Tascam Trackpack 2×2 Bundle Review – Home Studio in a Box

The world of audio recording might seem like a daunting place to the uninitiated but that might be because there are so many options available and so many outcomes. I’ve often been told that sound recording is an art but with all art forms, there are so many mediums that you have to try them all to know what you like best. Tascam have created their own beginners’ bundle which contains everything you need to begin recording great sound and hopefully help demystify the art of recording for those of us who just want to get on with it.

As a voice artist, I’m no stranger to self recording in a padded cupboard in my tiny flat and as a result I’m used to getting questions about how others can begin recording themselves but when you start to give them advice their heads start swimming with more good advice they got from someone else but sound experts Tascam have released a studio in a box especially for those beginners who are serious about starting off recording. The Tascam Trackpack 2×2 is billed as “A complete recording bundle” and I was lucky enough to try it out for a review.

In the box comes the Tascam 2×2, a Tascam TM-80 Condenser Microphone, a pair of TH-02 headphones, all the cables you need to connect them all up and also Cakewalk SONAR X3 LE and Ableton Live Lite 9 DAW software. With all that in the box you could imagine that’s it’s a pretty impressive sized box. Well you don’t need to imagine, here’s a picture.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle 1

Don’t worry about the gargantuan size of the box though as most of it is cleverly designed packaging and air so your Trackpack doesn’t suffer any damages in transit. On your desk, the contents of the Trackpack has a tiny footprint and doesn’t take up much space at all.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle 2

Tascam US-2×2 USB Audio Interface

The Tascam 2×2 is a USB interface with 2 in and 2 out connections. It’s bus powered from your Mac or Windows computer and if you wanted to record from your iOS device and you have an A/C power adapter (not included) to supply power. If you’re recording from your computer, you don’t need the adapter. If you’re using an iOS device you’ll need a USB to Apple adaptor, which you might have already.

tascam trackpack trackpad 2x2 1

The US 2×2 Audio interface plugs straight into your USB port via a USB type B to A cable, which is supplied. It’s not very long, so it’s perfect for a desktop set up but if you’re trying to distance yourself from the noise of your machine then you’re relying on the additional length of the microphone’s XLR cable. However this is easily remedied by buying longer cables should you need it. I couldn’t find anywhere in the box to say weather the cables were shielded or not, but if you’re a beginner then you may not notice it until it becomes a problem.

Some people have said they’ve found the Trackpad US 2×2 to be plug-and-play but for me it wasn’t (using Windows 10.1 ) but maybe it was my bad luck. The drivers are on their website and easy to download. Once downloaded and installed it was plain sailing from there.

Plugging everything in was a breeze, if it isn’t obvious then there’s a quick start guide in the box. The interface is fairly intuitive and common sense will help you breeze through your first track without much experience.

It comes bundled with Cakewalk SONAR x3 LE and Ableton Live 9 Lite and I tried it with Reaper and had no issues. It’s also compatible with all the major DAW’s and also simpler recording software like Audacity, so you have options.

tascam trackpack trackpad 2x2 2

At the rear you’ll notice a MIDI in and out so it’s also perfect for the dabbling musician and that’s presumably why it comes with Ableton Live 9 Lite and Cakewalk SONAR x3 LE. For a podcaster or voice recording, these are a little excessive but they’re fun to play around with.

Sound quality

The US 2×2 capable of running 2 tracks at the same time in qualities up to 24-bit/96kHz which is what you’d expect from an interface in this price range. 96kHz is HD audio so depending on if your computer can handle it then you’re looking a serious home studio / semi professional quality.  Even at the lower sample rates, the sound was clear and there was no latency.

Design and build

Tascam is well known in the world of sound and the US 2×2 is only slightly better looking than the majority of their other products, the functional design of an 80’s hi-fi seems to be its key inspiration. Tascam does tend to favour function over aesthetics and they haven’t deviated where the 2×2 is concerned. They have, however, given it a “Bio-Cell side panels” which are strange cell-like frame structures either side which acts to angle the controls into a more user friendly position but also appeals to consumers who don’t want an ugly piece of kit in their homes. The aluminium casing feels really rugged and it feels as though it would easily make journeys to and from your friends houses and whatever recording location you have in mind. Despite its sensible boxy outer shell, the non-prettiness of the US 2×2 makes it feel more professional somehow. 

  • Up to 57dB gain
  • Ultra-HDDA Mic Preamps
  • NE5532 op amps
  • 96kHz/24-bit conversion rate
  • Inputs: XLR or 1/4″ adapter
  • Outputs: Two balanced TRS
  • USB 2.0 connection (plug-and-play as well as powered)
  • Bio-Cell side panels
  • Angled orientation for easy access
  • Volume controls: One for line outputs, separate for headphones
  • TRS headphones output jack
  • All-metal casing
  • 48V phantom power

Tascam TH-02 headphones

The headphones that the Tascam team have chosen to go in the bundle are the Tascam TH-02 headphones. Usually £25, these headphones have become a shoestring budget favourite and are often raved about in the same breath as more expensive headphones.

Weirdly, Tascam describe the design of the TH-02’s as being “modern and stylish” however the 80’s styling seems to be back in a vengeance but it will make you look like you mean business. The huge logo on the headband is a bit unnecessary but once they’re on your head, you’ll forget all about it.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle TH-02 3

The Tascam TH-02’s are circumaural with nice soft plush cushions. I found it difficult to form a good seal with them however, there was a gap at the bottom which can be a plus and a negative. On the one hand they don’t add pressure to your jaw so you don’t hear the creak of the headphones when you’re recording and they’re less likely to fatigue your masseter muscles. On the downside, the isolation will suffer.

The other thing about these headphones is that that seem to have been designed for people with gigantic heads or people wearing really thick hats underneath their headphones despite the generously cushioned headband.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle TH-02 1

The Tascam TH-02’s are made of (fairly durable feeling) plastic and they apparently fold into a compact size but I didn’t want to risk contorting them into a position it might not get out of. Whilst these are perfect for the field, they might not survive long if they’re not handled carefully. The size adjustment feels ratchety but most people will only touch it once and then leave it at that size. It also comes with a generous 3m long cable, which is nice.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle TH-02 2

Apparently these headphones took over a year to research and develop so they might be value for money but they’re not “cheap” and they don’t sound cheap at all, the sound is clear and balanced with a very detailed highs and mid-range and a realistic low end.

  • Foldable design for compact storage and transport
  • Tightly-stitched, padded headband and ear pads for stylish comfort
  • Closed-back dynamic design featuring rich bass response and crisp highs
  • 3.5-mm to 6.3-mm jack adapter
  • Driver diameter: 50 mm
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB ± 3 dB
  • Frequency response: 18 Hz to 22 kHz
  • Maximum input power: 600 mW
  • Cable length: 3 m when fully extended
  • Dimension (W × H × D): 180 mm × 240 mm × 90 mm
  • Weight: 298 g

Tascam TM-80 Microphone

The TM-80 is a condenser microphone which is perfect for recording voices. It comes with a shock mount, a mini tripod and an xlr cable. The mini tripod is next to useless in my opinion, it’s difficult to keep upright and not let the microphone topple over unless you’re using the cable to help it balance, which you really shouldn’t do. It also makes it quite far away if you’re using it on a table top as it’s quite low down. This isn’t a problem however as a proper stand doesn’t cost too much and the included stand won’t stop you from starting recording on day 1.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle TM-80 2

There’s no indicator light to tell you if there’s power going to it or not but you can quickly tell from the led lights on the audio interface and the levels on your recording software so it’s not too much of a problem. The build seems very solid and minimalistic, the no frills functional design is back.

tascam trackpack 2x2 bundle TM-80 1

The self-noise of the Tascam TM-80 isn’t the lowest there is, the website says it’s 17bd which according to rivals Neumann is “good enough for most purposes. You may hear some noise […] but it’s relatively unobtrusive.” The microphone is great for obtaining a natural sounding record in a quiet atmosphere but getting a perfectly clean record would be very difficult. Aside from the self noise, the sound is rich and the internal circuitry is designed to reduce noise distortion. A good microphone to start off with, record natural sound and for podcasting.

  • Microphone capsule assembly features an 18mm pure aluminum diaphragm
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Sensitivity : -38dB +/-2dB (0dB=1V/Pa at 1kHz)
  • Phantom power requirement: 9 – 48V DC
  • Output impedance : 200ohm +/-30% (at 1kHz)
  • Load impedance : >1k ohm
  • Max SPL : 136dB (at 1kHz=1% THD)
  • S/N ratio : 77dB
  • Housing : Die cast zinc
  • Dimensions (W×H×D): 48mm×165mm×48mm / 1.9 inch×6.5 inch×1.9 inch
  • Includes : shockmount, mini desk stand, mic cable (1.8m XLRM – XLRF)

Overall

If you’re thinking of recording audio yourself or podcasting then I assume you have some technical smarts. If that’s you then the Tascam Trackpack US 2×2 is the perfect audio interface from which to start from. Don’t, however, be fooled by it being aimed at a consumer market, although it’s just about simple enough for technically savvy beginners it has more than enough room for you to grow and upgrade your knowledge and set up around. The Tascam Trackpad 2×2 is available at a steal of a price of under £160 via Amazon. Great value for money all you need to begin recording straight out of the box.

 

Editor of Cult Hub and also an Actress. Join Genevieve on Twitter or take a look at her website or imdb page.

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