Gi72...Studio to Stage....Tascam Series 208i
Tascam Series 208i
Vid Count: 1 Native
Guitar Interactive star rating: 4.5
Professional level I/O at a very competitive price point
Good sounding preamps with lots of gain
Well built, rugged yet good looking design
Excellent, low latency driver for Core Audio or Asio based DAW recording
In built DSP mixer with Reverb, EQ and compression
Compact and portable design
Not buss powered
Tascam Series 208i
MSRP (UK) £329 (US) $499
Dimensions (W x H x D): 296 x 65 x 160 mm
Weight: 1.5 kg
For more information, please visit:
Featuring a compact and flexible USB audio and MIDI interface with built-in DSP mixer, Tascam's Series 208i could be the perfect recording solution, whether it be for the professional studio or live recording. Tom Quayle reviews.
There are so many audio interfaces on the market right now with a whole slew of features and specs that it's hard for any one manufacturer to stand out from the crowd and convince you to part with your hard-earned cash. Tascam's Series 208i interface is attempting to raise its head above the audio interface white noise by offering truly professional features and software at a very attractive price point and their offering is impressive to say the least.
The 208i is a 20 in, 8 out portable interface featuring a suite of expandable, pro I/O options that is possibly the most generous on the market at this price point. The front panel provides four of Tascam's low noise 'Ultra HDDA' mic preamps with combi XLR/TRS balanced plugs that are switchable from Instrument to Mic/Line level per channel. Each Mic Pre has independently switchable phantom power allowing you to use a mixture of different mic types without fear of sending 48v to your beloved ribbon or dynamic mics. This is a feature missing from so many 'affordable' interfaces that have global or shared phantom power controls and hugely welcome addition.
On the front you'll also find a volume control for Outputs 1&2 and a pair of headphone outputs that can be setup with their own mixes as required using the onboard DSP mixer. A monitor Mix control allows you to mix between direct input signals and those coming from your computer.
Around the back things get seriously impressive thanks to 8 balanced outs, offering full 7.1 or 5.1 mixing capabilities, Word Clock in and out, a pair of S/MUX optical inputs for a further 16 channels of expandability, plus traditional MIDI IN and OUT connectors. It's hard to think of another interface offering this much I/O at this price point and footprint, especially Word Clock, allowing you to sync the Tascam's clock to an external digital device or devices with pinpoint accuracy.
The 208i supports recording up to 24bit/192kHz with support for 16 channels of optical inputs at 44.1/48kHz, 8 at 88.2/96kHz and 4 at 176.4/192kHz, providing a total of 8 inputs at the highest sample rates possible. A USB 2.0 connection is used to transport all of this recording power for Windows, Mac and iOS devices and Tascam is rightly proud of their internally developed USB driver that allows the buffer size to be reduced all the way down to 4 samples for pretty much imperceptible latency with DAW plugins. You'll need a relatively powerful computer to make use of it, but any system made within the last few years should handle it well. It's worth mentioning that, despite being a more compact form factor, the 208i is not bus powered via its USB connection, so the included power supply is always required. This is a shame but is a minor quibble for such an otherwise impressive product.
The on-board DSP mixer offers a compressor and 4-band EQ per channel, including for each of the 16 optical channels with zero latency for monitoring whilst recording, controlled via the included Mixer/Settings software. Each channel has phase invert, bypass, solo and mute switches and channels can be linked as stereo pairs as required. All channels can be routed to any of the outputs and to one of four Aux sends, the first of which is used for the on-board reverb effect, offering all the usual reverb types and controls. The reverb, EQ and compression are a nice addition for tracking vocals or instruments with some ambience or mixing without latency issues, but these are not recorded at the USB outputs into your DAW.
The 208i also ships with an impressive software bundle to get you recording and mixing right out of the box. These bundles can often be rather limited versions of expensive software or huge amounts of content you'll never use, but Tascam has included a nice balance here of highly useful applications and plugins. Cubase LE 9.5 is a good starter DAW for Windows, Macs and even iOS devices, while IK Multimedia has provided custom versions of their Amplitube and T-RackS plugins for amp simulation and mastering purposes. Finally, iZotope Elements offers up a range of mixing tools that should get any user up and running with great sounding mixes.
Housed in a rugged metal chassis, the Series 208i is supremely well built and will instil lots of confidence as a mobile interface, whilst remaining light weight and pretty to look at. The unit is very well thought out for a desk top style device, with rubberised feet and an angled-up design for easy access to the front panel. It's a powerhouse at an extremely reasonable price considering the pro feature set and should be very high on anyone's list if they're looking for a new audio interface in 2020.