TASCAM 788 TIPS AND TRICKS
PortaStudio 788 is designed to work similarly to the other PortaStudios. But many users tend to think it works
differently for some reason. Here is some info that will help you get past the pitfalls:
Upgrades and Compatibility with 788
- The ONLY bug-free versions of the 788 firmware are 1.10 and 2.02. If you have a different version, get the
upgrade from TASCAM.
- Upgrading versions earlier than 1.07 requires replacing an EEPROM.
- Upgrading versions 1.07 or 2.00 requires either replacing an EEPROM or loading an upgrade CD on an approved
- The only approved CDR burners are:
- TASCAM CDR-788 (complete, will not do CDRW)
- TASCAM CD-RW788 (complete)
- TASCAM CDR-624 (needs case and power supply, can't do CDRW)
- TASCAM CDR-Pro (needs case and power supply, can't do CDRW)
- TASCAM CDR-Deluxe (needs case and power supply, can't do CDRW)
- TEAC CD-R56S (needs case and power supply, can't do CDRW)
- TEAC CD-R58S (needs case and power supply, can't do CDRW)
- TEAC CD-W512S (needs case and power supply)
- 788 can not work with any SCSI CDR burner other than the ones TASCAM approves. See their
website for details. None of the others will function, and some of them
can cause file system troubles, erase the hard disk, or erase the 788 firmware.
- Never connect a SCSI cable from 788 to a computer. This can erase the computer's hard disk,
the 788 hard disk, or the 788 EEPROM. It can also damage the electronics of either 788 or the computer.
- The approved TASCAM or TEAC CDR burners can make standard Red Book compatible audio CDRs, and can also make
proprietary backup CDRs of the multitrack recordings.
- 788 uses the backup CDRs to save your work so you can use it again years later without it taking up hard disk
space in the interim.
- No other system or computer can read the proprietary backup CDR. But Version 2.02 of the 788 firmware can
also make .wav files of multitrack data.
- You have to turn on the CDR recorder first, wait for it to finish initializing, then turn on 788.
- Audio CDR burners can make audio CDRs from the STEREO BUS or SPDIF outputs, but can not back up the
- 788 can use standard SCSI hard drives that meet certain speed requirements. Any hard drive is divided into up
to 4 partitions of up to 4 GB each. The format placed on the drives is proprietary, and is not compatible any
other disk format. It was chosen to prevent recording dropouts. Version 2.02 allows 16 GB partitions.
- After upgrading to version 1.10, you may find that errors in the file structure caused by earlier versions
may persist. Copying off the songs and reformatting the hard drive cures this.
- Formatting or changing partition size erases all information on the hard drive.
- A 4 GB partition can hold about 8 track-hours.
- A partition can have no more than 250 songs.
- An audio CDR can have no more than 99 tracks.
- No audio CD track can be shorter than 4 seconds.
- Some versions of 788 can not make an audio CD track longer than 70 minutes.
- The eject button on a drive is disabled in many cases, requiring 788 to give the eject command.
- 788 can not exchange files with computers. It can exchange analog audio, and it can send
SPDIF stereo audio to a computer.
- 788 can not be on the same SCSI bus as a computer. Both are master SCSI devices, and only
one master can be on a SCSI bus.
- Never change SCSI connections with power on. Damage can occur.
- Never move 788 while it is turned on. Damage can occur.
- Never connect a speaker output to 788 inputs. Damage can occur.
- The TRIM controls match the level of the input to the levels needed by 788. Set the levels as follows:
- Set MASTER FADER and CHANNEL FADER to 0 dB, and TRIM all the way down.
- Start playing the source.
- Adjust TRIM for proper level on channel meter.
- The built-in compressors can not prevent A/D converter overflow and resulting distortion.
They are after the converters.
- When using UNDO, select with the cursor the last thing you want to keep. Everything ABOVE the line in the
menu is undone.
788 signal routing
- The number one pitfall is not understanding signal routing in 788. Here is a
map to help you figure it out. Of course, a lot of the things shown actually occur
in software, but they behave as though the hardware shown on the map is there.
- If a transport light flashes, 788 is waiting for MIDI sync.
- 788 can record 6 channels at once (it has only 6 inputs). It can play 8 tracks at once (but has only 6
- 788 has 6 analog inputs: MIC/LINE inputs A, B, C, and D, and AUX inputs L and R. Input D has an
impedance selector switch.
- 788 has 6 line-level analog outputs: L and R STEREO BUS, L and R AUX SEND, and L and R MONITOR.
- The stereo HEADPHONES output carries the MONITOR outputs.
- The SPDIF digital output on 788 carries the STEREO BUS.
- Although the connectors are the same, analog and SPDIF are incompatible signals, and need different cables.
If a connection has L and R markings, it is always analog.
- Each channel strip actually has 4 fader controls and 4 pan controls. They control the STEREO
BUS / recording feed, the EFFECTS SEND feed, the AUX SEND feed, and the CUE BUS feed. The STEREO BUS / recording
feed has the real faders. Make sure you have the right controls for what you are trying to do.
- Channel strip 7-8 is always a stereo pair.
- Here is a table of 788 channel strip routing.
- UNEXPECTED ITEMS IN SIGNAL ROUTING:
- Assigning the STEREO BUS or AUX IN to a channel strip causes the strip and its partner to become linked as
a stereo pair. The odd channel pans left, and the even channel pans right. Other settings are copied from the
odd channel to the even one.
- The EFFECT SENDS and the CUE MIX on linked tracks have single balance controls instead of dual pan
- Whenever a channel strip is armed for recording, or when it has the STEREO BUS assigned as its input, it
does not feed the STEREO BUS.
- The STEREO MASTER FADER does not affect the feed to the channel strips from the STEREO BUS.
- The track interacts with it's channel strip and its CUE BUS in the following way:
- If the track is set to play into its channel strip, nothing is sent to the CUE BUS from that strip.
- If the channel strip is set to record on its track, the CUE BUS gets exactly what the track gets. This
can not be adjusted in the CUE MIX menu.
- If the channel strip is not set to play or record its track, the track is sent to the CUE MIX menu, which
controls its level and pan on the CUE BUS.
- Inputs B and D can not be assigned to channel 7. Inputs A and C can not
be assigned to channel 8. But if a mono input is assigned to a linked pair other than 7-8, it is sent to both
- Only inputs can be assigned to the SUBMIXER, and the SUBMIXER can be assigned to either the STEREO BUS or
- An input can not be assigned to the SUBMIXER if it is already assigned to a channel
- SOLO is destructive, muting all unselected channels.
- The STEREO outputs and the STEREO BUS feed to MONITOR can be disconnected from the STEREO BUS signal,
and connected to the output of any one linkable pair of tracks instead, bypassing the mixer.
- There are TWO effects units on 788. They can be repatched from one place to another, but can not be used
in two places at the same time.
- EFFECT 1 can be ONE of the following:
- One 5-effect processor inserted in ONE channel strip.
- Press EFFECT 1 and the desired channel SELECT simultaneously.
- One stereo effect generator on the EFFECT SEND.
- Press EFFECT 1 and SEND simultaneously.
EFFECT 2 can be ONE of the following:
- 8-channels of compressor inserted in any or all channel strips.
- Press EFFECT 2 and any channel SELECT simultaneously. Repeat for each strip to assign or unassign.
- One stereo effect generator on the AUX SEND.
- Press EFFECT 2 and SEND simultaneously.
- One stereo compressor inserted in the STEREO BUS.
- Press EFFECT 2 and STEREO simultaneously.
- To unassign an effect, either use the keystrokes used to assign it again, or assign it to a different type
- Making a new patch for one of the processors cancels the old one.
- Effects inserted into channel strips are always recorded to tracks.
- Only the odd channel of a stereo linked pair goes through the inserted multi-effects processor, unless the
stereo exciter is used.
- Because effects on SEND buses return to the STEREO BUS, they are not recorded to tracks,
unless the contents of the STEREO BUS are recorded. Therefore, they are recorded only if a premix, a bounce, or
a mixdown is in progress.
- All channel strips can send to either or both SEND busses, with the send levels independently adjustable.
- Each effect SEND can be individually set to pre-fader or after-fader for each channel strip.
- It is better to record tracks dry, and add effects during the mixdown.
- Aux Send can also feed an external effect. It is returned to one or more inputs, usually Aux In.
- Here is a table of 788 effect routing.
Monitoring on 788
- There are two separate paths for sound to get into the MONITOR and HEADPHONES outputs: The MONITOR switch,
and the CUE switch.
- The MONITOR switch can select between listening to the STEREO BUS, the EFFECT SEND, the AUX SEND, the
SUBMIXER, and nothing.
- The CUE switch turns the CUE BUS feed to the MONITOR outputs on and off.
- SHIFT-MONITOR puts the monitor outputs in mono, including CUE. The indicator light flashes when MONITOR is
in mono. Pressing MONITOR alone restores stereo operation.
- Each channel strip has a CUE LEVEL control and a CUE PAN control in the CUE MIX menu. These control what
you hear on the CUE BUS, but do not affect the recording.
- If both MONITOR and CUE have lights on, the signals from both systems are mixed together in the MONITOR
and HEADPHONE outputs. This causes some of the confusion some users have.
- Different setups need different settings of the MONITOR and CUE selections and the CUE settings in the
channel strips. Otherwise, what you hear is NOT what you get on the recording. Make sure you are monitoring
the right thing.
- When bouncing, use just the CUE BUS for monitoring. Note that all CUE SENDS for channels being bounced
from are automatically muted in the CUE BUS, so you can hear in CUE the mix actually being recorded on the
channel receiving the bounce.
- When Premastering, monitor the STEREO BUS, not the CUE bus.
- Here is a table of 788 monitoring.
788 Virtual Tracks
- 788 has up to 250 virtual tracks.
- All of the 250 tracks are the same. None has any qualities different from any of the others.
- Each of the 8 channel strips can select any of the 250 tracks. Only the 8 selected tracks can be played or
Pretend you have a 250-track wide tape, with 8 record/play head gaps you can move around on it.
- 788 starts a new song using tracks 1 thru 8. That is the ONLY difference between tracks 1 thru 8 and the other
- Any channel strip can select any track. But a channel strip can not choose a track that another
channel strip is using. Tracks in use do not appear in the selection menu.
- If a track is assigned to one strip, and is wanted on another strip, the first strip must be set to another
track, letting go of the wanted track so the second strip can take it.
- Shuffling tracks around means that no track has to be recorded with strip 7-8.
- Unused tracks do not take up hard disk space.
- You can not CLEAN OUT (erase) a track unless it is assigned to a channel strip.
- I would suggest reading "channel strip" wherever "disk track" is found in the manual.
- Up to 128 routings can be saved at any one time.
- Up to 10 scenes can be saved at any one time on any one song.
- Scenes include input assignments, virtual tracks, EQ and PAD gain, EFFECT settings, EFFECT and AUX sends,
CUE MIX, PAN and FADER, STEREO FADER, and SUB MIX settings. Scenes do not include MONITOR and TRIM settings.
- When a scene is recalled, the fader settings in the scene are different from the actual positions of the
mechanical faders. FADER MATCHING selects what happens when the scene is loaded:
- REAL uses the settings on the mechanical faders, ignoring the values in the scene.
- JUMP uses the settings in the scene, but jumps to the setting on any fader if it is moved.
- CATCH uses the settings in the scene, but switches to the setting on a fader if is moved past the scene setting.
- On early versions of the firmware, CATCH behaves the same as JUMP does.
- When creating a new song, or recalling one of the standard scenes, FADER MATCHING must be set to REAL, or there
will be no sound or recording on each channel until its fader is moved all way the down once.
- Scenes can not be recalled while tracks are being recorded or played. Automated mixing requires
- You need enough free space on the current hard disk partition to make the mastering tracks.
- The OUT point must be set to the end of the song, or the premastering will give the "TRACK TOO SHORT" error.
But the IN point does not affect premastering.
- The premastering stage is where you mix your tracks down to stereo. All 8 tracks currently assigned, plus
the 6 inputs (in the submixer), can be mixed into the mastering tracks.
- You have to record the mastering tracks, manipulating the stereo mix if needed. There is no
automatic transfer to the mastering tracks.
- Once you have created the mastering tracks and backed up the song, you can delete all but the mastering tracks
on the hard drive. This lets you add more songs on the hard disk, for transferring all the songs onto a CD.
- You must leave PREMASTER mode to trim dead audio from the beginning or end of the recording. Selecting EDIT
ALL TRACKS also edits the mastering tracks.
- The CHECK MASTER function can be used to copy the mastering tracks to an external recorder, such as a DAT,
MD, or audio CDR recorder.
788 SCSI CD burning
- CDRs are never formatted before they are used, since CDR is a sequential-write medium.
- When audio is removed from a CDRW, it must be deleted from the open tail end, in reverse order to recording order.
You can not delete a track in the middle.
- 788 first creates a CD image on the hard drive, then burns it to the CDR. This prevents delays from causing
underrun errors and spoiled CDRs.
- You need enough space (about 1 GB) free on one partition to create a CD image.
- You can make either Track At Once (TAO) or Disk At Once (DAO) CDRs. They may not be intermixed on the same
- The DAO disc is automatically finalized at the end of the burn. You must finalize a TAO disc when you are
finished adding songs to it.
- Space between songs is adjustable in DAO. The space is fixed at 2 seconds in TAO.
- Any time a CDR burner stops between tracks, the disc produced is TAO.
- TAO CDRs will not work with some older multiple disk copiers or some glass mastering machines (used to make
stampers for pressed CDs).
- Some 2-drive CDR copiers can convert TAO to DAO as they copy.
- An unfinalized disc cannot be played in anything except a CD burner.
- No more songs may be added to a finalized CDR.
- For some odd reason, Maxell CDRs do not work right with TASCAM burners.
- The multitrack backup takes quite a bit of time to do.
- The multitrack backup needs 660 MB of hard disk space.
- Attempting a multitrack backup on an Audio-Only CDR produces a disc that will not RESTORE.
- If a CDR write fails, suspect a bad disc first. Sunlight or high heat can "write" on the entire surface of the
disc. The damage may have occurred before you ever got the disc, or if the package was left in a hot car.
- If power fails during a CDR burn, the disc will be spoiled, and the hard disk file may be corrupted too.
- CD HAS DATA - An incompatible format was found on the disc.
- CD NOT FOUND - There is no disc in the CDR drive, the wrong kind of disc is in the drive, the disc is upside
down, or the disc has data in a different format on it.
- DRIVE NOT FOUND - Usually caused by a bad SCSI connection, or not waiting for the drive to finish
initializing before turning on 788. Trying to EJECT a hard disk also gives this error.
- IN PANIC - The format of a hard disk or CDR is not as expected, or the drive has failed or become disconnected.
It means 788 does not know what to do.
- Usually this error is associated with THE PROBLEM, an error in the file system on 788 version 1.07 and
earlier. All versions before 1.10 calculated the amount of free space on the hard disk wrong, causing IN PANIC
- Versions before 1.10 also left "messes" in the disk format that persist after the upgrade to 1.10 or beyond.
Copying off files and reformatting the disk are necessary to get rid of the errors. But some of these errors seem
to stay with their files, and are then copied back onto 788's hard disk.
- Using a CDRW in a drive that can't use CDRW, or using a CDR with the wrong format on it, also produces an
IN PANIC error.
- IN PANIC follows an erroneous attempt to copy a song to itself. The hard drive must be reformatted to fix this.
Newer versions of the firmware prevent this destruction of the file structure.
- Removing power from 788 while the hard disk is in use can damage the file structure, causing an IN PANIC
- Trying a multiple disc RESTORE with a version before 1.05 will cause IN PANIC on the second disc. Updating
the firmware fixes this. The discs should be usable after the upgrade.
- INVALID CD - An attempt was made to record on finalized CDR. This also shows up if the wrong backup CDR was
- OPC ERROR (CDR drive) - The CDR drive was unable to calibrate the LASER for the disc. Possibilities include:
- The disc is bad or heat damaged.
- A Maxell or other incompatible disc was used.
- An unfinalized disc was inserted more than 99 times, using up the calibration space.
- REPAIR (CDR drive) - The CDR drive has discovered a disc with power failure damage, and is trying to fix it
enough to be able to copy off the good parts. DO NOT STOP 788 WHEN THIS HAPPENS. Let it continue to
work, or everything on the CDR will be lost.
- TRACK TOO SHORT - Your track is shorter than the required 4 seconds for mastering on a CD, or the OUT point was
not set before premastering.
- TRANSPORT MOVING - You tried to use a command that requires the recorder to be stopped while it was recording,
playing, or winding. Stop the transport, then try the command again.