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TSR8 won't record

Discussion in 'Recording' started by TDsetter, Jul 2, 2015.

  1. TDsetter

    TDsetter Active Member

    Hi all,
    I'm new to the forum, and getting back into recording...I have a TSR8 that has sat dormant, and checking it out , I'm realizing that it's not recording any input signals onto tape ....all the lights are functioning as normal, and I'm doing the process as I remember, but no signal is going onto the tape....the led lights are climbing as if signal is going in, but nothing on playback.
    ..previously recorded material plays back fine...

    any ideas?? It was totally operational, and has never been moved from it's storage place (probably for 15 years!) but worked flawlessly last time I used it...what am I missing? I apologize if I should post this type of question somewhere else...any help appreciated.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    you mentioned that the meters are showing signal for input/rec ... and when you play back, there's no audio, but are the meters showing level, or nothing?

    And this happens with all 8 tracks?

    It could be several problems...

    If it happens on all the tracks, then it's not the individual cards that slip into the slots on the bottom of the machine ( there are 8 pcb cards, one for each track, with adjustable pots connected to each for setting track bias)

    If the meters are dead on playback for something you've just recorded, it could be the record (or erase) head. The input meters aren't showing you what the rec head is receiving, so it's possible that you'll see the input signal as it passes through the electronics of the deck and to the meters, but not necessarily what the record head is getting and printing.

    Cleaning and degaussing is a must, but these wouldn't be causing no playback. You'd still be hearing something.

    It might be a bias control issue - the way a tape recorder works, is that the erase head "scrambles" the ferrite on the tape, using a very high frequency tone supplied by an oscillator ( 55khz, if I remember correctly, it's been a long time) and if this oscillator is bad, then nothing is happening to the tape to "prep" it for the record head to print signal to the tape. Some cheaper decks will have just 2 heads, the first is the Erase head, and the second one is a combination Record/Play head. More expensive models may have three heads - Erase, Record, and Play/Repro.

    If your machine has three heads, the Erase or Record head may not be making full contact with the tape. Have you checked to see if it is making full contact when you engage record?

    Also, on some decks, there's a switch/slider/button that allows you to select between the Record and the Repro head (playback). This may be faulty.

    It could also be a problem in the electronics, maybe wiring or caps, or maybe a sync relay switch.

    My knee-jerk suggestion is that you get it in to be serviced, as it probably needs a good going-over anyway, since it's been dormant for so long. There could be any multitude of other potential problems waiting on the horizon - motor, capstan, the rubber on the pinch rollers, head alignment, head re-lapping, etc.

    But, keep in mind at this point, that depending on the bench fee, how much needs to be done to it, and the cost of any parts or components that it may need, you have to ask your self if it's worth it to repair.

    The TSR8 was a consumer-grade deck, so it's not really worth all that much. ( It's not like you have a Studer or an MCI, which were expensive pro-grade decks, and which still sell for pretty good money).
    Depending on the cost of the repair, it's not entirely impossible that you might be able to find a rebuilt and working TSR for less than what you might end up spending to have it serviced.

    If you are good with electronics, you could pick up the service manual for it, (for around $5), and try to repair it yourself: http://www.vintage-electronics.net/tascam-tsr-8-service-manual.aspx

    Also, here's the link to TEAC Repair/Servicing: http://tascam.com/contact/repair/

    Here's a link to a list of parts on tape machines and their function(s) and includes info on basic servicing : http://www.repairfaq.org/REPAIR/F_audiofaq2.html

    As a final suggestion, if you haven't already, you might want to look at getting into computer-based digital audio recording. I think you'll discover that you can do a whole lot more - and for a whole lot less - than getting that deck fixed and maintaining it. Assuming you already have a computer that is powerful enough with CPU , RAM and Storage Space, the cost of an entry level digital audio production rig is around $300 - 400 or so, including your program/software and the preamp digital i/o, which will give you the ability to record 100 + tracks, built in EQ, compression, FX, etc.

    kmetal likes this.
  3. TDsetter

    TDsetter Active Member

    thanks a bunch for the info.....I probably will go the route you suggested,,,,,get into the digital computer age...just keep this machine as backup...or get it serviced , then sell...it was purchased early 90s by a buddy.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    the TSR8 is a decent machine. like Donny said, not a Studer but hits have been recorded on them .... good work can be done. it only has one head for record and playback .... and an erase head. that makes them a bitch to calibrate.
    be sure you have armed the tracks you are recording, hit the record and play buttons to to roll tape and initiate recording ....or you can punch in and out by holding the play button and hitting record.
    kmetal and pcrecord like this.
  5. TDsetter

    TDsetter Active Member

    ok I'm embarrassed a little...but problem solved....the record head had gunk from the tapes built up on it, and I cleaned it.....now it works fine....
    hard to believe how much junk can build up on there from the tapes...again just has been sitting.... since the lights were on when in record mode, but nothing was going onto the tape (at playback, no lights)....I figured it had to do with the heads because they were making good contact with the tape when in record mode....I looked at the heads with a strong flashlight....whew!!
    kmetal and audiokid like this.
  6. TDsetter

    TDsetter Active Member

    Donny so I have some reasons to invest into computer based production software....what is good entry level like you suggest above?...and will the interface to the computer accept signals from mics plus direct inputs from keys, etc.?
    I have had enough recording experience to recognize good sounds and understand writing, arranging and production.......I just need some relatively easy to use software that I can use to produce songs in the pop/country arena....
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There are several decent production programs on the entry level; it depends on what you want to do, and that can also depend on what computer you currently have.
    Most budget level pre amps are also USB i/o interfaces. They will accept both XLR and Instruments. Some will also provide a midi in jack as well, so if you plan on working with any synths, samples, etc., you'd want to have this feature, along with a keyboard controller to play ("trigger") these internal samples.

    info needed:

    What style(s) of music/production do you want to be able to do?

    Do you only care about recording just audio tracks( vocals, guitar amps, acoustic guitars, drums)? Or do you also want to work with midi tracks using sampled ( VSTi) sounds ? (piano, synth, B3, strings, horns, etc)

    What mics do you currently have?

    Computer, system details ( cpu speed, number of cores , RAM amount, HDD size/speed) i/o connectivity ( USB, Firewire)

    Finally, what would you say your budget is?
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The heads must have been very bad if they were so dirty that no signal was passing. When you were actively using the deck - you mentioned around 15 years ago - were you by chance using Ampex/Quantegy 456/499 Tape?

    I'm asking, because there was a period of time ( around the time period you mentioned last using the deck), when Ampex was changing over to Quantegy, and the formula was being altered for 406/456/457/499 ( some 3M tape stock was affected as well - 8-08/986 ans "Master-Class" stocks ), and engineers started noticing a real problem - the tape was "shedding" the adhesive material on the backing of the tape - and not just a little, either, but quite a bit - much to the frustration of engineers who had grown so accustomed to using 456 ( along with the other stocks mentioned) over the years, up to then without any issues - This was commonly referred to as "sticky shed syndrome" , which is a term used to describe Hydrolysis - where water was introduced in to the binder formula, and the result to this formula change was that the adhesive binding the backing to the ferrite became far less stable. One of the results to this, was that the heads on tape machines started to become gunked-up with this shedded, sticky, adhesive material.

    Most engineers who used tape machines would clean and degauss the heads on their machines sometimes as much as four times a day, or at least before each session throughout a day, and it was simply a matter of routine, like a habit thing... in most cases, you couldn't even see that the heads needed cleaning, because there wasn't any noticeable problems ( we still cleaned them anyway) but when engineers started actually seeing that their tape heads ( along with the pinch rollers, tape guides and capstans) were noticeably really dirty - after only a few hours of normal use - it became a very real problem. Many of us long-time Ampex users switched over to AGFA at that point, because the problem became so bad withe the Ampex/Quantegy tape that we just couldn't trust it anymore.

    I'm mentioning all of this because you said that you last used the deck around 15 years ago, and this is pretty close in time to when that issue was occurring.


  9. TDsetter

    TDsetter Active Member

    yes it was 456 tape....

    on the digital recording process....I want to better understand the interface...so let's say we're recording a rhythm trak with live drums...with 5 asst drum mics in different channels of the board, with a couple of guitars , bass , piano....
    so we have maybe 10 inputs...all recorded pretty flat , so we can enhance later with the software....
    how do we get each of those separate channels into separate software program channels to work them individually into the mix...?
    do we have some kind of multi port interface"board" that plugs into the computer through usb...taking analog signals then converting them into individual digital channels ?

    I think I understand the rest of the stuff conceptually...have used multi track analog machines and mixing consoles in the past and have tinkered with some free download audio digital processing software after recording to two track, convert to mp3, etc...

    I just need clarification on the multi channel process...getting the signals into the digital production software?
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, pretty much exactly as you have described - a multi-channel audio interface. The standard modular size for these is 8 channels, but most can be expanded either by daisy-chaining at the connection (e.g. Firewire) or by using expander units that have an ADAT output for connecting to the ADAT inputs of the master unit. It's straightforward to get to 24 channels at standard sampling rates (44.1 or 48KHz), and more than this number is possible with some boxes.

    That's the digital connection side of it. It's in the analog and conversion performance where the various units differ.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    To add further to what Boswell mentioned, the DAW * program you use will work in conjunction with the preamp/interface you choose, usually via USB.

    Since most computers come with several USB ports, this is probably what you will end up using that would be the easiest** if you choose a standard 8 ch preamp/interface.

    After you install the drivers for the interface to your computer, the DAW will then "recognize" that audio interface, and allow you to assign the tracks you create in your DAW program to the corresponding input channel of the interface. So - you'd connect a mic or instrument to ch 1 of your interface, then select input channel 1 on a track of your DAW. This means you can have separate instruments on separate tracks.... up to the number of individual inputs that you have on the interface.

    (I'm leaving out the various 1, 2, 4 and 6 channel models, because you've mentioned wanting to record 8 mics/instruments or more at the same time.)

    Most rack mount interfaces top out at 8 XLR/ Instrument input channels, ( there are some models that provide more input channels than this) although you can daisy chain interfaces together to gain more input channels, via the method that Bos described, as long as the model you choose is expandable - those with Adat connections are generally the ones that will allow you to add another interface, as long as the second interface also has that Adat/expandability feature.

    If you see yourself getting into live recording, where you want to mic up a whole band, with discreet mics/instrument lines for each player, you may want to consider something like the Allen and Heath ZED R16:
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ZEDR16 which is an actual console, with 16 XLR ins, and using Firewire*** as the connection to route the inputs to discreet/separate tracks on your DAW.

    The other similar choice would be the Presonus Studio-Live Console, a digital mixer that comes in 16/24/32 input channel models, and it also uses Firewire as the connection format to route all of those individual mics/ instruments to your computer, and into your DAW. As a side note, Presonus includes a copy of their DAW software - Studio One - which is designed to work flawlessly with their digital mixers and rack mount interfaces.



    * DAW is short for Digital Audio Workstation... using recording/production software like Pro Tools, Samplitude, Sonar, Audacity, Reaper, etc.)
    **other connection types are available, such as Firewire, Thunderbolt, Adat, etc.
    *** If you don't have a Firewire connection on your computer, you can always add a FW PCIe card for around $80.

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