My Experiences With Portable Multitrack Recorders Not Nearly as Beautiful as the Tascam 388 8-track Reel-to-Reel Portastudio
Ah, the portastudio… where the audio studio torture began. Before I mention the Tascam 388, let me give a history lesson on my recording beginnings. I received the Tascam Porta 07 for Christmas during my junior year of high school. I had no idea at the time what kind of mess I was getting myself into. Those were much simpler times. Recording at home on a laptop computer was inconceivable. Actually, at the time, the thought of owning a laptop computer at all was inconceivable. Yes, I am rather ancient. But anyway, I loved that little cassette audio studio. I still do, actually. At the time I was rather amazed by it. The thought of being able to record instruments separately and mix them together was quite magical in my eyes, and now I could do it in the comfort of my own home. Everything was so new to me that I didn’t quite understand the limitations. And looking back, I see that as a good thing. Less editing capabilities meant having to play correctly. That is always a good thing. I also had yet to discover all the tools that would cause me to lose hours and hours of my life due to incessant tinkering in the audio studio… another good thing. This little 4-track cassette portastudio served me well until… parts of performances started disappearing from the cassettes. That’s right. The tapes would wear out after a while. This was the frustration that led me to digital audio recording.
My first taste of digital recording came in the form of the Boss BR-8 digital audio studio. This was a digital recorder that supported playback of 8 simultaneous tracks of music… and there was no tape! The unit used zip disks as storage. I didn’t mind this at all. This unit was great. I was mesmerized with it from the get go, just as I was the Tascam Porta 07 years earlier. This was a whole new level of recording. Effects were included in the system, tracks could be bounced without degradation, and most importantly, I did not lose any performances due to worn-out tapes. This was the main reason for the switch to digital media in the first place. The Boss BR-8 was so incredibly easy to use. I would like a bit more of that simplicity in the audio studio setup that I have today.
I went through a couple more digital multitrack machines (Roland VS-880ex and Akai DPS12) before finally moving on to computer-based audio recording. And this was really the point where everything changed for me, for better or for worse. With less limitations also came more frustration. I had to learn to control my tinkering and not dwell on decisions so much. It’s been tough. But I feel comfortable today with the knowledge and ability I have in the recording studio. And to think… it all began with a little 4-track cassette recorder. Companies still produce portable 4-track recorders to this very day. However, these units are digital and fit in the palm of your hand. Oh how things have changed.Oh yeah, and then there is this App. It may interest some folks out there, but it does not interest me. Nonetheless, it is still a part of the portastudio story, I suppose.