My first impression of the TASCAM Model 24 was of the classic design. From the red, blue, and orange Gain, EQ, and Aux knobs, to the faux wood sides, this is a classy-looking piece of gear. It wouldn’t look out of place among the classic cassette multitrack recorders that TASCAM was famous for. The line of succession from the late ‘70s TEAC 144, the first cassette 4-track ever released, to the present day Model 24 is now complete. It’s beautifully retro, while providing all the comforts of a modern 24-track digital audio workstation. This is a piece of gear that can fit into a wide variety of recording situations. Let’s dive in!
The Model 24 is primarily a great sounding analog mixer with the convenience of an all-in-one digital multitrack track recorder (via built-in SD card) that also functions as an interface by pairing easily with your DAW. The channel strips are analog, but with both USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in digital effects (like reverb, delay, chorus, and flange) it offers the best of both worlds. Using the SD card (not included) you can record up to 22 tracks simultaneously, plus a stereo mix down track (in 16/24 bit, 44.1/48 kHz, WAV format), and/or hook it up to a computer through the USB 2.0 port. I found that for my situation, someone who normally records track-by-track, connecting it to my DAW via USB was both intuitive and complimentary. With four stereo and 12 mono channels, the Model 24 is perfect for those looking to either put together a live rig or introduce an analog desk/multitrack into their home studio (at 22 lbs. it can easily be moved to accommodate both situations). All 16 mic preamps have 50 dB of gain and feature 48V (global only) phantom power. The 12 mono channels have an analog one-knob compressor and 4-band EQ, a 100 Hz high pass filter, a Pan control, and Aux sends for effects and monitor buses. Channels 1 and 2 have the most features, with additional dedicated instrument and 1/4-inch TRS inputs. The four stereo channels (13-20) differ in that they’re without compressors and equipped with 3-band EQs. Channels 21 and 22 offer a stereo input with both RCA and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. And lastly, every channel offers PFL, and can be routed to the main Mix bus or a single stereo Sub mix bus. At first, I didn’t really see why I would need the Bluetooth connection, but I soon discovered that it gave me the freedom to easily record tracks such as software drumbeats from my iPad to the Model 24 quickly – with the added convenience of having one less cord hanging around. Each channel can be set to one of three input sources: Live for signals coming from a mic or line source; USB for sources coming from your computer; and MTR (monitor) for when you want to playback sounds previously recorded to the SD card. All the inputs and outputs are located on the face above each channel strip, making them super easy to access.
During my first recording session, which featured a vocalist, acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizer, bass, and the aforementioned Bluetooth-connected drum machine, I decided to use nothing but the onboard effects, EQ, and compression that the Model 24 offers while both tracking and mixing. I recorded straight to SD card, and then sent the finished session via stereo outs to both analog tape and Logic Pro [Tape Op #74]. I wanted a piece of music that represented what the Model 24 could do with no outside influence, and at the end of the day I was really impressed by the results. The finished product was sharp, focused, and musical – all without the help of a DAW – and the finished track had a rawer feel to, it which I felt complimented the overall sound. This process doesn’t work for everything, but it definitely inspired my workflow and was super enjoyable. The included digital effects are adequate for most situations and will sound great when applied in a live setting (which I feel is really where they shine). I found the reverbs to be especially pleasing when used in moderation. My main concern was the one-knob compression, and how it would perform to suit certain sounds that I was going after while not having attack or release controls. I found it to be a very versatile tool that adds a subtle taming of transients in a vocal performance, or a heavy-handed compression style that sounded awesome on synth bass. The compression is represented via green LED lights, and may take some testing in order to get a feel for it, but once I got accustomed to the character I felt confident to let my ears decide how much was required. It was refreshing to be able to grab real control knobs instead of having to use plug-ins. At the end of the session I made great use of the stereo seven-band graphic EQ on the main hardware output, and had a complete mixed track in just 20 minutes. This EQ can also be assigned to the monitor outputs as well, so along with the ability to use it as a mixing board during a live show while simultaneously recording the tracks to SD card, it makes Model 24 a handy live tool.
Lastly, I wanted to see how the Model 24 performed as an analog summing mixer. I took a previously-recorded track done totally in the box and, using only a low pass filter, ran the mix through the Model 24, then back into Logic. The subtle glue and depth this process added really complemented the mix, and after some A/B comparisons I preferred the summed version – something I hadn’t often experienced with my current mixer and setup. The build quality of the Model 24 is fantastic (especially the 100 mm faders), and I felt like I was working on a board two times its price.
I make music primarily by myself, while occasionally recording live shows in cramped Brooklyn clubs, and this is a desk more than suited to any project that might come my way. I feel the Model 24 is perfect for those looking to own a vintage-inspired mixer/recorder without having to apply for a loan. I’d say TASCAM has made another future classic!