I was looking for a cheap, easy way to record demos of my original songs for my producer, so he would have an idea of the sound I was looking for before we went into the studio to record. I found the Tascam MF-P01 Portastudio on sale at Guitar Center for $99 and thought it was worth a shot. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
The old saying is true, "you get what you pay for." The unit is lightweight and very easy-to-use, just like the box promises. It would definitely be easy to pack up and travel with, and is great for getting ideas down so you don't forget what you were thinking when you wrote a song. And it's easy to create a final mix when you're ready... but not something that I'd want to play for anyone else.
I've used other recording equipment before, both professional and amateur, and I know what kind of sound quality I can get from my equipment. Unfortunately, what goes into the MF-P01 is not what comes out of it.
At first, I thought the problem was with the tape I was using. It was brand new, but it was a 90-minute tape, and the manual recommends using only 60-minute tapes. A 60-minute tape did improve the sound quality, but everything on the tape still sounded very tinny, with no low-end, and a bit out-of-phase. After many tries, with many tapes, and many different settings, I could not get the same sound on tape that was coming out of my monitors and headphones.
Like I said, the unit is very lightweight, and travels well. It's solid, and isn't going to fall apart with normal use, but I certainly wouldn't recommend dropping it. It's weight (or lack thereof) and plastic construction makes it seem a bit fragile, but it's designed to be portable.
All in all, I would not recommend this unit. If you only want to keep your ideas together for yourself, then the MF-P01 might be for you, but if you plan on letting anyone else hear your recordings, spend a little extra money and get something better.
Paid $100 at Guitar Center. I use it to write songs and work out arrangements
with (especially vocal harmonies) before recording
the master version on my Hard Disk recorder.
Extremely easy to use. Sounds pretty good too (for such an inexpensive unit). Does
exactly what it is intended to do very well. Great as a creative tool or as a
1st multitrack for a young musician.
I'd love to see a larger (10 or 12-track) version using a VHS tape.
If one ever came out for say around $300 or under
I'd buy it in a heartbeat. There is still a place for tape-drive
portastudios in the hands of a songwriter or any creative
musician who needs a super-easy system that will let the creative juices
flow without the complications of a digital multitrack system.
The MF PO1 certainly does that for a 4-track unit.
The level of the 1st track has a tendency to be overwhelmed (drowned out)
by the live input monitor volume during
overdubbing of the next tracks.
The key to overcoming this is to remember to
RECORD THE 1ST TRACK AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE.
Remember, this is analog tape;Don't be afraid to saturate it.
Let the meter go well into the red while recording--It'll
still sound pretty good (unless you really overdo it).
For that 1st track, Put down a solid, LOUD rhythm part to play & sing
the other tracks along with.
Then, turn the master volume volume UP to 8 or so when
laying down the 2nd/3rd/4th tracks & turn up the volume
on the 1st track & you should be able to monitor the original track
pretty well when laying down those last 3 tracks. Worked for me.
So remember--a *soft* 1st track will be difficult to hear & play along with
as you try to lay down the accompanying tracks.
The mic input would be better (less intrusive)
in the back of the unit instead of the front, in my opinion.
But no big deal.
I really have no other criticicism of the unit--as long as the above
procedure is followed when recording/monitoring, you should have
no problem with monitoring levels.
Hard-impact plastic. Seems solid enough. Pots & inputs
are apparently of very-decent quality.
Tascam has a good reputation for durability & I have
no reason to doubt it in even this inexpensive unit.
A fine product! As a longtime guitarist/songwriter,
I would have killed for one of these back in the early 70s
when I was first starting to get serious about songwriting & arranging.
A great tool or toy to stimulate those creative juices!
Bought at Guitar Center, May 2002 for $100.
As a guitarist/songwriter, I needed something to work out new songs and arrangement ideas on. I also have a Roland VS2480 (very complex unit), but I needed something SIMPLE & EASY to use to develop musical ideas.
Super easy to use & sounds surprisingly good if you use a decent microphone (I am using an ATM 63 dynamic mic--similar to a Shure SM57 in performance). The trick is to saturate the tape somewhat (i.e. record each track pretty LOUD) and monitor with the master monitor volume around 6 or higher, so the prerecorded tracks can be monitored easily as you record new tracks. If you record tracks too soft, they are not as easy to hear well, as there is no way to raise the individual track volume of previously recorded tracks while you
record a new track. So let that VU meter go pretty HIGH as you put down your tracks, and there will be no monitoring problem.
Overall, very easy & fun to use.
Nothing--It does what it is supposed to do quite well. Just be sure to record your tracks (especially the 1st track or 2) nice & LOUD, as described above.
If this unit had 2 MORE TRACKS, but remained unchanged in every other way, it would be absolutely incredible--I hope Tascam decides to do this--I would buy a 6-track version of the MF PO1 IMMEDIATELY!!
And I bet a lot of other folks would as well.
Seems well-made & durable for an item in its price class.
A great product!! As a 50-year old guitarist/songwriter, I would have KILLED for one of these units back in the early 70s when I 1st started writing songs. The musical kids of today don't know how lucky they are to have such cool, cheap technology available. This is a great gift for any musically creative person.