Test Drive: The Tascam US-428 USB Interface Controller

IN USE

Along with the convenience of providing dedicated controls for workstation software, the US-428 features some clever ideas that just make life a little easier. For example, the input monitor function serves a dual purpose. In addition to letting you hear the source signal directly, pressing the input monitor button causes the first four faders to control the input levels of inputs A through D going into the internal mixer. Changing these levels affects the monitor and headphone outputs, but has no effect on the audio levels seen by your workstation software. In the same way, when input monitoring is on the first four Mute buttons affect the four inputs, and the pan control sends the inputs anywhere in the stereo field. That’s a nice extra.

I exercised both the analog and digital inputs of the US-428 at both 16 and 24 bits, and the sound quality was excellent. I found that setting the Trim knobs was critical, since they regulate the inputs to the A/D converters. Since the overload LED’s trigger at -2.5 dBFS (remember, that’s two and a half dB from Full Scale, and going over Full Scale in digital is nasty-sounding), you have to pay attention to those red LEDs. Keep them dark as much as possible for the best possible signal.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that the US-428’s master fader controls the final output to USB, and hence to your software application. So, if you have your input and mix levels set as you like them and simply want to turn down the speaker’s volume, you’ll want to use the LINE knob rather than the master fader.

Deck LE is a capable editor with which I was already familiar. The USB-428’s faders and mutes were quick and responsive, although the transport controls exhibited a noticeable lag. I don’t see this to be a problem, but it does take some getting used to. But overall, everything worked and worked well.

The manual for the US-428 is competent, but it only covers use with the PC version of Cubasis. The documentation for Deck LE contained on the CD-ROM made no reference to the US-428. This is understandable given the newness of the product and the rapidly-occurring software changes surrounding it, but you’ll do well to visit Tascam’s website regularly to get the current poop.

A word about MIDI: I know that few production people make any use of MIDI, but the US-428’s two MIDI outputs are useful nevertheless. For example, I was able to send MIDI Time Code from Deck LE through the US-428, to an Alesis ADAT to sync it to the computer. In addition, since all the US-428’s commands are really MIDI controller changes, I expect that the box will work with more and more software editors as time goes on because many of them accept MIDI for control of transport and mixing functions already.

My quibbles with this product are minor. The faders are short, and the detented jog wheel moves the audio in small increments with each click. As noted, the function keys are inoperable, and the transport controls have a bit of lag to them.

But the bigger issue with the US-428 is software support. Cubasis is an okay editor for the PC, but most production pros work with Sound Forge, Samplitude, or Cool Edit. Tascam has been responsive with frequent updates thus far, but the success or failure of this product rests on their ability to get more players onboard quickly.

Over the few weeks that I worked with the US-428, I became reasonably facile with it. 80% of the time I could do what I wanted without hunting on the surface for the correct knob or button. The sound quality is comparable to that of my other sound cards.

The US-428 retails for $625 MSRP. For more information, contact Tascam at 7733 Telegraph Road, Montebello, CA 90640, or phone 323-726-0303. For more information worldwide, visit www. tascam.com.

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