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Audio Interface Review

February 21, 2012

I used to own a Fostex MR-8 and liked it. I used to record audio right out of a mixing console as well as connect a microphone to it to record weddings, interviews and announcements. It was a good tool for the field though it ate AA batteries at a high rate. I ended up getting rid of it for 2 reasons: It could only use specific Compact Flash cards (and only cards with a 2GB limit), it had a file limit size that made forced me to change files ( a cumbersome process) mid ceremony or service, while you could label on the MR-8 that label would apply to the folder and not file name, and, lastly, the device was slow. And for those reasons I had to let it go on eBay (for a good price, of course). So I bought a Zoom H1.

The Zoom H1 is a wonderful recorder that is very compact (pocket sized) has wonderful microphone that can pick up sound from across a room (maybe not a cathedral sized room but a good sized room), it uses SD cards up to 16GB, can record as Wav or MP3, and was cheaper than the money I got for the MR-8. Alas there was on problem; the reason most people buy the Zoom H4 as opposed to the H2 and H1 is because of the XLR connections! Yes, I love my H1 but now I need different connectors/converters to attach to a mixing console and we all know multiple converters is not good for your audio signal. So need something to add to my arsenal and I ended up finding the right interface for my needs: the Tascam US-122MKII.

The US-122MKII fit my needs perfectly because it was inexpensive, had XLR and 1/4 inputs , USB output (direct connection to computer) and was bus powered. So I bought it and set it up for it’s first recording to put it through its paces. (Note: thought the US-144MKII is only a few dollars more I didn’t need the S/PDIF I/O so I passed).

The US-122MKII came with the USB drivers on a CD which needed to be installed prior to connecting to my computer. I had to download a 64 bit version to work with Windows 7 x64 and they installed without a problem and allowed me to connect the audio interface without any issue.

I connected regular cardiod mic to the XLR input, fired up Sony Sound Forge. Sound Forge recognized the device as a audio input and I proceeded to record a few paragraphs from a book. Flawless. I connected a tape recorder (yes, those are still available) to the US-122 using 1/8 to 1/4 mono cable and recorded some old tapes I had. I was able to use the POTS on the US-122 to adjust input volume and ensure I had no clipping as I played with the volume on the tape player. I wish these devices came with a simple compressor but I only paid $100 so I shouldn’t expect $200 worth of controls.

Since it worked fine on my desktop I brought out the laptop where I expected it would see most of it’s duties and I recreated the previous tests without issue. The disk I/O of modern laptops no longer get saturated when recording audio over USB; those days appear to be long gone and good riddance.

I haven’t used MIDI in years so I had no need to test the MIDI I/O if the US-122 but I was able to take the device to my church and record by 1/4 and XLR from the FOH (front of house) console with great results.

My biggest gripe is that there is not an XLR output from the US-122. It has RCA outs which are the bottom rung of the audio world. I can use that output to send back to a mixer (why), send audio to a tape recorder (yes, they do still exist), or CD recorder (for backup purposes, I suppose). It would have been nice for an XLR out though it has a single 1/4 headphone output with control that could be used for headphone monitoring or connecting to an additional device.

I am pleased with my purchase which saves me a step in my workflow; having to download audio from my device. With this interface I can more quickly have my audio files ready for editing or uploading and is a wonderful addition my travel gear.

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