"What about punch-ins?" you say. There's nothing lacking here, either. In fact, there's a little more than you'd expect. There are two ways to punch in, and yet a third, automatic way to do punch-ins that frees up your hands. The first manual punch-in method basically uses the RECORD button next to the other transport controls and the INSERT button. To punch-in on a track, you first set the RECORD FUNCTION switch for that track "on" or in "ready" mode. Then press INSERT and hit PLAY. When you get to the punch-in point, you simply hit the RECORD button and off you go. An optional footswitch activates the RECORD button for those needing hands for other things (ideal for musicians). Tape and source outputs can be toggled using the INSERT button.

The second manual punch-in method uses the RECORD FUNCTION button instead of the RECORD button. (Don't get confused -- The RECORD FUNCTION buttons are the eight buttons below each track's bargraph which put that track in the "record ready" mode.) With this method, you simply put all tracks in the "safe" mode, hit PLAY and RECORD, then activate the RECORD FUNCTION button for that track at the desired punch-in point. The output of that track will switch from tape to source as soon as the RECORD FUNCTION button is pressed.

The third method of punching-in is the automatic method. It takes a few more button pushes and offers a REHEARSAL mode. Basically, what you get here is the ability to preset punch-in and punch-out points, then "rehearse" the punch-in as often as you like, until you're ready to actually record. Once the in/out points are set and the REHEARSAL function is activated, the 238 will begin playing from a predesignated start point (or pre-roll point). At the preset punch-in point, the selected track will automatically switch its output from "tape" to "source." At the preset punch-out point, the track's output switches back to "tape." After this, the tape will roll for three more seconds (post-roll) then return to the original start point, ready to rehearse again. Once you're sure of what you're going to do during that punch in, you just hit the AUTO IN/OUT button. This takes the 238 out of the REHEARSAL mode. When you hit PLAY, the 238 goes through all the same motions as it did during the REHEARSAL mode with the exception that it will actually record whatever you input to the selected track. This AUTO IN/OUT function worked very well while playing with it. Musicians will love it. Production types will find it handy in any situation where "rehearsal" is necessary before actually punching in.

"But wait! There's MORE!" They called this thing a SYNCaset for a reason. Track eight is specifically designed to be used, not only as a regular track, but as MIDI synchronizing track. A TAPE SYNC switch on the rear panel defeats the dbx for track eight to allow for the special sync code to be recorded properly. The FILTER switch on the rear panel sends the output of track eight through a midrange bandpass filter, making it "virtually immune to crosstalk interference from other tracks that could cause sequencer miscuing." If you're into syncing machines together, the 238 Syncaset is designed with you in mind. It's a serious promo that will need this function of the 238, and musician/production types are more likely to find a use for it. Write TASCAM for more info on the optional MTS-30 Tape Synchronizer if you plan to sync up with MIDI gear.

The rack-mountable TASCAM 238 takes up three rack spaces. Other specs include nominal input and output levels of -10 dBV. Total harmonic distortion is rated at less than .8% (400 Hz, 0 VU). Overall frequency response is 30-16 kHz, ±3 dB. Fast winding time is approximately 70 seconds for a C60 cassette. For more info on the TASCAM 238, call (213) 726-0303.