Tascam's US-428 is a multipurpose unit combining onboard 16/24-bit converters (44.1 or 48 kHz), audio-to-USB conversion, a MIDI interface and a mix control surface that works with a number of common studio DAW programs. In the latter mode, the US-428 offers eight hardware faders that can control any number of software faders (via a simple bank-shift switch), along with recorder-style transport keys, a jog wheel, and various dedicated controls for tweaking software plug ins, EQ and more. Its $625 price includes a custom version of Steinberg's Cubasis VST audio recording and sequencing software, and, if desired, users can later upgrade to a full PC/Mac version of Cubase at a discounted price.
Before using the US-428, install the appropriate drivers from an included PC/Mac CD-ROM. If you later need to install on another machine and can't find the disc, you can download the software from www.tascam.com. The install is easy, but here's a possible snag to avoid: Make sure the US-428 is powered down when installing drivers. If the unit is on, Windows automatically detects that a USB device is in the chain and will assign a useless generic driver to it; later during your install, the correct Tascam driver may not be installed because another driver is already in place. Avoid the hassle and make sure the unit is off during your first install or later when updating drivers.
Windows users should be aware that a number of USB-related bugs in the operating system could cause glitches and/or stuttering in digital audio. If this occurs with Windows 2000, then users should install Microsoft's Service Pack 2. Windows 98SE users can install the Hotfix bug fix from Tascam's US-428 CD-ROM. If your systems are Windows XP-based and this problem crops up, first make sure that they have the latest Tascam audio drivers and then run the appropriate Messenger update from Microsoft's Website. To determine the correct one, surf to the following URL: http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q310/5/07.ASP?LN=EN-US&SD=gn&FR=0&qry=Q310507&rnk=1&src=DHCS_MSPSS_gn_SRCH&SPR=WIN2000.
PRO TOOLS FREE
With its USB audio interfacing and control functions, the US-428 is ideal to pair with the Freeware version of Digidesign's Pro Tools, available as a free download from Digi's Website (www.digidesign.com/ptfree). At up to 40 MB, PT Free is a big download, but hey, the price is right. It offers eight tracks of audio, 48 MIDI tracks, some plug-ins, and many of the same editing and mixing features as the Pro version. If you don't want to sit through the long download, Digi offers a free CD-ROM for a small $9.95 shipping/handling fee. There are a few limitations, such as the US-428's transport lights don't work with PT Free because it follows JLCooper CS-10 emulation, but, again, the price is right. I have a full Pro Tools 5.1 rig in my studio, but I find PT Free to be indispensable, especially on my laptop, forming a DAW-to-go with the US-428.
Whether in VST or native mode, the US-428 makes a slick remote controller for the B4, which is Native Instruments' Hammond B3 organ simulator. Here, the US-428's nine faders are transformed into draw bars 1 through 9 on the upper manual, and switching to bank two or three accesses draw bars on the lower manual and pedals. Meanwhile, other controls (EQ knobs, auxes, pans, etc.) provide fingertip control of parameters such as treble/bass rotor speed, vibrato, key click, percussion, tube overdrive and more.
The US-428 has many functions, but its least-known feature is a chromatic tuner, hidden in the US-428 software in the Tuner tab on the main control panel. Use is straightforward: Select the input channel you want to tune, play a note, turn the US-428's trim knob to avoid clipping and tune the guitar string using the onscreen sharp/flat “LED” indicators. The tuner defaults to an A440 standard, but you can tweak that between 430 and 450 Hz to suit your particular session.
BACK TO THE SOURCE
Tascam's Website offers a wealth of US-428 support info, FAQs, drivers, etc., to support various PC and/or Mac programs, including Steinberg Cubase VST, Digidesign Pro Tools/Pro Tools Free, MOTU Digital Performer, Cakewalk/Sonar, Steinberg Nuendo, EMagic Logic 4.7/5.0, BIAS DeckLE, Native Instruments B4, Propellerhead Reason and Cycling ‘74 Max/MSP. Go to www.tascam.com/products/us428 for more info. Tascam also sponsors an active online forum at www.tascambbs.com. From there, click on the Computer Audio link; users can read or post their experiences, offer or get help and more. Check it out!
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