Tascam Tape Time

When I was in high school, I bought my very first multitrack recorder from my church. It was a four-track Tascam tape recorder, a Tascam 234, and it had sat tucked under the sound booth unused for many years. My older brother often ran the sound board for church services, and so I used to sit back there with him as a little kid. Many times I stared at that curious tape machine and wondered why it was so different than other tape recorders. Why so many knobs and meters just to record a tape? I definitely didn’t understand the concept of recording four independent tracks to a single tape.

Once I started to record my own music (with a single lone synthesizer), I finally realized the importance of being able to go back and record multiple tracks on top of one another. Our music pastor knew that I was starting to record music and he sold me the tape machine for $100. I used it a little, but I quickly realized that I needed a way to synchronize my sequencer and the tape machine. I didn’t know much about tape sync, but the idea of sacrificing one of my tracks as a sync track was not attractive. Only three extra tracks left? Not for me! I retired the Tascam and soon found a digital 8-track recorder that could sync to MIDI clock. I’m actually not sure what ever happened to the Tascam tape machine, but it’s been gone for a long time.

But no longer! I’d been thinking nostalgically about that tape machine for a long time. From a design standpoint, it just looked really nice. I also like the concept of recording stuff to a tape machine. I’ve been hunting around for one on eBay, but a lot of them are in disrepair. It seems that these things have a lot of internal problems. When they do sell, they go for a lot more than the $100 I paid our music pastor. But last week I was driving across the country and made a little stop in Kansas City. A guy was parting out the remainder of his studio and had listed four of these on Craigslist. Naturally, I offered to give them all a good home.

Tascam 234 stacked


He said that they were mostly working. I suspect that I might have two working units and two parts machines. I like the idea of having one (or two) for spare parts. If eBay is any indication, these tend to break down in a variety of ways. That was one of the things that made me nervous about getting one again…I knew I’d be buying something fragile. But it’s a little nicer to know that I’ve got a large cache of spare parts.

Tascam 234


I’ve got a couple other projects to finish up first, so these are going in the corner for right now. Hopefully I’ll have at least one working soon and I’ll try recording a song on one.