Test Drive: The Tascam 238 Syncaset

Each of the eight tracks has its own LED bar graph, so rather than looking at your console to set levels, you simply watch the bargraphs on the 238 to make sure levels are not too low or too high. Beneath each track's bargraph is the RECORD FUNCTION button. Activating this function lights the red LED above the button and places that track in the "ready" mode. The output of that track is automatically switched from "tape" to "source." As mentioned earlier, when the record function is set back to "playback," the track is in a playback/sel-sync mode. Laying down tracks with the 238 is no different than doing so on an open-reel deck. The RECORD FUNCTION switches are also available on the optional remote control.

The micro-processor controlled transport mechanism is surprisingly smooth and fast. Two memory locations are available for marking points anywhere on the tape. You also get a "return-to-zero" function, giving you up to three actual memory locations to work with. The 238 is designed to be used with high bias, type II cassettes. Tape speed runs at twice normal cassette speed -- 3.5 ips. Obviously, only one side of a tape can be used, and the recommended maximum tape size of 60 minutes (typical C60) provides 15 minutes of tape time per tape. You can get 22.5 to 30 minutes of tape time using a C90 or C120, but the thinner tape used in these larger sizes is not recommended. Because of the very small track sizes on the tape, you should buy the best and be very careful not to damage the tape in any way. Massive dropouts can occur on a multi-track cassette where they might be minimal or unnoticeable on 1/2 inch tape.

Okay, so these are some of the basic functions and specifications of the 238. It was a pleasant surprise to find many added features one might not expect to see on such an affordable 8-track. You get pitch control variable to ±12%, and external speed control is even available. With the pitch control in the EXT position, the 238 can be controlled by a SMPTE controller or synchronizer plugged into the serial port on the back panel. (The capstan motor looks for a DC 5 volt reference signal for external control.)

No eight-track would be complete without a CUE function on it, and TASCAM didn't leave that off, either. The SHUTTLE control, when engaged, lets you cue/review backwards or forwards on the tape. The speed at which you move in either direction is variable depending upon how far you turn the SHUTTLE knob in either direction. The movement of the SHUTTLE seemed jerky, unlike the smooth movement found on open-reel decks; nevertheless, this cue/review function is available.

The LED display on the front panel is a two part display that gives you actual tape time, a standard cassette tape counter, and displays memory location values. The left side of the display can be switched from "tape time" to "counter." The right side of the display shows the positions stored in either of the two memory locations available. A memory point is stored simply by hitting MEMO1 or MEMO2 at any time, whether the machine is rolling or not. The tape counter value at that point will be stored in the memory location. The stored value can be checked by hitting the CHECK button which toggles between the two memory points. Pressing either LOC1 or LOC2 will cause the machine to roll (in either FFWD or REV) to the corresponding MEMO point. Again, the transport handled very smoothly and quickly with this function. The memory points are based on whatever the "counter" readout is, and the counter uses revolutions of the cassette hub for its calculations. The accuracy of the locate function seemed fine, however, TASCAM notes that the memory points are "subject to variations in tape pack. Slight drifting of a cue point after a number of fast wind operations is normal."

Yet another nice feature of the 238 Syncaset is the REPEAT function. During mixdowns, it's very handy to be able to set a playback loop while you adjust levels, set EQ, etc.. The REPEAT function uses the two MEMO locations as references and will playback repeatedly between the two points until the function is interrupted.

Comments (3)

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i like the tascam 238s i need two of them as soon as i can get them let me no ok DWAYNE

DWAYNE HOAGUE
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You can also post a classified ad for this gear at no charge. Go here: https://www.rapmag.com/classifieds

Jerry Vigil
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I have a near-mint condition Tascam 238 for sale. Contact me at uscore713 at gmail dot com if you're interested.

Jay Martin
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