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Hi folks,
So I need an audio interface and the Tascam preamps have been recommended to me.
My local music store carries the Tascam US-16X08 with the newer HDDA (Hi-Def Discrete Architecture) preamps for $319, while another store has the older US-1800 on sale for $275, with older preamps.
Specs on each unit's preamps are good, but the HDDA specs are very impressive - "EIN rating of -125 dBu, meaning their noise level is practically below the range of hearing. Other impressive specs include a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB, out-speccing anything in its price range".
Anyone have a working knowledge of both of these units? Are the HDDA preamps really any better sounding?


DonnyThompson Thu, 04/02/2015 - 01:37

I've not had experience with the models you mentioned, but personally, and based on past personal experience with Tascam preamps/i-o's, I'd stay away from anything Tascam. But, that's just me.

Tascam has a track record for building i/o's that develop problems. They are also known for their lack of gain. The model you've mentioned has a max gain of 56db, which, while not too low in the grand scheme of things, is still shy in comparison to other similarly priced models. 56db is enough to gain up most condenser mics, but it's pretty low when it comes to working with some dynamics (Shure SM7 for one example) and most ribbons, which require more gain because they have lower output levels. For these mics, typical gain levels required are more like 65db.

If it were me, I'd look into a Presonus or a Focusrite. Both have solid reputations when it comes to build quality, with better preamps (than previous tascam models) and higher gain ratings.

As far as the specs you've mentioned with the Tascam, those measurements are not really anything particularly mind blowing, Doc. In fact, they are pretty much on par with most any other i/o in the price range.
For example, you mentioned the EIN rating on the Tascam as being -125dbu. The EIN rating for the Presonus VSL is - 133dbu, with an SNR of 98db (on the mic inputs). The Focusrite also has similar specs. That's a far cry from Tascam being able to claim that it "out-spec's anything in it's price range".

But beyond those specs, which most preamps and i/o's share these days, you should consider Tascam's service record when making your decision. I've owned several models in the past, and I've known several people who have as well - and the general consensus between us is that we all eventually came to regret choosing the Tascam models.

But... this is just one man's opinion, and based upon past experience with the company and its previous products... And again, I've no experience with the particular model you've mentioned.. for all we know, Tascam has changed the way they build their products, and they may have gotten much better with the newer models.

(I still think their gain is shy).


DonnyThompson Thu, 04/02/2015 - 03:03

I've used the Focusrite software a few times, but never to its "optimum" - meaning that I never used the effects and processors that comes with their preamp - i/o's.

I used it to route signal to a DAW - that's it - and for that, it functioned perfectly. Clean, quiet, transparent, good gain - which are not qualities that I would use to describe any Tascam I have ever worked with.

My own experience with the Focusrite, is that it sounded far better than any Tascam preamp I had ever used up to that point - I have past experience with both the 1800 and the 1640, which both lacked gain, and were noisy when I'd attempt to gain them up for dynamic mics.
(I never tried a ribbon trough any of those Tascam models, because I already knew that they wouldn't have enough gain).

I do recall now that I did use a third Tascam model last year - it was a smaller 2 channel model - the model number eludes me now - but it was a cheap $99 dollar tabletop model that a client of mine had, and from what I heard, it was one step above worthless. It had barely enough gain to operate a condenser, and was extremely noisy as well. I think that he eventually ended up exchanging it for a Focusrite 2i2.

My own main pre/i-o right now is a Presonus 1818 VSL (USB). Class A mic pre's, good converters. Very transparent, very clean, quiet, and with 65 db of gain, which works just fine for low output dynamics and ribbons.

I also have an ADK AP1, which is a pro level, standalone single channel mic preamp ( no digital i/o, strictly analog outs). It's a transformer-based preamp, and it allows me to swap out both input transformers and OP Amps; I like to use it when I'm looking for more color or "character".

The Presonus integrates nicely for this, because along with the 8 Class A mic pre's that it has, it also has several Line Inputs as well, ( and is nicely transparent and very clean and quiet) so I can use the XLR output of the ADK pre and send a line-level signal ( balanced TRS 1/4") to one of the the Line In's of the VSL. This is good - because I'm not forced to route the signal through an XLR/mic input, which would "re-amp" the signal. and defeat the purpose of using an external pre.
By routing the Line Out of the ADK to the Line In of the Presonus, because the input is already at line level, the gain on the Presonus stays all the way down... to the off position, so I'm essentially just using the Presonus for the ADDA.

I'm mentioning this, because at some point, you may decide to add a pro caliber single channel mic pre to your arsenal, and you'll need a way to get that pre's signal into your DAW (unless you choose a model with built in i/0) Or, unless you also have a standalone ADDA system, or an internal conversion card in your computer. But, many "affordable" high end preamps don't come with digital i/0, so you will need an i/o that gives you Line Inputs to be able to get the preamp's signal into your computer/DAW.

The Presonus isn't the only choice out there. There are many good preamp/i-o's on the market these days, most with very good specs, sufficient gain, and that are clean and quiet.... which will work well as long as you don't push them too hard - this is where most "budget level" preamps tend to show their price-vs-quality ratio; you can't push them the same way you can push/drive more expensive/pro preamps.

I suppose that I could confidently recommend the VSL, because I use one myself. But, Focusrite also makes very good lower-priced models as well. Both, IMO, are far better than any similarly-priced Tascam model I've ever had any personal experience with.

But again, I know nothing about the newer Tascam model that you've mentioned. For all I know, they've turned around their reputation for poor builds. Yet, even if that's true, I still think that 55db is too shy, and limits you unnecessarily, especially when there are other models out there for not much more money that will perform better, sound better, and are of higher quality all the way around.



Sean G Tue, 10/06/2015 - 14:56

I have to agree with Donny on the Presonus 1818VSL...(y)
The bonus software mixer that comes standard with its built-in effects and Fat Channel gave it the edge over the Focusrite when it came to me deciding over the two.
Seemed a no-brainer to me for that added feature alone for the pricepoint that these two interfaces sit in.

DonnyThompson Tue, 10/06/2015 - 19:00

To be clear here, guys - I'm not inferring or suggesting that the Presonus VSL is considered to be - or even should be considered - a "pro" spec preamp.

It is a solid, good sounding pre for the money, with plenty of ins, outs, digital and midi connections to make it very flexible... It is a solid model for what you are paying, infinitely better than anything by Tascam I've ever used in digital recording, and, would be a great i/o if you had a limited budget of around $500; probably the best in its price class.

But it's not a Millennia, Grass Valley, SPL, Neve , or SSL, etc.

Unlike Sean, I don't really care much about the included Fat Channel or FX; rarely do I print with processing anyway, so that's not a deal-breaker for me. My own criteria was strictly sound quality/gain/i-o features (including midi) - and the ability to connect 8 mics at once, as well as having 8 outputs to work with, should the need arise. Essentially, the VSL1818 is an 8 channel rack mount version of the StudioLive Console. It's a very flexible, good sounding multi-channel mic pre/i-o for the price.

But's not like it's going to be the top choice of pro caliber rooms, who's budgets usually allow for preamps that commonly price out at an average of $1000-$2000... per channel. ;)



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