Tascam 388 Story...

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Well okay. So a number of you probably figured this was coming.

This is my tribute to the king of all-in-one analog recorder/reproducer multitrack tape devices.

I've had it for several weeks now and of course already have torn it apart cleaning it up and doing various minor repairs...doing my thing...but this is a keeper for sure. As I've "dug" into it I am so impressed with how it was engineered and the features it holds...I'll get more into that as I present the story in installments. I cannot imagine this thing being anything but a blast to use.

I've had my eye peripherally on the 388 ever since I first saw one. I remember my first reaction after seeing a picture of one shortly after returning to analog a couple years ago. Seems funny but up until that point I had totally missed the 388. They were introduced and discontinued before I got serious into recording and I quickly (regretfully) switched to digital after owning a Teac 3340S for only a short time. I was focused on the digital world for over a decade. So anyway, I remember thinking "What is that??" when I first saw a 388 and when I confirmed for myself that it was what I thought it was (functionally) I thought, and still think, it is the :cool:est piece of analog kit. So one did come up locally recently. No accessories, no manual, some empty 1/4" x 10.5" and 7" plastic reels and some unknown tape in poor condition, but it was local. When I went to look at it the seller nicely took the time to help me check out all the functions...had a mic and some monitors and headphones handy and some pre-recorded material as well. What I found was 388 in sound but not perfect condition...not abused, just used and in "it'll clean up good" condition. A couple mismatched and/or damaged knob caps for which I have spares, master meter lamps burned out, lock tab for the channel 2 mic jack broken and various scratches and nicks. Everything else was fully functional. Like I said, I could tell it had been used but appeared to have been reasonably well respected...not as nice as cjacek's 388 by any means. :D

Anyway, $350 and it was mine. Not a steal of a deal and I knew it, but not as high as I see prices climbing for these on eBay either. And, it was local...no shipping nightmare.

Here are the pics from the listing:

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headpicnew1.jpg



Yes, I agree, the shot of the headstack was worthless but the seller tried to get a hold of a camera other than his phone...he gave it a go.

To be continued...
 
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cjacek

Analogue Enthusiast
:D:D You, Cory, Dave (A Reel Person) and myself are probably responsible, at least in part, for higher and higher 388 ending prices, of pimping the thing over the years, all for good reason, of course.. :D .... but your effort, I have a hunch, may take the cake!:D

PEOPLE, GET YER 388 DEALS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!:eek::D;)

BTW, it seems only fitting that my 6000th post just happens to occur at this great time when Cory finally owns a 388! :)
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Ohh, Cory, now you've done it!

Uh-huh...yep.

You, Cory, Dave (A Reel Person) and myself are probably responsible, at least in part, for higher and higher 388 ending prices, of pimping the thing over the years, all for good reason, of course.. .... but your effort, I have a hunch, may take the cake!

PEOPLE, GET YER 388 DEALS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!

BTW, it seems only fitting that my 6000th post just happens to occur at this great time when Cory finally owns a 388!

6000! That's AWESOME...and in MY THREAD!! I'm stoked!

Serious about the prices on 388's...I started noticing when that significantly "upgraded" one went for...well over $1000 right? But then there was another one that just went for near $600 and there's another right now that is going to go for at least that much...well, it deserves it. The 388 is awesome. I think people overlook what Teac built into it, and how smart they were with the design. It is very well laid out and lacks nothing AFAIC...No plastic pulleys like on other 1/4" 8-tracks. The transport handles tape so smartly, and when you look closely at the transport, though it is petite (compared to 1/2" or greater tape) it is very sophisticated and refined. Precision fixed erase head and semi fixed record/repro head...fixed guides and everything else (except the lifters) in the tape path is a roller. I was working on my Ampex 440-8 1" 8-track tonight and popped into the room where the 388 presently sits and the transport is SO much smaller but definitely heavy-duty for what it is. It was built for professional use.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
4 Weeks Ago

So like I said I've had this thing for a few weeks but I've taken a ton of pictures along the way so I'll be getting posts up in installments relative to the time period in which pictures were taken.

The first post had the pics from the eBay listing, so below are pictures I took when I got it home and unpacked.

Here it is:
IMG_0947_2_1.JPG


IMG_0963_18_1.JPG


Again, pretty good shape...scratches on the tap panel. I'm taking that to the same auto-body shop that painted the meter bridge on my prototype Tascam mixer...I'll have them paint the 388 top panel and I'll get some touch-up paint to take care of some of the other scratches.
IMG_0966_20_1.JPG


Jacks look good...note the broken release tab on XLR #2...
IMG_0970_24_1.JPG


Pretty normal dust 'n' dirt:
IMG_0948_3_1.JPG


IMG_0961_16_1.JPG


All the lights work except the stereo meters...not a big deal. They are the fuse-type bulbs but I'm going to go ahead and get some of the 8V lamps from Parts Express and solder them in.
IMG_0973_26_1.JPG


A shot for those who like to see reels spin...
IMG_0975_27_1.JPG


And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the tape pack after a fast-wind spool...plastic reels, standard hubs...it looks pretty good!
IMG_0977_28_1.JPG


So now to zoom in a bit on the transport and tape path...like I said, its petite (compared to what I'm used to...this is my first 7" deck...), but it means business! And funny thing, it wasn't until I snapped this picture that I actually read the sticker on the head plate...Relapped by JRF! So...okay...it must have some hours on it but the heads look good, and I'm sure the relap was done well.
IMG_0950_5_1.JPG


Here's the record/repro head:
IMG_0952_7_1.JPG


That left guide looks kinda nasty...not sure what's going on there but I'm going to rotate the guides, and it looks like the tape path is setup kind of the the 40-series decks and that was a great system IMHO so maybe there is just some adjusting needed...
IMG_0956_11_1.JPG


Capstan shaft is glossy...don't know if that will be problematic or not...so bought a new one to have on-hand...Teac had 'em in stock. :) Also got a new capstan belt though the one on the unit seems healthy. Going to get a spare pinch roller too though, again, the present one seems good...not soft or tacky, not hard or checked. Just needs cleaning. I may get a set of guides too though I'm not sure if that's important since they can be rotated.
IMG_0959_14_1.JPG


So, that's all for this installment...more to come of course. ;)
 

Instroverb

New member
that's great

Sweetbeats! I have two which I paid $350 and $450 for locally. I have already mention in another thread all the extra goodies I got with the second one. Davemania and East River Pipe (read an interview with him in very early tape op issue) are responsible for my interest in the 388. But for anybody else thinking about getting one, don't; you won't like it!:D:eek:
 

Instroverb

New member
Oh yeah,

And when I bought my first one about 3 years ago, RMG LPR 35 was only around 12.50 a reel from US Recording Media. So not only have prices on the 388 gone up, tape cost has too!!
 

zorf

New member
I know these 388's are a cult item, but why do you all think that is?

I have to think the all in one design is the main reason.

Because when i tried to get mine working, and took it apart, i didn't find
it that robust. especially for how heavy they are.

and if you look at the specs, they kind of lack much high frequency reproduction.

Is it the mid-fi sound that is kind of nostalgic, perhaps?
 

shedshrine

New member
Zorf-

I've been collecting facts and information on the 388 over the past couple years and putting it in one place. (My apologies for not doing it here as I was unable to add to or edit any posts after 24 hours and would have had an endlessly long incoherent thread.)

In any case, the link in my signature is to an 8 page thread on Tascam 388 maintenance, trivia and general information pertaining to this wonderful recorder/mixer combo, with many quotes from members of this very board, the Tascam forum and TapeOp. It may help to illuminate why many are enamored of it despite its shortcomings. Thanks to all who have provided their knowledge, experience, materials and insights.

Mike
 

cjacek

Analogue Enthusiast
I know these 388's are a cult item, but why do you all think that is?

Well, regular posts, photos, discussions and overall drooling over the 388 sure does help sway opinion. Outside of that, yes, I'd say it's indeed the all-in-one design, the most "artsy", functional and unique piece of 'em all. There is just simply nothing like it but more than that, it solves numerous problems and does it so elegantly.

Because when i tried to get mine working, and took it apart, i didn't find
it that robust. especially for how heavy they are.

First off, compared to what? What exactly are you talking about? :confused:

and if you look at the specs, they kind of lack much high frequency reproduction.

Don't look at paper specs. They have their place but they're mostly meaningless. Have you heard a 388 in person and I mean one in good condition with good tape, using good mics?

Is it the mid-fi sound that is kind of nostalgic, perhaps?

That's very subjective but I can make my 388 sound as lo-fi or hi-fi as human hearing will allow. Believe me, the machine can put out incredible recordings, if all the other variables come together.

Does the 388 sound like a 15ips, 1/2" machine? No but that's not within its design. The 388 does one thing extremely well: It gives you an entire foundation to start recording immediately, tracking and mixing, a superb mixer attached to an open reel 8 track. Tape is cheap, plenty of tracks and puts out fidelity that is more than enough for most.
 

zorf

New member
Hi Cjacek,

yes i was comparing fidelity to 15 ips half inch.

I was comparing build quality to my 488 and 80-8 which seem more solid.

I'm not saying someone is "wrong" for liking this machine, it just seems
that a lot of people really like this machine and i can't figure out why.

Maybe i would like it more if was half as big and half the weight.
The way it is now, it's really not much smaller that having a small mixer and a half inch machine.

If you say you can get a hi fi sound out of one of these, than fair enough.
You have more experience than me with these.

It does seem hard looking at the specs, that it would sound and perform that well. I acknowledge your point about not getting too caught up in specs.

Again, i think the all in one design is what probably what pulls people in.
 

cjacek

Analogue Enthusiast
yes i was comparing fidelity to 15 ips half inch.

...and that's the problem.;)

I was comparing build quality to my 488 and 80-8 which seem more solid.

You mean 48? Yes, I have that one too. The 80-8 I've had some experience with. I found both extremely well built but they're built for 1/2" tape / 10.5" reel transports (the 80-8 reportedly also for 1") vs 1/4", 7" transport for the 388. Big difference in motors / tape path design. Sorry but you're comparing different animals here.

Maybe i would like it more if was half as big and half the weight.

Not quite half but this sounds like you might enjoy a cassette portastudio, maybe a Tascam 246, which looks like a smaller version of the 388. :eek::D

it's really not much smaller that having a small mixer and a half inch machine.

Well, then you indeed don't get the appeal of the 388.;)

Again, i think the all in one design is what probably what pulls people in.

Indeed and remember that cassette portastudios, of the time, did real well as far as sales so.......... I think that TEAC just used that successful idea but kicked it up a few notches, all 90lbs of it and called it the Studio 8!:D;)
 

cjacek

Analogue Enthusiast
Take JRSIV's advice in your other thread :D


:D:D
Box it up and take it with you bro. Stash it under your bed in the new place and in 10 years you'll be able to sell it for thousands...Hell there are 388 die hards that will probably pay a grand now for it if you really do some digging and advertise on the recording sites/forums...Either way, that is a super clean example. Tascam 388's are the cats ass!
:eek::eek:
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Hey zorf,

My thoughts on your question...much of which will be duplicative, but...oh well.

What is the attraction to the 388?

1. It is totally unique...nothing else quite like it...closest thing is the Akai MG-1212 but the proprietary tape cassettes are unobtanium for a long time now, as are parts and support. So the uniqueness is a draw for me.

2. Its 80's Tascam, which means it was well-designed, engineered and built; reliable and solid performance. Related to #1 above, the Akai MG-1212 is totally unique too but they aren't as relaible or supported, so uniqueness takes a back-seat there.

3. Readily available relatively affordable media. I own 1/2 inch and 1 inch decks...1/4 inch tape prices make me giddy.

4. Rugged construction...This goes along with #2. I totally beg to differ on your feelings that the 388 isn't robust. As you may know I've been deep into the bowels of Tascam's 48, 58, M-300 series, and M-500 series products as well as a fair number of their rackmount units (PE-40, MX-80, RS-20B, DX-4D). I have also been deep into Ampex's AG-440 and Allen & Heath's GL-3300 console. So I have some reference to compare. What struck me about the 388's mixer section is it is just a scaled down (functionally) verson of an M-300 mixer...the construction modalities are the same...makes sense but also would've cost more than other modes under use at the time with their cassette-based units...woulda been cheaper to go that route but I bet that's not what the white-paper called for. M-300 mixer construction puts to shame MANY small format mixers and others today. And the transport? Hey, if we want to compare more apples-to-apples then we are talking about the Fostex 1/4 inch 8-tracks...based on my studies of the R8 and Model 80 service manuals and numerous posts on this forum and others with detail photos I've got some perspective on the innards of the Fostex units compared to the 388's transport and the 388 reminds me of a scaled down (size-wise) professional transport...precision design...handles tape very well and is overbuilt for the demands placed upon it. No plastic. I think there is a difference between the Fostex units and the 388. I worked in a machine shop for years and can recognize craftsmanship...it is there on the 388. Is it as robust as an AG-440? Of course not...I know that's not what you are saying, but I'm trying to underscore the importance of comparing what robust is for a 1/4 inch transport. And hey, not knocking the Fostex decks...they do 15ips; they sound great. I just recognize some disparity in the construction and materials.

5. These might seem silly, but the 388 has audio bling on it that jumped at me right away...10 analog VU meters, 3 band sweep eq (not mid sweep but all bands), can be slaved in a sync relationship...bling...blingblingbling. Those kinds of things are attractive.

6. Smart feature set...It has everything need, nothing you don't AKAIC...2 sends? Isn't that limiting? Well how many do you really need? And they even made one pre/post switcheable. The monitor mixer is auto-source switching...smart. I don't like my car driving for me, but in this case it is smart. Saves control surface real-estate and preserves audio quality by avoiding mechanical switches. Other little things like the LOAD feature which avoids tape running off the reels...cassette convenience with open reel performance. Wait! There's no MUTE or SOLO functions! Not true...to mute it switch the source switch okay? And the L-R assign switch actually works like a solo-in-place function when tracking and overdubbing. Again, smart. Jacks, jacks, jacks. Inserts, on all 8 channels, individual tape outs and ins, individual BUSS outs so the mixer can truly function as an independent 8 x 8 mixer...the list goes on.

7. Its...cute. I'm not trying to say it isn't serious, but every piece of gear I acquire always ends up seeming bigger once its home, mixers in particular. The 388 is the the first piece of gear that actually looks smaller in person...it has a compact footprint for what it is IMO...solid and purposeful.

8. Okay...so yeah the all-in-one thingy is a big deal, but to go into that a bit: I like audio gear. I like working on it, I like using it, etc. I have some decent stuff at my disposal, but I got into music and engineering because its fun. It is easy to have non-fun with any of this stuff, but my Dad's 424 mkII has never been non-fun. It is simple to use, has what you need, compact, sounds good...and it is just plain fun. Why? because of all the above reasons you spend more time making music and less time on other stuff that comes into play with separate systems. The 424 leaves me wanting for basically three things: more tracks (but not too many more), a better mixer (and keep in mind my ears are used to the M-520 and my prototype Tascam mixer), and maybe a step up in transport audio fidelity...not that I am dissatisfied with the sound of the 424...just find myself hunting for a bit more headroom mainly, and less noise in the mixer section. Well look at the 388...more tracks, MUCH better mixer, and double speed over the 424...different head design too and a tape path that handles higher fidelity tape. How much fun can you have with a 388? Turn it on and see, but I can't imagine not having fun using one.

9. Fidelity...low fidelity, zorf? aw c'mon! I have consumer cassette copies of favorite music that sounds awesome...the 388 pulls mastering quality tape at 4x consumer cassette speed and has dbx I. I rest my case. If the 388 sounds low-fi then you and I will never be able to discuss fidelity, and that's okay. Each to their own but IMHO if the 388 can't do it for you I would have to wonder if there was something wrong with the unit or something else in the signal path. And 7.5ips? So what? That's well over 40 minutes per reel...more fun and less switching reels. Could Tascam have made it 15ips? SURE they could have but their focus was on ease of use and convenience along with the purposeful feature-set and solid quality and performance. And I have yet to get any specific info on the record/reproduce headon the 388 but it was on the fringe of a new generation of heads from Teac and information was hush-hush about it...still can't find basis like track-width. I have a hunch they focused on a head design that would provide as good a performance at 7.5ips as they could...and though the slower speed may limit HF response, the LF -3dB knee-point is at 30Hz! :eek: That's not low-fidelity in my book. Yeah its a spec, but it is a reference point at least. You'd loose some of that bottom-end at 15ips.

Hey...I'll keep finding reasons as a go deeper into it...OH! Forgot to mention this related to design...pull 4 screws out of the top panel and *BAM* you have access to so many of the PCB's which are pull-out type including the PSU! How cool is that?! Smart.

So, I like 'em, and I don't care what anybody else thinks because its cool and I have one an I'm going to keep blabbing about it! :D
 
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