Tascam 388 Story...

Eureka!!! PROBLEM SOLVED. I was reviewing another forum and a user mentioned a similar situation - plays prerecorded tapes fine but will not record. His problem was a gunked up play/record head - Sticky Shed Syndrome. I'd already (vigorously) cleaned the heads twice with isopropyl alcohol and no residue was visible or appearing on the swab. I also assumed that if the head played well, it should record well. But then I remembered that the tape they had left on the deck when I bought it was old and of very poor quality. Also, poor head hygiene by the previous owner would probably effect both machines in the same way. So I did something that I do not necessarily recommend to others - I reached for a stronger solvent. I VERY carefully wetted a Q tip with lacquer thinner, and being very careful to not let any drops fall or touch any of the plastic parts, I re-cleaned the PLAY/REC head. Turns out that the alcohol was not strong enough to soften/remove the built up gunk. I let it dry, threaded the tape, recorded a bit, and it played back beautifully!!!! I'm over the moon happy!!!!

Sweetbeats and others, thank you so much for your guidance and encouragement and sorry for absorbing your time on such a simple/silly issue. I've not tried this on deck number 2 but feel confident that it will be the same issue. So that means I have two, perfectly functioning 388s - for 50 bucks each!!!!