesn't seem to fall into that category. Not buying stuff you don't use, just for the sake of buying it because you can, that's going against consumerism.
We live in an era in the music industry that is FULL OF STUFF. AND MORE STUFF. AND MORE STUFF
When wasn't it like that ? Just go back to trade papers and magazines from the 1950s, 60, 70s and 80s. 'Twas ever thus. I've just finished reading a copy of this free mag that I used to get in the late 80s {very late !} and up to about 1998, called Making Music. It came out monthly and the one I've just read is the November 1989 issue. That was actually the first one I ever read back then. I remember it, it had a great interview with Jack Bruce, the bassist. Anyway, it is stuffed to the gills with "stuff, more stuff and even more stuff than that." Keyboards, sequencers, guitars, basses, amps, effects, drums, drum sticks, guitar strings, drummer gloves, drum machines, new-fangled stuff, old, vintage stuff, upgrades of existing stuff, new inventions, invites to trade fairs enticing with even more stuff.....
The whole "come and buy this stuff and tomorrow buy even more stuff because the stuff you bought yesterday will be old and naff and passé" is a fact of life and has been for......well, longer than you and I. It used to be in the category of "Keeping up with the Joneses."
It's hard to justify buying a brand new interface when you can buy used gear on eBay that the pros of old used
Is it ?
What if you just don't want to own something that had someone else's grubby paws on it ? I might not want to own the recording console that Steve Marriott owned in his home studio when I see in multiple books and interviews that his dog 🐶 used to shit 💩 all over his house and he didn't clean it up ! 😃 😄 😁 😆 :laughings:😅 😂
But jokes aside, I don't get the logic. Just because old pros used something, why should you not buy a new interface if that's what you need at that moment ?
And what guarantee have you got that the older equipment you buy is going to be running brilliantly for the next 15 or 20 years ? The pro may have run it into the ground and left just enough life in it for it to be sold and last a year.

OK, OK, that was cynical ! 🥴
Im a former electronics tech and I can fix and service them
Which is a great place to be. I would guess that a huge slice of those thinking of going DAW-less aren't techy, but romantic.
I can get......a tape for 8.00 and I have all I need with 8 tracks
You'll know this without me saying it, but I'll say it anyway ~ be sure to buy up loads of tape, more than you'll ever need, just in case. I have a CD recorder that I bought in '98 and I still use it. But it's so temperamental, there are only 2 brands of CDRW that it will play, Maxells {and even with them, you have to wrestle and perform some jiggery-pokery to get them to record} and Traxdatas. I managed, after much searching, to source a guy in Singapore that still sells the old Traxdatas. I bought 40, which, because they're re-recordable, should see me clear for the next 20 years. I use them to test out my recordings on anything I use with a CD player and transfer them to various storage and then I wipe and re-use. 3 years in, I'm still on disc number one.
Used audio gear can be a real bargain especially in hard times
I have my fair share of used gear and I'd never knock them. I love 'em. But they can be a mixed blessing too. Sometimes they don't work ! Well, after a little while. Usually when the 3-month guarantee has expired ! 🥸
Grim, I think you know that's never going to happen!
Ne dis jamais, jamais {never say 'never'}.
The 24 is great but expensive for now. Plus, its more of a portastudio
Well, that's what I was thinking the very first time I saw it.
You mention the fact that it's a Portastudio as if that's a detractor somehow
For me, the portastudio format is the Queen of the forest and the King of the hill.
I realize this is an old thread but I wanted to share something, if you’ll all indulge me.

Years ago, I came across a quote from the painter Henri Matisse, who is claimed to have said “Much of the beauty in art comes from the struggle a painter has with his brush.” This got me thinking about how I approach recording music. I wrote a short essay called “The Beauty in Struggle” and then decided to start doing what I was calling “Analog Sunday,” in which on Sundays, I went around to friend’s places with an old Tascam 4 track cassette recorder with the intention of creating an artificially constrained musical environment, where we had to write, record, and mix a full song in the space of three hours, using only the Tascam and whatever instruments might be lying around. There would be no track editing, plugins or anything like that in the process and whatever we ended up with was what we ended up with.

I found this to be both exciting and inspiring. We came up with some very cool songs that I (possibly) never would have done otherwise and even though the timing was off, the balance wasn’t great, and the songs certainly weren’t radio material, we all came away from the project feeling great about what we did and learned a lot about how little we needed in terms of technology support in creating music that we love.

I say all of this because almost 15 years later, I’m back at this point and am considering buying the Tascam Model 24 (or maybe the Zoom L20) for my studio so I can do this exercise again but this time with up-and-coming musicians to help them break the mindset of needing a ton of plugins and expensive computers and other gear to produce the music that they hear in their heads. The biggest difference this time, is that I plan to let them take the stereo bounce as well as all of the individual tracks after the day is done and teach them how to mix with the songs that they’ve created. I’m hoping that the concept and the exercise will be well-received by everyone who takes part in the workshop.

The big takeaway in all of this for me, is that being constrained can help us all to create with more immediacy and with fewer distractions and blockages on the road to completion. Music creation, in my opinion, has become unnecessarily intertwined with technology and doing small things to help restore the separation between the two does nothing but help us all to create more, create better, and create more better!
With respect to Matisse, I would rather not fight with my rig. The old analog setup had too many distractions to me, like stopping and rewinding tapes and short recording times. But I get your point. I've still got my R24 (just had it out last week). It's got the advantages of digital with the basic workflow of a portastudio cassette. You don't need to use all the effects, just plug in mics, set levels and record away! Best of all, for setting up and recording a group's practice or writing session, you've got 6 hours of uninterrupted recording.

As for not using plugins, etc, if you were turning EQ and pan knobs, adding reverb ,etc. then you were using self contained "plugins" There's no difference to me between turning a knob and clicking on a list of effects and adjusting the tone. A pan control is a pan control, physically or virtually. There's nothing in the DAW playbook that says you have to comp or cut and paste, any more than a tape means you can't edit a section (Punch In/Punch Out has been around for DECADES).

It's like cars, you can't find a new car with a manual tranny, no A/C, no air bags, AM radio and roll up windows. Yeah, there are people who still drive and restore '50s and 60s cars, but very few people actually use them for daily drivers, or pack up the family to drive from Chicago to Florida in mid July. For me, a tape deck is like a '60 Vette: very cool, a bit of a status boost, expensive as hell, somewhat uncomfortable and really impractical for most stuff. Route 66 was a fun show, but that was 60 years ago!