Tascam 388 Story...

Speaking of grabbing 388's before prices go up..I have a rather nice one for sale :)

Ico, if you are going to part with it, I think I just might have to sell my other kidney and get it myself. Give me a few weeks would you? As a recording brother solid?

Anyone need a kidney, blood type A neg. ?:)
About 3 weeks ago...

Off come the knob caps and pot nuts...Cleaned all the knob caps and dug into spares and had all tht was needed to have the complete set of knob caps in good condition. Getting ready to open 'er up:


The view of the mixer sans dress panel:


The faders are really cute...and dirty. Going to clean each one up including opening it, cleaning the resistive elements with DeoxIT and re-lubricating:


Found a dent at the top of the channel #6 ASSIGN switchrack...didn't see it before. The PCB looks okay...I realize now I forgot to to take a picture after I pounded out the dent, cleaned and polished the dress panel. It came out good. Anyway here's a closeup of the dent:


This is so old-hat for you longer-term 388 owners but the cardbay is so cool! 4 screws and its open...dbx cards, amp cards, reel servo PCB, meter PCB, bias PCB's, balance amp and PSU all on pullout cards. :cool:


Here's the PSU PCB...again, just pull it out! A recapping dream. The 388 reeks of the kind of smart designing I was happy to experience on my 48-OB when I went through it...the kind of stuff that makes a field service tech smile, and another testment to the fact that Tascam designed the 388 with the ideology in mind that it was going to be in professional installations, otherwise why go to the expense of having so many PCB's in a pullout cardbay? Its more expensive to do it that way, but makes sense for the right kind of application.


Got the caps to recap the PSU yesterday so I'll do that soon.
Hail the studio 8!

I get the feeling Zorf wasn't raised on Tascam stuff. Not all, but most guys who cut their teeth on Tascam's will always have a soft spot for them. And in some of us, that soft spot has morphed into an all encompassing obsession.

I love the look, feel and sound of Tascam equipment. There's just something about the simplicity and ease of use mixed with an engineering genius that is absent from so much other gear. And I have never had a day of recording that wasn't fun while using a Tascam recorder.

Sweet said it better than I about the 388 specifically, but I'll add that the recordings I've heard made on the Studio 8 are just fantastic. There are lots of indie albums recorded with the 388 and lots of folks have tracks up on MySpace and SoundClick that are so full and have such a unique vibe. I also had the pleasure of hearing some tracks from the source a few years ago in a friend of a friends studio and they made me blush. And this guy wasn't the best engineer or musician in the world. Just some simple drum, bass and guitar demos with vocals; recorded decently. The sound was what I noticed. Warm, full and expansive. Not lacking highs, but not hissy either. The thing just has soul!

Kidding aside, (I like my kidney!), I would love a 388. The space considerations and tape availability have been concerns, and I'm happy with the 488mkII for my needs. But if the paper here in Vegas had an ad for one I'd definitely check it out...

Anyway, congrats Sweeter. And brother Zorf, just stare at the pics above and submit to the spell...:D
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Leap ahead to present day...

So I'm going to break for a moment from catching up on the past several weeks as I have a question that I'd like to get input on sooner rather than later...

I got the PSU card recapped...looks like this:


That's not the question...

I noticed that diodes D100 ~ 104 look like they've been pretty hot. See here...they are right there under the heatsink about the middle of the picture and you can see the phenolic board is discolored:


It even looks a bit discolored on the solder side of the PCB. See here...again you can see the brownish discoloring:


So should I be concerned about that? I'm a bit confused on what these 5 diodes do...100 ~ 103 form a bridge rectifier and I think 104 prevents it from shorting to ground. The output of the rectifier ultimately makes its way to the Control PCB and it is labeled as "+6V Ripple" and "RESET"...:confused:

Just wondering if it is normal for those to get hot like that and if I should shotgun them...I have some good quality UF4004 diodes on-hand...

BTW, I also recapped the Cap Servo PCB...

Hey sweets,

I appreciate the in depth explanation.

If i ever see a reasonably priced one in good shape around here, maybe i'll give it another try.

: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


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

I'd not say I pimped the 388, but I'm a big advocate of Tascam and the 388 for many reasons, and I always put my money where my mouth is. I'm one of the few longtime members here who will not only espouse ideas or advocacy for a certain format, but I'll also put my real-life recorded works out there as examples. That's just me, but I don't see a lot of that from other members in the turnaround, with exeptions maybe of specific cases or users.

For other users, it seems easy to criticize from afar. I've been here 9 years & I think I've heard it all (all the criticizm). Take it or leave it, and I only have as much credibility as other members are willing to give me, but I have a pretty favorable opinion of the 388. HINT: You don't buy 4 of one item if it's "simply no-good", "utterly horrid", or whatever the critics might say. I'm still a fan of other recorders and formats, but the 388 fills a unique niche & has top build quality and more than adequate fidelity, FWIW.

I've not recorded anything new on the 388 for ages, but I still love the format and the sound of the 388. I feel Tascam had a winner when they devised the 388, which trumps most or all competitive 8-trackers all through the line, to this very day. I use it as somewhat of a yardstick when comparing other devices.

I have many other formats to use and "spread" usage over to get worthy usage out of my gear,... and even to compare formats, and the 388 still remains one of my favorites. Maybe the 388 "performs-to-spec", or maybe the sonics somehow "exceed the spec", or perhaps it's "mid-fi" and that's not a bad thing, but IMO the 388 hardware features & resulting sound quality is hard to beat on similar competing formats,... analog & digital alike.

You heard it here first. Thanx for listening.:eek:;)
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please keep talking about the 388 , have to have mine running ... thought I was going to record my things but ended recording my friends..and how surprised were they.... young people asked me how was that... is that a cassette? Im only 31 but recorded my first demos in a small studio ... tascam mixer and tascam reel machine probably half inch,,,, it was a 16 track Im sure.... the small studio closed, I tried to take the business but they are out of it

Its a great job you all are doing here and Im afraid some of u get tired and this forum one day is lost...

And Dave u are the one to blame ... I bought the 388 following your reviews, I have to say Im not disappointed at all

Tascam is F.U.N!
I love to record "live" , 4 mics on drums ( 2 c1000s, akg 112 and shure 57 ), Bass to Direct box to the 388, and guitar amp to 57 to the 388, all in the same room, last time kind of underprepared musicians but a nice room( some young friends... ) and the 388 gave the trio a dynamic and unity so surprising( I was in the same room and could see the little variations in time while they were playing, not that easy to hear while playback, I think the 388 made them better !!! ) in my opinion thanks to tape nice saturation and natural compression, it feels nice to push the signal into the tape to get that warm and bass roundness
One point to remember is that when you have dbx engaged, it doesn't go into "saturation" and pushing the levels and almost pinning the needles is not a good idea, because it'll introduce encode / decode errors. If you want to really push it, turn OFF the dbx.
I love to record live, too!

... if you have some friends to jam with!

I used to jam & record live a lot,... lots to basic stereo cassette,... so the 388 didn't figure much into my actual live sessions,... but I've done one live session to the 388 & it's a good way to go!

The 388's beauty is it's fully loaded all-in-oneness which is more than full functioned (esp. by today's standards), but isn't flashy,... unless you consider brown flashy! Think if it as your bright eyed, full figured, brown haired beauty who can also sing beautifully.:eek::eek::eek:;)

Full functioned, fun to use & sounds good. Uses economical 7" reels if 1/4 tape. 8x8x2 mixer, 8-simul recording, sync, dbx. Being the only 7.5 ips/dbx/integrated-reel recorder/mixer ever, you can try to judge it in a class of other 8 trackers, but it's truly in a class of it's own. In general, speaking strictly of 8-tracker all-in-one'rs it's an all out grand slam that makes smithereens of the comp's in the field. It's alone in it's class & it really has a sound of it's own. Maybe mid-fi would describe it, but I don't know, because I like what I hear, (and I feel I have pretty good ears). There's a lot of depth to the fidelity you can squeeze out of the bastard stepchild of recorders, the 388.:eek::rolleyes: You just have to try it.

I have no doubt in my mind that if Tascam wanted to compete in the 1/4" 8-track 15 ips arena, toe to toe with Fostex,... would have really kicked Fostex in the ass. So, Tascam never played in the Fostex arena and vice versa, and there's a lot of virtue in the 1/4" format in general, incl. 1/4" 8-tracks.

The 388 is the one of a kind recording oddity cult item, which feature-for-feature mops the field with the rest of 8-tracker all-in-one'rs of today, and does it in style. It's not the difference if it sounds good, or it sounds great, but it's a great package. It's a niche product. A cult product,... I'll give you that. It's not just cultish-wierd, the 388 is really a fine instrument that delivers.

Sorry for that ramble or rant!:eek::eek:;)

Phenolic boards are more prone to heat discoloration than glass epoxy boards. It is more common to see this discoloration under power resistors that are dissapating a bit of power. These diodes are also dissapating power.

There are a few tricks that can help. The best one is to mount the diode or resistor a bit off the board. This allows more air to flow and cool the part.

These are rated at 1 amp if I remember correctly and have not blown up so I suspect that you are (or were you have recapped) pulling some current through them. No fuses are blowing too so you are within the limits. Recapping may reduce the current draw provided that there was a bad cap somewhere in the batch. You can test this by turning it on and letting it run a while then turn it off and hold the power plug in your left hand while touching the diodes with the back of your right index finger. Warm, Hot, ouch?

Why hold the power plug? This ensures that there is no AC going into the unit (you did get the right plug???) Why the back of your finger? This is how you retain the ability to type if the device is very hot. Plus with fewer nerves it hurts less. (I'm not making this stuff up!)

Anyway, I would not worry too much about it. I would check to be sure that none of the diodes was bad. And get someone who also has a 388 to look at theirs to see if this is common.

Regards, Ethan
I don't know how common (or how "normal") this really is, but I've seen that "heat coloration" around rectifier diodes many times.
Here's a good example, I just happen to have "on my hands", so I've made some photos, see attached.
I 've got about 50 ps of akai vcrs here locally from a "junk warehouse", those I think were from a hotel rooms) and were ready to be dumped. So I 've picked bunch of them for parts :)...still have about 20 left. I still have bunch of boards from those machines i n the box, as you see on the photos, the rectifier diodes in the power supply all have that "heat-burn" around/under them, and they are ALL like that, every single one - no exception. Those VCRs, btw, are mostly still sort of in working condition ..heh heh
So, well, I'd say, as Ethan mentioned, you can check the diodes just in case if you feel like it, but there's nothing really much to worry there about. Also, I would guess that the diodes are fine :)


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Awesome! Thanks, guys!

Why hold the power plug? This ensures that there is no AC going into the unit...

Ethan, you mean unplug and hold the plug so that my fingers touch the prongs right? Might sound like a stupid question...I realize you don't mean stick my tongue into the power receptacle OR just hold the insulated portion of the plug while it is plugged in...just want to confirm that you mean shorting the hot and neutral prongs of the power plug whilst it is unplugged from the mains.
Awesome! Thanks, guys!

Ethan, you mean unplug and hold the plug so that my fingers touch the prongs right? Might sound like a stupid question...I realize you don't mean stick my tongue into the power receptacle OR just hold the insulated portion of the plug while it is plugged in...just want to confirm that you mean shorting the hot and neutral prongs of the power plug whilst it is unplugged from the mains.

No, just hold the plug in your hand. It was one of the tricks that I was taught (when I was 9 :eek: Perhaps you remember the book "A Boy and a Battery as well"?) by the guy down the street who fixed TVs on the side. I would go over there and "help" out. I could read schematics and had an idea of what was going on and learning more every day.

He would test or put in a new part then plug it in and try it out then pull the plug and test another part. By holding the plug he was sure that he pulled it every time before reaching into the set. It would be easy to forget that you did not pull the plug once out of the 20 or 30 interations if you did not have a "programmed pattern" for pulling the plug. No need to touch the prongs.

Also about three weeks ago...

Took the bottom panel off to get to the mixer PCB's and look at the underside of the transport...nice heavy-guage panel on the bottom...comes off with little time expense and exposes everything. See here...transport in the right, mixer on the left...this is how you get to the capstan belt to change it and it is very easy. Look for shedshrine's dedicated tutorial to changing out the capstan belt. Excellent detailed steps and photos...here's the photo of the inside of my 388's belly:


What I found under there (outside of some dust-bunnies) was clean and intact. Capstan belt looks and feels really nice...capstan pulleys are very nicely crafted pieces:


BUT...I noticed some runout (wobble) on the capstan motor pulley..."uh-oh" I thought...is my capstan motor shaft tweaked? I got out my trusty $15 guage with magnetic mount (don't worry folks...no tape in sight and the headblock was already pulled :)) to test both pulleys and ultimately the capstan motor shaft...mount, adjust, spin and watch the dial:




What I found was that the face of the capstan motor pulley was wobbling by about 0.002". The casptan shaft pulley was dead-steady, as was the capstan motor shaft! PHEW! :p The capstan motor pulley mounts with two set screws oriented at 90-degrees to each other like the reel tables and such so my guess is that the wobble was the by-product of how the pulley mounts. I'll try to get it as steady as possible when I put it back together. AND...keep in mind that the belt likely acts as a damper to such vibrations that might be caused by that slight wobble AND the heavy capstan shaft pulley is going to dampen as well. My guess is that that 0.002" wobble has an immeasurable effect on performance, but you know me...If I can get it to be less I will. If not I figure it has probably been that way since they put the thing together.

As I mentioned I took the headblock off to inspect it, clean it and get it out of harms way during other activities. Here are some closeups...Note that the shield for the record/repro head is loose, and what is that wierd light smudginess on tracks 1&2 and 7&8 on the record/repro head???:





Here are some after shots of things, and, no, the smudginess didn't come out...:confused:...I'd like any input on that that I can get. Anybody else seen anything like that?:



Also pulled mixer cards and doing the usual inspecting, cleaning and recapping...its funny how easy it seems to recap these channel cards...there are 14 caps compared to the M-520's 24, which may not seem like a big difference, but it feels so much quicker and easier...plus there is lots of room around the caps and there aren't wires to manipulate sitting over caps (like on the M-___...that's a PITA...and 73 caps per channel strip on THAT...) Okay...I know, I know. Overkill right? Hey...Its 20-some years old. It can't hurt...I have the caps on-hand that are doing nothing but aging otherwise and I've got to do SOMETHING to live up to my custom "Don't bug me; I'm recapping" t-shirt. Kidding. :rolleyes::D

Here's a 388 channel card cleaned, inspected and recapped:


Stay tuned for the next installment!
hey sweetbeats,

Just an aside here.

Always enjoy your over the top detail obsession posts.
Especially the photos.
Very good detail.
Do you have to compress them to post here?

thanks and keep up the good work