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Thunderbolt™ audio interface
Our take on the Zoom TAC-2 by Crutchfield's David Brown
The need for speed
You might think speed doesn't have much value in music production. But when you're recording with a computer and an interface, data transfer speed is an important consideration. The Zoom TAC-2 relies on a high-speed Thunderbolt connection, found exclusively on Macintosh® computers. This connection ensures minimal latency, so you can add more effects to your recordings without bogging down your computer. This 2-input, 2-output interface lets you turn your simple song ideas into finished masterpieces. Connect it to your computer, open up GarageBand® or your digital audio workstation of choice, and start tracking instruments and vocals in minutes.
The free MixEfx app for Mac offers mixing and effects features like reverb and echo for recording with the TAC-2.
The Thunderbolt edge
For Mac® users, A Thunderbolt interface offers lots of advantages. As its name implies, Thunderbolt offers lightning-quick data transfer that's 20 times faster than a USB 2.0 connection. That means fewer latency problems as you record and monitor with effects. Plus, because Thunderbolt is an asynchronous transfer system, it's not affected by computer timing errors, or jitter. That means your music will sound cleaner and more accurate. Thunderbolt also delivers higher power output than USB, ensuring stable phantom power when you plug a condenser microphone into the TAC-2.
Mic, line, and instrument inputs
Though it weighs less than a pound, the Zoom TAC-2 has all the connections you need to get started making music. There are two combination XLR/TRS inputs — balanced connections for microphones (including condenser mics), keyboards, drum machines, sequencers, or other line-level sources. There's also a high-Z instrument input, so you can plug in a 1/4" cable from an electric guitar or bass. Stereo TRS outputs allow connection to your studio monitors, an amplifier, or even a mixing board at a live venue to use your Mac as an instrument on stage. The 1/4" headphone jack lets you monitor your tracking with your favorite studio headphones.
Free mixing app for Mac
Before you start connecting your guitar or mic to lay down some tracks, download the free Zoom MixEfx app first. It allows you to add effects to your input signals and set mix parameters like stereo pan and gain in an intuitive on-screen interface. Add reverb and echo to add depth and presence to vocals. You can save your parameters as presets for use with future recordings. For monitoring, blend the input and computer-returned signals to handle any latency issues that may arise from piling on effects in your DAW.
Studio-quality digital and analog conversion
The TAC-2 uses sophisticated converters to turn analog input signals into digital bitstreams for your computer. Burr-Brown preamps and analog-to-digital converters offer studio-quality 24-bit recording at sampling rates up to 192kHz. Automatic upsampling is applied to both digital and analog conversion — up to four times the native resolution — to improve fidelity for professional-sounding recordings. This also means you can also use the TAC-2 to enjoy your favorite high-resolution music files on your computer with added depth and detail.
What's in the Box:
- TAC-2 two-channel audio converter
- Thunderbolt cable
- Operations Manual
- 2-input, 2-output computer audio interface
- high-performance Burr-Brown mic preamps with +48V phantom power and up to +60dB of amplification
- free MixEfx app for Mac lets you apply reverb, echo, and low-cut filter effects to input signals for low-latency monitoring
- Thunderbolt connection to your Mac allows for ultra-high-speed data transfer (not compatible with Windows® machines)
- allows you to use your computer as an on-stage instrument when connected to a mixing board
- analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution
- bus-powered, no AC power adapter required
- 2 combination XLR/TRS (1/4") balanced mic/line inputs for use with microphones, keyboards, drum machines and other sources
- 1/4" high-Z instrument input for direct connection of electric guitars and basses
- one pair of 1/4" TRS left/right outputs for connection to powered monitors or a mixing board
- Thunderbolt port for connection to a Mac
- 1/4" headphone jack with dedicated volume control
- oversized control knob adjusts all parameters
- 24-bit digital-to-analog conversion with automatic upsampling up to 192kHz
- high-quality AKM digital-to-analog converters for listening to high-resolution music with your computer
- blend input and computer-returned signals for low-latency monitoring with the free MixEfx app for Mac
- seven-position LED indicators display signal strength for both inputs/outputs
- lightweight, portable design
- Thunderbolt cable included
- computer requirements: Thunderbolt-equipped Macintosh computers running OS X 10.6.8 or later
- 4-3/4"W x 2"H x 5-1/8"D
- weight: 14.8 oz.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
Overview: The Zoom TAC-2 is a compact two-channel audio converter that uses an ultra-high-speed Thunderbolt interface to support recording and playback up to 24-bit/192kHz. The unit has a large control knob on top that lets you adjust the input gain and volume, as well as select which input or output it controls. The 7-segment LED display shows you the input gain, and input/output levels. A free downloadable software application for Mac is available to fully control the product.
Thunderbolt: The TAC-2 features a Thunderbolt connection, which is the latest generation of high-speed interface technology. It is capable of transferring signals at 10 gigabits per second, which is more than twice the speed of USB 3.0 (5 Gbps), 20x faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbps), and 12x faster than FireWire 800 (800 Mbps). At this speed, there is virtually no latency, and is unaffected by computer jitter, so there's no need to connect to an external master clock source. Thunderbolt carries 10 watts/18 volts of power--enough to provide stable phantom power. Thunderbolt interfaces can be found on select Macintosh computers running OS X 10.8.5 or later.
A/D + D/A Conversion: The TAC-2 is equipped with high-end components to perform the audio conversion processes. The high power provided through the Thunderbolt connection allows the use of the Burr Brown PCM4202 analog-to-digital converter and the AKM AK4396 digital-to-analog converter. During the A-to-D and D-to-A conversion, the TAC-2 performs 4 times upsampling for lower aliasing noise and increased clarity and fidelity.
TAC-2 MixEfx: The free TAC-2 MixEfx software is downloadable from the Zoom website. The software lets you fully control the TAC-2 audio converter, allowing you to apply reverb, echo, and other effects, as well as adjust the level and pan parameters of both inputs. You can engage a low-cut filter and phase reverse to each of the inputs independently, plus apply a -6dB or -12dB pad to both input preamps simultaneously. The overall output level and headphone levels can be adjusted. A loopback function lets you blend the input signal and playback signal with zero latency. There are three memory slots that let you save your settings, and recall them at any time. TAC-2 MixEfx is available for Macintosh computers only.
Applications: The TAC-2 features the following inputs and outputs:
- Back Panel:
- Thunderbolt Interface: The Thunderbolt interface carries a digital signal between the TAC-2 and your computer. It also provides power to the TAC-2.
- XLR/TRS Combo Inputs: Two XLR/TRS combo inputs allows you to connect mic- or line-level signals. The unit has Burr Brown mic preamps which provide up to +60dB amplification and +48V phantom power to each of the inputs.
- TRS Outputs: Two 1/4" TRS balanced outputs are provided for connecting the TAC-2 to your monitors.
- Front Panel:
- Headphones: A 1/4" stereo headphone jack is provided for personal monitoring. The headphone level is adjusted using the control knob, or with the software interface.
- Instrument: This Hi-Z (high impedance) unbalanced input provides a direct connection of passive electric guitars and basses using a standard 1/4" guitar cable. This input disables Input 1 (XLR/TRS combo)
Applications: The Zoom TAC-2 can be used in the studio as well as on the road. Typical uses of the TAC-2 include:
- Recording: You can add your own instruments and voice to existing recordings. After connecting microphones or instruments, you can overdub to existing tracks with little or no delay, as you listen to the playback of the original track.
- Editing: With the TAC-2 connected to your computer (via Thunderbolt) and to an audio source, you can add use the editing software to add echo and reverb, and other effects to your recordings. You can monitor the audio using your headphones or a pair of connected monitors.
- Live Performance: If you have some recordings on your computer that you'd like to use during a live performance, you can connect the TAC-2 to your computer and the mixing board or PA system, and play them back onstage.
- Listening: The TAC-2 lets you listen to high resolution audio files on your computer, such as 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz WAV files in significantly higher quality than the computer's headphone output. You can connect the TAC-2 to a pair of monitors or use your headphones to listen to the hi-res files in full resolution.
- Frequency Response:
- At 44.1 kHz -2.0dB: 20Hz - 20kHz
- At 96kHz -2.0dB: 20Hz - 40kHz
- At 192kHz -2.0dB: 20Hz - 60kHz
- Dynamic Range:
- AD: 118 dB typical
- DA: 120 dB typical
- Sampling Frequencies: 192 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 96 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz
- Bit Depth: 24-bit
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