Tape & Tape Machine Troubleshooting

We’ve created this page to document commons fixes to problems with tape machines as we encounter them. These solutions are not guaranteed but are meant as guide posts for others (or as a reference for ourselves!) in the future to diagnose problems as things break down.

A lot of problems can be avoided by keeping the transport clean, heads aligned, and tape path demagnetized. Isopropyl Alcohol (as close to 100% as possible, nothing under 90%) and Q-tips are a must. Get to know your local technician(s).

Tascam 388

Problem: Tape/transport engages for about a second and then disengages. Can not play, FFWD or REV tape.

Solution: Bad fuse or bad fuse connection. See this video below (not made by submodern). In our case (September 2018) the case was a bad/oxidized connection on the fuse. Cleaned it up and went back to work. Note, in this video below the user has shorted the fuse to test the issue, this is not a long term solution, it must be replaced!

DSCN0001_388
Trying to diagnose our 388. (September 2018).

Tascam 22-4

Problem: Playback speed inconsistent or slow.

Possible Solution: Replace drive belt. Our belt was replaced in the fall of 2015 after running into this problem, it has been steady since. Replacing the belt requires a fair amount of disassembly and knowledge.

Fostex E-16, Fostex Model 80

Problem: Speed inconsistent, exaggerated wow & flutter.

Solution: Best option is pinch roller replacement. We bought an upgraded pinch roller from Athan (January 2018) and never looked back! Applying a rubber renewal agent on the pinch roller will sometimes work but isn’t an ideal solution and requires ventilation and patience. Terry can restore/rebuild pinch rollers – he comes highly recommended from other users, though we have not worked with him yet.

Restoring / Recovering tapes that suffer from “sticky shed” syndrome

Especially with Ampex 456, but really all kinds of tapes can be affected, there is a problem that sometimes arrises where the tape will gum up the machine and stop it from working. This video (not ours) shows an inexpensive method for restoring tapes: