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Hooking up mixer to Tascam 238 + interface...


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  • Hooking up mixer to Tascam 238 + interface...

    Hi guys, 
    I'm trying to hook up my Tascam 308 mixer to my Tascam 238 syncaset, then run each track back through the mixer for additional EQ, then go direct out of each channel strip (Tascam 308 allows you to do this) into a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 to bounce in Logic for effects and further editing. This is possible right? When using the direct outs on the mixer into the interface inputs, should I use TS or TRS cables? Any help is greatly appreciated! 


  • #2

    Well you could do that but I wouldnt stick a dinasour between the cassette recorder and DAW interface just because I had it available. Maybe if I had some hardware effects I wanted to use on the raw tracks a board could supply the mixing of those effects through an effects send. Even there, you can loop hardware effects through a DAW interface without the use of a board.  

    Anything you could do mixing with the mixer can be done better within the daw and all the mixer is going to do is suck sound quality away from the tape tracks. If you capture everything that was recorded on tape, you could do better with the tools in the DAW to repair them including noise reduction and hiss elimination. You can even add tape saturation that didnt occur on tape, because cassette dont capture the kind of tape tone a reel to reel does.

    Of course you have to know how to use a DAW well, including any audio tools like EQ and effects. The only thing the board may do is give you hands on control over the individual tracks, but you could always add a midi controller for hands on tweaking. 


    • Sugar382
      Sugar382 commented
      Editing a comment

      Of course that's obvious, isn't it?

      Whenever someone mentions wanting to incorporate actual tape or more "lo-fi" alternatives to getting a 'colored' sound, they're more often than not discouraged from it. Of course you can do these things in a DAW and most people do.... tapes have hiss, duh. there are limitations, duh. but there's obviously something people love about tape and old mixers such as this one (you might not agree, and that's totally fine). why is it so hard to get questions answered about this stuff without someone stating the obvious and trying to disuade you?

      Can anyone help me with my questions?

  • #3
    Thank you so much! Sincerest apologies if my earlier post was rude, I've just been asking around on other forums and I've gotten replies that weren't very constructive. You really cleared up some confusion for me!

    I know what you mean, excessive gain staging and redundant EQing in and out probably won't work in my favor. Were you saying I could go directly out of the cassette recorder into my interface? The Tascam 238 had 8 RCA tape ins and 8 RCA tape outs, I feel like I would have to have the mixer to monitor and get sound in and out of cassette recorder. How would you suggest doing this?


    • WRGKMC
      WRGKMC commented
      Editing a comment

      I'll have to investigate the recorder more to be exact.

      I have one of the newer Tascam 8 tracks that has the mixer built in, but when It records, the mic goes into the first two preamp stages, Then directly to the tape head amps. It doesn't pass through the channel strip EQ. The volumes do adjust the mic gains only.

      What comes from the mics and goes on to the tape is Un-EQed. Its only preamplified so you capture 100% of the mics frequency response without filtering. This is pretty important because the cassette recorders only effectively capture a frequency response of around 100hz up to maybe 12~15Khz or so. The high frequency response on them isn't super so you want to preserve all you can tracking.

      Next when you play the cassette back, that's when you apply the EQing for a balanced mix.

      There's no set rules here of course. This is simply how the gear was designed to run. You can put effects and eq's in line tracking. The only problem with writing to tape with effects or eq's in line tracking, is if you get It wrong, you're stuck with It.

      For example, If you pre filter the signal by turning the bass on a mic way down off a mic That bass wont be caught on tape. Then when you go to mix and you find you need that bass back on the track to give a full mix, you're screwed. The bass never got to the tape so It doesn't exist, and all the boosting in the world wont get It back because It was filtered out before It got to the tape.

      This pretty much shows you the wisdom of why you want to capture all you can tracking. Then you can manipulate the playback of the tracks all you want mixing and It doesn't affect the full bodied signal captured on tape.

      The exceptions (as there always are) would be is if the sound hitting the mic, or the tape saturation from a source are so bad, its better to filter some of the bad tone away from a mic signal before you hit the tape. This is usually more important on tracks you want gained up for some tape saturation effect. Something like a snare or guitar may sound cool with some low fi effect. Drums can often benefit from being compressed before you hit the tape. Bass too.

      The problem with the cassette recorders are you can't monitor the playback heads at the same time you're recording so how much tape saturation, or how much you color the sound with tape isn't possible. On Reel to Reels, the amps that record and play back are separate. You can have both running at the same time and  listen to the play back heads as you're recording to tape.  There's a slight delay between the actual sound hitting the record head and the signal coming off the playback heads because of the time a tape takes to move from one head to another, but this is the origin of the echo plex.

       You can hear the original signal and playback heads in a near real time A/B comparison and tweak the strength and quality of the signal hitting the tape so the playback sounds the way you like It to. 

      Cassette recorders don't have the require a 3rd head to do this. The record and playback are one in the same so you can't hear the playback at the same time you're recording.

      All you can do is record a piece, rewind, Then play It back and see if It sounds OK. The rest is simply trusting your meters are within an acceptable range and hoping for the best. As you can guess this method takes a whole lot of experimentation finding the best tracks you can get. It may be dialing up your instruments tone, mic choice, even the way you play and musical compositions may sound better on one brand of tape over another.

      Back to your question. You can run the 8 track to the mixer. You can use the TRS to 2X RCA jacks and plug each channel into the mixing channels inserts.

      This puts each recording head in series with the mixers channel strip. You would plug the mic into the mixer, and use It like any other mic preamp, The signal passes down the channel strip, through the EQ, out of the channel strip to the recorders input, Then out of the cassette back to the mixer and on to the rest of the mixers circuitry.

      The only problem with this connection is, You have to have the cassette set for record and the record levels set properly to feed the rest of the mixer.

      The other item is you would need to swap the cassettes playback outs to the mixers inputs when you want to mix the cassettes outputs. If you have a 15 channel mixer this shouldn't be a problem. You feed the cassette with 8 channels from 8 inserts. Then you connect the 8 outputs from the cassette to 8 unused channels and use those to monitor what the cassette recording, and use them for mixing down to a stereo cassette.

      This is the way most did It in analog. If you didn't have a 16 channel mixer Then you'd use a patch bay that remain connected to the cassette in the back of the bay, and you used jumpers on the front of the bay to route the wires too and from the mixer.

      Your mixer essentially has a 4 channel patch bay that uses switches to route your connections. It would allow you to connect a 4 channel recorder up and record and play back the channels. With an 8 channel recorder, you really need an 8 buss mixer so you aren't dealing with wire swapping, but the method I described above will work. Or you can add a patch bay and use It for swapping the connections.

      All of this isn't really needed though. As I said much of this is redundant, and its exactly why I have all my old analog gear in storage. I have a half a dozen mixers, and 4 or 5 recorders all collecting dust now. The cost of tape alone makes It inefficient. I must have 5000 cassettes on two walls of shelves I recorded over a 10 year period. Each cassette has maybe 3~4 8 track songs on them. Trying to find a particular song is a nightmare because I first have to find the song, Then I have to cure It up, play It back, find the right version, Then mix the song the way I did when I transferred It to cassette.

      I plan on doing that to many of my recordings when I retire, that is if they survive another 10 years in storage which is unlikely. The sound quality isn't supre to begin with and the tape begins to physically decompose over time. The ferric oxide melts off the plastic backing and is lost forever. This is called shedding and the only fix is to bake the tape in hopes to temporarily stabilize the decomposition so you can get the music off and place It on another medium like digital which is ones and zeros that don't evaporate so easily.

       Everything I recorded digitally is instantly at my fingertips and I don't have to deal with winding tape to find It nor do I have to remix It. If I save It as a project, all the mix settings are saved and the sound quality does not degenerate and making copies are exactly the same with no loss.


      Anyway, you can get yourself an 8 channel preamp to feed that cassette recorder directly. Mics only have to have the proper gain and you feed that to the tape directly. Then the playback levels will feed your interface directly onto the hard drive. You'd simply need two 1/4" to RCA snakes and a preamp. Nady made an 8 channel preamp. I picked one up on EBay for $25 used. I use It for my drum mics and It supplies phantom power to my condenser mics.

      You would Then use the interfaces headphone jacks to monitor recording, or you could connect your monitors to the interface and use them to monitor the inputs. The same connectors you'd connect your monitors to can be Y jacked to connect a headphone amp as well. Don't know if your cassette recorder has a headphone jack, but It can be used as well.

      As you can see, there are many options available. main thing is you match the impedances between connections and use the right cables. Then its just a matter of trying It to see what works best. You can use your mixer as a preamp for now to feed the cassette recorder, have the cassette recorder connected to your daw interface. Use your interface to monitor everything coming out of the cassette recorder both recording and play back.

      You can record on the tape and the daw at the same time too. Then You can compare the sound quality of both and decide for yourself which is the better medium to record on. Chances are you'll discover like the rest of us did, that recording straight to digital is easier and highly superior. But, I'm not trying to discourage you from experimenting. I spend a good 30+ years recording analog so I know first hand its limitations. It did make me better at recording digitally as well.

      What's contained in a daw program is an entire analog studio. Many find the analog experience of dealing with hardware a good learning experience for running a daw. All those buttons and widgets begin to make sense once you've done It all manually the hard way. Its like, a guy who used a horse an buggy all his life, he'd think an automobile was magic the first time he got into It and he would see the similarities and appreciate them that much more.