Lurking & Trawling. The band Cosksocket & their Tascam 234: A memorial(?) post.

An internet search on "Tascam 234" returns a promising 10,000 hits but maybe unsurprisingly, detailed personal accounts from fellow users seem to be few and far between. It is a sometime obsession of the writer to delve through these internet hits in search of.... well I'm not quite sure... life? Contact? Something.

For example:
"I love my Tascam 234" is a wonderfully hopelessly optimistic search term. But with exactly zero search returns you find your enthusiasm immediately curbed. A more pragmatic search term such as; "the tascam 234 is" might be expected to give better results, but again - zero hits.

Infact 10,000 promising internet hits seem to be archived second hand sale transactions and wildly speculative (un)targeted marketing, ("buy "Tascam 234" cheap now! Brand new!" Yeah, nah), with only the occasional obscure sentence of interest or merit. Quickly it is a desert. More mirage than oasis. So to get somewhere here we must set aside optimism, and replace pragmatism with reality. However much I may personally still commend the 234, this is a search for a memory...... a broken belt. A chewed tape. A dusty relic in a parents shed. History.

Surely, (surely????) "The tascam 234 was"

Ludicrously, incredibly: Three hits. (only three bloody hits?! one of which, by the way, is this blog. I mean, really? I was, (and remain), truly surprised/appalled/something’ed by this. Some weird old obscure camera with a film format that might predate WW1 will get essays and dedicated forums and blah blah blah..... whatever)

Anyway...The first hit, and the focus of this post, was a gem.

I'm still reading through the archives at, but from what I gather Cocksocket was a band (collaboration?) that formed in the mid 1990's and for a period recorded extensively on a Tascam 234. Their website contains a great deal: music , homebrew info and a litany of blog posts dating back to 2000.

(a long time ago, far far away) The author at Cocksocket wrote:

"Accompanied as I am by an incessant need to reflect upon times past, it has lately occurred to me that Cocksocket is on the verge of breaking violently through its 10-year anniversary. In May of 1994, I inherited a piece of equipment that was able to record things, then record things over top of the things that were recorded before, and then even record additional things on top of that mess, fulfilling the dreams made clear to me as many as ten years before that. I am talking, of course, about the Tascam 234.

The acquisition of the Tascam 234 was a breakthrough in many ways, not the least of which was the birth of the Cocksocket. At nearly the same time that said Tascam machine was acquired, and as I was walking down the street, across a typical small city intersection, a certain soundflash entered my head. "Cocksocket" it said. And thus was Cocksocket born, nearly a decade ago."

This I find wonderfully poignant. An everyman reflection on the discovery of multitrack recording. The moments when the endless possibilities of 4 track recording realized themselves. A band name and a 4 track recorder. Did a kid need more in the 1990s?

I have speculated briefly on the history of Cocksocket's 234. Our writer tells us he inherited his machine in 1994, which would have made his 234 about 10 years old at the formation of his band. 10 Years on from there he writes, (somewhat disparagingly!) of the reliability of his 234 as he now tries to achieve his old cassette medium to a digital environment. Oh well, despite what you may read on this blog, nothing lasts forever.

And for context our writer tells us his archive consists of -
41 cassettes
206 songs
10 Hours, 15 Minutes of music

Anyone who has dabbled with writing and recording music will know to times the 10hrs of music many hundred fold (thousand fold?) in terms of machine hours of playback, reversing tapes & recording. So I would speculate an already 10year old machine served a full and commendable second life. A kid with a bandname, and an idea lived the 1990s dream, with his Tascam 234.

This is a song from Cocksocket titled Iaphragm Day.

incase the embedding doesn't work

There are more mp3s on the website and a deal of written words.

As far as I can see the last update on the website was made on the 22nd May 2004, 6 days after Cocksocket’s 10yr anniversary. I know nothing more of the band or the people involved other than what is on their website. If in the strange circular way of the internet someone in the future stumbles on this blog and knows something of the band, leave a comment and say “I know them! etc...”

Vale Cocksocket and vale their Tascam 234. Bet it was great.

Another random song and video

Another half finished, not to be finished song. The title is Absolutely Nothing. Recorded again, on the "good" (not in bits) 234.

The video was compiled from a lot of random footage taken on a ride though Semaphore (SA) and the surrounds. Filmed using the previously mentioned old Fuji digital camera.

Would Seneca have needed a mixer?

Somebody who wants to record music might, on first inspection, look at a Tascam 234 and say, "Cool VUs, but where is the mixer section?”

From the very beginning the concept of using cheap audio cassette tapes to record 4 separate tracks was a vision of a portable, compact machine, with the flexibility to record separate instruments simultaneously to one track, and the ability to record instruments separately to separate tracks, and then blend (or “mix”) these recorded instruments into a final composition.

So it was that in 1979 Tascam released the 144 PortaStudio. A machine that, as the name implied, replicated the functions of much larger and expensive reel to reel machine, and a mixing desk, with which one could add effects, blend tracks, route audio to new tracks, and free up tracks to add further instruments. A small, portable, almost affordable, “recording studio”.

But skip forward a few years: A niche appears. Perhaps ironically, the success of a flexible combined mixer/recorder in one market has put a limit its success in another. The PortaStudio is not seen as a professional tool, rightly or wrongly it’s a perceived as a hobbyist device.

And so to this: “Face it. You put sound on tape for a reason. You want someone to hear it. Most importantly, buy it. It’s your life. We built the 234 to help you because you never get a second change to make a first impression” This piece of copy from the launch of the 234 was really advertising to advertisers. “The World’s First Professional 4-Track Cassette Machine”. Capital P Professional.

In a world before computers, creating sound for cheap commercials had been an expensive business. Sound for animatronics was expensive. Voice over production was expensive. Radio station stings and prerecorded material was expensive. The launch of a professional 4-track cassette machine was an attempt to enter these markets. The 234 was built as a more rugged, precise, “fulltime” machine, and the function of “Syncaset” (linking two machines together for more than 4 tracks), also targeted the small professional recording facility. The standalone nature of the 234 allowing a recording studio to combine high end outboard preamps, effects and mixing desks with a cheap audio cassette medium. (why bother?) Again, in a world before computers, a demo recording at a real studio was common place. Cassette audio was cheaper medium.

Thing was, probably underappreciated at the time, and certainly since, the 234 actually could do most of the mixing functions of the PortaStudio, with just the addition of a couple of little rca jumper leads. Record to 1, 2 & 3. Set your relative volume levels on playback. Switch to “Stereo Out” mode. Pan your 3 tracks Left. Connect your rca lead from Left Main (Out), to channel 4 (In). Play / Record the three blended tracks to channel 4, and you’ve freed up tracks 1, 2, 3 to add more instruments. Repeat this if required. Finally pan your individual and blended tracks as desired, (you can pan tracks with a 234? Yes you can), set your relative levels, and record your final composition to a separate stereo machine. Just like a PortaStudio.

So to our old Stoic mate. Would Seneca have needed a mixer if he had a 234?

Much like the 234, Seneca is unrated and misunderstood. Can you be said to be a hypocrite if you write on stoic virtue and yet live in excess as a renowned adulterer, & loafer? Tellingly Seneca said, “It is the sign of a weak mind to be unable to bear wealth.”, and certainly he was a man of considerable means, who, even when exiled to Corsica lived a life full of privilege. He also said, “A great fortune is a great slavery”, so Seneca’s stoicism must, i guess, be seen as subtle...

Or is this just a contradiction? Where is the Great Stoic? Where is virtue? For context let’s throw a few random names in the air: Caligula, Claudius & Nero. The Emperors Seneca served. A life on a tightrope. His life spared by one, His exile by another, his final sentence from the third. “It is pleasant at times to play the madman”. Indeed.

Seneca’s stoicism was not the spare life or stiff upper lip typical of a certain stereotype. Seneca’s believe was in the winds of shambolic fate and in life the preparation for that unknown journey. There could be nothing more. To have fortune, wealth or even excess is not of itself incompatible with stoic virtue. It was the relationship with the pleasurable and material that the importance of stoic virtue lies. If all of the material is taken away will a person still be satisfied with their lot? Is a person contented despite the measure of their possessions?

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor”

Accept an unknown fate. Resist being defined by your status. Resist letting your material possessions define your contentment. Prepare yourself for death. Live a stoic life: If you have a Tascam 234 and a mixing desk handy, by all means embrace it! If you are without a mixing desk, resist craving one. Record a song with what you have. Record it now, not later. This is life.

These Lies

(remembered how)

The song is These Lies. Recorded a couple of months back, on the "good" (not in bits) 234. I think, from memory, drums was a simple 3 mic setup, (that'll I'll write about sometime) to tracks 1 2 & 3, and then they were bounced while the guitar part was played all to track 4, which left 1 2 & 3 for bass, vocals, and the.... wait... that can't be right because the drums are stereo, so I must have bounced it to two tracks?... or... I really can't remember.

What I can say is about the video: I've only recently discovered the possibilities of this little Fuji Finepix picture camera I have. It's a early generation digital camera (maybe 10years old?) with a whopping 2 mega pixels. In video mode it will record 30 sec of 340x340 "film".

There are two things I really like about it. It has a proper viewfinder, and it has an odd macro mode, that along with it's limited 2mega pixels will let you get things wonderfully out of focus, which "better" cheap autofocus cameras with higher resolution, better exposure adjustment etc, simply will not do.

In short it's opposite of what the Tascam 234 was in it's day: It's a pretty crap camera. But in the same way people can like the nature of a lofi distorted recording, I think this camera produces interesting video. Additionally the 30sec limit on shots gives you a certain inforced restraint in what you can and can't do.

234 + 234 = syncaset(ed)

Ludicrously the blog continues.

I say continues, but this post is actually a small diversion away from all things 234, to mull over what amounts to several lost passwords & email accounts, and multiple created google/blogger accounts, all to finally, belatedly, exhaustedly return.

I think, in review; there is now this account under user id xxxxxxxx, and then there is a mylastsyncaset account, to which, (somehow?) the blog is not attached, but a youtube account is.

How did we get were we've gotten? I used to be good at this stuff. I used to draw, i used to play music, i used to be smart at computer stuffs. Anyway.

Anyway. I see a couple of people found the blog. Hello. Now I'm back I have videos and music and words to post. (Shortly). Actually can you embed youtube here? I know you can upload, but yeah... I'll work it out.

Sync the damn cassettes, or something.

The Votes Are In - Syncy Wins 1983 Best 4 Tracker!

On the claim that the 234 syncaset, “represents a pinnacle of 4 track analogue cassette recorder technology”, well yeah it does, so GTFO. “A” pinnacle, in as much as a great mountain range might have one mighty pinnacle on its eastern flank, and a series of pinnacles within the centre of the range. In this metaphor the 234 Syncaset can be seen standing alone as the eastern apex, the approaches carved vertical by eons of constant wear and testing, the summit beyond examination in the distant cloud. Its actual limits unknown. If a tree was to make purchase on this pinnacle it would be a hardwood. A single Mallee, durable beyond compare. Now the other pinnacle(s) – well, lofty heights to be sure, but think gentle inclines, covered in soft fury softwood pine. There are walking trails and cable cars. Enough said.

Now I have great esteem for the Tascam Portastudios, such as the 244, the 246, and the 424 mk111, but in purely objective terms the 234 Syncaset was a different thing. It cost an astronomical amount of 1980’s dollars, (as much as 17 cars!!. Fact) It was designed as a top of the line workhorse for professional audio applications. Direct drive, separate motor for ffwd/rew, completely independent mic-in and line-in audio paths, (which meant you could/can run 8 simultaneous inputs!), minimal bullshit no EQ short path audio. In subjective terms it is a proud, magnificent beast. glowing VUs, silly coloured Tascam knobs, 2 rack space – basically God like.

End discussion. Cue Picture. Syncy wins.

Syncaset Baby, Sync The Damn Cassettes.

About the time the BCs became ADs my old Stoic mate, Seneca, put forward a belief that people covert crap.

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor”

And whilst it is undoubtedly true, it just goes to show that people are people, doesn’t it? I mean, here we are two and a bit thousand years later, and the craving continues unabated. So…

So depending on your level of misanthropy you can maybe see this as a remedy against self-loathing caused by modern consumerism, i.e. “we’re actually not that bad, and certainly no “worse” than in old Seneca’s times. No, consumerism does not define who we are. So there!”, or you can see it as an inherent irretrievably dark side of a wasteful human nature, i.e. “we actually do suck now, and seem to have achieved zero since old Seneca gave us the big heads up. Not that he was even the first, shit we really are woeful at this life business aren’t we? Pass me the chocolate”

And so yes, we crave. Beyond that which might make us content, to and beyond a point that makes us lesser and poorer people. Human nature is a hell. Or something.

Interestingly, (“in-terestingggggly”) when we’re aware of this in ourselves we sometimes react by trying to recreate those simpler days of our youth or halcyon past, when we had less and it made us happier. In-terestingggggly, we often do the recreation via the possession of the exact things we associate with said times of content. Interestingly we often crave and covert these old possessions, until we again achieve ownership... And you can see where we’re maybe going with this… it’s all really quite interesting.

But we digress. None of that is anything to do with anything, this instead is the blog where we covert…. err, talk about the mighty Tascam 234 Syncaset, 4 track analogue cassette recorder. Cue picture.

As I say, the above has nothing to do with nothing. The 234 is not associated with some personal past, and the first time I encountered a 234 Syncaset I was, (depending on definition), well out of any halcyon youth and the Syncaset, already obsolete technology. So my great interest is non-personal, simple and concise -

This blog exists simply because the Tascam 234 Syncaset represents a pinnacle of 4 track analogue cassette recorder technology. So homage oh mighty beast, you will not be forgotten. In these pages we remember you. To expand - the 234 Syncaset was a fucking tank, and beyond its durability, it was, and remains, a great sounding machine. Because, in these circles, “wow and flutter” are bad things, the 234 should be noted as having very little of either, but… beyond the purely technical, Oh Wow! Many A Heart Is A Flutter. Syncaset, baby. Sync the damn cassettes, and let the blog begin.

Oh, there will likely be music here too.