Cassettes have been back for a while now (and as any hipster would know, they never really went away), and several of my students have asked me about 4-tracks and which ones to get. Some googling led me nowhere fast. This information is damn near impossible to find… by and large. The big boys at the time (Tascam and Fostex, respectively) dominated the market. Yamaha came soon after. Vestax and others released cassette multitracks, as well.

the Archived Products/Discontinued Items sections of the Fostex and Tascam sites are incomplete, when it comes to listing the tabletop 4-tracks. I wanted to help people out, in case they wanted to see what was available, from the beginnings of it all, til the cassette multitrack became less popular (probably late 90s/early 2000s). And, for interested people to see what the used market is offering. Here goes! If you find this blog post / page, I hope you find it helpful.

TASCAM (TEAC) Cassette Multitrack Timeline
(the standard, tabletop-designed units)

1979 (or May 1980?)
TEAC/Tascam 144 Portastudio
(the first-ever cassette multitrack. Springsteen recorded Nebraska on one).

1982 (May)
Tascam 244
(the second-generation Portastudio)
first to feature dbx noise reduction, along with 2-band, 4-knob, sweepable EQ

1984
Tascam Porta One Ministudio
first battery-operated  model (I love that shoulder strap!). Shouldn’t most 4-tracks be battery-operated, optionally? Yesssss.

1986
Tascam 246 (replaced the 244)
This allowed the recording of all four channels/tracks at once, and had six inputs instead of just four. It also allowed the option of running the cassette and double speed, or at the normal speed (1 7/8 IPS)

1987
Tascam Porta 05 Ministudio
self-contained 4 in/2 out production 4-track system. Truly compact, convenient “creative companion”, according to Tascam. Beautiful design, too (the pastel colors on the knobs, and the streamlined look).

1987
Tascam Porta Two
Battery-powered if desired, self-contained 4-track recorder with 6-input mixer and effects buss

1988?
Tascam Porta Two HS
(high-speed model)

1989-1990
Tascam 644 MIDISTUDIO. First 4 track, 4 channel PORTASTUDIO with MIDI capabilities. (list price was $1,499 in 1989)

1989-1990
Tascam 688 MIDISTUDIO
What a beast!!! Could this be the biggest model, period?

1991
Tascam Porta 03 Ministudio
The very first (affordable) multitrack recorder. Here’s a magazine review of it, from July 1991 by Nik Newark. It listed for $300 in 1991 (street price was $249, from my memory). This is the very first piece of recording gear I ever owned. Parents got it for me, for Christmas 1992.

late 80s/early 90s (trying to find EXACT years)
Tascam 414 (MKI)…

late 80s/early 90s (trying to find EXACT years)
Tascam 424 (1991?)

1993
Tascam Porta 07
4-input, 4-track cassette recorder

late 80s/early 90s (trying to find EXACT years)
Tascam 464 (1994?)


late 80s/early 90s (trying to find EXACT years)
Tascam 488 (1996? I have NO idea)
the first 8-track cassette multitrack? At least tabletop model?

 

 

90s-1999-2000s?

Tascam Porta 03 MKII (?)
Looks just like the MKI… slightly brighter-colored knobs and faders?

90s-1999-2000s?
Tascam 414 MKII (1999? That’s the year the manual is copyrighted)


90s-1999-2000s?
Tascam 424 MKII (1996???)


90s-1999-2000s?
Tascam 424 MKIII (1997? 1998?)


90s-1999-2000s?
Tascam Porta 02 (NO idea)


2004
Tascam Porta 02 MKII (2004, possibly earlier)


2004
Tascam MF-P01

 

 

FOSTEX Cassette Multitrack Timeline
(the standard, tabletop-designed units)

1981
Fostex Model 250 and Model 250AV – record to all 4 tracks simultaneously. Check out this cool magazine review from 1984, by freelance recording engineer Dave Lockwood

1985
Fostex X-15

1986
Fostex 160

1986
Fostex 260
(1986 was a rival year for Tascam and Fostex)

1987-1988
Fostex X30

late 80s / early 90s?
Fostex X12
came in two color variations


1992-1993?
Fostex X18


1990-1992?
Fostex X26


1992
Fostex X28

1992-1993
Fostex X-28H
high-speed-capable version

1993-1994?
Fostex 280

1995
Fostex XR-3

1995
Fostex XR-5

1995
Fostex XR-7

 

late 90s/early 2000s

1997 (exact year? Not sure)
Fostex X-55

1997 (exact year? Not sure)
Fostex X-77

 

1998-1999?
Fostex X-14

 

1998-1999?
Fostex X-24

1998-2000?
Fostex X-34 (I bought this in, I think late 2000? Maybe summer 2001). I think at the time, it was $300 or $350. I let someone borrow it, and they said their mom’s boyfriend threw it out, along with other personal stuff of theirs… ugh. It worked perfectly when I let them borrow it in 2009… gone. I’d like to pick another one up, eventually.

 

YAMAHA Cassette Multitrack Timeline
(the standard, tabletop-designed units)

1983
Yamaha MT44 modular cassette system

mid-80s

Yamaha MT1X
in my opinion, bot the MT1X and MT2X look like they were made for spaceship components for the 1986 Ridley Scott film Aliens.

1987-1988
Yamaha MT2X

1989
Yamaha MT100 (list price $495)

Late 80s/early 90s

Yamaha MT120 (exact year?)

Yamaha MT3X (1989)


Yamaha MT50 (exact year?)


1998-1999?
Yamaha MT4X
($600 street, at the time. Average price (summer 2018) $150-250 depending on the condition.). I had one where the tape heads were completely damaged. Sold it as a busted unit about a year or so again, and recently found one in mint condition on ebay for just over $125. Awesome.

1999? 2000?
Yamaha MT8X
(8-track version of the MT4X)

1999?
Yamaha MT8X II

Yamaha MT400 (exact year?) This looks like a late 90s or early 2000s model.. judging by the MT400 font… I would guess 2001)

MISC MODELS
Clarion XD5500 (1983)
Vesta Fire MR10 (1986)
Vesta Fire MR10 Pro (1986)
Vestax MR100-FX (1988-1989) – built in digital reverb!
Vestax MR300
Vestax MR44

FOSTEX MANUALS (ALL of them should be available, at least as of summer 2018):
https://www.fostexinternational.com/docs/tech_support/manuals.shtml

TASCAM MANUALS (they’re missing so many models.. like, where’s the 414 MKI? Porta 03? Even the products with a clickable link take you to a blank page, like the 424 and 488… what GIVES, Tascam?):
http://tascam.com/legacy/

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