Repairing My Tascam 388 Tape Machine

Things Are About to Get Reel!

One of my favorite pieces of gear is my Tascam 388 reel to reel 8 track tape machine.  It's a beautiful sounding, heavy duty piece of gear with loads of character.  Just putting music on the tape gives life to the sounds.  Even running tracks through the mixer and straight out the outputs, without recording to tape, really adds some charm to everything. There's really nothing like running sound through some circuitry and electronics, especially the amazing stuff under the hood of the Tascam 388.  

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to fire up my somewhat neglected-as-of-late machine.  Everything seemed fine, but the tape would not play.  I've already paid a decent amount of money getting this machine serviced, so I decided to do some research to see if it was something I could fix on my own.  Luckily I came across a post on the Home Recording Forums.  Turns out my problem could be as simple as replacing a belt on the capstan.  I opened up my machine and this is what I saw:

Upon closer inspection, I could see that the belt had fallen off the mechanism...

I tried putting the belt back where it belonged and fired the machine up, but after a second or two it stopped playing.  The belt had become too loose to stay on, like the waistband of an old pair of tighty-whities. Luckily, my problem was relatively simple, so I searched eBay and found a replacement belt for about $11.  By the end of the week, the belt arrived, so I opened up the machine one more time and put the new belt on.  I put the machine back together and viola! 

The Moral of the Story... Don't Give Up

I was a stone's throw away from either bringing my tape machine on a long drive to get repaired for lots of money, or leaving it alone to gather dust.  Fortunately, I mustered up the courage to open the machine up and see if it was something I could take care of.  Now the machine runs even better than it has the last few times I used it.  So, next time, before I lay out money or give up on a piece of gear, I'll do some research and open it up and see if I can fix it myself. Doing so has given me a closer connection to the piece of gear.  I feel kind of the same way I do about the vegetables I've been growing in my garden this summer, like I nurtured something back to health.  It's a good feeling and has been motivating me to use it more.  

Here's some evidence of that... While creating my latest Free Ableton Live Pack, I made an instrumental track.  After I did some mixing, I decided to record the track to tape.  From there I recorded it back into the computer from the tape.  Once again, I was amazed at the magic touch the tape gave the music.  Listen below:

The Tascam 388 as a Mixer

I used to own an old Tascam 24 channel mixer, but I sold it to buy my first computer and a ProTools setup.  It was a mistake I wouldn't make again, but money and space was tight. So to get the most out of my newly fixed up machine, I've been using it as a mixer to route my synths and Ableton Live rig through.  It sounds amazing, and recording to tape is just a press of the button away.  

So if by chance you have an old piece of gear around, give it a second look. Do a little research online.  Open it up.  See if you can fix it yourself.  It might just bring you a whole new life of joy!

Here are some collections I've made from audio I recorded on my reel to reel.

Super Tape Drums Ableton Live Pack

Over 450 individual drum sounds, all sampled on to a Tascam 8 track reel to reel tape machine. They are warm and punchy. Delivered in over 30 drum racks, each organized in useful and easy to use that will make finding and creating drum parts as simple as possible. Divided into four 5 different categories of sound” 8 bit, drum machines, OP-1 drums, live and synthesized drums, and odd percussion.

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Wind Chimes Instruments Ableton Live Pack

A collection of Instruments, all created from samples of a beautiful set of high-end WindChimes. The sound is natural, alive and organic. 

The Live Pack has 5 Instrument Racks, 4 Drum Racks, 4 Audio Effect Racks. Also included is AfroDJMac’s 4-song WindChime Ambience EP, created using only the WindChimes Pack, and the Ableton Live Projects used to create the songs. 

All  sounds in video above created with this pack.

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