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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. 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.
- Guided By Voices recorded much of their classic-era songs on a Tascam 4-track.
- The Jesus and Mary Chain probably used a TASCAM Portastudio to record their first demos sent to Bobby Gillespie and Alan McGee.
- 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).
- Bruce Springsteen recorded his album Nebraska on a Portastudio 144.
- 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.
- Ween recorded their second album, The Pod, on a Tascam four-track.
- "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.
- Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was mixed down to a Portastudio 244.
- Iron and Wine's debut 2002 The Creek Drank the Cradle was recorded on a four track cassette recorder.
- Madlib recorded his first album as Quasimoto, "The Unseen", on a TASCAM Portastudio.
- Portastatic was named after the Portastudio Mac McCaughan used to record the songs that became its first album.
- The Dixie Bee-Liners recorded their Christmas single, "Santa Wants A Whiskey", on a TASCAM 788.
- Nik Kershaw recorded the demos to his album, "Human Racing", on a Portastudio.
- Clive Gregson and Christine Collister recorded their 1987 album Home And Away on a TASCAM (referred to as 'TEAC' in the album sleeve notes) 244 Portastudio.
Using Your Portable Studio by Peter McIan (1996, Amsco Publications)
- "The Tascam Portastudio Through the Ages". reverb.com. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- Howe, Zoë (2014). Barbed Wire Kisses. United Kingdom: Polygon. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84697-331-4.
- "Madlib | Redbull Music Academy" Redbullmusicacademy.com.
- Parker, Chris (2008-09-10). "Mac McCaughan: Through with Portastatic?" Indyweek.com.
- "Clive Gregson And Christine Collister - Home And Away". Discogs. Retrieved 13 January 2015.