Analog Moron Needs a Mixer for his Tascam 238!

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Analog Moron Needs a Mixer for his Tascam 238!

Post by 0wl » Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:38 pm

I am completely new to analog recording. Fresh and ignorant. A true blank-slate. A moron 8) .

Mind you that I'm not doing it for the "sound" or "character" or"mojo" that tape is supposed to impart, but because I'm tired of computers and I think it will be a fun experiment. Plus I think it will teach me a lot about outboard gear and recording techniques.

My first order of business was to buy a tape machine. I opted for cassette because it's cheaper and easier and because I don't care if it sounds crummy. So I bought a busted Tascam 238 and had my tech fix it up and calibrate it for me. I'm going to pick it up on Saturday.

SO...I need a mixer to go with the thing. The 238 has 8 RCA inputs and 8 RCA outputs. Does that mean my mixer must ALSO have 8 discrete ins and outs? What if I'm only recording two tracks at a time? Could I get away with a single stereo output? But then wouldn't I still need 8 separate INPUTS (on the mixer) so that I can monitor all 8 returns from the 238, and adjust their individual levels?

I searched through the forums and found a very similar question posted here years ago, but unfortunately I didn't get any clear answers to my specific questions. I looked into getting an old Tascam mixer, like the M208 (which Tascam recommended for use with the 238) or similar, but these f***ers are heavy as s**t and command a ridiculous price on the used market nowadays. I know they will work because they have all the proper ins/outs and thusly should interface smoothly with the 238. But are they really my only options? From what I've read these old dogs often need some TLC before they sound/operate properly. I'd prefer to just browse around locally and buy something decent that's in good shape and will do the job with as few headaches as possible.

Oh, and my price range is between 200 and 600 USD. I'd prefer to stay on the lower end of that spectrum, but I will pay a bit more for something that sounds pretty good and ESPECIALLY if it will make the recording process simpler and easier for me.

SO back to my questions. Do I want and/or need those separate ins and outs? Terms like BUS and INSERT are pretty new to me but I'm starting to learn, I promise :D . If I DO need those ins/outs, is there a cheaper, perhaps more modern mixer that will fit the bill and still sound pretty good? AND HERE'S THE MAIN QUESTION: If I decide to just buy something locally, what specifications should I look for? How many channels, ins/outs, busses, inserts, RCA vs TRS etc. etc. etc? Educate me! Your kindness will come back around to you in turn :wink: .

So I've just dumped a massive load of n00b on you like a ton of bricks. Which of thee shall be my paragon and help me sort it all out? I'd be real proud a ya.


Thanks in advance, everybody.

-0wl

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Post by kslight » Thu Jan 14, 2016 3:51 pm

So yeah RCAs are a pain but you can fix that with a few bucks in adapters, or buying a pre wired snake.

If size is not a big deal, I would recommend something like a Mackie 24.8 Bus or the Behringer MX8000 (which is a direct copy). You should find something like it at the bottom end of your budget. It's not the most amazing board, but it's not awful and not going to hurt the sound off the 238. Plenty of records made on these. But overall a pretty flexible board for not a lot of cash.

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Post by vvv » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:08 pm

FWIW, when I was using my 238 I hadda Alesis 1622 monolith board that I paid very little for, US$150?

I saw one a year or so ago on a MusicGoRound for about the same $.

That board was great because I left 8 channel ins and 8 channel outs always connected, with RCA to 1/4" 3' snakes.

I believe it had 2 inserts and 2 buss, hence the "1622".

"Monolith" means its on a huge circuit board, but I do recall doing a easy fix or two, and the thing worked and sounded, eh, OK.

It came out around the time the 238 did.

One day I shall dig it all outta my garage where it's been for about 20 years ...
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Post by floid » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:26 pm

I have an M208 lying around somewhere, it's about the size of an overstuffed trapperkeeper. It's not ideal for 8tracking though, since it has four bus outs, not direct out per channel. A good solution would have 8 channels with switchable mic/line inputs ( so you can switch between that channel handling what's going to/coming from tape) and direct outs on each channel ( for sending stuff to tape). Or a 16 track mixer, w/8 channels sending direct out to tape and 8 mixing from tape. There are other solutions, like a mixer with a monitor submix section, etc.
And yes, you want all those ins and outs, connected via snakes either to the 238 or to a patchbay that's connected to the 238. Because fiddling with RCA's on the back of gear gets old, and they're not terribly sturdy.
The 238 can be a lot of fun.
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Post by Teacher's Pet » Fri Jan 15, 2016 8:41 am

vvv wrote: That board was great because I left 8 channel ins and 8 channel outs always connected, with RCA to 1/4" 3' snakes.
I use a 238 too, and I think this is key.

Look for a cheap 16-channel board. You should be able to take direct outs for 1-8 (maybe using inserts/sends) and then use 9-16 for playback.
0wl wrote: Could I get away with a single stereo output? But then wouldn't I still need 8 separate INPUTS (on the mixer) so that I can monitor all 8 returns from the 238, and adjust their individual levels?
Yes. You could get away with less than 16 channels, but you'll be doing a lot if plugging and unplugging.

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Post by LowG » Fri Jan 15, 2016 10:33 am

Tascam M-1508

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Post by 0wl » Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:47 pm

Awesome thanks for the help so far, y'all have a pretty cool community going on in this forum.

Looks like the consensus is a decent inexpensive 16 channel board. I wonder, though, if I couldn't settle for a 12 channel mixer if I'm only recording 2 channels at a time. Then (for recording) I could run channels 1 and 2 into a patchbay, and then run 8 separate cables from the patchbay into the 8 inputs of the 238. And in order to change which two channels I'm recording to, all I'd have to do is move a couple patch cables. Then (for mixing/monitoring) I could run the returns from the 238 into channels 3-10 on the mixer. Does this check out okay or am I missing something?

And since I generally try to keep things compact, floid's idea about an 8 channel mixer with switchable inputs sounds cool as well. And fewer channels means for the price I could get a higher quality board, right?

But if there's good reason to stick with a 16 channel, there are plenty of decent boards (Mackie, etc.) on my local CL for pretty cheap. I can make the space if need be.

Anybody wanna weigh in?

Thanks again!

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Post by kslight » Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:07 pm

No, that sounds like a PITA to me. No need for a patchbay if you have a flexible mixer for routing. With the right mixer you'd be able to plug it in once and never worry about it again. Yes what you suggest would work in theory, but in my opinion would be a workflow hassle and not necessarily a large space savings.

On your budget I probably wouldn't stress too much about the differences in quality in your choice of boards, as long as you got something that was appropriately flexible and in good working order, I think you'll be fine. The internals of a low end 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 24, 32 channel board are pretty similar. Most boards that are leaps better will set you back a lot, or be huge. As you know, the 238 is gonna be limiting on the quality of recordings you can achieve so it's likely that the mixer is not gonna be a weak point.

The reason I suggested what I did was because it was in your budget and would allow for convenient routing and such... Run the 8 bus outs into the tape inputs 1-8. Run the tape outputs into the inputs of channels 17-24. Route channels 1-16 to the bus that matches the track you want to record to... This gives you distinct routing advantages, such as having lots of different gear always plugged in, as well as combining multiple tracks down to one or two or whatever channels of tape. That mixer is not that huge either...

If being relatively compact in size is a necessity for say portability, you might be interested in the Tascam 688 (which combines the 8 track cassette format with a mixer and allows you to do all tha routing very conveniently and with no mess of wires).

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Post by Trick Fall » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:14 pm

I've got an Allen & Heath WZ20:8:2 from my ADAT days. I thought it was a pretty cool little board and set up well for eight tracking.

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Post by 0wl » Sun Jan 17, 2016 1:30 pm

Trick Fall wrote:I've got an Allen & Heath WZ20:8:2 from my ADAT days. I thought it was a pretty cool little board and set up well for eight tracking.
Wow. I Just checked out the WZ20:8:2 and it looks...awesome.

Though my interpretation of the specs may not be totally up to speed, it seems to have most of what I'd want in a console, i.e. all the goodies to make the recording experience simple and easy. Plus it's compact to boot.

Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention what type of music I'm making. I dunno if it will change anybody's suggestions or not, BUT the project is mostly electronic?a couple synths, a sampler, maybe a drum machine, some FX boxes etc. But also an acoustic baby grand piano, which will likely occupy a pretty good chunk of recording real estate.

Thanks again everyone. I shopped around a lot for good places to discuss this kind of budget recording, and y'all seem to have the spot. I'll stick around and maybe I can help some aspiring recordists who are even noobier than myself. Pfft.

-0wl

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Post by Trick Fall » Sun Jan 17, 2016 2:36 pm

0wl wrote:
Trick Fall wrote:I've got an Allen & Heath WZ20:8:2 from my ADAT days. I thought it was a pretty cool little board and set up well for eight tracking.
Wow. I Just checked out the WZ20:8:2 and it looks...awesome.

Though my interpretation of the specs may not be totally up to speed, it seems to have most of what I'd want in a console, i.e. all the goodies to make the recording experience simple and easy. Plus it's compact to boot.

Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention what type of music I'm making. I dunno if it will change anybody's suggestions or not, BUT the project is mostly electronic?a couple synths, a sampler, maybe a drum machine, some FX boxes etc. But also an acoustic baby grand piano, which will likely occupy a pretty good chunk of recording real estate.

Thanks again everyone. I shopped around a lot for good places to discuss this kind of budget recording, and y'all seem to have the spot. I'll stick around and maybe I can help some aspiring recordists who are even noobier than myself. Pfft.

-0wl
I think it would work well for that. I just responded to your pm.

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Post by 0wl » Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:14 pm

Okay so on my local CL there is a Mackie CR-1604 and also a Mackie 24-8 buss. The 16-channel is half the price, and is obviously more compact due to having fewer channels. My question is, will I really need the extra channels? Do I really need 8 busses if I'm likely only going to be recording 2 tracks (1 stereo instrument) at a time?

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Post by kslight » Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:55 pm

It's not that you need the extra channels so much as the 8 busses would mean you aren't repatching all the time. I would try to negotiate with the 24.8 owner personally, I found I had to basically give my MX8000 away to get it out (I think I got $200 for it lol). The 24.8 is almost exactly the same thing, supposedly Mackie sued Behringer over it. I think $300-500 is fair depending on condition.

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Post by Teacher's Pet » Tue Jan 19, 2016 7:41 am

The Mackie 1604 has a lot of functionality packed into it.
And there's a whole book you can buy to learn about all of it.
I did this for years.

If you want to save some bucks, that thing will get you where you need to go.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Tue Jan 19, 2016 9:47 am

0wl wrote:Okay so on my local CL there is a Mackie CR-1604 and also a Mackie 24-8 buss. The 16-channel is half the price, and is obviously more compact due to having fewer channels. My question is, will I really need the extra channels? Do I really need 8 busses if I'm likely only going to be recording 2 tracks (1 stereo instrument) at a time?
You could also split the outputs of the 1604 using female to male y cables (or whatever kind of y cable works with the board's outputs). 4 busses split would give you 8 outs. Obviously you couldn't track to all 8 tape channels at once without having 1-4 and 5-8 be duplicates of each other but if you're only doing a few tracks at a time it'll work and you won't have to repatch. Bus 1 feeds tape 1 & 5, 2 feeds tape 2 & 6 and so on.
Years ago I used to run an Allen & Heath 4 bus into a tascam 38 8 track this way. It worked fine.

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