Tascam 38 - What to expect?

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Sleepy_poet
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Tascam 38 - What to expect?

Post by Sleepy_poet » Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:26 pm

I just purchased a Tascam 38 on ebay. The seller didn't know much about it, but said that it works and is in "Used but good condition".
I want to get into analog recording, which is why I got the 38.
To be honest, I don't know what to expect. what kind of cables do I buy to hook it up to my Mackie Onyx 1620 Mixer?
Do I need to calibrate it?
Is it easy to calibrate?
What kind of things should I look for when I test it out?

Can anyone give me some advise on "How to own" a Tascam 38?
If you can, it would be a BIG help.

Love and Peace,
Justin

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:11 pm

Do a search. There's lots of good info here for 38 owners.
I had one for years and was nothing but happy with it. They sound great (when set up right) and can be more or less hasle free for an anolog deck.
They're unballanced rca in/outs at -10db. If you want to get clean recordings you should set bias your machine for GP9 and record hot to tape without the DBX noise reduction (if you have the DBX noise redux units). If you want lots of tape compression etc bias for 456.
Have fun.

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Post by nestle » Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:42 pm

38 owner here who uses it every week-
great machine, I really love it. Usually the bias is set up, set and forget,,it's not easy to calibrate, I go 456 no DBX.
yes unbalanced RCA....-10, but it's pretty quite.
things to watch out for are the tape hub tables get easily out of wack if it gets jilted, it's a bitch to fix. Transport is pretty clutzy and uses TASCAM time..
If it doesn't get used often enough the moving parts will start to get fucked up, it needs exercise, the rubber will go bad.
Clean the sucker often across the whole tape transport path with 90 percent or better alcohol OFTEN..the machine will love you back.
It's not an otari, but it's a friggin great workhorse machine from the tale end of the analog era, good purchase...how much?

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Post by Sleepy_poet » Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:46 pm

After the whole everything I got it for $330 ($285 for deck, $30 for shipping).
My favourite producer is Nick Launay, and I found out about tape compression from an interview he did with Mix magazine. Plus I read in a book about analog recording that Tascam 38's are factory set for 456 tape.
So I think I am gonna do lots of tape compression and all that.
Tony Visconti is another big influence for me, and he doesn't use DBX. I used the DBX NR on my Yamaha MT4X and I HATED how it sounded. Most peopel say that if you keep your signals hot enough, you don't have to really worry about hiss.
I want to learn EVERYTHING about how this thing works. I'm a perfectionist, so the sooner I learn how to Bias and Calibrate it the better. Is there any book or somethign that can teach me how?
I havn't gotten the machine in the mail yet, but I am expecting a bit of a project. I literally know NOTHING about the reality of reel-to-reel. I learned how to engineer on digital (self taught).
So all in all though, a good tape machine for a 19 year old kid?

I was also planning to get an Otari MX-50 for mixing down.

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brianroth
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Post by brianroth » Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:08 pm

I hope your "new" machine comes with the manual, which outlines the steps for calibration.

Bri
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Post by Sleepy_poet » Thu Jun 15, 2006 7:31 am

...No, it didn't come with the manual. Just the deck, nothing else.
I am bidding on a manual on ebay right now. The auction ends tomorrow.

Where can I get an editing block? And leader tape, and a takeup reel?

nestle
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Post by nestle » Thu Jun 15, 2006 9:46 am

whats kinda important is an MRL tape, that would tell you alot.
If it isn't needed I would not screw about with the bias, I bet it is already set.
This veriety of machine was sort of prosumer at the time, the controls are painful to get to. There was a philosiphy..and I think they even say this in the manual of simplicity and strip it down so that they could give you a good machine at a better price point. As far as suturation, at 456...it's fantastic like that. Don't needlessly slam it levelwise, but it's forgiving when it crunches out. I record my band, set the levels and walk out of the room..if someone gets loud and the always do, the machine just squishes it nicely. Then dump to protools, thats my way.
It's like film is to video, you will find your tracks becoming alot more alive and musical...your gonna like it.
They make a good remote for it-
I should sell my manual on ebay, that a good idea...lol

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Post by Sleepy_poet » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:40 am

What is an MRL tape?
I literally know nothing about who owned this tape machine last. From what it sounds like, the people that sold it to me, they aren't even into recording. Though they do offer more music equipment (DBX 160X), I think they might be a pawn shop or something.
All I know about the tape machine is that the motors work. Do they work well? I don't know. I am expecting to change a motor or belt here and there.
I can't wait to hear how "alive' and "breathing" everything is gonna sound. But! I am aware that it might not sound that way when the tape machine gets to my front door.
Is there a possibility that someone re-biased it for NOT 456 tape somehwere down the line? Or maybe calibrated it for some other type of tape?

Can anyone give me a list of shit to buy? Like a "starter kit" for tape machines? lol.

nestle
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Post by nestle » Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:45 pm

Get 90 percent alcohol, qtips, read about deguassing before you do it, get a take up reel and the MRL is magnetic ref. lab tape, dude it was just in Tape Op a month ago, do a search.

I'm telling you, I bet anything it was ref to 456, the kind of people who generally used the 38 were not that pro...it can be done, but it was a bitch to change, we're not talking about a Studer here, BTW I did blow a motor once and changed it myself, it can be done.

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Post by brianroth » Thu Jun 15, 2006 11:37 pm

As mentioned, MRL makes calibration tapes:

http://home.flash.net/~mrltapes/

There are a LOT of interesting tech notes on that website as well. Jay McKnight, MRL President, is on of the analog Rocket Scientists and we're lucky to have him.

To do a full calibration, you will need a good audio oscillator (signal generator). An oscilloscope is handy but not mandatory. For demagging, the Han-D-Mag is the tool of choice:

http://www.usrecordingmedia.com/handmagdebyr.html

Bri
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Post by Sleepy_poet » Fri Jun 16, 2006 5:13 pm

Ok, what are the FIRST things I need to buy?

I checked out the Hand D Mag, very cool. Is there anything cheaper? Or is that one like "The One"?

What length of tape should I buy?

I'm sorry to bombard with questions, I have NO IDEA how to go about starting with analog recording.
I did a search for "Tascam 38" and didn't really find too much on tape op. I'll search more later.

Right now, there is soo much I need to research and stuff, before the tape machine even gets here.

Is there a chance that I won't need to calibrate it? Or Bias it?

I guess all in all, what should my first move be after the tape machine arrives at my door?

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Post by brianroth » Sat Jun 17, 2006 12:01 am

Han-D-Mag is about the only choice in this day and age.

For the MRL tapes, the ones with the "chromatic sweep" are shorter, and thus less expensive.

Is there a friendly tech in your area that you can hire for the first time to check out the machine and walk you through the alignment steps?

Bri
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Post by Sleepy_poet » Sat Jun 17, 2006 7:30 am

Well, there aren't any shop sings that say "Friendly Tech" around this city.
There are a few places I can call, but I highly doubt anyone will calibrate my machine.
I found some MRL tapes at that US recording media place, I think I might go with those. There is one that offers "basic calibration".
I found a tape de mag on ebay, slong with cleaning solution and pinch roller cleaner. All 3 come in a pack for around $40. The Demag is a "pencil" shaped probe. I read that those don't work as well, but it is still 110v?
I don't know how to feel about those. The feedback isn't all too bad. I think if I am gonna do this though, I should do it the right way.

I did do some more searching on tape op, found some more info, but not enough to "get me on my feet".
Right now my biggest source of knowledge is "Practical Recording Techniques" at the local bookstore. lol. The MRL website is great too.
I didn't realize how much money it would be to get started.
I'm gonna have to delay getting my compressors for a while. In the end though, this will be worth it? It will sound good?

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Post by earl parameter » Sat Jun 17, 2006 9:35 am

heres an older post i did that should help you out a lot

http://messageboard.tapeop.com/viewtopi ... highlight=

tons of links and stuff

you should spend the next few weeks just searching for "tascam 38" here on the board. and you will NEED to get a manual -- read read read.

and here http://tascamforums.com/index.php?s=15c ... owforum=12 but its pretty quite over there

have fun

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Post by Snarky » Sat Jun 17, 2006 9:34 pm

Anybody want a busted one for parts?
www.myspace.com/capitalcitystudjoe

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