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The Portastudio 144 made its debut in 1979 (priced at about $1200.00 Canadian) to be followed by the Portastudio One in 1984. The Portstudio One was a revolutionary creative tool. For the first time it enabled musicians the ability to affordably record 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 are typically used by artists to record demos, although they are also often used in Lo-fi recording. The analog portastudios by TASCAM 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 easy and affordable way for bands to record demos or even commercial albums.
- Guided By Voices recorded much of their classic-era songs on a Tascam 4-track.
- Primus' first release Suck on This, a compilation of several live performances, was recorded entirely on a TASCAM quarter-inch eight-track Portastudio.
- John Frusciante recorded his two first solo albums Niandra Lades & Usually Just A T-Shirt and Smile From The Streets You Hold on a Portastudio 424 (source: VPRO 94 interview).
- Soviet poet and musician, Viktor Tsoi, frontman of the Soviet rock band Kino, recorded demos in the late 1980s to early 1990s for their main albums on a Portastudio tape recorder. A few of those albums are Gruppa krovi (Blood Type), Zvezda po imeni Solntse (The star called Sun) and Chyorny albom (The Black Album) in couple with a drum machine.
- Travis Meeks of Days of the New recorded "Cling" on a TASCAM four-track in his sessions leading up to his debut album.
- John Vanderslice, an analog recording enthusiast, made Life and Death of an American Fourtracker, a concept album about home recording, including the song "Me and My 424."
- Alan Wilder recorded his first solo album 1+2, under the nickname Recoil, on a four-track Portastudio.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded half of his songs on his debut album with a Portastudio in his drummer's garage before signing up for a proper studio.
- Portastatic was named after the Portastudio Mac McCaughan used to record the songs that became its first album.
Using Your Portable Studio by Peter McIan (1996, Amsco Publications)
- Parker, Chris (2008-09-10). "Mac McCaughan: Through with Portastatic?" Indyweek.com.