Hands-On Review:TASCAM FireWire Products

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TASCAM FireWire Products

A new dimension in digital recording

By David Hess


TASCAM FireWire Products

For nearly 30 years, TASCAM has been the brand that musicians rely on to get their ideas onto tape, and now into digits. The company that started the home studio revolution has been at the forefront of new techniques and technology, and has taken it a step further with their FireWire recording interfaces/DAW controllers. Any user of DAW software will appreciate the speed, flexibility, array of audio and MIDI I/O connections, and pristine 24-bit/96kHz recording capabilities of each of these products.


Meet the family

I recently had the opportunity to try out three TASCAM FireWire interface/controllers. The FW-1082 is a 10-channel audio/MIDI interface and control surface with motorized faders. The FW-1804 is an 18-channel, rackmountable audio/MIDI interface for those who don't need a control surface. Finally, the FW-1884 is a beefed-up version of the FW-1082, providing more control options and I/O connections. Both the FW-1082 and FW-1884 can operate as standalone mixers, and the FW-1884 is expandable via the FE-8 unit that adds an additional eight channels of control. All three are powerful tools that can greatly enhance your digital recording experience. I'll focus on the features of each and offer comparisons to help you find the one that best fits your situation.


Room to breathe

If you're short on space or don't really have the need for a control surface, the FW-1804 is for you. It has an impressive total of 18 inputs and 12 outputs: four XLR/1/4" TRS mic/line inputs with phantom power; four 1/4" inserts for each of these allow connection of an external processor into the signal chain; four balanced 1/4" TRS line-level analog inputs; two balanced, stereo, line-level 1/4" TRS outputs; an ADAT/optical input/output that accommodates eight-channel ADAT format or two-channel S/PDIF in TOSLINK format; and a S/PDIF coaxial digital input and output with RCA connectors.


On the MIDI side, there are two MIDI ins and four outs. The FW-1804 is rackmountable, which is ideal if you are working with a desktop studio or anywhere space is a precious commodity.


Complete control

If DAW software control is imperative, then the FW-1082 and FW-1884 are two stellar options. Drivers are included that allow each to work seamlessly with Sonar, Cubase, Nuendo, Logic, and Digital Performer. Both control surfaces are compatible with Pro Tools as well. And both offer Mackie HUI and Mackie Control emulation, making them compatible with just about every other DAW application out there.


Click to Enlarge For smaller studios, the FW-1082 is a perfect choice. As well as being a 10-in/4-out, 24-bit/96kHz audio/MIDI interface, it has loads of control options for your DAW or recording software. Each of the eight channel strips has a 60mm, touch-sensitive moving fader and illuminated solo, mute, and select buttons, as well as a record arm indicator. There are also four encoders that can be used for adjusting EQ settings and auxiliary send levels, or sending MIDI controller commands. In addition, you get transport controls, a jog/shuttle wheel, and 2 MIDI inputs and outputs.


If you're set up in a large studio and need the most control you can get for your buck, then look no further than the FW-1884. The biggest controller in the family, it boasts many of the same features and specs as the FW-1082, with 100mm sliders and up to 18 simultaneous audio inputs, including eight mic preamps with inserts and phantom power. It also features four MIDI inputs and outputs, eight analog outputs for surround mixing, eight channels of ADAT lightpipe, and expandability via TASCAM's FE-8 unit. Each FE-8 module provides eight additional channel control strips, and the FW-1884 can handle an astounding 15 of them if your situation calls for it.


Both the FW-1082 and the FW-1884 can also operate as standalone mixers in Monitor Mix Mode. This gives you a zero-latency way of monitoring your audio. When used in conjunction with your software's output, you can overdub tracks with no latency as well. This is a powerful tool that I found quite useful during the time I spent with these controllers.

Go greased lightnin'!

TASCAM FireWire Products Along with their rock-solid construction, powerful features, and cross-platform ability, each of these devices benefits from a smoking fast FireWire connection. If you're not familiar with FireWire, it's time to acquaint yourself.


A typical USB connection can move 12 megabits per second (Mbps). The FireWire connections on these units can move an astounding 400 Mbps! And unlike USB, that speed is isochronous, meaning that each device you connect will get data when it needs it. This assures you get the speed you need for realtime recording and monitoring. FireWire has definitely become the preferred connection for audio recording, and these units take full advantage of it.


All three of these great devices also include Cubase LE 48-track/96kHz recording and mixing software, as well as GigaStudio 3 LE, a 64-voice streaming sampler. You've got complete start-to-finish capability straight out of the box! For decades, TASCAM has been your source for quality recording gear. My experience says they intend to keep it that way.


Features & Specs:

FW-1884 & FW-1082:FW-1884:
  • Comprehensive DAW controls
  • Pan, solo, mute, select per channel
  • 4-band EQ with assignable encoders
  • Aux Send control
  • Shortcut keys
  • 24-bit/96kHz A/D/A converters
  • Assignable footswitch jack
  • Transport control
  • Jog/shuttle wheel
  • Standalone mixing
  • Motorized faders
  • Includes Cubase LE
  • 18 simultaneous inputs and outputs
  • 4 MIDI ins and outs
  • 8 balanced XLR analog mic/line ins
  • 8 high-quality mic preamps
  • 8 ADAT lightpipe channels
  • S/PDIF stereo digital I/O
  • Inserts per channel
  • Word clock I/O
  • Expandable with the FE-8 module
  • 10-in/4-out interface
  • 4 balanced XLR/1/4" mic/line ins
  • 4 high-quality mic preamps
  • Inserts on channels 1 & 2
  • S/PDIF stereo digital I/O
  • 4 MIDI ins and outs
  • 32 MIDI playback/record channels
  • 18-in/12-out interface
  • 24-bit/96kHz A/D/A converters
  • 4 balanced XLR/1/4" mic/line ins
  • 4 balanced 1/4" line ins
  • Inserts for channels 1-4
  • Word clock I/O
  • Balanced 1/4" TRS monitor outs
  • 2 MIDI ins/4 MIDI outs
  • Assignable footswitch jack
  • S/PDIF and ADAT digital I/O
  • Includes Cubase LE