TASCAM 688 by Ojd
I must say I've been given this machine. Someone bought it for less than market price only to find out it was in bad shape. No belt, some channels didn't work etc. I took it and spend quite some time assembling/ disassembling the machine. I'd say this machine is geared towards semi-pro recording crowd of the late 80ies. If you cannot figure out how to wire the patchbay with this thing, how recording snakes work and how to work with external equipment - forget to make this thing work. This thing works best either with uncramped rehearsal space where its a centerpiece for a band or a dedicated control room based around this recorder. There are ways to wire it along with digital systems, but the sheer amount of inputs/outputs multiply options by hundreds.
Mixer is hissy but has character. Its similar to tascam sound but more refined. When tracked through its preamps to digital it pushes sound with saturation. Somewhat harsh EQ. 2 Auxes for external gear, insert on every channel.
Transport is electronically controlled. It has 2 locator memories. Very fast FF/RW. Auto punch-in/out (+/- 1-2 seconds which is useless in dense tracks), rehearsal mode.
Routing matrix. XLR and Line ins must be selected. All in all, 20 channel might sound at one time (+ 4 aux channels), recorded on 8 tracks at the same time. Any channel might be recorded to any track/s (hence the matrix).
Recording is done first by arming recording channels (1-8) - red lights blinking. Only pushing REC+Play is left to lay down a take.
Sound is the redeeming feature. It actually sound much better than 4 tracks. Its DBX is more transparent than 414 for example. I'd say its at the semi-pro level of pre-digital age. When you replay 4 track on the studio speakers it sounds charming but unlike the original. When recording is played through 688 you hear YOUR PERFORMANCE, its shockingly real (I just imagine how wide tape would sound). The only problem to this feeling of real is distortion (saturation) which comes too early and throws off the immersion. I'd say DBX is so good on this machine that you should put it on the whole time. I've yet to record drums with DBX off (on channels 5-8 for example), but if you did your homework - phantom preamps, acoustic treatment, proper mic placement, proper mic selection - you'll be rewarded.
Is there a future for this machine? I'd say you'd be better of with Behringer X32 from a practical standpoint - modern features and sound, much less hiss, works as an audio interface. There's not much point in recording digital to casette. It should be used properly, with high-fives after successful drums punch-in, recording whole band's performance at once. Its a window to different era.