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There is a guy selling one of these units in good shape for $200. Is it worth it to record to tape? Is this unit any good? Should I take the plunge with tape or should I worry about preamps first?


JoeH Thu, 02/24/2005 - 09:39

I assume you're talking about the 80-8? It's a 1/2 inch 8 track, semi-pro machine (-10 levels, unbalanced ins/outs, for "Musician" and small studio use). Pre-amps are a completely separate issue; you'll need those for any medium you're going to use, including this one. (It's not a mixer, it's just a tape deck.)

Hopefully, the seller lives near you; those things are quite heavy and cost a lot to ship (let along package). Does it have the DBX noise reduction option as well?

It was a good machine in its day. Just find out what shape the heads are in - chances are they're quite worn and need relapping (at the least - maybe even replacement). Some batches 486 tape used to shed more than others, and if it's still like that (haven't used analog tape in over a decade now), bad/iffy heads will drive you MAD with dropouts and reduced hi end when they start shaving the oxide off the heads as you go, esp the outside tracks, sometimes within the course of 1 three-minute song. Be aware of this; it's not like the DA-38s and ADATs you may be used to up till now....

Also, each rec/repro card has four relays in them. (32 total) They can go bad, and you can have a world of pain and suffering when they don't switch when they should - no sound, bad sound, intermittant sound, etc.

I have an 80-8 in storage, with all new relays, relapped heads and the DBX noise reduction system. Not sure if I'll ever sell it; (I see they're going for about $300 these days; that's roughly about 10% of what they went for "back in the day"). I spent more time and labor on the relays alone, just before I retired it, so it's a lossy situation no matter how much I'd get for it. (Plus, the cost of shipping alone is going to be ridiculous as well, I'm very sure.) I figure I'll either keep it until it's a complete antique and worth more, or maybe I'll get a project to restore/transfer a bunch of old 1/2" 8-tracks for someone. That would be fun.

For $200, I think you'd better ask a lot of questions. Chances are, you'll get what you pay for.

anonymous Thu, 02/24/2005 - 10:27

If 80-8 is the right model number.....mine is 1/4", 8track that gave me 18 years of good service. However, the "record" light on one track, and then several tracks over time, failed to come on and recording on that track became impossible. Sounds like the relay problem JoeH is talking about. Check that all lights work and all channels record before you buy. Ask the owner about maintenance. If he's like me (musician, not technician) assume the heads are shot!

JoeH, how did you fix the relays?

JoeH Thu, 02/24/2005 - 16:38

Oops! You're right Kurt, I totally blew past the Foxtex and only read the "80" number, assuming he meant the Tascam. :oops:

As for the relays for my own Tascam 80-8, (i forget the model # now), but they were painstakingly replaced outright, one at a time, by removing each board from the unit itself, then gently de-soldering all 8 (10? 12?) connections for each relay from the boards, and then installing the new (Gold-plated, gas-sealed) relays. Keeping the solder traces neat and clean was the utmost priority; we used a lot of solder wick, suction solder-guns, and cleaner to remove the old rosin before soldering up the new ones.

I believe they cost $25-35 each at the time; so for 8 repro cards x 4, this came out to between $800 and $1k. (It's been a while, I can't remember exactly how much now...) Took about 30-45 minutes per card, as near as I can remember.

As you can imagine, between the replapping, the replaced relays, and the labor itself, I'd never recoup the cost of refurbishing it, and I'm not looking to try. (Too bad I restored it right at the dawn of MDMs, eh?) At the time, I had the help of noted tech writer & engineer Eddie Ciletti, who's not only a friend but a colleage in the biz. He worked with me on the first few, and then I continued on the repairs on my own, once I had the hang of it. (This was when he was based in NYC; he's since moved to St. Paul, MN and is still a great source for repairs and info.)

I neglected to advise "Therecordingart" about alignment tapes, as well. I still have the Tascam & the NAB alignment tapes that came with mine, and they still hold up fairly well. Got to get the repro levels correct first with a VOM as well as the meters, then set up the record & bias adjustments, going back and forth painstakingly, until you get it right.

Whew!!! No wonder so many of us literally RAN away from analog tape, eh?

stui Mon, 02/28/2005 - 04:43

Fostex Model 80

Hey guys,

I have recently picked up one of these machines for next to nothing and have come to really like it - particularly for slamming drums and bass.

Sure its pretty low fi in the scheme of things but that's what I like about it - its all about contrasts for my money. Big improvement on tracking drums to hard disk in my opinion.

If the machines in reasonable condition for US$200 I would go for it.

I'm writing from Australia and am finding it difficult to find alignment tape and a demagnitiser. Any ideas where I could source these things online?