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TASCAM Portastudio 424 MKII

The TASCAM Portastudio was the world's first four-track recorder based on a standard compact audio cassette tape. The term portastudio is exclusive to TASCAM however it is generally used to describe all self-contained cassette-based multitrack recorders dedicated to music production.

The Portastudio 144 made its debut in 1979 (priced at about Can$1200) to be followed by several other models by TASCAM and eventually by several other manufacturers,[1] for the first time it enabled musicians to record affordably several instrumental and vocal parts on different tracks of the built-in four-track recorder and later blend all the parts together, while transferring them to another standard, two-channel stereo tape deck (remix and mixdown) to form a stereo recording.

These machines were typically used by artists to record demos, although they are still often used in lo-fi recording, the analog portastudios by TASCAM (a division of TEAC) and similar units by Fostex, Akai, Yamaha, Sansui, Marantz, and others generally recorded on high-bias cassette tapes. Most of the machines were four-track, but there were also six-track and eight-track units, some newer digital models record to a hard disk, allowing for digital effects and up to 32 tracks of audio.

One widely used model was the TASCAM 424 (in three versions), which offered a great deal of flexibility while still remaining inexpensive to use. Prior to the advent of digital recording, the 424 was an affordable way for bands to record demos or even commercial albums.

Tascam Portaone Ministudio

The PortaOne MiniStudio followed in the mid 1980s.


The Portastudio supported the bouncing of content between tracks, such as creating a mix of three tracks and recording the sum onto the fourth track. By carefully balancing the volume and equalization, this could be done multiple times to create very lush tracks, reminiscent of the complex four-track production of late-sixties Beatle compositions. A limitation was the introduction of tape hiss, which was a particular issue with early models, this was eliminated with more recent digital models.

Unlike standard audio cassette machines that recorded a pair of stereo channels per side, the cassette-based Portastudios recorded four channels in one direction. If you played back a standard two-sided stereo cassette, the second two channels would play in reverse. One interesting (but unpublished) feature was that you could record a track in reverse by flipping the cassette, then flip it back and record additional material. Thanks to the speed control, it was also possible to create a classic flanging effect by recording one track, then recording a second copy of the same track while varying the pitch control, creating a sweeping sound at points where the two tracks converged.

An additional feature was support for external signal processing during recording and on final output.

Notable usages[edit]


Using Your Portable Studio by Peter McIan (1996, Amsco Publications)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Tascam Portastudio Through the Ages". reverb.com. Retrieved 2017-01-31. 
  2. ^ Howe, Zoë (2014). Barbed Wire Kisses. United Kingdom: Polygon. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84697-331-4. 
  3. ^ "Madlib | Redbull Music Academy" Redbullmusicacademy.com.
  4. ^ Parker, Chris (2008-09-10). "Mac McCaughan: Through with Portastatic?" Indyweek.com.
  5. ^ "Clive Gregson And Christine Collister - Home And Away". Discogs. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Ben Berke and Jay Mamana - Varispeed and Beyond". Tapeop. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 

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