Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

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akpasta
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Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by akpasta » Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:28 am

Hi Folks,

I've got a Tascam 388 that I've been using pretty heavily for the last 10 months or so. It's generally in really good working order with a couple of dirty pan pots here and there. Motor is strong and it's always recorded and played back perfectly.

The last time I used it I noticed something really odd. I was recording clean guitar direct through the XLR pre-amps like I always do. It sounded real bright and normal while I was playing, but the recordings sounded a little muddy, like there was something up with the tape or record head or something.

I cleaned the heads with a q-tip with some rubbing alcohol as I do every so often, but it didn't solve the problem.

Can someone please school me on the "correct" way to clean the heads, or let me know what other regular maintenance is required to keep it recording well? Perhaps I'm not cleaning them properly or where I need to be.

Also, can anything go wrong with tape that would effect only the recording onto it but not the playback of already-existing tracks? The tape I'm using is only a year old and has been cared for well.

Hoping I don't need to haul the thing in for a service!! Thanks!!

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by drumsound » Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:36 am

You should clean the heads and guides every time you use the machine. If there was some grime on the record head when you tracked that guitar part, it will always playback the way it it. Have you tried recording another track since cleaning? I would try recording on the same track, and the others after a good cleaning.

I'm not sure about how to do a proper alignment on a 388, but that's always a good idea as well.

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markjazzbassist
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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:12 pm

you need to use 90+ percent isopropyl alcohol. rubbing alcohol is too weak i believe.

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by eh91311 » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:44 pm

markjazzbassist wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:12 pm
you need to use 90+ percent isopropyl alcohol. rubbing alcohol is too weak i believe.
Definitely true about the alcohol strength. Use the highest you can find, like for wound cleaning (90+ percent or better).

My understanding is that you should clean the tape path and all heads at the end of a session and at the beginning of a new session. When using q-tips you don't want to use types that shed fibers.

You say that you have been using the same tape for a year? This could be the cause of the issue or not a factor at all. It might be that your tape is showing signs of wear, when tracking new parts that don't sound right compared to previously recorded parts. You need to try a new tape and see if the issue persists on the same track or on all tracks.

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by floid » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:45 pm

Also, it's not just the heads, but everything metal in the tape path - guides, capstan - that needs cleaned. Hospital type swabs work better than standard issue q-tips.
akpasta wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:28 am


Also, can anything go wrong with tape that would effect only the recording onto it but not the playback of already-existing tracks? The tape I'm using is only a year old and has been cared for well.
Have you been using the same reel over and over? Thinner stock such as LPR35 will have more of a tendency to stretch and curl with repeated use.
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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by kslight » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:21 pm

In addition to cleaning procedure, demagging is important user maintenance, depending on the frequency of use if not done can be attributed to muddy sound. All of this is covered thoroughly elsewhere, including the manual. Old/worn tape can do this too, especially if it’s shedding. It’s also likely that you need to (probably have someone else?) align the machine. After over 30 years it’s time. You will probably need to purchase an MRL tape for this, unless your technician happens to have the correct one. I have two machines so I had mine aligned together at the same time so I can use the machines interchangeably.

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:33 pm

i always had trouble with the 388's i owned, i was never able to get good bass sounds they were too distorted on the low end and it was a muddy sound. one of the things that did help though was using heavy stock tape. the 1 mil LPR35 was too thin for me, i used 1.5 mil SM911 or NOS 1.5 mil tape and found i was able to hit it harder and had less issues with the tape due to the thickness. lots of people on here and elsewhere have stated this is too thick and could ruin the motors long term, but it was fine when i used it. i switched to a fostex model 80 at 15 IPS and have had better luck, i still use 1.5mil tape though, i won't ever go back to 1 mil.

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by I'm Painting Again » Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:07 pm

all the general stuff has been said sans don't clean the rubber parts with alcohol - use mild soap and water

and the 95%+ alcohol is use because of the water content in the lesser types can cause rust

real magnetic head solvent and the spongey swabs work best and fastest

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by vvv » Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:36 pm

Lemme mention that there is commercial roller cleaner available for the rubber parts - don't know if it's better than soap and water, but I used it in my 338 and Porta 1 and 2-track cassette days and never had issues with cracked rollers, etc.

One more offball thing comes to mind - we used to record with the dbx or Dolby engaged, mix down with it off.
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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by DrummerMan » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:19 pm

Also... regarding demag-ing:

I dont know if you do this regularly, but I've noticed that sometimes my demag will be done wrong (by me), somehow, and everything will be muddy. The solution is just to do it again and usually that fixes it. I dont know what it is about an improper demag that is doing this (maybe theres something loose in the head that gets pulled out of place???) But I thought it was worth mentioning as a potential issue.
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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by vernier » Thu Sep 12, 2019 4:12 pm

You have to use the head demagnetizer perfectly, and not touch the tip to the parts. Some demagnetizers have a plastic coating on the tip, I can't speak for those. As for tape ...some older tape can get gooey, depending on brand, type, and storage conditions. Try recording the same thing on a different tape and see if it sounds any different.

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Re: Tascam 388 Muddy Recording

Post by vvv » Thu Sep 12, 2019 11:00 pm

One trick with a demagger is to melt some wax onto the tip ...
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