No More 4-Track Cassette Recorders
By James Grahame
People often ask how I come up with post ideas. More often than not, they're sparked by fleeting memories from my youth. This post is a typical example. Back in the late 1980s, I was a synthesizer-obsessed teenager. The technology was brutally expensive and quickly outdated. I funded my musical obsession with a part-time job at A&W on the weekends, but by the time I'd purchased a synthesizer, drum machine, sampler and MIDI sequencer I didn't have enough left over for niceties such as digital effect units or a multitrack tape recorder.
The solution to my dilemma was to rent a multitrack deck for a weekend whenever I had a new song to record. My recorder of choice was a Tascam Porta Two, simply because it was the cheapest rental deck available at the local music shop.
The Porta Two incorporated a six channel mixer, DBX noise reduction, and analog level meters. Best of all, it ran at double speed to squeeze maximum fidelity from a Chrome cassette tape. I usually recorded time code on one track and then used the other three to ping-pong several layers of synth and samples. Once I had everything the way I wanted it, I'd record vocals over the time code track. Not the most glamorous or hi-fi way to work, but it did the trick.
These memories came flooding back to me late last night after a concert, and I went looking to see if there were any cassette multitrack recorders still on the market. It took only a minute to confirm that both Tascam and Fostex discontinued their last analog cassette decks several years ago, dragging the last few analog holdouts kicking and screaming into the digital era.