Tascam M520 Story...

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
The other thing you should try is swap your connects. For instance, on CH1, plug what’s connected to the direct out jack to the tape in jack and vice versa. Just swap those RCA connections. See what happens.
 

easleyw13

New member
Tested the mic inputs tonight. All 8 pass signal and are adjustable via the faders and EQ. Tomorrow will test out the line/tape ins and the direct outs.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
I’m guessing you have your inputs and outputs swapped from the interface, or something is configured incorrectly with the Apollo interface.

If the channels function correctly with the mic inputs I’m 99.999999% sure it will work with the line inputs...I put my money on output was connected to input and input connected to output.
 

easleyw13

New member
Went ahead and checked the line and tape inputs too. Both work hunky dory. Tomorrow I'll dig into my patchbay routing and get to the bottom of it. I also don't fully understand UAD's routing software so I have quite a few variables to check. But I agree, definitely something with the Apollo.
 

easleyw13

New member
Well, I figured I'd give it a glance at the end of the night -- had the DB25 connectors backwards. I feel like an idiot, but often the solutions are simpler than one might think. Everything back to normal. Thank you all for your help.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
I love it when it is something simple.

Good on you for asking the questions. The video helped immensely. Without it I wouldn’t have thought about the potential of connections being swapped.
 

vikeshkapoor

New member
Hey all!

So happy to find this thread. Lots of info here...

I just picked up an M-512 and am in way over my head in how to connect this to the digital world. Is anyone using their board for tracking and mixing?
What about for monitor playback?

Please help :)

Thanks.
 

vikeshkapoor

New member
Sweetbeats,

Thanks for replying. Here's my set-up:

DAW
Apollo 16 MK II with Logic (but planning to switch over to Luna)
Apollo Twin

Patchbay
Switchcraft StudioPatch Series 1625 Modular 16-Point TT-DB25

Outboard Gear
AKG BX5
Roland Chorus Echo SRE-555
Vintage King Lunchbox with BAE1073 > Pultec MEQ500 > Acme Opticom

Misc
Tascam 246 Cassette 4-Track
Ampex 601-2 Stereo Reel to Reel

Ideally, I want to use the Tascam board as my command center and hub. I hate working on the computer.
I'm a songwriter and this is my personal studio, so I'd like to set it up, so that everything is plugged in and on dedicated channels ready to go. And then when I'm ready to mix I can flip some switches. Ideally I'd love to use the faders to balance listening volumes on playback, but I'm a bit confused about what "monitor playback" actually is. Everyone tells me I should monitor from my DAW, since that is the last gain stage and that is what's being printed. Is there a way to listen from the DAW, but utilize the faders for listen back volume/balance, instead of tinkering on a small screen with a mouse?

Here are the instruments I'd like to have ready to go on dedicated channels:
Vocal Mic
Stereo Mics for Upright piano
Mono Mic for Acoustic instruments and/or Guitar amp
Mellotron M4000D (XLR and 1/4" output)
Juno JU-06A (1/8" output)
Wurlitzer 200 (1/4" output)

Ideally I'd like to also bounce down to 4-track cassette and/or the Ampex for certain things, or simply run stuff through them.

Any insight is appreciated! I'm just a songwriter pretending to be an engineer :)
Thanks so much.

ps. Sweetbeats -- where are you located by the way?



 

vikeshkapoor

New member
Good question. As of now nothing is hooked up because I'm trying to figure out a workflow to at least get started. I'm new to all of this, so it's hard to determine what workflow will work best for me without it getting too convoluted.

Anything you might suggest?
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Well it sounds like you’ve already identified a workflow...you indicated you want the analog console to be the signal hub for the studio, including using it for tracking, overdubs and mixing. So there you go. The DAW is your multitrack recorder. If it was a tape machine you’d have outputs from your mixer connected to each of the inputs, and in kind each of the outputs of the tape machine would be connected to inputs on your mixer. Done. But since it’s a DAW interface you may or may not use all the inputs and outputs. I’m not familiar with the Apollo, and I don’t have time to go read the manual, so you’ve gotta help me out a little. How many tracks do you record simultaneously at the most? And do you submit any of those? Like do you ever multiple mics on a drum kit, for instance, and submix those to a stereo mix before tracking? Or do you always use one track per source? The latter is typically the case in the DAW age because we are as limited in track count. So answer that...that will determine if you want to use any of your PGM Groups in the path to the Apollo, or if you are just using direct outs from your input channels to feel the Apollo. And then the question about track count...the M-512 has 12 input strips. You can creatively use the M-512 to mix more than 12 inputs for sure but features become limited on source counts greater than 12, so if your DAW projects are typically greater than 12 tracks then you’re not going to be using the M-512 to mix down your DAW projects...maybe you mix some stems through the analog console and you submit some in the DAW...but before that we need to know how many outputs your Apollo has because if it’s, say, 8, then some of these questions are moot.
So...chew on that for a bit. I’ll look for a reply.
 

vikeshkapoor

New member
Thanks for the note, Sweetbeats. Answers to your questions:

So my Apollo has 16 converters.
I only forsee recording 3-5 tracks simultaneously, but most often it'll be just 2.
As of now, just one track per source.

A couple questions:
What is the use of PGM outputs vs the Direct Outs?
For mixing, what is the benefit of the Tape Ins vs the Line Ins?

Lastly, I noticed that I am getting a weak signal from my Channel 3 Tape In and zero signal from Channel 6 Tape In. Both channels are giving a strong signal with the Mic In, however. Any things I should look at that could be causing this? The board was completely recapped 4-6 yrs ago.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
So my Apollo has 16 converters.

I only forsee recording 3-5 tracks simultaneously, but most often it'll be just 2.

As of now, just one track per source.



Thanks for the info. I didn’t want to keep playing 20 questions about your interface, and saying that it has “16 converters” didn’t entirely get at what I’m trying to understand about your equipment, setup and use of said equipment...so I read up on your interface.

A key question here is this: how many tracks do your DAW projects amount to? I think I asked that before. If it is more than 12 you need to think about how it is you are going to use a 12 channel console to mix more than 12 tracks. So let me know about that. If it is less than or equal to 12 let me know. This drives how many channels of the Apollo are connected to the console.

Once I can get a clear picture via answers to the questions I’m asking I can at least tell you how I would hook stuff up and how I would use the different features of the console.

A couple questions:
What is the use of PGM outputs vs the Direct Outs?

The direct outs are only going to have one source passing through each one. If you have a kick drum connected to the input of channel 1, the direct out jack of channel 1 is going to have...a kick drum.

The PGM groups are summing busses...they combine multiple sources...whatever you assign to each respective buss. In a pre-DAW world project studio where you had limited track count (often 8 or maybe 16 tracks, “home” or personal studio many times 4 tracks), you didn’t have the luxury of dedicating a track for each source or you would run out of tracks. So when you had, for instance, multiple mics on a drum kit you couldn’t afford to take up that many tracks, one for each mic. So instead of maybe 6, 7 or 8 tracks for a drum kit, one might make a stereo sub-mix of the tom and overhead mics and put those on 2 tracks, and leave the snare and kick on their own tracks; 4 tracks...sometimes mix the whole kit down to a 2 channel stereo mix even, or maybe a stereo mix and just the kick on its own track. So in the first scenario with 4 tracks for the drum kit one might assign the left overhead to PGM 1, the right overhead to PGM2, and the tom mics assigned to PGM 1 & 2 with their respective PAN controls set to place the individual toms across the stereo field of PGM 1 & 2. The individual channel faders of the sources would be set to create a balanced mix of those sources, and then the outputs for PGM 1 & 2 would be connected to the inputs of two tape tracks. PGM groups are also used as a convenient way to route individual sources to any tape track. Let’s say we have an 8 track tape machine and your M-512. If you had each PGM out 1~8 connected to tape machine inputs 1~8, you now have a way to get any input source to any or all tape tracks without any re-patching, simply using the assign buttons and PAN controls. So that was common in professional studios where, over the course of long days (and sometimes around the clock) the studio would have multiple artists booking time in a day, and it was beneficial to be able to zero the console in between sessions and then be able to use the control surface of the console to quickly patch inputs to tape tracks without plugging or unplugging anything...it wasn’t uncommon to have a 24-track tape machine and a 16 or 24 buss console.



It is important to note also that in the case of the M-500 consoles there is no dedicated L-R stereo summing buss. Often, on a console with multiple mix busses, you would have assign switches to the subgroups (mix busses, PGM groups) as well as an assign button to a separate stereo “main mix”. On an 8 buss console with a separate main buss the rack of assign switches might look something like this:



[1-2]

[3-4]

[5-6]

[7-8]

[L-R]



But the M-500 consoles have 8 subgroups or “PGM groups” and no separate main buss. It is intended that you use one pair of your 8 PGM groups as a main stereo mix buss.



For mixing, what is the benefit of the Tape Ins vs the Line Ins?



So, electronically speaking, there is no difference between the two. IIRC the circuit design for the tape and line inputs on an M-500 console are identical. But the important thing to note is the way you can access those inputs. Notice on the input channels the AUX buss source switches include something else as an option aside from what is selected as the input for the channel (“TAPE” on channels 1~8 IIRC for instance). What that means is the channel input could be sourced to the MIC input, but independent of that AUX 1-2 could source the TAPE input on that channel. Now you have an independent way to monitor tape track playback and or route that signal elsewhere, like to the headphones of the talent. Also notice over in the MONITOR mixer, the bunch of knobs above the PGM group faders, the individual mixer input channels can source either “BUSS”, or “TAPE”. On the M-500 consoles the MONITOR mixer is the way you audition your PGM groups, okay? Everything that is assigned to a PGM group goes to each group’s fader and then to the group’s output jack, but also post-fader, each PGM group goes to the respective MONITOR mixer input select, accessible via the “BUSS” source option. Then the stereo sum of the MONITOR mixer is accessible via the “MON” source option in the MONITOR SELECT switchrack just above the PGM 3 fader. That switchrack determines what you hear in the headphones connected to the console as well as what is sent to the STEREO A and B faders and their output jacks. Okay...so since you can use the MONITOR mixer to monitor either BUSS or TAPE sources, it gives you even another way to access and monitor your sources connected to the TAPE jacks.



Hopefully you see where this is going...if you are going to use your M-512 to mix DAW stems, you want to connect line outputs from the Apollo to TAPE IN jacks. Those jacks are intended for multitrack tape returns, and the functionality of the console design is setup to be able to easily shift how the multitrack returns are accessed differently during the tracking, overdubbing and mixing stages of recording. Yep. There are only 8 of them on the M-512. The M-512 was designed to mate with an 8-track tape machine. So that means you either limit your DAW projects to 8 tracks if you want to use the console as designed, or submix some tracks in the box to reduce the stem count, or connect Apollo outputs to non “TAPE” line inputs. This isn’t terrible...you could use the TAPE jacks on channels 1~8, and the LINE jacks on channels 9-12 as those inputs have the same inline monitoring access in the AUX section independent of the channel’s selected input source. That way you would have similar functionality for 12 multitrack returns, you just wouldn’t have independent access to all 12 in the MONITOR mixer.



Lastly, I noticed that I am getting a weak signal from my Channel 3 Tape In and zero signal from Channel 6 Tape In. Both channels are giving a strong signal with the Mic In, however. Any things I should look at that could be causing this? The board was completely recapped 4-6 yrs ago.



I would start by gently manipulating the RCA plugs connected to those jacks while monitoring those inputs to see if that results in any crackling or intermittent signal. That would tell me there are broken solder joints or similar that need repaired. If that doesn’t help, I would also exercise those channel’s source select switches (rapidly flip the toggle switches back and forth at least 25 times) while applying some contact cleaner (I recommend DeoxIT D5...connect the straw to the nozzle of the can and stick it down into the guts of the switch), and do the same to the MONITOR mixer channels 3 & 6 source select switches. No change? Time to open up the console and start tracing the signal. Just to clarify, how are you monitoring those TAPE jacks when you have the faulty signal level? Through the channel fader, or via one or more of the AUX busses, or via the MONITOR mixer?
 
Last edited:

vinylguitar

New member
Hi Sweetbeats!

I'm brand new to the forum, and hoping I'm not committing the forum sin of not having dived deep enough on searches before asking a question, but:

You seem to be THE person to ask about Tascam gear, especially M-___ series mixers. I read the thread about your adventures with a modded M-308B, which is exactly the mixer I have had sitting around for quite a while, not having integrated it into my workflow. My ultimate goal here seems very similar to vikeshkapoor's latest posts — to have it as a hub in a hybrid studio setup — so these last few exchanges will be very helpful for me down the road, but first: I really need to clean the thing! It's about as "scungy" as that one was from back in 2008/9 that you found. It's entirely possible that you've already addressed this question (perhaps many times before), but I'm just getting lost in the forums and threads here:

Do you have basic advice about the steps in going about cleaning this series of consoles, since the channel strips cannot be separated out from the desk? Again, apologies if you've already answered this. I'm almost certain you have. If you wouldn't mind just pointing me in the direction of your previous answers to that, if you've detailed it elsewhere, I'd really appreciate it! I'm not really sure where to start, other than taking off knobs and spraying in some deoxit (perhaps of the fader variety). Any systematic approach you've developed over the years is I'm sure far superior to anything I would come up with. (The answer may even be in this very thread some years back, I'm not certain.)

Thank you so much for all you do! I hope I'm not asking too much for a first post.

Best wishes,
Jay
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Hi Sweetbeats!

I'm brand new to the forum, and hoping I'm not committing the forum sin of not having dived deep enough on searches before asking a question, but:

You seem to be THE person to ask about Tascam gear, especially M-___ series mixers. I read the thread about your adventures with a modded M-308B, which is exactly the mixer I have had sitting around for quite a while, not having integrated it into my workflow. My ultimate goal here seems very similar to vikeshkapoor's latest posts — to have it as a hub in a hybrid studio setup — so these last few exchanges will be very helpful for me down the road, but first: I really need to clean the thing! It's about as "scungy" as that one was from back in 2008/9 that you found. It's entirely possible that you've already addressed this question (perhaps many times before), but I'm just getting lost in the forums and threads here:

Do you have basic advice about the steps in going about cleaning this series of consoles, since the channel strips cannot be separated out from the desk? Again, apologies if you've already answered this. I'm almost certain you have. If you wouldn't mind just pointing me in the direction of your previous answers to that, if you've detailed it elsewhere, I'd really appreciate it! I'm not really sure where to start, other than taking off knobs and spraying in some deoxit (perhaps of the fader variety). Any systematic approach you've developed over the years is I'm sure far superior to anything I would come up with. (The answer may even be in this very thread some years back, I'm not certain.)

Thank you so much for all you do! I hope I'm not asking too much for a first post.

Best wishes,
Jay
Hi, Jay.

Generally speaking its best, if you have a new topic, to start a new thread. Since you are asking some detailed questions about a different console than the M-520 that is the focus of this thread, your question and subject will stand out if it is in its own thread, and also that will help subjects within existing threads to remain germane to those intended by the authors of those threads.

I will offer though this thread: https://homerecording.com/bbs/threads/some-thoughts-of-pots-cleaning-and-such.272852/

It might help, though the links to the embedded images are now broken with the migration of the forum. I'm not sure what I can do about that. Hopefully it is still helpful. To really clean the pots on an M-300 console you have to tip it on its side, remove the bottom covers, *carefully* remove the buss PCB that spans across the bottom of all the channel cards, then remove all the knobs of any cards you want to remove, and remove all the pot nuts. You will also need to remove the two screws that hold each channel's fader to the dress panel, and then if you really need to completely remove the channel cards assembly from the chassis you also have to remove any screws that hold the channel's jacks to the backplane. It can be a bit hairy on an M-300...they aren't designed to come apart all that easy...nothing against the series, that was just a design decision to hit the intended price point and market. But that's what you need to do if you actually have to flush the pots, because otherwise you're just jetting cleaner from the top and the lubrication in the pot shaft will prevent the cleaner from reaching the element and wiper, and worst case actually blow some grease down into the works which won't likely help. By removing a card you can then access the pot bodies and flush cleaner into the body of the pot, sweep the pot, let the cleaner drain out, and then do one more flush...use a rag to mop up what excess over-spray you can from the card, and then let it sit out overnight to air dry. On the pots they use a carbon-type element, so you do want to use a product like DeoxIT F5 FaderLube which is designed to clean and treat carbon element potentiometers. Do not use DeoxIT D5, which is intended for use on metal-to-metal type contacts (switches, etc.)

The $1,000,000 question is DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO DO THIS? What symptoms are you experiencing? Many times issues with pots (the "skritchies" as I like to call them) can be addressed by "exercising" the pot...sweeping it rapidly back and forth from stop to stop maybe 25 times. Remove the knob and wrap a leather strap or similar shoelace around the shaft and pull the tails back and forth to make the process easier and sweep the pot faster. If you haven't done this, try it first, or otherwise post what your symptoms are.

Hope this helps.
 

Hotel_Earth

New member
Wow.

I was just taking a stroll down memory lane and decided to check in here for old time's sake - imagine my surprise at seeing a thread I recognized, from 13 years ago, still active! With 30 pages worth of posts, the newest of which is only a couple of weeks old!

I used to be on here all the time when I was in high school in TX - this place was like a window out of the jail cell for me - circa 2006-2008. I ended up buying an M 520 as a result of this thread!! I think I may have bought it from someone on here, or the Tape Op forum - I don't really remember. I do remember that he and a friend of his were very sweet, drove it from out of town to the little storefront I had rented in Chicago where I had just moved, and were quite chuffed to discover that I was not old enough to get a beer with them at the bar next door...!

That storefront studio went under pretty quick but I kept the desk, made a bunch of records on that thing & an old MS-16 with an iffy transport in various basements, squats and warehouses in Chicago over the next few years... I traded up for a Yamaha PM2000 not long after that and now I live in LA and run a "real" (lol) studio with a "nice" console and a studer tape machine... but I still think about the M520! God I hated that thing. But I loved it too and it taught me how to mix.

I'm sorry for hijacking your thread. Nostalgia is hitting hard here - I vaguely remember some of these old posts! All that research! (Jumpered RCAs? What does that mean?? I only had the vaguest notion what a patchbay was for back then, I was still running around in back of the equipment to patch everything!!) but reading through all of this I'm realizing just how much of a part this forum played in setting my life on the path it ended up on. You all are generous and cool - and, what is perhaps most noteworthy, STILL HERE AFTER 13 YEARS :p:p:p

I'm not going to reveal my incredibly embarrasing user name from back then but perhaps some will connect the dots...

Carry on

Theo
 

flyingace

Active member
I know this is an old thread but, Sweetbeats, do you still own this? I have an opportunity to buy one. he wants $500 but I’m going to offer $350. Says it works, all lights on VUs work and it looks like it needs a good dusting/cleaning. I haven’t dug in yet to asking a ton of questions before picking it up. I wanted to see what your advice/thoughts were. This might be a better analog console for my studio in the long run than the 388. I love the 388 but this would bring my full studio together in one package. Let me know! Thanks!
 

flyingace

Active member
SO I'm picking up this Tascam M-520 for $350 plus a bunch of snake cables this afternoon. Looks to be in great condition. What should I look out for? What should I test/how should I test? Thanks!
 
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