TASCAM US 16x08 by cojazz
Let me start by saying that this is just my first impression. I'm just an enthousiastic guitar player who likes to record and twiddle now and then with band recordings.
I bought the interface for multitracking simple demos of my jazz and pop bands. At the moment (just 1 month after market introduction) it sold for 289 Euros, so I believed I couldn't go very wrong for that money.
Specs and features
On to the 16x08. The Tascam site has all the specs and manuals, just look there if you want to get to know this beast. You can even test-drive the brand-new ASIO driver panel as it works without the unit attached.
For my purposes the mix of 8 mics, 8 line in and 8 line out is nice. Also the instrument inputs on the front are usable.
The headphone and monitor outputs (line1+2) have independent potmeters which is handy for mixing/mastering sessions.
The looks of the unit are OK for me and the unit is of a very decent build quality. It has an all metal case. The potmeters are small but provide enough resistance and space around them. Its inner guts also look quite good. Not perfect, but certainly good enough.
OK I'm not an expert on this field, so I can't really compare. But I like the sound. It's very transparent and very quiet. The input frequency response is quite flat, although the highs from about 10kHz are a tad bit (+1dB) exaggerated.
In a quick loopback test with a line output connected to a balanced microphone input, I measured 95..102dBA S/(N+THD) (24bits, exact number depends on selected gain and sample rate). This is very close to the ADC spec (AKM?).
When overdriven, the inputs do not give very nasty ticks (no phase reversal, as on my old phonic firewire mixer). Instead, the 16x08's half discrete/half integrated input channels seem to distort more gradually. Btw the first 10 inputs have overload LEDs on the front.
Of course I tried to record 16 channels simultaneously in 96kHz / 24 bits. On my pentium i5 desktop pc, for tick-free recording, I needed to increase the ASIO buffer size quite a bit, resulting in a lot of latency. This makes having the PC as an effect in the loop unpractical when doing multi-channel. For one or two channels it is OK but adding reverb with the PC is just so-and-so (unless you don't mind to hear a slightly later reverb while recording).
On board Blackfin DSP
That brings me to the Reverb and the DSP (an Analog Devices Blackfin DSP on a piggy backed PCB). It's purpose is apparently to provide low-latency EQ and compression on all individual channels, as well as manage all the USB traffic.
In early marketing texts, the unit was advertised to provide EQ, compression AND reverb. In recent texts and the specs the reverb was left out. Did the Tascam design team just miss some time to finish the "reverb" code, or did the BlackFin's computing power turn out to be lacking? Of course I hope the former, since in that case, we might see a future firmware update from Tascam to add this! (please??)
The internal routing is quite basic. There are no analog or digital inserts, and there is exactly 1 (one) bus. There are no other digital in- or outputs besides USB. If I'm not mistaking, the computer inputs are post-lowcutfilter, post-eq, post-compressor and pre-fader. I would have preferred it post-lowcutfilter and pre-fx (or selectable).
For recording situations you can provide up to 4 different stereo monitor mixes, with the EQ and compression with neglible latency.
The PC USB Driver
The PC side USB driver (v1.00) is now already quite stable. It gives a mixed impression:
+ there is ASIO support with a very nice 'mixer' panel and an intuitive routing diagram
+ ASIO works very nice with the DAW (reaper in my case)
+ the driver supports storing and restoring 'presets'
+ mixer channels can be named
- these names are not saved in the preset (probably a bug?)
- the WDM driver does not work nicely. Windows media player and system sounds do play well, but for some odd reason, Youtube and Spotify don't. I needed to route these to the PC's internal soundcard, and pull an extra cable to 2 line inputs (it's a good thing that there are 6 left).
Well, let's hope that next driver versions will improve on this.