which 1/2" 8 track recorder?

tony moore

New member
hey folks,

i spent some time with a tascam 1/2" 8 track reel to reel recorder (not sure of the model #) the past couple of nights and loved it! fwiw, i was recording bass guitar and some drums programs i had made using acid. this was at a friends home studio which is all analog, i've been using a mac daw and a 4 track md (for remote) of late. also, fwiw, we ran the drum tracks from my laptop to a pair of art tube pacs and then to the recorder. killer sound for drums tracks! ANYWAY, i really want to buy one and after surfing ebay it seems they are extremely affordable, compared to daw stuff and other digital gear. so, any advice on what to look for? my intention is to record my own stuff, which is just silly bass'n'drum loopy spacey stuff (that 'tape saturation' thing sounds great for my stuff!). i have a little mackie 1202vlz and various analog outboard gear that should work just fine with it. so, what sez ye?



ps - dragon, if yer listening, i'm still waiting for that mac forum :-)
The only one I've used is the Tascam TSR-8. Found it to be an excellent, reliable, great sounding machine.

As for buying one on ebay. I don't know, hard to check the heads, transport and what not to see that it's in check.

I'm looking for one myself, if I see anything I'll let you know.
I agree with Emeric. The TSR8 (Tascam) is the best thing going. I had one in my studio for several years. Great Analog sound. I would buy another one If I saw a good deal.

The only problem I encountered was the little track selector switches. After a few thousand punchins. I actualy broke the little rubber membrane (Dust covers. The switches still operated but didn't look as nice.

INSPECT THE HEADS before you buy!!! New heads can cost $800 to $1000. I cleaned and demagnetized mine religiously, and still after about 2 years of moderate use, the heads were begining to show wear.

Dom Franco
thanks emeric! that gives me a good place to start. thanks for the ebay tip too. i really wanted to get an idea of what reel recorders are selling for as i have no real ;-) experience with them. what type of i/o's does the tsr-8 have? thanks again!

thanks dom! wow, i had no idea heads would be that expensive. that means they are arguably more expensive than a complete used recorder. given proper care, how many hours should be expected out of new heads?

thanks for the great advice,

The first time tape passes over the head it's begining to wear. After a few hundred hours the highest frequencys (10k to 16K) will not be reproduced at full volume.

You can compensate by EQ during recording and play back. Heads can also be relapped (Polished) and brought back to new specifications. but this is also expensive.

This reason alone is enough to insure that Hard Disk recording is the way of the future.

Dust acts like an abrasive on tape and heads, this is why cleaning is so important.
You should also have a plastic cover for the unit when not in use.

Don't be discouraged, a well cared for tape recorder will give you years of service.

Let your ears be the judge. I sold my old 8 track, only after comparing side by side with my new Fostex digital unit. The high end frequency response was what I noticed. Digital was clear and crisp with no hiss, the tape was duller and the background noise that I had learned to live with was so obvious!


Dom Franco
hey dom,

that makes sense. i guess we were looking for the mud in those sessions :-) loss of very high end is a big deal in my stuff, but i really like what the tape did for the lows and mids. good advice on the heads too. thanks!

"The price for relapping your Fostex B-16 heads is $95.00 each and $60.00 for an optical alignment of the complete head assembly. We currently stock replacement heads @ $1150.00 for the Record/Playback head. There is no charge to evaluate the
heads for possible relapping." This is what JFR Magnetics sent me about my old B16. it is a 1/2" reel to reel, so actually relapping heads is not that expensive. reel to reels are good.
I've had a TSR-8 in my studio for seven years now.
Two thumbs up! Fantastic sounding, great old reliable analog workhorse.

Before you buy one used, check those heads.

The TSR-8 has 8 RCA in's and 8 RCA outs. The 8th track can be used for stripping/synching midi and other gear.

Thinking back, I remembered one weird problem that I did have with the TSR-8 and am curious if anyone else has run across it.

I was recording something, or rewinding whatever.. normal usage.

All of the sudden the machine went into hyper fast forward mode. I mean hyper, way faster than it normally would ever ff.

Just wondering if that happened to anyone else? Only happened twice in 3 years, outside of that, no probs. Weird servo motor problem or something?
thanks for all the info guys!

any hints on evaluating heads? as i've never owned a reel recorder, i'm not quite sure what to look for. also, there are lots of other tascam and fostex models around fs, but i haven't seen any tsr-8 recorders fs yet. anyone familiar with any other models in the case i can't find a tsr-8? the relapping thing makes me happy :-) is there a way to tell if heads have been relapped or if they are 'relappable'? how many times can a head be relapped? (this is starting to sound silly :-)

again, thanks!

Im not sure were you guys are buying new record heads for a TSR * for $800 - $1200.
That absurd to pay that much. I can get anyone brand new tascam (teac) heads for a TSR for $350 to $450 depending on availability.

Dont get burned !

The only other thing you may want to consider before you go with the analog 8 track is how you're going to mix down your masters. I've always had lots of problems with second generation tape noise regardless of whether or not I used noise reduction.

Now, I've got to admit I mixed down to cassette, which was all I could afford at the time, so you'll almost certainly have better luck with a "real" mixdown deck, particularly a 1/2 or 1" deck. At the same time, I haven't had any mixdown problems since going all digital. Got to admit, though, my older recordings on a 1/4" analog 4 track sound great.

Good luck,
The $800.00 was a ballpark figure....and includes labor. If you want to tackle replacing the heads yourself; Good Luck!

Tape head alignment requires a special calibrated tape and an oscilloscope to view waveforms etc. Basicly, you want your recorded signals to play back identically to what was input on each track.

I have attempted this, and struggled. (Doing it blindly by ear) Trying to record a signal at "0" vu and then test play back. The calibrated test tape is a must!

There is also a bias adjustment on each card. *8 amplifers (8 tracks) Record level, playback level, erase level bias etc.

To me it is well worth the money to have a qualified technician go through all this when you have heads replaced. But you may be much better at it than I was, just be sure that you don't have a recording session scheduled for the next day!


Dom Franco
My 2 cents: I have an Otari MX5050 1/2" 8 track and I love it. I'm like the fourth owner so I had to dump a bunch of money into getting it fixed up, but since then it's been an absolute workhorse. I've been using Quantegy GP9 tape, which can handle just ridiculouly hot levels. One weird thing I've had happen which I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about: my band was recording tracks, we filled up one reel of tape. All was fine, levels were super hot, it sounded great. We put a new reel on and continued recording. When we listened back to that reel, there was barely any level at all on any of the tracks. I'm saying the meters were hardly moving at all. Any ideas? Was it just the gremlins?
Two q's:
1. Is there any truth to the argument that the TSR performs better horizontally opposed to vertically? Something about allignment issues?

2. And if I get a TSR used, do I have to get it calibrated to the type of tape stock I use?

I read that both of these are issues with Otaris, too; I'm trying to figure out if the warmth of analog is worth the maintenance sweat. I was an English major, so you can guess how many times I used a wave form generator.