TASCAM X-48 Digital Audio Workstation

Dedicated hard disk recording and DAW capabilities embody SaneWave-designed workstation.
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The TASCAM X-48 is a stand-alone 48-track hybrid hard disk workstation. The machine integrates the stability, robustness and ease-of-use of a stand-alone hard disk recorder (like the iZ RADAR) with the GUI, plug-in compatibility and editing features of a DAW.

The X-48 features simultaneous recording at up to 96kHz/24-bit across 48 tracks. It supports native Broadcast WAVE audio files and AAF audio file export insuring compatibility with Pro Tools, Logic and other DAWs. Additionally, the X-48 features a built-in, automated digital mixer, VGA monitor output, editing features, an internal 80GB hard drive and a DVD+RW drive for backup. The box supports FireWire hard drives as well as Gigabit Ethernet simplifying transfers between multiple X-48s and/or computer workstations.

FEATURES

TASCAM developed the X-48 along with SaneWave who has been a primary developer of several pro audio products over the last few years, including the TASCAM US2400 and the Mackie dXb consoles. SaneWave pioneered the development of embedded PC hard disk recorders with built-in GUIs. In the case of the X-48, they set out to build a powerful recording solution that included editing features and plug-in support without the expense incurred with a standalone DAW. The X-48 is built around an Intel processor running the X-48 system on top of Windows XP Embedded OS. The machine’s DSP and mixing functions are performed in kernel mode for increased processing efficiency and near zero latency performance.

The 4U X-48 is 19 inches deep and weighs just over 30 lbs. The basic X-48 includes 48 channels of TDIF-1 input and output. Two card slots that can be fit with either the IF-AN24X 24-channel balanced analog I/O card, the IF-AE24 24-channel AES/EBU I/O card, or the IF-AD24 24-channel ADAT optical I/O card allow the box to be configured to specifically meet the needs of the end-user.

The rear panel of the X-48 includes S/PDIF I/O (via two RCAjacks), SMPTE LTC Input and Output (via 2 balanced 1/4” jacks), and MIDI Input and Output. Unfortunately there is no AES/EBU or optical I/O. The machine generates and reads MIDI Timecode and it supports MIDI Machine Control commands. A quarterinch momentary footswitch jack provides remote punch in and out. The Remote connector is compatible with RS-422/Sony 9-pin edit controllers for machine control. The machine includes PS/2-compatible mouse and keyboard inputs (alternatively, the box will support a USB mouse and/or keyboard). BNC connectors are provided for Word Sync In/Out/Thru and Video Clock In/Thru. A VGA connector provides connection for a monitor (maximum resolution: 2048x1536). Two FireWire connectors allow connection to external FireWire 400 drives and four USB 2.0 jacks provide connectivity for a keyboard, mouse, flash drive or hard drive. The X-48 includes two Ethernet jacks. One is 10/100/1000 (Gigabit compatible) and the other is 10/100.

Fast FactsApplications
Studio, project studio, broadcast, post production, location recording

Key Features
48-tracks of 24-bit 96kHz recording; FireWire capability

Price
$3,995.00 base

Contact
TASCAM | 323-727-7617 | www.tascam.comThe front panel includes all transport, track arming, project management and metering functions. There are seven segment track meters for each of the 48 tracks. Six segments display the signal level from -60dBfs to -1dBfs and an additional LED indicates overload. Each track also includes a track record arming button for arming the track. Four status lights (Error, Busy, MIDI, and Disk) flash when the X-48 is accessing the hard drive, busy with a task, has MIDI input or encounters an error. The Sample Rate lights indicate the current sample rate and the Timecode Rate indicator displays the current frame rate. System Lights (Sample Lock, Dest Rec, and Varispeed) illuminate to indicate sample lock to an external source, destructive recording mode enabled, and varispeed enabled.

In comparison to other DAWs, the X-48’s mixing features are fairly limited (e.g. the faders are the only function that can be automated and the automation has to be drawn in with a mouse) but they can still adequately handle most situations, especially since most people will be using the mixer for reference mixing. The X-48’s 32-bit floating-point mixer features include grid-style editing and varispeed (+/-6%). Each channel includes Dynamics, 4-band parametric EQ, and 4 VST plug-in inserts. The dynamics section includes controls for threshold, ratio, attack, release, and makeup gain as well as a button to activate the soft knee mode for extreme ratio settings. The Equalizer section includes a fourband full-parametric EQ. Each band has full Q control and is sweepable from 20Hz to 20 kHz. Each band and can also be set to Low Shelf, High Shelf, Peaking, Low Pass and High Pass. The knobs can be turned to make adjustments or you can simply grab the dots in the graphic display. The X-48 officially supports Antares Auto-Tune and the Waves plug-ins, though most VST plug-ins should work trouble-free. There are also buttons for solo, mute, record arming, and input monitoring as well as pan controls.

In addition to the 48 audio tracks, the mixer includes six stereo returns providing a total of 60 inputs at mixdown. The dynamics and EQ sections of the digital mixer sound good and I found that in both instances it was quick and easy to attain my desired results. There are also 12 stereo groups, and six aux sends and a stereo master buss. The TASCAM US-2400 can be used as a control surface for the X-48 providing physical access to the X-48’s transport, fader levels, pan, aux sends, bank select channels, etc.

IN USE

I’ve always been a fan of TASCAM’s converters. Back in the day of DTRS machines I always found the TASCAM boxes to be leagues beyond the competition. At first we all thought that digital sounded terrible (it turned out that ADATs sounded terrible) but there actually were some good sounding converters out there, even in the 90’s. All that said, I really like the way the X-48 sounds.

Product PointsPlus

  • Great sound & features
  • Ease of use
  • Low price

Minus

  • No headphone jack
  • No AES/EBU or optical output

Score
The X-48 should be a serious consideration for any professional needing a multi-track hard-disk recorder.The most obvious use for the X-48 is recording live concerts. This is the situation where it truly shines. I can walk into a venue with a rack of 48 mic preamps, the X-48, a TASCAM DV-RA1000HD or Alesis Masterlink and a pair of headphones and walk away with a live album ready to be mixed. If TASCAM had included a headphone jack on the box, I could do it without the DV-RA1000 or the Masterlink.

When recording longer shows with high track counts, especially at higher sample rates, hard disk space becomes an issue with an internal drive of only 80GB. The X-48 flawlessly records to external hard drives; I have been using a 500GB Glyph GT050Q drive and haven’t had a single problem. I recorded 48 tracks at 24-bit, 96kHz for over two hours and the rig never hiccupped. I did have an issue with another hard drive while recording a David Phelps live Christmas DVD that turned out to be a faulty hard drive. Interestingly enough, I ran the Drive Benchmarking application on the drive and it shows that the drive was fine; this makes me question the quality of the X-48’s application, but I haven’t been able to duplicate that problem so I’m not exactly sure what the issue was.

I love the fact that the X-48 records Broadcast WAVE files. This makes it simple to import recordings into another DAW for editing and mixing. Projects can also be exported as AAF files which retain automation, pan and level settings. The X-48’s editing screen uses a familiar DAW interface that includes snap-togrid editing and crossfade features. I found that the 32-bit floating-point resolution mixing within the X-48 resulted in a great sound. As someone that is used to automating everything — from compressor thresholds to aux sends to panning to reverb times — I felt fairly limited, though. I wouldn’t use the mixer to do a final mix but it works perfectly to create a mix from a live show for video people to use as a reference for their editing. I’m sure there will be some users that will find themselves right at home mixing on the X-48; having a complete turn-key system will be great for them.

The machine will work well as an analog machine replacement in a normal tracking studio situation. I like the feel of recording to a purpose-built recorder instead of to a computer adapted for recording. Aesthetically, TASCAM and SaneWave did a fine job with the X-48. The screen layout is logical and the meters are easy to see from across the room.

Another strength of the X-48 is as a playback machine for theater, live performance and presentation applications. The X-48’s Theatre Mode allows one audio section to be played at a time while automatically cueing up the next section for instant playback. This mode was intended for theaters playing back multiple music segments and/or sound effects and with the X-48; cueing the next scene is as simple as tapping a footswitch.

SUMMARY

The TASCAM X-48 48-track recorder provides a high quality audio workstation with the GUI, editing features and plug-in compatibility of a computer-based digital audio workstation, all contained within a single box. The machine provides a fast and smooth workflow with quick and easy backup. Anyone considering a multi-track hard-disk recorder should give serious consideration to the X-48.

REVIEW SETUP

Focal Twin6 monitors; Yamaha MSP10 monitors; PMC AML-1 monitors.