Connect unbalanced synths to Tascam 16x08 XLR inputs: bad idea?

Discussion in 'USB PC Audio Interfaces and Control Surfaces' started by Edu_82, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Edu_82

    Edu_82 New Member

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    Hi, I just bought the Tascam 16x08 because I need an interface with many inputs to record all of my synths. My question is: as long as the cables are well routed from Unbalanced TS to XLR and Phantom power is OFF, will the Tascam 16x08 be able to handle the input signal from my synths on the XLR inputs or is it somehow risky?

    If I keep the interface or if I return it depends on this, as I will also have to spend money in cables.0

    Thanks in advance!!

    The cables I will use:
    TS TOP ---> XLR pin 3
    TS SHIELD ---> XLR pin 2 & 1
  2. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah it's a bad idea. That's why there are balanced line inputs on the back.
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  3. Edu_82

    Edu_82 New Member

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    Hi -mjk- thanks for your reply. Ok, many people are telling me the same, although I don't quite understand why and would like to know better... if you can tell me why or give me some hint so I can search over the internet I'll apretiate it very much.

    Anyway, I'm returning the interface and start searching for another AI that maybe more appropiate for recording synths...

    Thanks again!
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  4. Mark Ginn

    Mark Ginn New Member

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    I had to do that with mine. I just bought a direct box ($30) which took the 1/4" plug from keys & provided an XLR output to 16x08.
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  5. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Microphone inputs are for, microphones. Those synths are line level instruments and need to go to line level inputs.

    Returning the interface will not change the fact that you need line inputs for line level instruments.
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  6. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, all you had to do was look at the back of the unit where you'll find a row of line level inputs for free.

    That is, unless I'm missing something. This is the unit you're referring to?:

    us-16x08_p_front_back.jpg (1176×367) (gearank.com)

    It has 8 mic inputs and 8 line inputs.
  7. Edu_82

    Edu_82 New Member

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    Hi, but what if I want to have pre-amplified inputs for my instruments? For example, my old Lexicon I-ONIX U42S has 4 inputs where I can connect XLR, TRS or TS. I can also push a button and user inputs 1 & 2 / 3 & 4 pairs as "stereo". That gives me what I believe are amplified inputs to be used with instruments and I have used those to record/play my synths for a couple of years with no problem at all.

    I think the XLR inputs on the 16x08 are only made for microphones and not for instruments (if you dont use a DI box).

    If I return it and get something different, maybe a 20x20 or some other brand... it's a pitty because I like the sound quality of the Tascam...
  8. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    I posted a link to a photo which is of a Tascam US-16x08.

    If this is the model you have: Turn the unit around and look at the back.
  9. cripple9

    cripple9 New Member

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    The inputs can be linked to stereo pairs in the TASCAM US-16x08 Settings Panel software:

    Stereo Link.png

    The XLR inputs are BALANCED Mic inputs only.

    The front Ch. 9/10 inputs are line level inputs if the "LINE/INST" switch is set to "LINE", & I believe those levels can be changed with the Ch. 9/10 gain knobs, but there's no input gain adjustment available for the Ch. 11-16 LINE INs on the back panel.

    Note:
    -The Ch. 9/10 inputs are BALANCED when the "LINE/INST" switch is set to "LINE", and UNBALANCED when set to "INST".

    -The Ch. 11/16 inputs on the back panel are BALANCED when the "LEVEL" switch is set to "+4dBu", and UNBALANCED when set to "-10dBV".


    Input Specs.png
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  10. cripple9

    cripple9 New Member

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    "The cables I will use:
    TS TOP ---> XLR pin 3
    TS SHIELD ---> XLR pin 2 & 1"

    Both the I-ONIX U42S and the US-16x08 say the XLR's are HOT (Tip) on pin 2...

    U42S - Pin 2 Hot.png
    ___________________________________________________
    16x08 - Pin 2 Hot.png
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  11. Arjan P

    Arjan P Veteran

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    Yes, Pin 1 = Gnd, Pin 2 = Hot (+), Pin 3 = Cold (-).
    It's the standard, not only for Tascam.
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  12. Edu_82

    Edu_82 New Member

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    Yes, it was a mistake by me when I typed... the routing you mention is correct and the cables are working just fine.

    Thanks for the responses, I decided I will return the 16x08 and get something more suited for my stuff (mostly synths and drum-machines).

    Can I ask what is your opinion about the comparison between the pres and dacs that come with this Tascam series of interfaces and the ones in the Behringer UMC 1820?
    Do you know if Tascam has any alternative with 8 pre-amplified inputs that may suite better for synths/drum-machines?

    Thanks again
  13. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Why do your synths and drum machines need preamps? Aren't they line level instruments?
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  14. cripple9

    cripple9 New Member

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    Tascam's Celesonic US-20x20's combo jacks use the Ultra-HDDA micpres with all eight XLR/TRS combo jacks and the gain knobs will adjust the levels. Only Ch's 1-2 & 9-10 offer UNBALANCED connections, but none through XLR. I'm pretty sure if you use an XLR, it's gonna expect a BALANCED connection. Mic, line, and instrument connections all use different impedance as well. I'd imagine that would be the case with most, if not all interfaces.

    As for the UMC1820, I've never used one of those specifically, but I've used other stuff with their MIDAS preamps. They aren't terrible, but the Ultra-HDDA's are MUCH better IMO. The UMC1820 does have UNBALANCED INST-level connections via the combo jacks, but the specs don't tell you anything about how they're wired between the different connection types. Poor spec documentation is a big red flag for me, just sayin'.

    You should definitely make sure whether or not your synths, etc. are actually line-level or if they're balanced or unbalanced. If not, you could have some damaged gear. I'd rather connect with different cables than have to buy all new instruments/interface/PC if something goes wrong. I'd ask Tascam directly first (or whatever manufacturer you go with).
  15. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Not to mention the fact that, if you use an XLR connector with Pin 3 tied to ground, all you have to do is fat-finger the phantom power button and you'll likely release smoke from whatever is plugged into that XLR jack in an unbalanced configuration, and possibly the interface too. This is not going to end well. No one's listening, so I'm outta here.

    Edit: Does phantom power affect TRS connections? | TASCAM Forums
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  16. cripple9

    cripple9 New Member

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    Who in the world is drawing these diagrams?

    !6x08 Block.png
    _____________________________________
    20x20 Block.png
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  17. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Yup. That was pointed out in the other thread. If that bottom situation is real, it could be problematic.
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  18. Edu_82

    Edu_82 New Member

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    MJK: don't worry, as I already told, the cables are well routed I just made a mistake while typing... and yes, those are line-level instruments but I like to those using pre-amp. I always did it that way with my Lexicon U42S which has pre-amplified line/mic inputs... never had a problem, never broke the interface, the inputs are still silent and many people does the same to get the color from the pre-amps... so why are you so worried about doing this? I mean, this should be pretty normal, if I could I would go and get valve pre-amp but I cannot afford it so I want an AI with nice pre-amps I can use in my recordings... Oh, and nothing is going to go wrong, my only doubt was with the 16x08 XLR mic inputs: ¿is it ok to record a synth with a TS-toXLR cable? No, it is a bad idea, and I won't do it...

    If an audio interface has pre-amplified inputs with multi XLR/JACK connectors (like the Lexicon U42S I been using to record synths the last 3 years) I GUESS the only way you can record a synth is using those... the other option on that interface is using the instrument input and that is abviously a bad idea...

    BTW I now compared the recordings using the Tascam input 9-10 (Jack, pre-amped) and my Lexicon and you knwo what? The HDDAA SUPER special "bla bla bala" pre-amps sound like... like too much marketing... I'm sure they sound better than the "MIDAS" copy in the Behringer, but still can't even compare to the DBX on my Lexicon... so, I'm not going to buy any Tascam AI nor Behringer nor Presonus nor anything... I will save the money and get a used Motu or an U82S if I can find one...

    Thanks for all the information, orientation and the help!

    All the best
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021
  19. cripple9

    cripple9 New Member

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    I've never used anything from Lexicon, so I can't comment on their preamps. I prefer the Tascam's pres because they have a cleaner signal. I like as little "color" going in as possible, so I have more versatility later in the mixing stage. It's a bit ridiculous for you to say, "it's a pitty because I like the sound quality of the Tascam..." in one comment, and then, "The HDDAA SUPER special "bla bla bala" pre-amps sound like... like too much marketing..." in another comment. I wasn't talking down to you. You asked for an opinion, and I gave you one.


    There's nothing wrong with using a preamp on a synth if that's the sound you're going for, I've just never heard of using an unbalanced TS cable from a line-level synth out to a balanced input. I'd be afraid of frying something if it was me. If you know for sure you won't have any problems, then so be it. It just seems odd for you to even post all of this in the first place if you're already convinced you're right.

    Seriously though, good luck finding what you're looking for & happy recording...
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  20. Phil Tipping

    Phil Tipping Moderator Staff Member

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    That may be the case, but if you read the U42S manual, you'll see it's still not advisable to connect line-level gear to XLR mic inputs. Here's what it says:

    Connecting the I•ONIX U42S
    Microphones
    Plug an XLR cable directly from a microphone into the desired Mic/Inst input on the U42S rear panel.

    Line Level Sources
    Line level sources include keyboards, drum machines, CD players, and external microphone preamps and effects. Plug a 1/4" TS (unbalanced) or TRS (balanced) cable directly from the line level source into the desired Mic/Inst input on the U42S rear panel.

    Specifications
    Microphone Inputs: Female XLR Pin 2 Hot
    Input Impedance: 3kΩ balanced

    Line Inputs: 1/4” TRS balanced or unbalanced
    Input Impedance: 20kΩ balanced, 13kΩ unbalanced

    I would bet the majority of any other interfaces you find will have XLR sockets for mic-level signals, and 1/4" jack sockets (either balanced or unbalanced) for line-level signals. It's usually ok to plug an unbalanced TS output plug into a balanced TRS input socket - some inputs compensate automatically as they detect the fact that the Ring is shorted to Screen, or there may be a switch as with the Tascam 16x08, but at worst you'll just lose some signal level. If your synths have unbalanced 1/4" outputs, I would use a TS-TS cable.
    Don't get confused with 1/4" 'instrument' sockets. The term can be confusing as it doesn't really mean any instrument, e.g. as in a synth. It really means it's a special high-impedance (or Hi-Z) input to match the outputs from sources such as an electric guitar coil pickup or a piezo-electric pickup.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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