(click thumbnail)The middle of the mixing console market demands value for money spent, flexibility, space efficiency and, perhaps most importantly, tight integration with the digital audio workstation world. For these needs, TASCAM offers the DM-3200 digital mixing console.
At $3,000 on the street, the DM-3200 includes 48 channels of audio along with requisite DAW controlling, plus multichannel computer audio interface capabilities via the IF-FW/DM FireWire card. Unlike some midrange digital consoles, the DM-3200 operates at sample rates ranging from 44.1 to 96 kHz without the normal halving of channels at its maximum 96 kHz rate. An optional meter bridge (MU-1000) is available for those that desire it, but the console is fully operable without it.
The physical design of the console certainly left me feeling that it belonged to a much more expensive device, from the nicely finished top surface, the solid feeling knobs and faders, and faux wood panels (that I had to tap to realize that they weren’t real wood). The basic layout consists of 16 channel strips (each controlling three layers for up to 48 channels) with a touch-sensitive, motor-driven fader, as well as mute, solo and select switches, a rotary encoder and mic/line switch with trim control and pad. A multitude of source and monitor selection switches, talkback, solo, navigation buttons, rotary encoders and pushbuttons — and, of course, a nice LCD display — round out the front panel. A dedicated dynamics/equalization switch allows the 16 channel strip encoders to form a horizontal dynamics or equalization control strip for the selected channel … in a word, “Cool.” Profiles for Mackie HUI emulation, MOTU Digital Performer, Cakewalk SONAR, Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo, and Apple Logic are included via CD for easy DAW integration.
The DM-3200 provides 16 analog inputs (XLR mic and TRS line); phantom power is engaged in blocks of four rather than individually. Control room monitor outs are 1/4-inch TRS, while studio outs are on XLR and unbalanced RCA jacks (the latter of which is admittedly odd). Eight TRS send/return jacks are available for use as individual channel inserts, or they may be used for aux sends and effects returns.
Three TDIF and an ADAT optical I/O are included, and there are two slots for additional analog or digital I/O. There are also two AES and S/PDIF connectors. Additionally, USB, Word Clock I/O, MIDI In/Out/Thru, SMPTE in, Sony 9-pin, quarter-inch foot switch and a connection for the optional MU-1000 meter bridge is included. A cascade port allows two DM-3200s to be linked together.
Channels 1 - 32 include a four band fully-parametric equalizer (each band can sweep from 31 Hz to 19 kHz) with shelving, high-pass and low-pass filters as an option, as well as a dynamics section that includes compressor, gate, phase-reverse, aux, assignable inserts, direct out and bus assignment. Both dynamic and snapshot automation is available and function as expected. There are also two onboard digital processors, one of which is a dedicated TC Electronic TC Works reverb.
Project studio, studio
48 channels, 16 faders; four-band parametric EQ on 32 channels; dynamics and TC Works reverbs per channel; three TDIF and an ADAT optical I/O; maximum 96 kHz rate; IF-FW/DM FireWire interface card; optional meter bridge (MU-1000)
TASCAM | 323-727-7617 | www.tascam.com
- Excellent value
- Good sound
- Reverb offering is shy of “premium” status
The DM-3200 looks and sounds good, with a user-friendly, functional interface.In Use
I had a chance to use the TASCAM console over a several months; in that time, I was unable to make it crash, hiccup or misstep in any way — kudos to TASCAM for the stable operating system.
As it was, I used the DM-3200 along with my standard Nuendo rig, connected to my PC via USB ports; subsequently, TASCAM’s Nuendo control surface software made performing complex mixes vastly more pleasurable than using a mouse along with my standard Behringer BCF2000 and Frontier Tranzport combination. If you have extra desktop real estate (the DM-3200, though narrow, is pretty deep), the console is almost worth the asking price just for use as a control surface.
It’s obvious that console design (as well as digital processing) has come a long way since the first affordable digital consoles. The DM-3200 has a much more open and “easy” sound quality to it … more analog-like, if you will.
It’s interesting how certain devices (whether microphones, preamps, compressors or consoles) can subjectively make something sound either bigger or smaller, more open or more closed in. Overall, instruments tracked and/or mixed through the TASCAM had a nice relaxed quality (especially at 96k) to them, with none of the harshness and hardness that many inexpensive digital devices seem to suffer from.
For instance, drum overheads can sound totally dreadful on some digital gear, while I had good luck using a Microtech Gefell M71K pair on a GMS maple drum kit thanks in part to the TASCAM. More important than the kit itself were the mix of Zildjian A-Custom and Paiste Signature cymbals, which have a ton of mid- and upper-frequency information and can easily sound harsh with the wrong equipment chain. The DM-3200 gave a good representation of the sound of the entire kit and prevented the cymbals from sounding spitty or too “white” in nature.
The center image was not quite as solid as the very best analog (or digital gear), but it was more than close enough for all but the highest-end sources. The apparent weight and depth of the kick drum was not quite as well defined as the 10-times more expensive specialist analog console (with two-thirds less channels) that I normally use.
The microphone preamps were more than acceptable for a device in this price range, although you may find a need to use something with more color on vocal tracks (if you like that kind of thing), but I found it easy enough to get good vocal results using nothing but the console’s onboard preamps.
I found the preamps to sound very dynamic, with punch on my current favorite small guitar amplifier (the Sonic Cord Toad) when used with an EMG-loaded Telecaster. The midrange snarl of this combination was well represented!
The equalization and dynamics sections are similar, in that they have more than enough horsepower to do the job … and then some. I would have preferred if the sweep went both lower than 31 Hz and higher than 19 kHz — as it’s sometimes nice to be able to boost extreme low and high frequencies — but this is a minor quibble.
The included TC Works reverb section is just shy of “premium” outboard reverb quality, but it’s very close (perhaps I’ve been spoiled working with convolution reverbs). About the only effect I didn’t care for was the distortion preset, but those almost always are terrible on digital processors. Most of the others are usable, or better.
I will admit to skepticism when it comes to inexpensive digital gear. I mean, come on: a 48-channel digital mixer for three kilobucks? However, the TASCAM console is, to put it simply, an excellent value at its asking price. It looks good, sounds good and has all the right interfaces, including a user interface that will not have you reaching for the manual just to complete routine tasks. Make no mistake, this is not a Neve or an SSL for 1/100th the cost, but it’s more than clean and punchy enough to please those of us used to working on high-dollar gear.
UREI 809 and Fostex NF-1 monitors; Legacy PointOne Subwoofer; Pass Labs x250 amplifier; Audio Developments AD146 console, DAV Broadhurst Gardens mic preamp, Steinberg Nuendo 3.2