Finally, someone has introduced an affordable DAW controller that has enough faders and virtual input strips that it can handle a typical record/mixdown session and feel like a real mixing console-without lots of bank switching.
The TASCAM US-2400 controller is a USB device that sports 24 long-throw, touch-sensitive, moving channel faders and a master output fader in a single package that measures at about 36'' x 16'' x 3''. Each fader channel includes dedicated select, solo and mute buttons, along with a rotary encoder control that can be switched to control panning, EQ, and up to eight aux sends. The right- hand side of the US-2400 houses the master output fader, along with a master select button, a button that clears all selected solos, and a fader flip button that lets you swap all fader and rotary encoder functions. The transport section offers up a solid set of transport buttons, one of the best jog wheels in the biz, and a surround joystick that's currently only supported by Pro Tools TDM systems. Buttons for entering into the scrub mode, bank selection (in eight banks of 24-that's a total of 192 tracks, folks!), and IN/OUT marker location buttons are also included. A section has also been included that dictates how the individual LED rotary controls will function. For example, in Channel Mode, most of the 24 rotary controls deliver readout and control over all parametric EQ and up to eight aux send settings for the selected channel. (Gone is the need to sift through menu pages-all the settings are there in front of you.) Pan mode simply turns each of the 24 rotary controls into a stereo pan pot. The six Master Aux buttons can assign all 24 controls to vary aux send levels 1 through 6. An F-key button can be used to assign the aux select buttons to control user-definable functions within the DAW program or to arm tracks for recording (by pressing the F-Key and desired channel select). Lastly, a Meter button is included that turns all 24 LED encoders into a level readout for all off the channel tracks in the selected bank; I call this one "Christmas Tree Mode."
You might have noticed that there's been no mention of any audio I/O ports. That's because there aren't any! TASCAM decided to keep the price down by rightly assuming that you probably already have an audio interface that you're perfectly happy with... and you don't need another. The US-2400 does, however, throw in a MIDI controller function that can be used to vary the parameters on a MIDI-equipped effects device or electronic instrument by assigning the individual faders to a particular edit function.
Although the US-2400 works with most DAW programs (such as Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Cubase, Nuendo, and Digital Performer), it should be known that certain functions might not work in all host DAWs-or they might work differently. This doesn't reflect badly on the US-2400. In fact, it's a common nuisance to many controllers. It simply means that your particular DAW's software can't access certain functions or that a native driver hasn't been written yet. For example, Steinberg's Nuendo and Cubase must be used in Mackie Control emulation mode. This unfortunately means that the channel EQ and aux controls won't work. Not to fear, however, native drivers are being written as we speak and should be available in the near future. All I'm saying here is that you should check the website, download the PDF manual and/or call TASCAM to see how well your current DAW is supported.
My two cents... I was amazed to find that the USB drivers are actually built into the US-2400! You simply plug it in, sit back, and watch the install process happen. Once I found the right addendum to the manual, installing the US-2400 into Nuendo was simple and flawless. The ability to have 24 faders in front of you at an instant glance is a true and powerful joy. Although there's no track name display (TASCAM's currently working on a virtual, on-screen readout app), I didn't really have much trouble in locating a particular channel. On the motorized front, the 100 mm faders are far quieter than those on my Mackie Control (a good thing since there are 25 of them), and I found them to be quite responsive to fast moves.
Finally, I really have to agree with TASCAM when they say, "Now you can use your mouse for what it's good at and use a control surface for what it's good at: hands-on mixing with lots of real faders, knobs & buttons." In truth, a controller can't really replace a mouse-but when the two complement each other... OOO LA LA! ($1999 MSRP; www.tascam.com)