While reviewing the TASCAM FW-1082, I found myself reminiscing back to the days of the cassette four-track, with which an entire underground network of rebel musicians recorded their own music and traded their art with other musicians. This sort of free-spirited swapping continues today with the help of the FW-1082. The FW-1082 has four mic preamps that sound nearly identical to Mackie or Behringer preamps, eight analog line inputs, stereo digital I/O, and MIDI I/O. It also features eight channel strips, each with a 60 mm fader and switches for solo, mute, select, and record- arm. (The fader is a disappointment because I find 100 mm faders optimal.) The FW-1082 faders are touch sensitive for ease of writing automation, so the unit can function as a universal fader controller. It also features a master fader as well controls for EQ, aux sends, transport, and MIDI; and it has user-assignable keys.

The FW-1082 works seamlessly with Cubase LE and GigaStudio LE, both of which come free with the unit. The FW-1082 also works (to a lesser extent) with other popular programs, such as Pro Tools, Nuendo, Cubase, Sonar, Logic, Digital Performer, and others. I tested this product on Nuendo and was pleased with the interface, even though it would only control the faders and transport.

Controlling the transport functions of the computer with a "remote," rather than pointing and clicking with a mouse, proved to have its own learning curve; but in a few days, I was treating the system like the controller for the Studer 827. Very cool.

With Cubase, the FW-1082 rocks! Recording up to eight analog sources is a breeze as long as they are line inputs. There are only four mic preamps, so everything else has to be line-level. This set-up must be targeted to the self- recorder in the back room who records one track at time. Compared to full-blown Cubase, Cubase LE has a limited number of aux sends (four) and tracks (48), but, hell, you can do some serious damage with that kind of power.

You can control only eight channels at a time with the eight physical faders, but a bank-selector switch makes it easy to navigate multiple fader "layers," and that makes this unit a great portable solution for engineers who want the tactile feel of faders for their DAW's. The FW-1082 is also ideal for home recordists who want physical channel controls for EQ, Pan, and other programmable features. I was intrigued by Channel 8's input, which was labeled Guitar/Line. The manual states that this is normally a line input, but when I plugged an electric guitar and bass into it, I was able to match the impedance for those instruments. Let me tell you-this $h*t works! I was amazed at the sound I got from a '76 Gibson SG with the impedance matched! Super impressive-an inspiration, actually.

The TASCAM FW-1082 really lives up to its target market. It's the all-in-one FireWire audio interface, mixer, and DAW controller. And for less than a cool grand, it's a very good deal. I would recommend this as an introductory purchase to anyone, and the professional engineer may also benefit from this controller for Pro Tools or Nuendo as a portable solution for the die- hard fader-enthusiast. Either way, there's something for everyone in this product. ($999 MSRP; www.tascam.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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