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Hi, I'm brand new on this board and just found it through a Google search.

I'm new to home recording, so just dipping my toe in. It looks like I can get a used Tascam Portastudio DP-02 for around $100.00 on CL or eBay.

I'm not an electric guitar player -- in fact, I don't even own one -- but I do own nine acoustics, including a Gibson and a Martin, and three mandolins. I've begun writing songs in my head, and I need something to capture the melody, since I don't read or write music.

I'm going to start with a cheapie handheld digital recorder in the car, but also want something for the home.

I'm a little technically challenged, but a quick learner. Is this little Tascam unit a good approach for me, with budget in mind? Are there any pitfalls or inadequacies to this unit? Is there anything else on the market I might want to look at?

I'll mainly just be doing acoustic guitar and vocals, with maybe an overdub of a second guitar or mandolin.



audiokid Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:31

Both the Tascam 144 and 244 Portastudios were my second and third recording systems (the early 80's). If you can still find Tape, its a cool and simple 4 track system that isn't great sounding, but a good starter for simple recording like you are thinking.
A computer and a DAW like (Reaper, Pro Tools, Samplitude, Sonar, Logic, Cubase, Studio One, Ableton, FL Studio) are all good choice's, superior to the Portastudio, but, you won't go wrong starting out on this as it will introduce you to the fundamentals of what we are doing today.
Tracking, bouncing and overdubbing is what those do. They have a simple EQ and speed adjustment. Metal tape worked best.

educatedguess417 Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:42

audiokid, thanks for getting right back to me. I was actually thinking of just stepping into a digital unit vs tape. Any issues or problems w/ doing that? I realize the cost would probably be cheaper w/ the older tape units (thanks for including the model numbers), but I can afford it.

I've heard about Reaper. Is that a freeware application?

If I went that route, I assume I would need some kind of basic mixing board for mic inputs and then into the computer, correct?

Thanks Again.

audiokid Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:54

educatedguess417, post: 419355, member: 48459 wrote: audiokid, thanks for getting right back to me. I was actually thinking of just stepping into a digital unit vs tape. Any issues or problems w/ doing that? I realize the cost would probably be cheaper w/ the older tape units (thanks for including the model numbers), but I can afford it.

I've heard about Reaper. Is that a freeware application?

If I went that route, I assume I would need some kind of basic mixing board for mic inputs and then into the computer, correct?

Thanks Again.

Pleasure, welcome.

I wouldn't buy a Portastudio if you want to do more. The 144 would be choice for someone that is only interested in playing around in a (example) cabin, hotel room, etc for instance :)
Simple plug a guitar, vocal, etc and create some stuff, demos. No fuss, no extra gear other than spare tapes, mic and guitar cable(s) and a mic(s).

But if you have the time to learn and invest, you can get much better for a few dollars more. If this is of interest, members here can guide you to fit a budget?

Reaper is so cheap its not funny. Others I mentioned come with plug-ins and do more. You choose the DAW that fits your workflow and OS (mac or windows)
Anything digital would require a basic computer, converter, interface and preamp(s). Some products come with combo's others are modular.

audiokid Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:57

There are other mobile systems too, that are superior like [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]Zoom [/]="…"]Zoom [/]products! All you need is that, and a computer. There is also PreSonus StudioLive consoles, second hand.
Wow, you have dozens of options that are current and perfect for your needs. Used, you can get a lot. Its all dependent on how much you want to learn and spend.

educatedguess417 Fri, 09/12/2014 - 11:05

Very very cool, Tree, and you've been generous with your time. Let's see what other folks might have to say. I'm going to an open mike tonight and meeting a younger friend who is a very good songwriter and already doing his own recordings, so I will also pick his brain tonight.

I was ready to take a leap on this till my Camry just went into the shop for a heavily leaking oil pump. Sigh. Gotta wait to hear the damage.

On the plus side, I just scored a vintage 1969 Les Paul Goldtop that I can turn pretty quickly for a profit.

Life is good. So much to be grateful for. You rock, Biggie. Thanks Much.

kmetal Sat, 09/13/2014 - 01:24

I love tascam porta studios! I still use my 424 mk3 once in a while, and I actually happen to grab some mixes by chance the other night and one of them I did on in, this is an excuse to post it :)

I think big tree pretty much summed it up.

Judging by the fact that you have 9 guitars, I'm guessing you take music seriously, or at least important on some level, Martin and Gibson aren't typical garage sale names.. I say forget the handheld. People will rant and rave about how good they sound, but really serve the same function that any phone or tablet can, and that's record an idea in the moment. If that's what your gonna do with it.

If you have absolulty have no desire to do much more than just over dub over ideas, or track demos live the porta studio is a great way to go. Also if you don't have a reliable fairly current computer, you'll need one otherwise. And I like the idea that it's a dedicated unit, just turn it on, and hit record. No updates, no Facebook, no online banking, it's just a tool, and it does ones thing, record music.

If I were you I would only buy a porta studio that used tape, and for fun or a novelty, and you should cuz they rock!!! Super cool 70s garage rock stylie!

For $100 you could get a simple audio interface like that. Cuz sooner or later whether your end up in a pro studio or a buddy's spot, your gonna encounter a DAW, so it's worthwhile to be at least familiar w the basics of what they do. Really they can be very easy to use, and simple to run, while writing/creating, once your get things setup and a comfortable workflow. Things can get as deep, or stay as simple as you want to take them.

I would start there, as it the most well rounded option IMHO considering portability capability and ease of use.

But either way, in addition to your recorder your going to want headphones and/or speakers (monitors), some decent cables that won't break,p right away, and a mic or two.

$500 gets you a shur sm57, a cable, a pair of alesis, or Yamaha powered speakers, and a nice set of akg 240 headphones if ya shop smart. Not a bad piece of kit. Certainly capable of professional demo quality, and a setup a songwriter on any level could work with top to bottom.

anonymous Sat, 09/13/2014 - 05:04

I would steer clear of any porta studio that is tape based. These are older units and besides the possible ( probable) issue of worn mechanical parts on the transport, there's also the probability of serious wear on the heads.

These were wonderful note-pad machines at the time they were released. When I was a touring musician, I had one that traveled across the U.S. and Canada with me for years, and I would use it all the time to get song ideas down. I put just as many miles on that recording deck as the ones that I traveled.

But, many years have passed since those units were made, and there are better options now.

Obviously, you have a computer, so you should look at using it as the platform for recording. As Kyle mentioned, for around $500 - $700, you could get into a basic recording rig that will sound infinitely better than an old cassette tape based unit, and will be much more versatile in many ways - no track limit, the ability to edit, add FX, etc.

If you can afford to buy a '69 Gold Top - LOL - I would think that you could afford the cost of an entry level digital recording rig.


DogsoverLava Tue, 09/16/2014 - 19:29

The advice here is all good - In the articles I penned on my website on how I started, the point I wanted to make was that - you might already have what you need to be able to record - that it didn't take a mountain of gear or crazy investment to have something you can start with. My laptop is from 2007 - it was smoking at the time - but that's still 8 years old at this point... An 8 year old laptop - an interface (others have posted links to them) probably stuff you have in the garage - and you are good to go. Something Like Guitar Rig 5 or Amplitube (both have free versions) and Reaper -- a mic - some headphones - an old ghetto blaster with line ins.... You'd be amazed how far you can go with just a kit like that. It's portable - can setup in seconds - and not mechanical.

Gerald Roberts Thu, 10/23/2014 - 05:47

The low fi stuff I would steer clear from as well. My first 24 track was Tascam and it was a dream. Other than the short faders, but I was able to deal with that by importing it to my PC, and only presented a problem when mixing or mastering.
The signal to noise ratio is so high on the cassette that you might as well get two double decks and go back and forth thru a Radio Shack 5 channel mixer, running thru a noise suppressor and EQ.
Have you thought about the digital 8 tracks you can pick up for around $100? Tascam and Fostex both make easy to operate, 16 bit I think, decent sounding machines. Just remember to warm it up with an Art or Behringer tube anything. When I did my acoustic, I used a Dean Markley in the bell, the guitar's built in pickup and pre-amp, and an open face AKG, all at the same time, warmed them all up, and it gave me three distinct sounds on exactly the same track, making people that knew think I could reproduce perfectly my previously recorded track.
I LOVE a great guitar (like a 12 string anything with good action) warmed up, and even thru a tube amp and recorded that way. Your mic placement, tube pre amp and overall method of recording are just as important as the piece you have written. Good luck. The best times in my life were spent recording and at first, that meant learning to record.

DonnyThompson Sat, 04/08/2017 - 03:33

Lots of water under the bridge since those days. If you think about it, those portable units from Tascam, Fostex, Audio Technical and Yamaha pretty much gave birth to the whole home recording craze.
I think you'd be hard-pressed to find audio guys and musicians of our generation that didn't have one of the portable cassette based 4 track units.
They served their pupose(s) well; they were fantastic little "note pads" for song ideas, great for recording band rehearsals...
these days there's no real need for them, considering that commercial releases are starting out in laptops - in airports, hotel rooms, etc.
I know that digital versions of these portable studios are still on the market, many from the same companies that built the original cassette models back in the '80s, but I don't think they are nearly as popular as the original models were, at a time before everyone had a cell phone and computer.

kmetal Sat, 04/08/2017 - 09:45

I had innitailly bought a used fostex MR-8 digital portastudio and it glitched out in a day or two, so I returned it an got the cassette based tascam. Worked fine a couple years back after sitting in my closet for a decade. Great little machines! Lots of fun and a certain charm to their sound.


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