Beyond the specs. Seeking feedback on real world use

Discussion in 'Model 24/16/12' started by singaiya, May 22, 2020.

  1. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    I'm in the market for a multitrack recorder like the Model 16 or 24. The 16 would be enough for me but I understand they are both very similar except for the number of inputs. Mainly I'd be using this for recording a 3 piece band live in my basement, with some overdubbing. I would do mixing on the computer upstairs. I've read all I can about these recorders including the specs but would like to know from users what they think of actually using them. How do you like the workflow? Is the menu system intuitive or is it stupid? Does anything bug you about the recorder that you didn't find out until after you started using it?
    • One review said track naming / file management is hard. How bad is it?
    • Mixdown files are "non-interleaved", which I'm guessing means a file for left and a file for right. That kind of sucks.
    • The manual sucks apparently from comments I've read. Most manuals I've read for tech like this suck, this one is that much worse?
    • Any insights to share?
    Most of the other cons / negatives I've read about these things aren't really bothersome to me or not relevant to what I'm doing. Thanks!
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  2. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    I ended up getting the Model 24 instead of the 16 (because I'd miscalculated the number of channels I'd need). I've been using it for about a week and will write a review of my experience so far. The one I got came with firmware 1.31 and I updated it to 1.5.

    The Good
    • Preamps sound good so far. I haven't done any critical listening of the wavs yet on good monitors or headphones, but what I hear in tracking sounds good. There were a couple spots where I had to crank the gain to near full to get a good level (Cascade Victor ribbon mic on drum overhead, SM57 on snare) but not hearing noise from the preamps. If I hear preamp noise on closer inspection I'll update this.
    • Build quality / construction is great. It's a solid unit and the knobs and faders are good quality. Love that the faders are 100mm. I don't think there's a comparable recorder in this price range with those.
    • Looks beautiful. It's an analog mixer and inspired by the analog look. This is a personal preference of course, and not super important, but when I look at the pictures of Zoom and Presonus they're just not as cool looking. They look digital because they are digital.

    The Bad
    • No meters in dbFS! This one surprised me and I'm still not sure if it's a dealbreaker for me. Probably not but I still shake my head about it. WTF? I knew that it didn't have per channel metering like the Zoom, but I figured there's probably a way to monitor each channel's level on the display one at a time or something. The "level meter" doesn't have any dB scale on the Y axis! There is a horizontal line about 2/3 up. By recording some drums and targeting peaks to hit that line, I figured out that this is -12dBFS when I put the wav in Logic. But what is one bar above or below that line? I don't need to be super precise about my recording levels but I do need to know that I'm in the right range.
    • Officially supported card doesn't work (Transcend UHS-I SD 300S 16GB). Before the Tascam even arrived, I'd done my homework and looked up the EXTREMELY short list of officially tested and supported SD cards. Ordered the Transcend so I could start recording immediately. The Model 24 doesn't even give me the option to format this card, just says that it is unsupported. Great. So I wasted $11 on a card I don't need. Luckily it reads my SanDisk and PNY cards which are NOT on their unhelpful little list.
    • Operating manual is atrocious and nearly useless. I'd seen this complaint about it, and it didn't really concern me - I mean, all manuals suck. How bad could this one be? Let me tell you, it's the worst one I've seen. It sounds like a martian built a robot, who then used a version of google translate beta version 0.01 which was never deemed good enough for release. And then Tascam doesn't even proofread the damn thing. One section said to arm a truck. WTF? Took me a while to realize it meant TRACK. I would reread sentences 3 times trying to figure out what they are saying, then I'd give up reading and just try things. I'm at the point now after one week where I *THINK* I know my way around it enough to proceed without a manual, but jeez.
    The Ugly
    • Noise in headphones when recording. As mentioned in a recent thread, there's some noise present when monitoring recordings using headphones. I think this is just in the monitoring path and not actually recorded on the wavs. If I find out it's on the wavs I'll update this.
    • Noise in headphones when SD card does transport operations (like stop). Not sure if this is due to the PNY card I'm using or not. It's just mildly annoying.
    • Headphone monitoring can't use faders apparently? I can't tell if this is something that I just haven't figured out due to the lack of info in the manual or what. It seems that the circuit that drives the headphone section is the monitor 1 and 2 circuits and not the main mix. So while headphone monitoring does function, I'd WAY rather use the faders instead of having to turn the monitor send knobs on each channel. If someone knows how to do this, let me know. But I suspect it's because if it were done my way it would not work as a live mixer.
    • The menu navigation. It's not terrible but it's not great either. It's a menu system. It goes with the territory of recording on SD cards. Most aspects of it are ok but I found setting auto punch in/out points to be needlessly tiresome. And there have been no modern breakthroughs in the world of file naming. I kinda doubt the competition is leaps and bounds better.

    Things to try still
    USB operations: transferring files to it, mixing with computer as source.
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  3. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    @singaiya thank you for sharing your pain with the Forum. And, welcome!
  4. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    @mjk thanks for the welcome. The pain was real only for the first few days because i was coming back down to earth a little after first getting it and thinking it would be perfect. I'm getting more used to it, learning it and it's not so painful. I still have plenty of time to return it on the off chance I decide it's not for me, but right now i feel I'll end up keeping it, besides i still think it's probably the best option for my needs within my $1k budget.
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  5. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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    singaiya,

    I took a look at the Block Diagram on page 160 of the OM, and see that there are two stereo buses: Main Mix L/R; and PFL/AFL L/R.

    (What does PFL/AFL stand for? I haven't a clue, and TASCAM saw fit to not even give a hint! Perhaps it stands for PreFaderLevel and AfterFaderLevel, but who knows.)

    Tracing these stereo buses, I see both the Main Mix L/R stereo bus and the PFL/AFL L/R stereo bus feed the Control Room monitor system L/R Out (speakers and headphones).

    Tracing Channel signal flow, I see the Channel signal feeds both the Main Mix L/R stereo bus and the PFL/AFL L/R stereo bus (switch and knob selectable).
    Depending on how various Channel switches and knobs are set, signals on the MAIN MIX L/R bus and PFL/AFL L/R bus can be monitored using the Control Room monitor system L/R.​

    The Channel MAIN switch (1-12, 13/14-19/20, 21/22) turned on (pushed in) sends the Channel signal to the MAIN MIX L/R bus and thence to the Control Room monitor system. The Channel fader controls the sent Channel signal level.

    The Channel PFL switch (1-12, 13/14-19/20, 21/22) turned on (pushed in) sends the Channel signal to the PFL/AFL L/R bus as 2-channel mono and thence to the Control Room monitor system. It appears from the Block Diagram that the Channel fader does not control the sent signal level. It appears from the Block Diagram that the combined Channel signals are controlled by the PFL/AFL Master Knob.​

    Tracing the mono Monitor 1 & 2 buses, I see that these loop around after the individual master mono faders of the mono Monitor 1 & 2 buses and go into the PFL/AFL L/R stereo bus and thence to the Control Room Control Room monitor system.
    MON 1/MON 2 knobs (1-12, 13/14-19/20, 21/22) are used to adjust the signal levels sent to the Monitor 1 & 2 jacks out.

    When the AFL switches on the Monitor 1 & Monitor 2 master faders are turned on (pushed in), the combined signals at the Monitor 1 jack and the combined signals at the Monitor 2 jack are sent to the PFL/AFL L/R bus, and thence to the Control Room monitor system.​


    Since I don't have a Model 24, I can't help beyond that, but do hope it points you in the right direction so you can monitor the way you need to.

    ABOVE EDITED AT 3:00 PM June 9:
    After studying the Block Diagram and OM more closely, as best I could decipher it
    .:confused:
    This OM is next to useless.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
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  6. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    Mark, thanks for deciphering all that from the block diagram! After work today I'll try some more. I didn't think to try the Control Room section in relation to the headphones. I know PFL/AFL means "pre fader listen" and "after fader listen". The PFL buttons on each channel allow you to hear the channel at full volume, and I don't think there are AFL buttons on each channel.
    Mark Richards likes this.
  7. Arjan P

    Arjan P Well-Known Member

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    @singaiya The PFL button on each channel is a toggle switch, right? I would think NOT activating it means you are AFL, and activating it gives you PFL..?
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  8. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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    Arjan, I thought the same at first; it had me scratching my head. But the block diagram shows the circuit takes the signal before the channel fader. The PFL button, when off (unlit) cuts the signal to the PFL/AFL L/R stereo bus.

    I can't see any practical studio use for this 2-channel mono signal other than maybe evaluating how the incoming "live", PC, or MTR signal sounds (distorted, etc.), since the PFL/AFL L/R stereo bus signal can only go to the Control Room bus (speakers and Headphone).

    Edit:
    This Youtube video explains how it's supposed to work (starting at 8:11 minutes in). Like I thought - a head scratcher.;)
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
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  9. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    So this series is even stranger than I thought. By now it should be clear that the target market is live mixing and recording with no overdubs and a nonstandard track count of 22.
  10. Arjan P

    Arjan P Well-Known Member

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    Mm Interesting. The way it is shown in the youtube video indeed shows the typical use of PFL for live mixing - but not quite the same it seems..
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  11. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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    Found this TASCAM tutorial on monitoring with headphones:


    Sweetwater has a very informative video on real-world application of the Model 24
    (starts at about 1:25 minutes in):
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2020
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  12. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    @Mark Richards Thank you for the recent post. Somehow I'd missed that one, and the first video (by Tascam) had the right procedure for headphones. Now I can use the faders for levels while overdubbing with headphones. I could have sworn I'd had everything set that way before, but I guess I didn't. Anyway, that's one less thing for me to gripe about.

    In other updates, metering: I found out that the horizontal line on the display is in fact -12dbFS. In Logic I generated 1 kHz sine wavs at -12db, -15db, and -18db, and imported the wavs to tracks 1-3 in a song in order to see where the meters show. -12db is exactly on the horizontal line (track 1). Unfortunately there's barely any visual difference with -15db (track 2) and a couple segments difference for -18db (track 3). I took a picture but it seems I can't upload it here.

    The other thing I'm not Shure :) about is if the preamps will be enough to drive a Shure SM57. I recorded both my wife and I singing different takes of a song, and in both cases I had to have the preamp to max gain and still barely got signal. My wife peaked at -20db, I peaked at -30.7db. I'll need to try this test again, but something is way wrong with that picture.
  13. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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  14. singaiya

    singaiya New Member

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    That is a great review, I agreed 100% with his assessment.
  15. Tyrine Haywood

    Tyrine Haywood New Member

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    I have the model 16. The manual is definitely bare minimum, so I been winging it, finding youtube videos and forums such as this that helps with issues. Most of my issues were from a lack of experience with this type of equipment. I came from PC recording. I got this to get away from the issues of recording on a computer. It is nice that this allows you to do mostly everything without having to use a PC, but still giving the option to interface with your PC. Its the best of both worlds.
    I first had a problem with the SD cards that were accepted. I attempted to format two 32 GB SDHC cards that both failed. It seemed to have ruined my cards because they would not work on my PC any longer! But, I found an old 8GB card that I was able to format and it worked perfectly. However, the recording process was a pain. It took forever to process my takes! Every time I pressed stop, it would take like 5 minutes to process. Every time I pressed undo to erase the last recording, that took 5 minutes. After recording several songs on the card, it only used up about 4 gigs. That was cool.
    I then started getting error messages that my recordings wasn't processing anymore, until it gave the final message that my card could not accept any more recordings. I had read in the manual that you could re-format the card to refresh it and then start recording on it again, but I wanted to try a larger card once more. I was very skeptical, as it ruined my 32 GB cards, so I didnt want to spend alot of moeny on a card. Plus, I now know that it will only accept certain types at certain sizes.
    I ended up ordering this card from Amazon:

    SanDisk 128GB Extreme SDXC
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H48412Q/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I've only done a couple of recordings, but it works out great! I have now learned that the reason it was taking so long to process my recordings was because the write speed on my 8GB card was very slow. This new card now processes my recordings very fast!

    Having this unit is a learning experience. But I really enjoy it and I am taking the journey as I go!
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  16. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Hello @Tyrine Haywood and welcome to the Tascam Forums.

    There isn't much information on the Model 16. I added the few videos available from Tascam USA but there aren't many. If you have any suggestions for good videos to add to the list, please reply and post the links. Thanks.

    SD cards are right up there with firmware as one of the most important considerations for these digital recorders. Always used an approved SD card, and always keep your equipment up to date with the latest firmware.

    These "Model" units are new, so new users are discovering the issues that the Portastudio users went through 10 years ago. You cannot scrimp on the SD cards.

    I know you're getting good results with the card you linked to. But I will tell you from personal experience that the Extreme series has failed for all of the Portastudio users who bought them. None of those are on the Tascam approved list for the DP machines. The Extreme Pro series has been proven over time to be very reliable and the Extreme Pro series cards are on the Tascam approved list for the DP machines. In my own DP-32 I was going alone fine with the same card you had (32GB version) and suddenly I hit a wall and it was over with a crash. The problem is, there is no warning. Suddenly you will experience write errors and the system may just stop working. I highly recommend the Extreme Pro series. They routinely stand up to anything I can throw at it.

    Search the Portastudio forum and you'll find volumes written about SD cards, such as this thread:

    https://www.tascamforums.com/threads/dp-24sd-write-error-bad-card.7597/#post-36043
  17. Allan moonman

    Allan moonman New Member

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    the unit was indeed made with live sound and recording in mind. It functions like a basic reel to reel recorder. I have used it as a live recorder for band practice in a very small room with a very loud band it did a great job considering where we recorded. Ive also used at home for doing demos. recording drums then bass guitar,guitar and keys n vox. its very simple to use and get great sounds out of even when i havnt spent time checking sounds. I to have found that a dynamic mic the pre amp needs to be maxed out to get decent gain,but stil works well and without noise, i use a little mic pre amp to get a bit more gain or run it through my old roland 1880 for a boost.
    ive had no problem with sd cards and have used 3 different ones ,none of the recomended ones.
    im basicly using it as a tracking dsevice then put the card in to my laptop to manipulate it( or in most cases get my computer savy friends to do it.
    personaly i love the machine. i particularly like its very basic nature i really like the eq section in the chanel strips it is again very simple but it works very well.
    I could see how its limitations would frustrate anyone who is used to the huge variety of choices that nearly all other devices have but i can get home flick it on plug in and be recording with in a minute,i keep my kit miced up and plugged to the desk i have an amp plugged in at all times so i can switch between instruments with out much messing around.
    So for me its a great tool all this straight out of the box ,ive not updated firmware or even really tried to connect it with my computer via usb and as such have had no problems.
    All i can say about the manual is that it came with one,. I learned all my mixing on a board almost exactly the same as this way back last century so im very at home with desk.
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