The Tascam 388

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Re: tape available online

Post by the velour fog » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:43 am

eh91311 wrote:musiciansfriend has 7" 456 1/4" wide tape in stock.
i wouldn't use 456. i know some people do it, and have no problems, but i've heard it will fuck up the motor over time. better safe then sorry, imho.
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Re: tape available online

Post by tguncle » Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:48 pm

thegunshyboy wrote:
eh91311 wrote:musiciansfriend has 7" 456 1/4" wide tape in stock.
i wouldn't use 456. i know some people do it, and have no problems, but i've heard it will fuck up the motor over time. better safe then sorry, imho.
really? 456 is all I've ever used. I can't remember where I learned that this is the "right" tape to use, but I've also seen it repeated. Are you sure about this? And if not 456, then 457? help!

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Post by the velour fog » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:15 pm

yes. the manual reccomends 457, (well rather, any tape that's 1 mil thick, 1800' reels.) i've heard different things with regards to tape. i've heard thicker tape just means the load function won't work properly. and i've heard over time using thicker tape will damage the motor. i figure it's not that tough finding the recommended i might as well use it.
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Post by shedshrine » Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:50 pm

Yeah, 457 is just the 456 formula in a 1 mil form.
"from what I've read" Quantegy 456 is still going to be okay as it's still pretty supple compared to some stiffer tapes out there, so might not be so bad on the motors or heads.
Edit: spoke with Tascam, "running 1.5 mil tape (ie: 456) will tear up the motors"..
Edit: ..and yet many have said they've run 456 for years without incident.
Also, if you don't want to use the dbx, and print really hot for maximum signal to noise, the thicker tape will help prevent print through a bit. Be sure to store tapes tails out in any case.
eh91311 wrote: The 1.0mil thick 7" tape stocks (Quantegy 407, 457, RMGI LPR35) is thinner than 1.5 mil thick types (Quantegy 456) and more subject to print-through, or "ghosting", which basically is hearing sound from previous tracks' recordings on playback. Store the tape tails-out, which means play through to the end, store that way, rewind to the beginning to use; this can help deter print-through.

But like gunshy said, if the recommended stuff is available...
Edit: only been able to find 407 and 457 from Quantegy direct. fyi,
Edit again 05/10: No new quantegy 1/4" available now/ever? Go with RMGI Emtec LPR35, produced in Holland, which is the QUantegy 457 equivalent.

Besides, the heads are not made by Tascam anymore, the only aftermarket place I've seen that used to make them quit, so its relapping or nothing (or the odd e-bay offering), so why mess with it.

And anticipating somebody's next question: "what is the load function?"
It means that if you use the prescribed 1 mil 1800' length tape, the microprocessor will automatically stop tape transport before the tape runs off the reels, creating a virtual cassette tape. 8)

And, yeah, gunshy, if the sides are a total splintered loss, you already have an un-stock 388, may as well make some cool side panels in the material of your choice :D I'd actually been thinking about doing that too, save the original ones and make some nice solid wood grained runners... in my spare time :roll:

... and a corian counter shelf across the top. :lol:
Last edited by shedshrine on Fri May 07, 2010 9:40 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by the velour fog » Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:32 pm

well, i might be putting the 388 in a desk i'm building, in which case the sides may stay off. (there's a steel plate underneath the wood, so it's not needed for support, and it makes it an inch or so thinner.)

but if i don't build the desk, then i'll build some nice sides.
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456 vs 457

Post by eh91311 » Mon Oct 30, 2006 6:03 pm

457 is what I've used most, but it apparently is harder to find online or mail order. Quantegy 407 is probably closer to the tape that the machine was actually designed to use, Maxell UD35-90.

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Post by helmuth » Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:22 am


Got mine today, love it to bits.

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Post by Mark » Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:28 am

Moody! :D

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Post by helmuth » Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:38 am

Half the lights to go. :lol:

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Post by Mark » Sat Nov 11, 2006 8:40 am

It'd be easier to see the meters if you turned the room light on :wink:

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Post by shedshrine » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:09 am

Click here for links to:

Full User Guide and Service Manual

custom vinyl dust cover for Tascam 388

Tape deck cleaning and Demagnetizing primer
ImageAnnis Han-D-Mag demagnetizer
Demagnetization demonstration vid thanks j.harv

Tascam 388 12-page glossy brochure courtesy of "The Ghost of FM" of



Tascam 388 Service Photos

(click on pics to enlarge..)
1. 388 opened up for tuneup
2. tune-upper and tuneup-ee (not me in pic, but I wish I knew what this guy does!)
3. Arm&Hammer boxes in mid desmokesmellerizing (took about a week :lol: )
4. brand new heads..yum! only 6000 hours left!


5. Full open-back view of 388 internals.
6. Channel card being removed. (photo courtesy of Your Sister's Music studio)
7. MRL tape with test tones for calibration.
8. Tascam RC-71 remote control.
9. Ready to rock.


Click here for:

How to get started, no playback etc.

Mixdown Compression Tascam 388

Setting up a Patch Bay with a 388

Tascam 388 refurb and recap thread:"Sweetbeats" numerous pictures of the process.

Tascam 388 bias adjustment:"sweetbeats"

Tascam 388 Calibration and Bias info

various diagnosing/ problemsolving for a 388

Heads shot? Relapping! Relapping the two heads from a 388 runs $280.00. (as of 02/04/2011)
For and additional $50 they will create edge relief slots so tracks 1 and 8 don't wear unevenly.

388 "PGM" and "CUE" explanation, 388 mixer compared to a Tascam 488 cassette 8 track mixer more great explanation from "Sweetbeats"

Making a "Better" recording with a Tascam 388


Using the Tascam 388 mixer as a DAW interface

Q: (Satuyrn of Homerecording) I am using a Tascam 388 as an external mixer into a Tascam US-1640 (Digital USB 2.0 Interface) on an iMac. I have the channels routed from each "SEND" in the "ACCESS" section of the 388 to each 1/4" LINE IN on the 1640 w/ 1/4" cables. My question is this:

Is the "SEND" of each channel on the 388 pre or post EQ / Fader?

Here's my dilemma. I started taking levels and with the trim knobs barely turned up, I am clipping on the computer. However, the VU meters on the 388 are not clipping (they're peaking nicely between -3 & 0). I'm guessing that the "SEND" is happening BEFORE the signal gets to the EQ / Fader, and that's why I'm having trouble. I've read recommendations in other threads to use the PGM Buses as an access point on the 388, instead of each channel's "SEND".

I can easily start using the PGM Buss Outs... but they are RCA's... so I'd have to replace all my 1/4" cables and re-route them w/ RCA to 1/4" cables. I'm trying to avoid this, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to. It would be nice to know the info on each channels ACCESS section, though, in the event that I want to use them in another way, some other time.

A: (Sweetbeats of Homerecording)The SEND jacks on the 388 are post eq, pre fader.

The meters monitor the PGM busses, not the pre-fade level on the input strip so its not worth referencing them unless you run a known level test tone into the strip, check the level at the SEND jack and then adjust the level at the corresponding BUSS OUT jack to zero the meters to the input TRIM pot (and then you leave the channel faders and BUSS L & R faders alone).

This is all way too kludgey for me.

Either figure you ignore the meters and adjust the output sensitivity of the 388 at the SEND jack with the TRIM knobs and the input sensitivity of the 1640 with the input trims, or you use the BUSS OUT jacks (which is more ideal to how you are using the mixer IMHO) and just get 1/4" TS --> RCA adapters. Pretty cheap and that way you can still use your 1/4" to 1/4" TS cables.

By using the BUSS OUT jacks you:

Have the advantage of being able to use the meters to monitor the output of the 388 mixer
Can use the 388 input TRIM as it should be used (to maximize the input signal strength to the strip to keep the signal as far above the noise floor as possible rather than being tied to using the TRIM as a send level knob)
Don't have to pull your hair out trying to get adequate gain on the rest of the busses (i.e. EFF and AUX busses and main buss for monitoring) since it sounds like your input TRIMs would have to be set low which would force you to over-boost the rest of the gain stages and you'd be boosting a lot of noise from the input TRIMs since those would be lower to the noise floor.


Q and A / Troubleshooting

How Do You Test Channel/PGM Buss Meters
1: Put tape on machine
2: Plug mic into xlr input on channel 1
3: Set mic/line/rmx selection switch to mike
3: Push channel one fader up into shaded zone (between 7 and 8.)
4: Push odd pgm master fader up into shaded zone (between 7 and 8.)
5: Push even pgm master fader up into shaded zone (between 7 and 8.)
6: Push stereo master fader up into shaded zone (between 7 and 8.)
7: To test the odd tracks turn pan control fully left and use the track assign buttons (1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8.) and record function buttons 1, 3, 5 and 7 to send signal to a particular track
8: For even tracks turn the pan control fully right and use the track assign buttons plus record function buttons 2, 4, 6 and 8.

How do you Test Stereo Buss Meters

Repeat up to step 3, and then:

4: Push stereo master fader up into shaded zone
5: Press down L/R switch in Buss Assign section of channel strip.
(replies courtesy TapeOp member "Mark")

Q: Anyone know how to use the PGM BUSS INs?

A: If you're talking about the eight RCA ins in four stereo pairs, I haven't actually had a need to use them, but according to the manual and block diagram, their intended use is to hook up another mixer with it's own level controls, so they feed the eight busses of the 388 directly, AFTER the assign switches on the individual channels.

So to use these, you don't have any separate assign switches (those would theoretically be on the external device you're bringing). PGM BUSS ins 1,3,5,7 all feed the L/odd program master fader, while 2,4,6,8 all feed the R/even program master fader (but realize that even though you only have two faders to control the levels, the 8 buses are not mixed--they remain independent through to the program outs, monitor outs, and tracks 1-8 on tape).

The PGM BUSS ins are mixed with the corresponding numbered buss on the 388, so after the two master faders, each of the eight PGM BUSS ins, mixed with the same number 388 buss, goes to three places: straight to the corresponding program out RCA jack, to the corresponding numbered pot on the monitor section (through the "PGM" side of the "PGM/CUE" switch on the monitor section), and also to the corresponding track on the 8 track recorder.

Basically, this means that anything hooked to the program buss in RCA jacks is automatically routed to tape, so when you record enable a track, you are also record enabling whatever signal is present on that number PGM BUSS in RCA jack, which is already combined with whatever else you have routed to that numbered buss on the 388 mixer.

The obvious intention is to connect the PGM BUSS outs of another 8 buss TASCAM mixer to the PGM BUSS ins of the 388, so you could expand the number of channels you have feeding the 8 buses. Your other mixer would have the ability to set levels on each channel and assign each channel to one or more of the 8 buses, so you would have the same kind of control you have on the 388 built-in mixer.

(reply courtesy of tape op member ?adadan?)

Q. How do you bounce tracks?

A. (from TapeOp member "Mark"
Set the Mon switch to PGM, Set the Meter switch to the L/R position

Press the Assign switches that correspond to the track(s) you want to bounce to in the mixer channels that correspond to the tracks you want to bounce (so if you want to bounce tracks 1 to 4 to tracks 7 & 8 press Assign 7/8 on channels 1 to 4). Pan the tracks according to where you want to place the instruments in the stereo picture (obviously if you're bouncing to a single track just pan hard left or hard right depending on the track)

Set the input of the tracks you want to bounce to RMX.

Set the faders for the bouncee tracks, the PGM Master and Stereo Master to the shaded area.

Adjust the monitor gain for the target tracks to a comfortable listening level

Press the REC FUNCTION switch(es) of the target track(s). It/they should flash. Keep all other REC FUNCTION switches off

Play back your work and make any EQ adjustments you feel are necessary (don't do this whilst making the actual bounce). Note: this is where Return to Zero and Memory come in handy since you can set the song to loop whilst you tinker. Keep an eye on the meter(s) that corresponds to the target track(s).

When everything sounds satisfactory press PLAY and RECORD and sit back

When the bounce is finished disable to REC FUNCTION of the target track(s), rewind to the pre set 0 point and reset MON to CUE.


I've bounced six tracks to two and not had any problems on mine.

Just watch your levels (keep them just below 0 on all channels) and you'll be fine.

Q. Is there a trick to loading the tape properly? I feel like I just guessed on it, but don't want to mess it up. I just kind of wrapped it and tucked in the end.

A: There's a little slot you can tuck the end into to get the reel wrap started. I tend to just try and hold it flat until I can wrap it with the next loop. Here, check these out.. ... re=related ... /792997515

Q: I recently had the machine serviced and it works great. One thing it does occasionally is kind of "jolt" when I start from a stop (either ffwd or play).

A: Mine does that too. Sometimes a little slack occurs in the course of stopping and starting the tape.
When you hit play, that slack is taken up abruptly and pulled taught, triggering the transport to stop again. Not a big deal if it just occurs once in awhile.

A: "Sweetbeats" said:

The "CHUNK" noise...You're talking about a mechanical noise from the transport? Any time you hit STOP or PLAY there are three solenoids that kick in or out with associated linkages and such, and they are indeed "chunky" devices considering the size of the transport so all is good if they go "CHUNK". Enjoy the positive mechanical action of your 388...mmmmmmm.

Satan and his 388

The following is the whole sordid saga of Satan's quest to possess a Tascam 388.

I got it in my noggin that I wanted to record all the wonderful wailing and gnashing of teeth down here and started looking for a Tascam 388.
I had four reels kicking around that I'd filled from my first go round with one I bought
new in 1988 that I wanted to transfer, and I also had a jones to get back into tape.

Nothing was coming up local on craigslist, but there were usually at least a couple on ebay.
Finally, an auction came up for one advertised as basically never having been used,
with a colorful story behind it ..and no pictures.
A couple emails back and forth before auction end and I use the buy it now. It's mine for $600.00

I end up with his phone number and we talk several times.
Guy sounds cool, elderly guy who's contracted ms, used to be a studio musician in Philly in the seventies and eighties.
He said he'd bought the last unopened box unit the music store had had, and though he ended up not being able to use it, kept it as inspiration to fight the ms.
Said he had kept it in the livingroom to look at. I bought the story, and didn't insist on pics.

Longer story short, after a harrowing week and a half of getting the shipping together on his end, I pick it up at the local UPS station.
I had had it shipped 3 day air to minimize conveyor belt drops, and paid to have it professionally packed.
I get it home and man handle it into the livingroom where I grab a kitchen knife to cut through all the packing tape.

As soon as I get a decent size cut going along one side, I pull up to look inside.
Phew! Huge blast of cigarette stench that only gets stronger with each cut of bubble wrap.
There is a coating on the face of the thing, and especially on the rear connections, which I guess never got wiped down.

Making things worse was that the seller lived in a severely humid area, the florida keys no less, so there is the beginnings of corrosion in several places.
I'm crushed, frustrated and mad all at the same time.

I call the guy, who says," why yes I do smoke, why?" and "Well, down here everything starts to rust eventually".
Of course smokers don't tend to notice the heavy smell that builds in their homes, and the effects of humidity there are so matter of fact,
that the "meager" corrosion of the deck is comparatively mint in his eyes.

But, the reel to reel section has been protected all these years by the plexiglass cover and though smells a bit, fine.
The heads are indeed pristine. Not having a variac, I just plug it in to see what happens. Everything lights up, 10 beautiful vu meters.
I run a signal, and am surprised at the sound quality.
Things aren't so bad afterall.

Encouraged, I scrub the entire thing, and the connections especially take some serious finger-numbing scrubbing.
Initially with alcohol swabs for the cigarette tar, and then brasso on the chrome. Amazingly, it almost entirely comes off. Great.

I have already ordered and received a few rolls of 457, a new capstan belt as the original was complete goo, a new pinchroller and a handimag.
The original pinchroller, 17 years new, is good as new after just a bit of scrubbing with a wet qtip, and turns smoothly giving accurate readout with a little machine oil. Fine.

I load up tape, and it lurches and stops. I fuss with positioning the tension arms and can get it turning a bit if I hold them,
but on it's own it's just not happening.
Fine, I was planning on having a tech check it out anyway.

I take it to the tech across the bay on a day off, as early as I can, planning to just hang around there in Berkeley til he calls.
There's no call for quite awhile so I stop back by. He had been troubleshooting all afternoon and finally determined that the servo tension controllers are corroded,
and won't allow precise adjustments. Sh*t!

The servo controllers are all located under a grill opening on the top deck above the vu meters.
(the earliests 388s produced didn't have this grill) He needs to get some parts, so we set up a pickup date a week later.

I get there as he's opening the shop as he's agreed to let me watch him work.
He has all the cool tools, and whips out a hakko desoldering gun to swap out the tiny parts.
Finally everything is calibrated and up to spec and ready to rock.

All told my $600 ebay Tascam 388 ended up costing me around $1300.
New, they sold for $3100 - 3300.
In any case, while it didn't turn out to be the sweetest deal,
the thing runs like a tank now. It's pots are scratchy here and there,
and the record light for channel three doesn't light up when depressed,
but these are extremely minor issues.

The end.


Last edited by shedshrine on Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:44 pm, edited 46 times in total.

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Post by pacrock » Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:21 am

is there any chance a fostex head can be modified/mounted on the 388? fostex made a whole bunch of 1/4" 8 track machines - more so than tascam - they may have a bigger supply of leftover heads...

any thoughts?

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Post by creature.of.habit » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:22 pm

i hate you guys.. :shock:

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Post by curtiswyant » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:56 pm

I dare anyone to post pictures of a 388 with all 8 VU meters lit up!

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Post by swelle » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:22 am

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