Porta Two Newbie

DirtFloor

New member
Hi all,
I just bought a refurbished Tascam Porta Two and I'm ready to begin my home recording journey. Any tips, tricks, or advice will be greatly appreciated. The first question I have is, what are the two insertion channels used for? The owner's manual describes the 1/4" jack needed to use them but doesn't explain how to use them. The second question is, is there a way to feed reverb to the headphones without having it be recorded while recording vocals? Sorry if these are "dumb" questions, but when I say I'm starting at ground zero, I mean it.

IMG_2416 2.jpeg

Thanks in advance,
Lefty52
 

jpmorris

Tape Wolf
I've never really used inserts, but they allow you to temporarily plug an effect into the input signal. That will be recorded to tape during tracking.
The effects bus (the send/return connectors on the side of the machine) is applied to all channels which have the effects knob turned up. That happens during playback so it's not recorded to the individual track, and it sounds like what you want for the reverb thing.
 

famous beagle

Well-known member
The inserts can also be used during mixdown, FWIW.

So, for example, if you had some vocals on track 1 and guitar on track 2, and you wanted to run the vocals through an outboard compressor and the guitar through an outboard effect (or guitar pedal) during mixdown, you can do that.
 

famous beagle

Well-known member
Other tips:

1. Lots of people know about "internal bouncing" or "ping-pong recording" (bouncing tracks 1-3 down to track 4, for example), but not as many think about "external bouncing." In this instance, you'd fill up all four tracks and then perform a submix (basically a stereo mixdown) of those tracks to an external recorder (could be a computer or any other 2-track recorder). Then you bring that stereo mix back to Tracks 1 and 2 (panned hard L and R) on a fresh spot of tape, at which point you can add more material on Tracks 3 and 4. That accomplishes two things:
A. You keep your original 4 tracks in case you realize down the road that you want to go back to them for any reason.
B. By doing it this way, you get to retain stereo separation. If you bounce tracks 1 - 3 down to track 4, those tracks will then be in mono.

Of course, if you do have three things that you plan to be in mono anyway, then the internal bounce can be useful as well.

2. The Tape Cue Out jack can be used as a second effect send during mixdown! You already have one dedicated EFF send, which already has its own stereo return. But, since you have inputs 5 and 6, you can use the Tape Cue out as a second effect send and return the signal to inputs 5 and 6 as a stereo return if you want.
 

DirtFloor

New member
Thank you to all of you for the replies and tips. The sad news is that the Porta Two was a POS. When I asked my questions, the unit had yet to arrive; when it did, there was so much wrong with it I sent it back. I then purchased a Yamaha MT4X, which will come this Friday. It seems like a better unit and much easier to navigate.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
Are you restricted to using tape-based recording gear? I have no idea what you're spending, but it may be enough to get you comfortably into a NEW, digital recording porta studio type device.
 

DirtFloor

New member
Are you restricted to using tape-based recording gear? I have no idea what you're spending, but it may be enough to get you comfortably into a NEW, digital recording porta studio type device.
Thanks for the suggestion, but I am restricting my recording to cassette 4 track. The music I play is Old-Time/Americana/Folk, and I want a low-fi analog sound. I will of course use my audio interface to get the music to MP3 or another digital format.
I find it curious that in a forum dedicated to Analog Recording & Mixing - Tape & Gear you are recommending I buy a digital kit? I know you're trying to help, but this is the path I've chosen.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
There's nothing particularly desirable about the sound of cassette. Anything worthwhile can be emulated digitally.

If you want to use tape to get a special sound, get wider tape (for wider tracks) that runs at 15 or 30 ips.
 

DirtFloor

New member
I guess I should have been more specific, I’m not looking for advice as to why I’m doing the wrong thing by recording in cassette format, I was looking for tips and suggestions from those using and enjoying 4 track cassette recording. I hope I’ve cleared that up. Sound is subjective…
 

Slouching Raymond

Active member
Nobody has said this yet, but to use an insert socket, you need an insert cable. This is just a cable with a stereo jack at one end, and then the cable splits into two mono cables, each with a mono jack on the end. The deal is, the signal from your mixer/recorder leaves on one of the stereo connections, goes into your external processor from the associated mono jack. Then leaves the external processor on the other mono jack, and re-enters the mixer/recorder on the other connection of the stereo jack.
Insert sockets can also be used just for a handy signal output.
Good luck DirtFloor, but I wouldn't give cassettes the time of day.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
Thanks for the suggestion, but I am restricting my recording to cassette 4 track. The music I play is Old-Time/Americana/Folk, and I want a low-fi analog sound. I will of course use my audio interface to get the music to MP3 or another digital format.
I find it curious that in a forum dedicated to Analog Recording & Mixing - Tape & Gear you are recommending I buy a digital kit? I know you're trying to help, but this is the path I've chosen.
That's cool. I did 8-track recordings on a cassette mixer for a number of years and wouldn't mind using that today - not at all.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
I guess I should have been more specific, I’m not looking for advice as to why I’m doing the wrong thing by recording in cassette format, I was looking for tips and suggestions from those using and enjoying 4 track cassette recording. I hope I’ve cleared that up. Sound is subjective…
I'm sincerely trying to help. You said "I want a lo-fi analog sound." I just question the assumption that cassette will do that for you.

If I were trying to get a cool vintage vibe, I'd do it with mic selection, mic placement and room treatment (or lack of it), then maybe add in some vintage style front end going to a reliable digital recording system with some analog emulating plugins (Slate VTM, Waves REDD, PSP Vintage Warmer).

It's fine if you want to go with a cassette 4-track recorder, but it seems worthwhile to give you as much relevant information as we can before you do. And we'll happily help out with that if you do.

By the way, I'm currently digitizing a bunch of original live recordings on cassette. They mostly sound great, as in you can't really tell they're recorded on cassette, but a few have some "lo-fi analog sound" artifacts that render them unusable. That might be why I'm a bit skeptical about doing new recordings on the format.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I understand the "romance of vintage analog". The biggest problem these days is that the equipment is now pushing upwards of 20 to 30 years old in most cases. Parts slowly become unavailable, and there's the unavailable wear and tear/disintegration of moving parts. Reliability sucks unless you have the time, money and expertise to maintain the devices.

It's like the romance of vintage automobiles. I would love to have a '59 or '60 Vette. I always thought those were the coolest style and they are relatively simple to work on. To have one in the garage would be a dream come true, but to drive one 10-12 hours to get to the beach? No way. They are rough, noisy, and generally a pain in the ass to ride in, literally! I'll take my Ford Taurus any day. Huge trunk, 30mpg on the road, and a few years ago I drove 9 hours to visit my son, with one stop for lunch and 2 stops for gas, and when I got there at 4:30, was ready to go shopping for furniture, put together his bed, dresser and entertainment center, and then go out for dinner.

Trying to do anything meaningful on a 4 track cassette would be torture for me. I can add hiss, and surface noise to a pristine digital recording, compress it a bit, roll off the top and bottom a bit, and it sounds JUST LIKE A RECORD!
 

DirtFloor

New member
I'm sincerely trying to help. You said "I want a lo-fi analog sound." I just question the assumption that cassette will do that for you.

If I were trying to get a cool vintage vibe, I'd do it with mic selection, mic placement and room treatment (or lack of it), then maybe add in some vintage style front end going to a reliable digital recording system with some analog emulating plugins (Slate VTM, Waves REDD, PSP Vintage Warmer).

It's fine if you want to go with a cassette 4-track recorder, but it seems worthwhile to give you as much relevant information as we can before you do. And we'll happily help out with that if you do.

By the way, I'm currently digitizing a bunch of original live recordings on cassette. They mostly sound great, as in you can't really tell they're recorded on cassette, but a few have some "lo-fi analog sound" artifacts that render them unusable. That might be why I'm a bit skeptical about doing new recordings on the format.
Hey BSG,
I know, and I really do appreciate the time and interest you've put into "helping" me. For most of my 70 years, I have always tried exactly what I've been told, "won't work", and I have no regrets for any road I've taken. There's a long list of wonderful recordings the world has enjoyed, recorded on 4 tracks, (Springsteen's Nebraska comes to mind).
I believe there are a million bad recordings made on the best, newest and most costly equipment, but at the hands of a good engineer, alchemy happens.
So in reply to this sentence:
"If I were trying to get a cool vintage vibe, I'd do it with mic selection, mic placement, and room treatment (or lack of it), then maybe add in some vintage style front end going to a reliable digital recording system with some analog emulating plugins (Slate VTM, Waves REDD, PSP Vintage Warmer)."

First, this sentence kind of assumes I'm not considering vintage mics, mic placement, and room treatment, all of which I am.
Second, I'm already committed to not using digital plug-ins, that's why I'm going "old school" analog. I'm committed to my Yamaha MT4X so lets move on to tips and tricks for the budding cassette engineer.

Here's the list of my equipment, so far
Yamaha - MT4X recorder
Lexicon - MPX500
(2) PreSonus -Studio Channel
Audio Technica - AT4033
Aston Mic. - Origin
Lewitt LCT040, Matched set
 

DirtFloor

New member
I understand the "romance of vintage analog". The biggest problem these days is that the equipment is now pushing upwards of 20 to 30 years old in most cases. Parts slowly become unavailable, and there's the unavailable wear and tear/disintegration of moving parts. Reliability sucks unless you have the time, money and expertise to maintain the devices.

It's like the romance of vintage automobiles. I would love to have a '59 or '60 Vette. I always thought those were the coolest style and they are relatively simple to work on. To have one in the garage would be a dream come true, but to drive one 10-12 hours to get to the beach? No way. They are rough, noisy, and generally a pain in the ass to ride in, literally! I'll take my Ford Taurus any day. Huge trunk, 30mpg on the road, and a few years ago I drove 9 hours to visit my son, with one stop for lunch and 2 stops for gas, and when I got there at 4:30, was ready to go shopping for furniture, put together his bed, dresser and entertainment center, and then go out for dinner.

Trying to do anything meaningful on a 4 track cassette would be torture for me. I can add hiss, and surface noise to a pristine digital recording, compress it a bit, roll off the top and bottom a bit, and it sounds JUST LIKE A RECORD!
Thanks for all the car talk, interesting comparison. I don't completely disagree but if you look at the prices for a 59 Vette, or 59 Les Paul, they might suggest your argument isn't firing on all pistons.
Regarding the MT4X, I've purchased a unit that has been in the original box for 25 years and has recently had all belts and wheels replaced, speed and transport checked, and is in pristine condition, there isn't a scratchy pot to found. I have plenty of time, a little bit of money and YouTube is my backup expertise.
Again, I scratch my head and wonder, why on this Analog Recording and Mixing forum page, so many people are pushing digital recording, don't you guys have your own page?
 

DirtFloor

New member
Nobody has said this yet, but to use an insert socket, you need an insert cable. This is just a cable with a stereo jack at one end, and then the cable splits into two mono cables, each with a mono jack on the end. The deal is, the signal from your mixer/recorder leaves on one of the stereo connections, goes into your external processor from the associated mono jack. Then leaves the external processor on the other mono jack, and re-enters the mixer/recorder on the other connection of the stereo jack.
Insert sockets can also be used just for a handy signal output.
Good luck DirtFloor, but I wouldn't give cassettes the time of day.
Thanks for that!
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
I agree, a '60 'Vette isn't a good analogy. A better one would be a 1990 Corolla. It was a perfectly okay car at the time, but now it's kind of meh.

As for suggestions, I would get a few different dynamic mics, a few channels of compression appropriate for the era you're aiming for (1176 style? dbx?, FMR Audio?), and perhaps a spring reverb. A ribbon mic would round things out.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
Thanks for all the car talk, interesting comparison. I don't completely disagree but if you look at the prices for a 59 Vette, or 59 Les Paul, they might suggest your argument isn't firing on all pistons.
I chose the '59 Vette because I really don't have much of a hankering for a 1960 Ford Galaxie 500 which would be roughly equivalent to my Taurus. However, it might be nice to have a good ol' slick bench seat again..... remember SOB turns? (Scoot over baby!) 😉

As for why there's an Analog Recording forum, remember that Home Recording has been around for well over 20 years. Back then digital was past infancy, but way from the mature technology we have today. Just read this thread. Its from 1999, and people were buying new in the box cassette decks.


If the MT4X is really in pristine condition, then you should be fine. I've read too many horror stories to even consider going down that road. AND if the Yamaha doesn't turn out to be in good condition, and you don't want to go down the computer/DAW/Interface path, you might consider things like the Zoom R24, Tascam DP24SD, or other self contained recording units. They're portable and operate in much the same manner as the old PortaStudio units without the track/bouncing limitations.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Wow. Hopefully we can avoid collectively hassling the OP for trying to get some simple answers to some simple questions. You want to go all vintage car analogy on it? Then yes…vintage car yes. Because if some shit goes wrong on it you can diagnose and fix it in your own garage with some basic equipment, vs a late model car with all the emissions and ECU-based management. That’s an analogy to any modern digital device. I will take through-hole designed PCB assemblies with minimal logic over any contemporary SMD microprocessor-based assemblies any day, the former which includes the OP’s new-to-him MT4X. He wants to enjoy a 4-track cassette machine and had questions based on that, so let’s *try* to frame or contribute responses relevant to that, yes?

[EDIT]

And yes I have a decent amount of experience working on vintage and late-model motor vehicles, and congrats on the MT4X find. That sounds like a good upgrade to the Porta you got in the first place, and I hope you find the results you are seeking with it and have a good time in the process.
 

famous beagle

Well-known member
The Yamaha MT4X is a great machine. You're gonna love it.

As for the comments about "adding hiss," etc., the use of noise reduction pretty much makes hiss negligible, even on a cassette 4 track. I'm speaking from lots of experience here, as I've used DOZENS of different 4 track cassette machines over the years. My last one was actually a MT4X.

So, if you want some hiss, you can leave the NR off. But if you want a clean sound, you can use NR.

My years of experience with these machines also means I've seen plenty of issues that have been addressed here regarding their unreliability. And that is a true concern. In fact, it's why I sold my MT4X recently, and why I plan to be 4-trackless for the first time in my adult life.

It got to a point where I was spending more time fixing machines or looking for replacements than I was actually recording music. I'm a huge analog lover and very nostalgic. I still have a Tascam 388 reel to reel that I use. And I've always had a cassette 4 track as long as I can remember. But I finally made a decision that, once they go, I won't replace them with other analog decks. (At least ... not until I strike it rich and can afford to pay a tech to repair anything, which isn't likely.) The MT4X went belly up a month ago, so the 388 is my last soldier standing.

I just can't afford to spend more time fighting the technology instead of recording. That's not to say that digital recording doesn't have its share of technical issues. It does. But in my experience (I've owned a digital DAW rig as well for years that I've used for work purposes), digital rigs are much more stable than analog ones, simply because they're not vintage.

Anyway, I truly hope that your Yamaha behaves for you and that you enjoy years of trouble-free recording. I chased that dream for a long time, but I finally had to let it go. Best of luck to you!
 
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