Portastudio - can it do this?

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by ZeHa, May 22, 2008.

  1. ZeHa

    ZeHa Guest


    I've got some little questions about the Tascam Portastudio.
    At the moment, I'm thinking about getting one, maybe the 414 MkII, since it's pretty affordable.

    But I'd like to know the following things:

    1) When I record the 4 tracks to the cassette, how does it use the Equalizer and Volume settings? Does it only record the bare tracks, as if the EQ and Volume hadn't been touched, meaning that the settings only affect playback, or does the sound actually get on tape with EQ and Volume "applied"?

    The first way would be great, since you could then just leave the controls' positions as they were while recording, and then you could still tweak them while playing back and make them perfect for the final stereo mixdown. Just like the Pan controls (which - I guess - should definitely react in that way, since it's 4 mono tracks after all).

    If it's the second way, it would be possible as well, of course, but I think you'd have to reset all the controls into zero position first, because if you record a track with 30% more bass, it would then be even more bass when played back without resetting the controls.

    I hope this question is understandable :)

    2) The other thing is: Is it possible to use the Portastudio just like a regular mixing unit? Just connecting some instruments to the 4 channels, use EQ, Volume, Pan and Aux, and then directly connect some speakers to the master L/R output and enjoy the mix without recording (and without tape noise of course)?

    My expectation would be that this should be possible, but I think it's always safer to ask before buying something :) and maybe it does work, but it has some drawbacks - if so, please tell me about them :)

    I hope someone could help me a bit. Also, please tell me if the 414 MkII would be a good choice, or if it would be worth it to choose a 424 or 488 or something. From my personal opinion so far I'd think that 414 MkII offers enough for me, but maybe there are also some things to consider.

    Nice greetings and thanks in advance
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Well, first you DON'T want the controls to affect it, then you DO?

    Look at the manual. If you don't have it, go to the TASCAM website and download it. Look at the signal flow chart. The EQ section is right at the beginning of the path, so yes, EQ does affect recording. Levels are set by trim and channel faders. Pans direct it to tracks 1 and 3, or tracks 2 and 4, depending on switching you use to direct them.

    They all affect the incoming signal.

    You COULD use it for a mixer, but it's not the best thing in the world for that.

    Why do you want to buy a product that's on its very last legs? Tapes are harder to find, especially good high bias tapes. I have a 15 year old PortaStudio, and I stocked up on a LOAD of tape, but I just use it for quick idea-capture, now. A four-track cassette is barely on the edge of acceptable recording quality, especially when you can find digital portable studios that are inexpensive, and offer much more.

    My advice is not to get one, but if you must, (cheaply) for non-serious quick recording of ideas...you'd better stock up on tape.

    If I were you, I'd save a few more dollars and get something more viable, and something that you can connect to your computer for archiving, mixing, and other things.

  3. ZeHa

    ZeHa Guest

    That's not exactly an antithesis :)
    As a programmer, I'm used to keeping data and displaying it apart. So, it would be definitely imaginable to have EQ and Volume controls that only affect playback and direct monitoring (and thus also my mixing console desires), but not the recording itself.

    But I read the manual now and yes, it's not like this. Which is a bit sad, since I just can't leave the controls as they were during recording. Instead, I'd have to set everything back to zero before playing it back. But of course, this is not a huge problem.

    Are there any specific reasons, or just because it is an old tape machine (which of course wouldn't matter when used as a plain mixer)?

    The reasons why I'd buy a Portastudio... well, I know that there might be better solutions today, but a Portastudio is extremely cheap these days (a few bucks on eBay), and it certainly isn't sooo bad in sound quality either.
    I just like the directness of it, it's straightforward and the fact that it is a bit limiting can be a good thing (at least for me, I discovered that I can get better results with stripped down equipment, because then I concentrate more on the content, not on the production). Also, I don't always need the highest crystal-clear digital quality because I often prefer a little roughness and a more "natural", living sound. And sometimes I actually need a bit Lo-Fi for my music, so it can't be wrong :)
    And, for using it as a cheap mixing console, it would also be perfect for me, since it would serve as a direct monitoring solution which isn't affected by the tape quality.

    If I can get one at eBay for $25 or something, I'll be happy. But if it would get more expensive, I'd maybe think about getting something else instead.
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    The EQ section doesn't affect the signal going to tape. In fact if you use an effect in the effects loop, it does not go to tape. This is intentional. Effects only come into play when you mix down IIRC. I had a Porta Studio many moons ago.
  5. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005

    I wasn't sure until I looked at the PDF manual.

    Look at the pages 6 (Signal Flow), pages 39-40 (Block Diagram), and page 41 (Level Diagram).


    The path is:

    (Signal Flow) Look how it passes through the EQ.

    (Block Diagram) Mic/Line input>Trim>Input fader>EQ>Pan>Master faders>split to Line Out jacks and Record switches onward toward record.

    I'm fairly certain the EQ does affect the recorded input, as well as playback...(unless I'm missing a switch somewhere). :wink:

  6. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Oh. That model is considerably newer than the one I had. Sorry. It's probably my inability to read. Some people call it laziness. I believe it was a Porta 06. My bad.
  7. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    Jan 10, 2008
    New York
    I have the 424 MKII in the basement. I keep all my old gear... I still have a VS-880, but I'd actually rather use the 424 cause the pre's sound WAY better. I know they aren't the same, but LMK if you want me to run any tests or anything. The only thing I remember disliking about the deck was that the NR cut too much treb/room for my taste. Otherwise it's a pretty top notch 4 track. Yamaha made some nice ones too. I think there's a world of difference between the 414's and the 424's. The 414's are noisy as heck! I'd definitely advise you to spend slightly more $$ and get a 424... the price probably isn't all that much higher and the improvement is massive in sound and craftsmanship. Anyone else agree?
  8. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    I would consider it only for nostalgia, to go back to an uncomplicated and naive period. For anything else it's just stepping backwards. That's just me.
  9. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Nov 16, 2004
    Me, too.

    In that range, I would be going Zoom, etc., with CompactFlash/SmartMedia for the recording media.
  10. mhutch

    mhutch Guest

    Just a high five to ZeHa for experimenting. I have a Portastudio 246 and it's a lot of fun (and great for lo-fi).

    But that's me; I like old things.

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