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Syncing to the Tascam 688

Since Notator was not initially capable of native digital audio recording and only sequencing, digital audio had to be serviced by an entirely separate system. When I graduated from just creating sequenced music to music that had vocals and other instruments, my first audio recording system was a Tascam 688 MIDIStudio, which was essentially a Tascam PortaStudio (which I had never used) on steroids and with some "real studio" features. It was a cassette-based 8-track recording console that integrated a 20 channel mixer, advanced tape transport capabilities, remote control, meter bridge, full 8-track simultaneous recording capability, synchronization with timecode, and, I stress, use of cassette media for recording. The latter was a huge deal, primarily because I could not stomach the reality of having to buy expensive reel-to-reel tape media for the amount of recording that I wanted to do. Cassette tape, which I grew up knowing and handling extensively through my dad's enthusiast-level use of it, was the only way to go and Tascam had the perfect solution.

Tascam 688 boven tascam-rc-88-remote-control-tascam

Obviously, I needed a way to be able to synchronize the 688 tape with sequences on Notator and there was a way. From a HomeRecording.com forum article:

Yes, the 688 will sync to ProTools. The buyer wants to know if he/she can lock the computer audio "transport" and the tape audio transport together. Tell the buyer that the 688 has a built in synchronizer. Look in the manual starting on page 30. The built in synchronizer converts incoming MIDI Time Code (MTC) into a type of SMPTE code called FSK. The converted MTC (now FSK timecode) gets recorded or striped onto track 8 of the 688 with track 8 noise reduction off. The buyer would need to know how to get his/her DAW to play MTC from the DAW and port it through a MIDI out jack on whatever computer MIDI interface he/she has, and then that cable gets connected to the 688 MIDI IN jack. A second MIDI cable gets connected from the 688 MIDI OUT jack to a MIDI in jack on the computer MIDI interface. Once the FSK timecode is "striped" (recorded) onto track 8, then ProTools needs to be set to synchronize or clock to incoming MTC. Press PLAY on the 688, the FSK on track 8 gets converted back to MTC and sent out the MIDI OUT jack to the PC, and then PrroTools, being set to reference the incoming MTC, should "hear" the MTC coming off of track 8 of the 688 and follow the transport actions on the 688.

To provide sync to Notator, I lost one of 8 precious tracks on the 688. So, sometimes I would need to do some track bouncing in order to make greater use of the remaining 7 audio tracks. But it turned out to be only rare occasions that 7 tracks of audio was not sufficient, primarily because I rarely used live instruments, relying on learning how to simulate live instruments with synthesizers (and still do for the most part). Seven tracks were used primarily for vocal parts, which I spend lots of time creating on each song.

Creating sync was pretty straightforward. In Notator, you assign a MIDI clock output port in the MIDI Thru window (click on the MIDI THRU button towards the bottom of the Notator main screen). You can select on of the available

Nonetheless, this capability of tape sync between the 688 and Notator was a great expansion for my arrangements, leveraging the power of multi-instrument, multiple tracks of realtime MIDI performances with multiple tracks of live instruments and vocals. And the sync information was a built-in facility within the Tascam 688, without any additional, potentially expensive hardware. What a boon!

One downside of the FSK mechanism on the 688, if I recall correctly, was that once you've striped the tape with a