Tascam US-144mkII Hand on Review

Tascam US-144mkII | Ross P.

Tascam’s US-144mkII is a 4-channel USB audio interface designed to be used with your home studio or project studio setup.  It’s a compact, bus-powered DAW, very sleek and highly portable.  The first thing I noticed about the US-144mkII is its design.  For portability purposes, I like the fact that the knobs are wide and short, which keeps them from being damaged or coming off during transport. It’s well-made, very sturdy and light-weight.

As far as features go, the US-144mkII has both Mac- and Windows-compatible drivers using USB 2.0. It offers 4 inputs and outputs recording at up to 96khz/24-bit CD quality audio.  It has two phantom-powered XLR microphone preamps for use with condenser microphones, a switchable instrument-level input for direct recording of guitar or bass, 2 line inputs, 2 S/PDIF digital inputs and outputs, 1 ¼-inch front panel headphone output, and MIDI I/O for connecting synths, drum machines and other MIDI instruments.  The headphone out is separate from the line out so you can connect the US-144mkII to both monitor and headphones without having to disconnect one to use the other.

The US-144mkII has zero-latency hardware monitoring and comes with Steinberg’s Cubase LE 4 full-featured recording software, which records up to 48 tracks of audio in addition to the 64 MIDI tracks available for use. Cubase LE4 has plenty of recording and editing tools available and works with VST effect and instrument plug-ins.

 Tascam US-144mkII Front

Tascam US-144mkII front

 Tascam US-144mkII Front

Tascam US-144mkII back

 

I’ve read the complaints about US-144mkII’s tendency to crash and thought I’d try the system out anyway.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great experience with the US-144mkII.  It crashed on my G4, it crashed on my newer Gateway PC.  It crashed.  I had glitches, system freezes, sound drop-outs.  No blue screen, but I did get to the point where I didn’t want to do anything substantial for fear that I may lose my work as I’m saving. Compulsive saving is no way to be inspired.

My Mac is older, but the US-144mkII actually worked better with my Mac than my newer PC (running Windows 7), but it still crashed my Mac several times and my Mac rarely crashes.  Admittedly, it may be a situation where my computer just isn’t cool enough for this particular DAW. And I’m always leery of new Windows systems that come out before other programs have had the chance to update their software for use with Windows Vista, XP, 7 or whatever they dream up over at Microsoft.  Still, what’s the point of having a trusty piece of equipment if you can’t trust it?

My experience wasn’t as critical as some of the other reviews I’ve seen and they’re right  – the sound quality is pretty good.  But an interface that consistently freezes my system or conflicts with other programs is like any other bad piece of software – fit to be uninstalled and discarded.  If you think you’ll have better luck than I did, try your luck.  For now, I’ll stick with Tascam’s DP-03.  That baby’s pretty slick.Tascam US-144mkII top

 

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