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Thread: How to get all 8 separate tracks together out of the TASCAM 488

  1. #1
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    How to get all 8 separate tracks together out of the TASCAM 488

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    I come bearing glad tidings.
    It is possible to get all 8 tracks out of the Tascam 488 mark 1. On this page, a guy called Dragon describes how to do it with the Mk2. He references a guy called Les Cargill who sometime in the 90s had worked out a way to do this. But Dragon says he didn't understand it so he modified it and worked out another way.
    The combination of these two plus an innovation of my own is what I'm about to share so I take no credit at all. Without these two guys, I would never have dreamed how it could be done.
    I tend to be "technical by accident".
    Let me also add that what threw me {and I first came across their plan in 2005} was naming things like "Sub select outs" and "inserts 1&2". I have no idea what they are and on the MK 1, there are no inserts.

    But enough preamble. The fans want action, not waffle !

    There are 4 main 'destinations' to receive 8 separate tracks that I can think of 1}An interface with 8 or more inputs that will connect to a DAW via computer 2}A tape based reel to reel with 8 or more inputs 3}A standalone DAW that is capable of simultaneous recording on 8 or more tracks or 4} 2 standalone DAWs, each taking 4 tracks each {more on this later}.

    The way I managed it needed five RCA/phono to 1/4" jack leads and three 1/4" jack to 1/4" jack {guitar leads} cables. I used a set of headphones to monitor from the 2 DAWs. You could use two if you like, one on each. Or you could connect to monitors. The leads that you use will depend on the input sockets of whatever recorder you're transferring to, so some ends might have XLRs. Bear in mind that this describes how I did it. There may well be differences as different people will transfer to different equipment, have different numbering systems, think differently etc.
    the three.JPG

    TRACKS 1~4.
    Connect 4 of your RCA/phono ~ 1/4" jacks. The phono ends go on the back of the 488 on the section that says "Group out". The 1/4" jack ends {or whatever your particular machine is taking} go into tracks 1~4 of your interface/DAW/recorder. You set the interface/DAW/recorder up for however you want to record the incoming signals.
    It makes life easier if you correspond numbers, so 1/L on the 488 goes to your track 1, 2/R to your track 2, 3 to your 3, 4 to your 4.
    On the front end, turn the "Tape Mix/Cue" knob fully left to "Mix" for tracks 1~4.
    Press down the "assign" buttons for tracks 1~4.
    Track 1 - 1/L~ 2/R
    Track 2 - 1/L~2/R
    Track 3 - 3~4
    Track 4 - 3~4
    Pan tracks 1 and 3 fully left, tracks 2 and 4 fully right.
    Set the master faders of both 1/L~2/R and 3~4 to 7. Also set the volume faders of tracks 1~4 to wherever they need to be for you to get the signal you want without clipping.
    the five.JPG
    You have probably already discovered during mixdowns that you can mix out through any of the group outs {1/2, 3/4, 1/4, 2/3} in any combination as long as they are in odd/even pairs. So sending signals out of the "group outs" is the easy part. You can mess with the EQ on tracks 1~4 though that's not really a good idea. Far better to leave it flat and mess with all that once the tracks have reached their destination.
    The one.JPG
    TRACKS 5 & 6
    I remember being really surprized to read from Dragon and Les Cargill that you could get separate tracks out via the effects sends. On reflection, it's actually quite logical. But neither guy tells you how to do it and from a MK 1 perspective it's confusing. Because when you use the effect sends, you get a mix of 3 or 4 tracks. So if you find you've got this, then you know you've gone wrong.
    Fiddling around, I found this works.
    Connect 1/4" to 1/4" leads from the "Effects sends" sockets at the back of the 488 to your interface/DAW/recorder inputs. For my own ease I connected "Effects send 1" to track 1 of my 2nd DAW and "Effects send 2" to my 2nd DAW's track 2. But to make it easier to understand, I'm going to call tracks 1,2,3 & 4 of my 2nd DAW tracks 5, 6,7& 8. So connect "Effects send 1" to track 5 and "Effects send 2" to track 6.
    On the front side, turn the "Tape mix/cue" knob fully left to "Mix", just like you did for tracks 1~4.
    Turn the two "Effects send masters" fully right.
    The effect knob for track 5 turn fully left {this is for what comes from effects send 1}.
    The effect knob for track 6 turn fully right {this is for what comes from effects send 2}. the four.JPG
    No need to touch any of the assign buttons.
    Use the track 5 and 6 volume faders to control how much signal you want to come from tracks 5 and 6. As you can see from my picture, the 5 and 6 are down low. It gets loud via the effects sends !

    TRACK 8.
    Go to the back of the 488. Turn the "Sync" button to ON. Use a RCA/phono to 1/4" jack lead with the RCA/phono plugged into the "Sync" OUT socket. The jack end goes to track 8 of what you're transferring to. You control the level of the signal from your interface/DAW/recorder. That's all you need to do. It's crude and simple and offers no control from the 488 but it works and works well.

    TRACK 7.
    While thinking about how the tracks could be gotten out, I could see a logical flow for 7 of the tracks. But this one stumped me. I don't know what the "inserts" Les speaks of are. Whatever they might be, the MK 1 doesn't have them. Neither does it have the "monitor cue out" that Dragon spoke of. I wondered if the headphone socket would work but I dismissed this because I thought that tracks 1~4 would bleed in. After all, they do while mixing down. You can mix up cue and monitor signals.
    But not if none of the monitor buttons are on !
    So I just took a guitar lead, plugged it into the headphone socket and fed it to "track 7" of the DAW and with some fiddling, wham ! Sound. Good sound. The two.JPG
    So, in the "Monitor" section, press down the "cue" button but leave the group 1,2,3 & 4 buttons up.
    Turn the "Tape mix/cue" knob fully right to "Cue".
    Use the Cue "master" and "phones" knobs to determine the level of the signal going out.

    The pan button has no effect for tracks 5~8.

    Although my DAW can simultaneously record 8 tracks, with 6 inputs, you need an optical digital cable for that {which I have} but the 488 is an analog machine with no optical outs. An AD/DA converter would cost more than what the three machines combined are worth ! the six.JPGBut with two DAWS, I figured it could be done, if it was possible to get the 8 tracks out separately but simultaneously.
    OK, it meant that I then had to fly in 4 tracks from one DAW to another but this was no problem really. Half an hour out of my life for a 21 minute tape. That's why I threw in the "2 DAW" option, in case there are some out there with 2 DAWs that want to transfer all 8 tracks intact.
    I suspect there aren't that many 488 users out there these days but every so often, one is looking for a way to get the tracks out and unlike some 8 track portastudios, the 488 isn't supposed to offer that.

    But now we know differently.

    So there you have it. The reason it's long and wordy is so that it's hopefully easy to understand. An almost step by step guide.
    I hope it helps.

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  3. #2
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    Hi Grimtraveller

    Was so, so pleased to read your workaround for bringing Tascam 488 tapes into the digital age... esp. as its specifically for the Tascam 488 mk1, the one I have.

    So... I'm now going to try out your method of converting my old tapes. Being a newbie to recording digitally I was going to first try recording them into Garageband which I'm pretty sure can take 8 tracks at once.

    However, first I know I'll need an interface, so I'm wondering if a converter like the Behringer Ada8000 would do the job connected up to my Mac?

    Any thoughts


  4. #3
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    This is brilliant, grimtraveller! A buddy of mine and I who recorded lots of stuff together back in the days of the Fostex X-15 and the Tascam 488 will be getting together for a few days next month to mix down all our studio tapes to digital (Zoom R-24). These instructions of yours are going to be priceless for us. We were thinking we'd have to dump down four tracks in two passes and then sync them up later in Reaper, but this is so much better and easier. Thanks so much for taking time to put this down in so much detail.

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    I wanted you to know that while I've been a frequent reader and of posts here, I have not been registered. Your insightful and helpful post on the TASCAM 488 has inspired me to register so I can thank you. I have been considering the purchase of a 488 for some time now and was harboring reservations about the available outputs. I especially like your style of writing, and love how you refer to "Les" and "Dragon" in almost reverential language, as if they were the authors of two lost gospels.

    Well, that's all I wanted to say. I hope all's well in your world.

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  7. #5
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    Will this work with 488 mk2?

    Do you or anyone know if this work flow is compatible with the Tascam 488 mk2?
    Could I do this with my 488 mk2?
    Thanks ahead for any information you can give me!

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