TASCAM US-366 USB audio interface hands on review
I remember getting my first proper home recording device (after upgrading from a cassette recorder with a little mic on a stand), and that was a TASCAM Portastudio. The 4-track recorded to cassette, you know, those things that came before CDs and went in Walkmans before MP3s. Well, it looks like TASCAM are keeping it portable but quality with the US-366 USB 2.0 audio interface.
For home recording these days I use a TC Electronic Impact Twin which dwarfs the little TASCAM which only measures 140 × 42 × 140mm and weighs a tiny 500g. The US-366 could easily fit in your gig bag or with your laptop for on the go recording.
What did strike me, apart from its diminutive dimensions is the aluminium casing which announces the unit’s superior build quality. It’s really light but has a rugged feel – which is reassuring if you spend a lot of time lugging recording equipment to your mate’s house or throw it in the back of the van when out touring.
The metal knobs are smooth and easy to use – especially the giant Line Out at the front of the device. The layout makes complete sense and will be welcomed by novices as well as old-hands.
There are two line inputs and two XLR-mic inputs which are easily accessible at the front of the device. There are also two RCA line ins at the back. So you could hook up a guitar/bass and microphone up front and then plug in a drum machine/iPad at the back.
You can also output via headphones (or in ear monitors) and there’s even the option for digital inputs.
Set up is relatively easy. In these days of plug-and-play it may be a little frustrating but you have to actually install drivers from the included DVD. Don’t fear – this was hassle-free and anyone that has used recording interfaces and software will be used to doing this.
The drivers are necessary for one of my favourite features of the US-366, the Mixer Panel. Once you have everything installed you just need to hit the Mixer Panel button on the device and you get an exciting array of faders and FX options popping up on your display.
The on-board digital signal processing (DSP) FX – reverb, compressor, noise suppressor, de-sser, exciter and EQ are functional and it’s useful to be able to set these things for each input right there without having to dive into your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
You can’t stack the on-board FX but you will have so many options in your DAW that there’s no real reason to load up on FX here.
The TASCAM US-366 provides an on-board digital mixer, which has two modes for DAW recording and broadcasting. You can select the two modes depending on your needs using the switch on the underside of the unit.
The multi-track mode is designed for music creation.
In multi-track mode, the signal from each input is sent independently via USB to the computer for multi-track recording. At the same time, you can mix each input sound and play back sounds from the computer in the mixer and apply effects to prepare the monitoring sound as you like. Since they are output in stereo from the mixer, you can listen to them using speakers or headphones.
The stereo – mix mode is used for broadcast or record a stereo mix for live broadcasting over the internet or recording audio for video.
All the input signals and the playback signals sent from the computer by USB are mixed to stereo and then sent to the computer and output connectors. In addition, the mixer output can also be listened to using speakers or headphones.
Since the signals received by standard microphones are low, it is important to have a high quality built-in microphone preamp in the audio interface. The TASCAM US-366 features a new improved HDDA (High Definition Discrete Architecture ) microphone pre-amplifier for enhanced audio quality with 24bit/192kHz linear pcm recording.
The unit provides 6-in/4-out or 4-in/6-out USB interface depending on the setting of line 3 and line 4. There are two types of input/output, i.e. RCA and optical digital I/O. In addition, the US-366 is RC-3F foot switch ready which allows hands-free control for your DAW, which is very convenient for musicians capturing ideas alone.
The super low latency makes using this device… well… usable. The Digital/Audio conversion is top notch – guitar and bass sounds were clean and there was no discernible signal hiss. If you do a lot of recording – especially multiple tracks of audio the US-366 is an excellent option.
I was happy to notice that the pre-amp is pretty quiet as this has been a bugbear with some users, especially vocalists, using the earlier models. It seems that TASCAM have got that sorted with the US-366.
The TASCAM US-366 is a high quality USB 2.0 audio interface. This lightweight unit is very durable and provides an excellent sound with very low latency. The sound is detailed and clean and set-up is simple with easy to install drivers.
Prices seem to be around the £150-170 mark – £149 on Amazon.co.uk – and, at that price, I don’t think you can go far wrong if you’re looking for a portable recording interface to hook-up to your laptop or to use in your home studio.