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Should I go for this reel to reel/mixer deal?

Member for

11 years 10 months
Hi there,

Since starting recording, I've been working in my 'home studio' for many months now, alternating between the super-simple Tascam Porta 02 for demos, and the Fostex X-28 for slightly higher quality recordings, using a couple of cheap microphones and the different instruments and processors I own. Ideally I've been looking for a cheap Portastudio 424, for its more expansive mixer, effects sends and EQ capabilities. The plan a few days ago was to look for one in my price range, and to use that.

But yesterday I came across a fully-working Tascam TSR-8 reel to reel ( coupled with a Fostex 812 mixer (, that I can get for £340 (about $515). I've never worked with a reel-to-reel before, but as it looks like a very simple, intuitive machine, I'd be very interested in expanding into using them, not only for being able to use a separate mixer, but to have the much higher quality of tape and 8 individual tracks. I either work with a four piece band, or playing each part and building up tracks in layers. And I like ease of use too; when I'm recording creatively in a group or on my own, I hate spending time moving cables and changing settings...would there be those kind of issues switching between recording and mixdown?

The mixer has 8 buses...having never used a separate mixer before I'd need some suggestions on signal chain from the mixer to the reel to reel back to the mixer if I was to buy it. I could master in stereo either to my computer (I don't have a good sequencer yet) or one of the tape decks I have.

So, do you think it's worth leaping from simple Portastudios to the reel to reel? I've outlined the benefits (higher quality than cassette, 8 tracks, fairly inexpensive for the product itself, use of a mixer), but I have to think also of the reel to reel breaking down/having issues. Even if it comes in perfect condition, it's still less reliable than a Portastudio, I guess. As a student careful about spending too much (apart from my guitar, I really don't have any expensive gear, and hardly any microphones), I'm not sure whether I can justify spending that amount of money on it, and I have to make a decision quite soon about this. So what do people think?

Should I be interested, or should I take a step back and keep looking for something nearer my price range?


Member for

15 years 4 months

Boswell Fri, 07/09/2010 - 02:27
You have to commit to a considerable maintenance budget to keep a tape machine in professional order. I would look seriously at a second-hand Alesis HD24 before leaping on to the multi-track reel-reel wagon. It's the closest you get to tape machine operation and feel without any of the maintenance issues.

Your second link doesn't work, but the Fostex 812 is not the greatest mixer. Is it £340 on its own or with the TSR-8? Since you quote the price in GBP, are these items in the UK?

Member for

11 years 10 months

bcwilliamson Fri, 07/09/2010 - 02:51
The items are in the UK, yeah, and I'm talking £250 for the reel to reel and £120 for the mixer- and a compromise at somewhere like £340.

Here's the mixer again (

Maintenance is my only real issue here - thanks for the suggestion on the HD24, but I'm really either looking for tape, or to go back to a high-speed cassette machine - even if the reel to reel is, as I've been told, in perfect working order, would I really have to spend a lot of time (and money) maintaining it in the future? And what kind of work would that be, for a non-technical type? Because that's not something I'm sure about, and it tempts me just to go back to using a simple 4/8-track cassette recorder. Ultimately I'm looking for a reliable, good machine that I can mix well with. And reliable is the most important word here, I don't want to splash out on the reel to reel to have it break down within 5 years.

I think I have to make a decision today - while the higher quality, use of 8 tracks and a mixer, and easy workflow is very attractive, I'm still a little worried about the other issues, like tape cost, maintenance, failure, etc. How much should I take into account these worries? Thanks.

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Fri, 07/09/2010 - 09:57
You talk about workflow and mailntenance issues and then tell a seasoned audio professional like Bos that you would rather turn to a "high speed cassette" recorder rather than an HD24 ?!?!?! You need to do your homework, sir. Try to stay clear of the TR-8, which even when it was NEW suffered many issues due to it's design flaws. It is not a professional recorder,and due to its' plastic case and cheaper construction, I would be very reluctant to expect it to make it across "the pond" in one piece. BTW, ALL Fostex mixers suffered headroom issues (as well as other issues like noisey mic preamps and useless EQ ).
Save your pennies and buy better...:)

Member for

11 years 10 months

bcwilliamson Fri, 07/09/2010 - 11:00
You talk about workflow and mailntenance issues and then tell a seasoned audio professional like Bos that you would rather turn to a "high speed cassette" recorder rather than an HD24 ?!?!?!

Well, yes, not having £1000 to hand, it's not something I'm able to purchase at the moment.

Thanks for the advice people, I may just save my money and get something else in that price range.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Mon, 07/12/2010 - 21:16
Any non-maintained recording devices will eventually break down. If you think that your "high-speed" cassette players are sounding the same as they did a year ago you are mistaken.

The facts of this proposed gear are true. The pieces, however , are miles above the fidelity you are used to with what you have and the HD24 is yet another set of miles above that.

There are very very few systems currently available that are as trouble-free as well as great sounding as a decent board and an Alesis HD24 recorder. These ease of operation makes it perfect for a beginner or an established pro.

Member for

11 years 1 month

dodgeaspen Mon, 07/26/2010 - 20:14
I know a few guys that use the Tascam TSR 8 and love them. Like any analog gear they do have to be maintained, but the sound and the hands on feel is worth it. As for the mixer, I now nothing about it. I had a Fostex 450 and had some problems with it and found it to be expencive if I wanted to have it fixed. The good thing about the Tascam decks is that Teac still sells many parts.