Hands-On Review:TASCAM US-1641 and US-2000


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High-resolution USB interfaces for any studio

By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central

 

TASCAM US-1641 and US-2000

TASCAM has been making recording gear longer than most people reading  this have been alive, so they know their audio processing, and they  know how to design devices that successfully combine audio fidelity,  build quality, and user-friendly design. Two TASCAM interfaces continue  that tradition by providing low-cost recording solutions that fulfill a  variety of audio and MIDI interfacing needs.

 

For under $300, the US-1641 will amply supply most home and project studios with all the audio and  MIDI ins and outs they could ever use. Using USB 2.0 (a standard feature  on every modern laptop and desktop computer), the US-1641 can bring 16  channels of high-resolution audio and 16 MIDI channels into and out of  your computer. For a little more money (under $200 more), the US-2000 provides superior sonic quality and a couple of extra features, while  leaving out the MIDI aspect, figuring that the prospective buyer already  has at least one solution for that.

Sweet 16

Both the US-1641 and the US-2000 feature 16 inputs and four outputs of high-resolution (96kHz/24-bit)  audio. This is enough to record virtually any rock, jazz, country, pop,  pit orchestra, or praise & worship ensemble, and can even  accommodate larger ensembles, like choirs or concert bands.

 

Having multiple inputs has two advantages. The most obvious one is  that you can record more instruments and voices simultaneously. In my  tests, I recorded a whole drum kit (five mics), a direct-injected bass,  three vocal mics, and a guitar without experiencing one glitch or pop as  I recorded using the included version of Cubase LE. Even if you don't  record a lot of instruments at once, having multiple inputs saves you  from constantly plugging and unplugging cords. So if you're a solitary  recordist who records one or two channels at a time, a one, two, or  four-input interface will have you spending considerable time connecting  inputs as you switch from guitars, vocals, basses, keyboards, and other  inputs. Permanent assignments for inputs not only reduce stress on the  connections, they let you work faster while developing an efficient  recording rhythm. Inputs on your interface are like dollar bills or  vintage guitars: you can never have too many, and the 1641 and 2000 will  make you rich in connectivity!

The 1641 front and center

The US-1641 sports eight front-panel XLR inputs, giving you easy access to mic  inputs (or other signals that use this three-pin, balanced-line  configuration). If you have line-level instruments—such as keyboards,  and effects returns from line-level processors—you'll find another six  1/4" line-level jacks on the back panel. Also around back is where  you'll find the digital S/PDIF I/O in the form of two RCA jacks. (Each  jack carries a stereo signal.) The S/PDIF In jack is often what you'd  use for gear that outputs digitally (such as a CD player with a digital  out or high-end mic preamplifier with an onboard A/D converter), thus  saving a pair of analog inputs.

 

Additional features on the 1641 include selectable level switches for the four 1/4" balanced line  inputs (-10 or +4), switchable phantom power for condenser mics, plus  separate volume controls for the headphone, monitor, and mix outputs.  The 2000 differs from this scheme in that it has more specific phantom power  assignments and more comprehensive monitor controls that include an  input level control (feeding the monitor and headphone outputs) and  Mono/Stereo switches for monitoring adjacent pairs of the six line  inputs (9-10, 11-12, 13-14).

MIDI spoken here

The US-1641 also has MIDI in and out jacks, allowing you to bring keyboards, MIDI  controllers (such as floor-based MIDI pedals for guitar), and other MIDI  sound modules under computer control. The US-1641 receives  computer-generated, outgoing MIDI signals via its MIDI input, so you can  have MIDI tracks from your DAW sending signals to any outboard MIDI  gear. You can also use the MIDI I/O to transmit MIDI Time Code (MTC)  from your DAW (Cubase, etc.) to synchronize with your MIDI gear.

Why 2k?

Two features are unique to the US-2000:  the LED meter region on the front panel and the presence of insert  jacks. The meters are comprised of five-segment LEDs for all 16 input  channels plus the four outputs—a total of 100 LEDs are devoted to visual  feedback, showing you the status of all your input and output levels at  any given moment. Insert jacks are important if you like to strap on a  dynamics processor while still in the analog domain, before going to the  computer as a digital signal. For example, if you deal with many  vocalists with varied levels of skill, you may want to have a compressor  or limiter in the insert jack to ensure a distortion-free take— you may  not get the opportunity for a redo! You often don't find this feature  in other interfaces, including some costing hundreds more than the  US-2000.

Conclusion

The US-1641 and US-2000 are two outstanding solutions for interfacing any studio or live  performance setup into a computer. If you're on a budget and don't  already have a MIDI interface, the 1641 is the way to go. If you have a  little more cash to spare and are looking to outfit a higher-level  studio, the 2000—with its LED meters for superior visual monitoring,  Insert jacks, and more-flexible signal control—will give you an edge in  versatility. Whichever you choose, you'll possess a solid, reliable,  compact, and great-sounding interface as your recording centerpiece.

Features & Specs


TASCAM US-1641 Features:

  •   •  16 inputs and 4 outputs
  •   •  8 mic inputs with phantom power on front panel for easy access
  •   •  2 - 1/4" balanced line/instrument inputs on front for tracking guitars and basses directly
  •   •  4 more balanced line inputs on rear panel
  •   •  4 line outputs
  •   •  Stereo S/PDIF digital I/O
  •   •  16-channel MIDI I/O
  •   •  Separate monitor and headphone level controls
  •   •  Zero-latency hardware monitoring
  •   •  USB 2.0 interface
  •   •  Up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution using all I/O
  •   •  Supports Windows XP and Vista 32, Mac OSX 10.4 and higher
  •   •  Includes Steinberg Cubase LE 4 48-track recording software (Mac/PC)

TASCAM US-2000 Features:

  •   •  16 inputs and 4 outputs
  •   •  96kHz/24-bit audio resolution
  •   •  8 XLR microphone inputs with phantom power
  •   •  6 - 1/4" balanced line inputs
  •   •  4 - 1/4" balanced line outputs
  •   •  2 - 1/4" instrument inputs (channels 7 and 8 on front-panel combi jacks)
  •   •  Stereo S/PDIF digital I/O
  •   •  100-LED meter bridge (5 segments for each input and output)
  •   •  Zero-latency direct monitoring with Mono/Stereo switch for each input pair
  •   •  1/4" balanced stereo monitor output with its own volume control
  •   •  1/4" stereo high-powered headphone output
  •   •  Mac and Windows compatible
  •   •  High-tech, attractive aluminum case design
  •   •  Includes Steinberg Cubase LE 4 48-track recording software (Mac/PC)

For a great interface featuring high-quality sound, multiple outputs, and great price, check out the TASCAM US-1641 and US-2000. Order today from Musician's Friend and get their 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.