Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tapco Link.Firewire 4x6 Review

 Media Tapco.Tapcolinkfirewire4X6

Tapco is kind of a weird brand to review. At the moment, I own a basic mixer by Tapco and this Firewire 4x10 interface and use them in conjunction with eachother. I bought this after the failure of two USB device. So firewire was the logical choice.

The first and sometimes only thing that matters is how stable an audio interface is. Drivers can complicate things and disconnect periodically if they aren't a good fit or if the designers/programmers, just weren't doing a good job. The Tapco Link.Firewire is extremely stable, surviving multiple application boots, system audio streams, restarts, and anything else. I keep it powered up 24/7 and it hasn't failed yet.

The sound quality is what you would expect. There isn't a harsh digital bite or character. It feels warm, or at least everything coming in/out seems unharmed. There seems to be enough headroom and volume for line level instruments. The preamps are also less noisy than the ones on my mixer. I haven't tested them extensively. The S-PDIF connector also works well, although when connected to a device it overrides channels 1 & 2. Monitoring is a little different. When the firewire is engaged by the computer, you can only monitor whats coming back from the computer. Depending on your setup this might not be an issue. There is a little app called Line-In which can monitor for you, in Mac OSX when your computer is on and will give you a good pass thru. You can also just put the compute to sleep or unplug the firewire port and the unit switches to sending whatever is coming in 1 & 2 back out to your monitors.

The construction is great!
This is not cheap feeling at all. The metal rack bars in front slightly defend knobs from some impacts. The case is plastic, but the hard bumpy rubber is a nice touch. The headphone amp could have been a little smoother volume wise at lower levels, but it is acceptable. Connectors and buttons are very good. It is very easy to monitor clipping on this unit. The LEDS change bright red when your signal is too hot, and its easy to back down to get the maximum level. Its nice to have and works better than some full spectrum volume displays. With the Firewire only plugged in, there was a bit of an external noise (probably from the chip its powered), but it is nonexistent when you plug in the wall adaptor. I chose the wall adaptor. Its nice to know this unit will work with a laptop. Chances are if you are taking it somewhere this little noise won't bug you much. Just use the wall adaptor the rest of the time.

Also keep in mind that this isn't a true 4x6 interface out of the box. Its 2x2. You can probably bug Tapco for the firm ware which converts to this, but hey never updated before shipping I guess. For $99 new I didn't care. This is a great, basic firewire interface, and its currently on clearance if you look in the right spot. This also comes with Mackie Tracktion 2 DAW for mac / pc!!! Mackie Tracktion is very simple to use, compared to apples Logic, and does the job. It can be upgraded to Tracktion 3 for $69 from Mackie. Definitely pick this one up if you need a cheap, stable, firewire interface.

Stability so far: 10
Audio Quality: 9
Features: 8
Total: 8.5

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