8 track reel to reel



While browsing on ebay, I have run across several 8 track reel-to-reel tape decks and I am wondering if tracking to tape and them going into the computer would be a good way to get a nice sound. Of course, the deck would be something along the lines of a tascam 38-eight track so the quality is not crazy. Looking into this because I have read that, unless you have a nice 2" reel-to-reel mixing down out of a daw isn't that beneficial.

Also, is there a good site that explains the maintenance of a machine of this sort?


My band is working on a recording where the bed tracks (drums and bass) were tracked to a 1/2" tascam 8 track such as you describing. We are really happy with the sound that we got... we drove the levels pretty hard and it has that sound to it. We are just a little indie outfit but i would say that an 8 track in decent shape would definately have it's uses. Maybe not for high end fidelity recording but you can get it to rock (if you rock that is).

One nice thing for us was that it was portable, so instead of renting a studio we just rented a nice sounding space, brought in the 8 track (it is not ours... we were working with someone who knew how to get the most out of it) plugged in the preamps and we were ready to go. For bed tracks it was actually much more convienient than a computer.



Well-Known Member
Mar 31, 2002
The"Tape Sound" you hear about requires a high end deck and at least a 1 inch or 2 inch tape width.

Pro sumer tape like 8 track 1/2inch is OK if it gives you the sound you want, but it won't give you the high end tape sound you hear discussed in general.



Well-Known Member
Jan 28, 2004
I have done so many recordings on 1/2 8-track... on the 80-8 which had a separate playback head, and on the 38 where there was only one record/playback head. You can get a great sound and it is not that hard with careful leveling. We used to calibrate the recorder for "plus 3 dB" - those of you who have worked a lot with tape know exactly what I am referring to... Be aware that if you do that you have to watch out for transients.

I would not go with 8 tracks on 1/4 tape like the Fostex, though.

If you have a 1/2 inch try this, using a 1kHz tone set your mixer to 0 dB and your recorder to +3. Record a few rhythm tracks. If your mixer has LEDs be sure to stay out of the red at all times. especially on "peaky" material like drums. You will over-saturate the tape. In fact, on drums you should probably record at less than 0 dB.

If you like the sound, go with it. I don't personally care for the sound of tape compression, but some people like it.

Personally, the only drawback I see to tape vs digital is hiss, and depending on your program material you may have enough sound to mask any hiss you might get. I have done extremely quiet recordings on 1/2 inch. Ambient sound (RF noise, etc) is usually a much bigger problem in recording than tape hiss is.


Well-Known Member
Sep 5, 2000
it's like Steve said- 8track 1/2" won't give you that classic sound that everyone loves so much. That's not to say it won't give you a distinctive sound, but it may not be what you're expcting. Try it, you might like it. A reel of 1/2 tape is like $40 bucks though - you'll be using at least two for an EP worth of material if you're well rehearsed. For that you could rent a nice digital multitrack.

I've got a Tascam TSR8 that I use for xfers. It sounds decent enough, I suppose, but it's so cumbersome when compared to the Fostex D108 I replaced it with. The Digi002R does studio duties now, as a tape/mixer setup isn't all that compact and the results are no better until you start spending lots of dough.

If you can stand the sound, get a unit with NR. I like the quietness of my TSR8 with dbx engaged, it's nice and quiet, but some folks hate the sound of Dolby/any NR.

Honestly, I think a used HDR or MDM with a nice front end (good pre's) will get you great results.

I wouldn't go anything else than 1/2" 8 track if you're really insistent on trying it. I've got a 1/4" 8track that I NEVER use. And it can only record on 4 tracks at once, anyway. There's tons of opinions about using tape vs. digital on this board, though.