Test Drive: The Tascam US-428 USB Interface Controller

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INS AND OUTS

The rear panel accommodates a power switch, the jack for the wall-wart power supply, the USB connector, a pair of MIDI inputs and MIDI outputs, and audio I/O. The four audio inputs are labeled A through D. Inputs A and B are balanced and are available on both XLR and TRS 1/4" phone jacks. Note that phantom power is not supplied on the XLRs, so if you’re using condenser mics, you’ll need a separate source of phantom power like an outboard mic preamp.

Inputs C and D are unbalanced and are available on both RCA and 1/4" jacks. In addition, both inputs C and D have a slide switch associated with them that changes their input impedance from 47K ohms (the mic/line setting) to 680K ohms (the guitar setting). Left and right outputs are unbalanced on RCA jacks, and the S/PDIF inputs are also on RCA jacks.

All inputs and outputs use 24-bit converters, and are capable of both 44.1kHz and 48kHz sampling rates. Inputs A and B are nominally capable of handling signals from -43dBU to +4dBU, while inputs C and D can nominally handle signals from -46dBU to -7.8dBU. The outputs can produce levels from -10dBV to +16dBV. The bottom line is that the US-428’s input and output sections are beefy enough to handle most anything, and provide more than adequate headroom. The unit’s audio specs are also quite good, with noise as low as -98dBFS at minimum trim and terminated at 150 ohms.

INSTALLATION

I tested the US-428 on an iMac running the included Deck LE software. This was a logical choice for me, since I use the full version of Deck regularly on my desktop Mac. Installation was a simple matter of running the installer on the CD-ROM, which installed the USB version 1 drivers on the computer. Since I had previously visited Tascam’s website, I was aware of the version 2 drivers. I downloaded and ran the new installer, which properly replaced the older USB drivers.

Since the US-428 sends its controller information over USB using MIDI controller changes, the unit requires that Opcode’s OMS drivers are installed in order to work on a Mac. These drivers are not included on the CDs and must be downloaded from Opcode’s website www.opcode.com. This was a minor inconvenience, but in fairness it’s not the fault of Tascam or BIAS. (Opcode is now owned by Gibson Musical Instruments, and Gibson does not allow OMS to be distributed independently). A quick trip to the website yielded the necessary installer for OMS version 2.38.

Installing Deck LE was a snap. It is copy protected with a serial number, so once installed, Deck LE will work for 14 days without the serial number. If you register the program with BIAS, either via the web or mail, they will send you the code that will allow it to run indefinitely. If software must be copy protected, this method is the least onerous, and I received my code within a couple of hours of emailing BIAS with my information.

The US-428 uses Steinberg’s ASIO (Audio Stream Input Output) software to record and play on your computer, and the installation program will put the correct ASIO drivers for your system in their correct locations. To make the US-428 the default sound device for your computer, you’ll have to make some changes within your control panels and software program. On the Mac, you open the Sound control panel and select the US-428 as your sound in and out device, and then make sure the US-428 is selected in Deck LE under the “Options: Hardware...” menu. Under Windows, you can open the US-428’s control panel using Start: Settings: Control Panels. Remember that you may also have to use your software’s internal Audio Control Panel to select the US-428 as the audio input and output device.

In the ASIO control panel on both the Mac and PC, you can monitor a number of options under ASIO, including the clock source, the sample rate, and the bit resolution. You can also determine whether the Master Fader changes the level from a software editor. This is useful for programs that don’t have their own master volume control, such as Sound Forge.

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