capsule review

US-428

You're an amazing songwriter, but so far, only your dog has heard your compositions. Booking time at a professional recording studio can cost an arm and a leg, but with Tascam's US-428 MIDI controller you can record songs directly into your computer and send them as MP3s to friends and family. It works well, but it's a bit tricky to get up and running, and its included software is a bit limited.

Look Ma, No Sound Card!

Using the Macintosh for multitrack music recording has been possible for years but has usually required installing a PCI card-until now. The US-428 connects via USB, so it's easy to install and can be used with PowerBooks.

The US-428 is designed to bring the intuitive functionality of analog 4-track recording controls to computer-based, hard-disk recording gear. Instead of using the mouse to control virtual sliders and knobs on screen, you adjust levels with the actual sliders and knobs on the US-428. Software drivers for many audio applications are available from the Tascam Web site, and these include Digidesign's Pro Tools Free, Steinberg's Cubase VST version 5.0, eMagic's Logic Audio, MOTU's Digital Performer version 2.7, and Native Instruments' B4.

Users of traditional analog 4-track machines will find the tactile experience of the Tascam US-428 familiar. Unlike traditional 4-track machines, however, the total number of tracks you can record is not limited by the machine itself but by your computer's configuration and the software you use. To get started with the US-428 and BIAS's Deck LE, the bundled software, all you need is a PowerPC running Mac OS 8.6 or later. But Deck LE will only allow you to record eight tracks of 16-bit audio. Other recording applications, which all have system requirements of their own, allow you to record as many as 128 tracks of 24-bit audio using the US-428.

Lack of Direction

Tascam makes no mention of Deck LE in the user manual and instead explains how to use the US-428 with Steinberg's Cubasis. For this reason, setting up is more complicated than it needs to be. While Tascam cannot be expected to provide documentation for all possible combinations of hardware and software, it only makes sense to include documentation for using the US-428 with its bundled software.

Plugging In

More than just a controller, the US-428 has a 24-bit audio interface capable of recording four tracks of audio simultaneously. It has a good assortment of inputs, including one stereo S/PDIF input, two unpowered XLR mic inputs, two balanced quarter-inch TRS inputs, and two unbalanced quarter-inch inputs that can be switched to high impedance for plugging in a guitar or bass. Outputs include two unbalanced analog RCA line outs, a stereo headphone out, and S/PDIF digital I/Os. The sound quality is very good and should be more than adequate for a small studio.

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