TASCAM introduced its first digital console, the TM-D8000 in 1997. They’ve been on a roll since, introducing a new model with more bang for the buck every 12 – 18 months. October 2006 brings the DM-4800 ($5,999), hot on the heels of last year’s DM-3200. Building on the DM-3200 design, the widebody DM-4800 features 24 channel strips plus a master, with 64 24-bit/96 kHz channels (48 full-featured input channels plus 16 auxiliary returns). With 24 phantom powered mic preamps with analog insert jacks, it can handle most full band-tracking jobs without outboards.
The layout is fairly conventional for this sort of console – touch-sensitive faders, rotary encoders with a surrounding ring of LEDs to indicate their position, buttons to select functions, and an LCD screen for menus, setups and functions that benefit from a graphic display such as equalization and dynamics. Parameters are adjusted using buttons and encoders placed directly below the LCD for quick access to “channel strip” controls. A set of transport controls and jog wheel (which doubles as a data entry wheel) handle recording and playback tasks. An optional meter bridge provides a large, clear view of the levels on 24 channels and the main stereo bus, plus a large timecode display.
Layers and Menus
Like most digital consoles, this one is short on knobs and long on menus. The good news is that with exception of routing setups, most functions that you use regularly are one, or, at most, two button presses away. Setup and routing menus get pretty deep (routing is extremely flexible), so don’t plan to start a session an hour after unpacking the DM-4800. Fortunately, I/O routing, channel linking, and data synchronization rarely change once you’ve worked out a few setups that match your workflow. These can be stored and recalled quickly when, for example, switching between tracking and mixing.
DSP and Automation
Each of the 48 channels is equipped with four-band equalization, compression, and gating. There’s a dedicated compressor for each of the 12 auxiliary busses, the 24 group busses, and main stereo outputs. Two built-in reverb processors from TC Electronic can be assigned wherever needed. Faders are touch-sensing and knobs are motion-sensing – move one and it remembers what you did. What could be simpler?
In addition to the 24 mic/line inputs, the DM-4800 is equipped with three eight-channel TDIF I/O ports (an upcoming firmware revision will expand the TDIF capacity at 96 kHz from four to eight channels per), an eight-channel ADAT optical port, and two stereo AES/EBU and coax S/PDIF digital I/Os. In addition, four accessory I/O slots allow you to mix and match analog, AES/EBU, ADAT optical, or TDIF I/O in eight-channel blocks. Data transfer at 96 kHz through the optical ports is supported by the SMUX protocol, though with only four channels per port. Word clock input (with a termination switch, bless their hearts) and output provide synchronization with external digital devices.
Concurrent with the release of the DM-4800, TASCAM is introducing the IF/FW-DM MkII FireWire I/O card. Using this card, 32 24-bit/96 kHz channels of input and output can be connected directly to a computer through a single cable, eliminating the need for an additional multichannel computer interface.
Stereo analog XLR line level outputs, two (‘small’ and ‘large’) balanced control room and studio monitor outputs and an unbalanced stereo analog input handle monitoring and playback connections. The DM-4800 features eight freely assignable balanced analog inputs and outputs. These can be used in pairs as analog I/O channel inserts anywhere in the signal chain or as auxiliary sends and returns for outboard signal processors or cue mixes. At this price point there are no provisions for software plug-ins. An optional surround monitoring card provides bass management, level control, and downmixing in surround formats up to six.
Other specialized I/O includes MIDI in/out/thru, SMPTE timecode in, RS-422 (Sony 9-pin serial), GPI (contact closures or TTL levels), a connector for cascading another DM-4800 (128 channels for under $10,000 street price!), a USB 1.1 port, and a Compact Flash memory card for storing project data.
The Remote fader layer provides HUI and Mackie Control with presets for several popular DAW programs, providing a very console-like (well, it is a console) hardware control surface for a DAW. Control is via the USB port on the DM-4800, which appears to the computer as three MIDI ports.
With the console offering a familiar control surface plus dynamics processing and equalization on every channel, the computer has less DSP work, freeing it to do what computers do best – recording, editing, and specialized signal processing.
You can view the DM-4800 as a DAW controller with a set of mic preamps, a fancy sound card and signal router, or what it really is – a full-featured mixing console that integrates well with a DAW or stand-alone recorder. When it’s time to move the gear off the kitchen table, give it a look.
For more information contact TASCAM at 323-726-0303 or visit AES Booth 202 or www.tascam.com.