Although all manufacturers of hardware workstations have done marvelous jobs at simplifying operations, Tascam’s long-term experience in the pro and home-studio markets gives the company an edge at delivering high-level features that are butt simple to use. For example, the 2488 includes some pro-mixer goodies like a monitor section with speaker mute (very cool), mute/solo buttons on each channel, and dedicated editing buttons. Everything works like a dream—no programming glitches, hard-disk crashes, or other anomalies were noted. The onboard effects won’t cause your jaw to drop, but they’re serviceable, and you get a fair range of parameter control. (The guitar-oriented effects are mostly standard numbers—such as chorus and tremolo—paired with either distortion or compression.) Guitarists will dig the onboard tuner and front-panel guitar input, but no one will have much fun reading the small LCD screen. One could also quibble about the flimsy faders and the four XLR inputs (which limit miking strategies when tracking multiple performers), but these are minor concerns that will not compromise your ability to record amazing tracks. The 2488 is brilliantly configured, it sounds fabulous, and it kicks down some pro-styled features (check out the de-esser, which will save vocal tracks from those annoying “ssss” sounds). And if you’re new to the home-studio crew, check out the fabulous DVD tutorial for the 2488 at tascam.com that also includes basic recording tips.
If you desire an integrated setup that doesn’t devour desk space, partner Tascam’s VL-S21 speakers ($129 retail/$99 street) with the 2488. The wafer-thin satellites nibble just 2w" x 5w" of real estate, and the compact subwoofer fits unobtrusively under your desk. While you can’t crank up these 25-watt sprites to Metallica volume levels, the output is perfectly adequate for desktop monitoring. The VL-S21s aren’t really studio monitors, but they aren’t toys or hyped-up computer speakers, either. The sub pumps out deliciously warm and tight bass frequencies, and the satellites deliver articulate and dimensional mids and highs. Taking care to reference my 2488 mixes with commercial CDs, I was able to produce CD masters using the VL-S21s that translated reasonably well to my home stereo, pro studio, and auto systems. This is a pretty hot setup for $99!