FLASHBACK: 1987 Tascam Porta Two Cassette Four-Track Tape Recorder

tascam portastudio Porta two

FLASHBACK 1987 Tascam Porta Two Cassette Four-Track Tape Recorder

BACKGROUND
The Porta Two is a portable cassette four-track tape recorder manufactured by Tascam in 1987.

Teac/Tascam are a huge influence in home recording. The Teac 144, the first cassette four-track recorder, was released in 1979. The 144 kicked off the cassette recording revolution. The Tascam Porta One was released in 1984 offering battery power. In 1987, The Tascam Porta Two offered a six-channel mixer, an fx loop, and battery power.

HOW IT WAS USED
The cassette four-track allowed any musician to make quality home recordings at an affordable price. The media, cassettes, is cheap, so you could record lots of music. You had four mono tracks to work with. A typical format was to record drums or drum machine on track one, bass on track two, guitar on track three, and vocals on track four. If you needed more than four tracks you could record tracks one, two, and three with music and bounce/mix them onto track four. Now committing to your mix on track four, you record over tracks one, two, and three for a total of six tracks. Recording with four tracks forces you to commit to performances and mixes early on in the creative process.

LESSONS LEARNED
Today’s engineers and artists can learn the fundamentals of music production with a four-track cassette recorder. The transport controls on the Porta Two are laid out just like a modern DAW. Recording with a four-track, you learn about microphone placement, how to achieve optimum recording levels and decision making. The Porta Two also allows you to learn about fx loops, graphic EQ, preamps, signal flow, problem solving, bouncing tracks, and mixing music. Lastly, a cassette four-track teaches you about analog recording and sound, tape machine maintenance, and how to have fun with a pencil and a cassette tape.

HISTORICAL NOTES
Bruce Springsteen recorded Nebraska on a Teac 144. Cassette four-track recording is often referred to as the “lo-fi” movement. Other notable artists who recorded with cassette four-track machines include Guided By Voices and Ween.

CAN BE HEARD ON
I recorded Roland drum machine and synth bass parts onto my Tascam Porta Two for the song “BP Oil Rap (How Can You)” from For Real by Aslan King.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Torbin Harding is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, B.A. in Music Synthesis Production 1995, and founded Lo-ZRecords in 1997. He currently works in both the analog tape and digital recording mediums. For more info visit www.Lo-ZRecords.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Levelanything

    July 30, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Yeah! A Worcester native. I’m from the Springfield. I feel like the cassette 4-track saved my life when I was a teen. All I wanted to do was record. I love the bass and drums on that BP song. Good stuff!

    • Benjamin Ricci

      August 1, 2016 at 10:19 am

      #tape4eva

  2. Brad loved the 4 track

    October 20, 2016 at 2:10 am

    you forgot Sublime. 😛

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