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Tape Machine for lofi
Old 10th May 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Tape Machine for lofi

I think the low end forum is the best place for this but feel free to correct me when if I’m wrong.

Hi everyone I am currently in the market for a reel to reel or cassette machine to create more authentic lofi. Assuming money isn’t an issue what would you suggest would be a good machine to go after. I am looking to get similar sounds as a Sebadoh or Pavement esque recording. Along with something as reliable as possible and parts readily available. I have looked into the tascam 238, 388, and 80-8 but I know nothing.
Old 11th May 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Parts are a problem for any models, you can’t buy them from the manufacturer, anything but the most basic stuff will be scavenged off another machine.

Techs are also a problem, only a handful out there and not cheap. And parts are a problem...

I’m a big fan of the 388, it happens to be relatively common and I have a good idea how to get common problems sorted when I see one that doesn’t work right off the bat (a lot of them that haven’t been used recently). Its pretty easy to work on and swap parts around. It’s also cheap to use (tape is not too expensive), self contained, semi-portable, and has a cool (imho) sound. For all of those reasons it has become trendy and nowhere near as cheap as it used to be...I paid around $300 each or less for each I’ve owned...now they are more like $1500-2500 for a good one. And a thorough tech tuneup can easily approach several hundred dollars. They aren’t a secret anymore, sometimes I’ll record shows with mine...and I always get people trying to buy them off me. They are no less reliable than anything else out there. A common problem these days is the motors are going bad...there is no new replacement and old motors can be just as problematic, but they can be repaired. Heads will often need relapped...which is a few hundred dollars and only one retirement age individual that i know of doing it...who knows what happens when he decides to quit. Head replacements of course don’t exist, except off scrap machines. Most anything else though can be repaired relatively simply, not a lot of rare parts.

I’ve also owned a 688 and a 238. These are okay but i don’t think they have as fun of a sound to them, and they are getting expensive too. And they are harder to keep going.

The biggest thing is that you can’t just go on eBay and buy a reel to reel and expect it to work with no issues...I wouldn’t buy one I couldn't test myself. And if you know nothing and can’t handle repairs yourself it can be very expensive and frustrating.

Last edited by kslight; 11th May 2019 at 05:23 PM..
Old 11th May 2019
  #3
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avare's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jsol View Post
I think the low end forum is the best place for this but feel free to correct me when if I’m wrong.

Hi everyone I am currently in the market for a reel to reel or cassette machine to create more authentic lofi. Assuming money isn’t an issue what would you suggest would be a good machine to go after. I am looking to get similar sounds as a Sebadoh or Pavement esque recording. Along with something as reliable as possible and parts readily available. I have looked into the tascam 238, 388, and 80-8 but I know nothing.
Any repairs are with parts 40 years old. Accurately in your query, the cost of the machine is low comparred to the tape. ANY tape machine is low fi cpmparrd to the cheapest audio card.
Old 11th May 2019
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jsol View Post
I think the low end forum is the best place for this but feel free to correct me when if I’m wrong.

Hi everyone I am currently in the market for a reel to reel or cassette machine to create more authentic lofi. Assuming money isn’t an issue what would you suggest would be a good machine to go after. I am looking to get similar sounds as a Sebadoh or Pavement esque recording. Along with something as reliable as possible and parts readily available. I have looked into the tascam 238, 388, and 80-8 but I know nothing.
Was in a bit of a dillemma since I sincerely hate the word "authentic" but decided to go for the middle road by giving you advice but still being an asshole and calling you on using the A-word

The Fostex Model 80 is a lot of bang for the buck and like the 388 runs 1/4" tape. I've also heard good things about the E8. However my experience with the R8 was horrible, mine gave edge damage to the tape resoulting in nasty drop offs. If you want 16 tracks the Fostex G16 sounds good for what it is and mine was perhaps the most reliable tape machine I ever had.

From what I've read much Pavement is recorded on a Tascam MS-16 which is a 1" 16 track machine. Not what I'd call lo-fi but sure not top of the line either.

Havn't heard much Sebadoh but from the sound of the Pavement records a cassette would get you nowhere near there and even with a Fostex you might struggle a bit. The "lo-fi" ness to my ears mostly comes with a quick and dirty approach to recording.

But that being said you're quite right about wanting tape for that sound. And maintenence and reliability is nowhere near as bad as it some people claim but you have to do a lot of research to fare successfully.
Old 11th May 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WarmJetGuitar View Post
Was in a bit of a dillemma since I sincerely hate the word "authentic" but decided to go for the middle road by giving you advice but still being an asshole and calling you on using the A-word

The Fostex Model 80 is a lot of bang for the buck and like the 388 runs 1/4" tape. I've also heard good things about the E8. However my experience with the R8 was horrible, mine gave edge damage to the tape resoulting in nasty drop offs. If you want 16 tracks the Fostex G16 sounds good for what it is and mine was perhaps the most reliable tape machine I ever had.

From what I've read much Pavement is recorded on a Tascam MS-16 which is a 1" 16 track machine. Not what I'd call lo-fi but sure not top of the line either.

Havn't heard much Sebadoh but from the sound of the Pavement records a cassette would get you nowhere near there and even with a Fostex you might struggle a bit. The "lo-fi" ness to my ears mostly comes with a quick and dirty approach to recording.

But that being said you're quite right about wanting tape for that sound. And maintenence and reliability is nowhere near as bad as it some people claim but you have to do a lot of research to fare successfully.
I've owned most variations of the non 2" Tascam models over the years, including the MS16. I sold the MS16 because 1" tape is expensive if you aren't a commercial studio (around $200 a reel IIRC)... and as quoted above...it isn't lo-fi... I have access to 2" machines fairly inexpensively at a studio, so when I want a wider format tape I'll go for that, let someone else take on the costs of maintenance. The 1" machine just operates in a weird middle ground that it doesn't really have a good enough or lofi enough sound that justifies the trouble, and the costs to use it are prohibitive for my own home studio.
Old 12th May 2019
  #6
Lives for gear
 
TurboJets's Avatar
Waves J37 - $49

You retain the reliability of computer based DAW and the J37 will "lofi" the sound all you want. Forget the PITA of a real machine.
Old 12th May 2019
  #7
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grasspike's Avatar
I use VHS VCRs quite a bit, and have since the late 1980s.

My current favorite deck is just a consumer VHS/DVD Combo.

The only challenge with using a consumer deck is they have a brickwall limiter to prevent distortion. It's not musical at all. This is even more of an issue because you don't have any level controls or meters.

So what I do and it works great, is use a compressor ahead of the VCR. I use an ART Pro VLA. I set it pretty gently and use it's meters to meter the outputs. The starved plate tubes also warm up the signal and give it a nice color
Old 12th May 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
Tape rules, but I don't see parts being much available anymore.
Old 12th May 2019
  #9
Gear Head
I wouldn't stress on replacement parts too much. Prosumer machines can be good for 10-20 years with regular usage. The parts thing really goes for studio machines which ran 15-20 hours a day, or even constantly at some places... Of course that will stress the machines. You might need to replace some caps or resistors etc. but those are readily available. Things harder to find like motor control circuitry, buttons, pinch rollers you'll need very rarely if ever with regular usage. If you're a music producer you might run tape 1-3 hours a week or something like that, that is nothing.

The tech issue is a bigger one: you need to calibrate these machines first and foremost to the tape you're using. Then of course cleaning and demagnetizing should be done every couple of months, these however you should be able to do.
Old 13th May 2019
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
Tape rules, but I don't see parts being much available anymore.
Depends on the machine, it seems like there's (relatively) lots around for MTR-90 MKII's and JH24s, there's even aftermarket stuff for the Otari.

For the OP it seems the machines he or she is after are cheap enough that getting a beat up parts machine wouldn't be all that expensive. Funnily enough some of the semi pro machines don't require much upkeep but guess some of it is because they were less busy when they were new. Head wear and finding techs when things go wrong was my biggest issue when depending on these machines which I did till very recently.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Tascam 122 might not be lo fi enough, in good working order they can rival CD.


Keep your nose to the ground and you'll find something free sooner 9r later. I got 6 free cassette decks in the past week alone.


Also din't overlook VCRs, recording to the audio track of a consumer VCR is a great sound.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
MisterMark's Avatar
Have you considered possibly a 4 track machine? The Tascam 464 Portastudio is a true 4 track and has some handy features. Cassette tapes are still cheap and easy to get as well...

Hard to get more lo-fi than recording on 4 track with a worn out cassette tape!

-Mark
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Addict
 

If you want lo fi I would go for a microcassette recorder, dictation machine,walkman, or even an answering machine if you could find one with suitable connections.

Look for stuff that's portable. If it doesn't have a built in speaker it probably isn't as lo-fi as you expect.
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