Preamps can save you a lot of trouble of finding the right pitch in your vocals, and luckily the market is full of premium quality models. In fact, you have so many options at your disposal that we’ve decided to focus on Tascam and Focusrite models exclusively.
Let’s begin by saying that both brands are huge and you should expect quite a lot from their preamps. It’s just that they have substantially different technologies and have generally designed their models rather uniquely. Let’s see some of the best Tascam and Focusrite preamps and compare how they fare against each other.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs Tascam US 1×2
This is a pair of some of the finest budget audio interfaces equipped with preamps you could find on the market. Both Scarlet Solo and Tascam US 1×2 are practically meant for beginners who have just started learning about Pro Tools, or for guitarists who simply want to try themselves out with the recording. Both of them are very basic, affordable, and most importantly, they’re both very easy to use.
The reason why Scarlett’s ‘Solo’ is called that way is that it features a single microphone preamp. It’s a plug-n-play type of an interface with a single direct channel and a microphone in. Basically, even if you’ve never used an audio interface before, you will have no problem handling Scarlett’s Solo. It comes outfitted with Pro Tools with hundreds of instrument banks, loops, and exceptional effects.
One of the main benefits the Solo provides is the fact that it comes with so many tone effects, banks, and samples, so recording with it is as fun as it is easy. Its preamp is also incredibly great, but it seems that the majority of features are oriented towards modeling and shaping the recorded sound.
Tascam US 1×2
The Tascam US 1×2 is possibly the highest-value preamp on the market. It packs an Ultra-HDDA microphone preamp, supports most types of operating systems, packs exceptional connectivity, records with zero latency, and rocks a robust full-metal casing. What’s more, it was purposefully angled a bit which means it takes up less space and it’s easier to use on desks.
With Ultra-HDDA preamp, it’s quite obvious that this model is superior in terms of performance when compared to Scarlett’s Solo. It’s cleaner, a bit quieter, and certainly better-sounding. Furthermore, its gain range is astounding and it’s just as easy to use as Scarlett’s Solo.
It also packs Cubase LE software, which might not be as popular as Pro Tools, but it’s in the same league in terms of quality.
In a nutshell, Tascam’s US 1×2 has a better preamp and it’s substantially more robust, whereas Scarlett’s Solo is more versatile and it was designed for both instruments and microphones (not exclusively for microphones). That makes it a great all-around solution for multi-instrumentalists, but it also makes it slightly less valuable for vocalists. In this respect, Tascam’s US 1×2 wins over Scarlett Solo.
Focusrite OctoPre vs Tascam Celesonic US 20×20
We’ve also picked two boutique models from Focusrite and Tascam for our versus match called OctoPre and Celesonic US 20×20. While the Scarlet Solo and Tascam US 1×2 were budget models perfect for beginners, these are professional interfaces outfitted with state of the art preamps meant for seasoned veterans of sound engineering.
The OctoPre is a massive interface with 8 premium quality Scarlett microphone preamps. You can wire up an entire choir on it or simply use it in the rec room to try out several microphones simultaneously, it’s up to you. Each microphone preamp features its own dedicated line input which can be separately monitored and tinkered with.
With a huge dynamic range of 109 decibels and 24-bit conversion rate, you can rest assured that these preamps will be able to boost even the faintest hums straight up to pristine clear sounds. The OctoPre, just like Scarlett Solo, is perfect for recording instruments too. It features two instrument inputs that can handle even the hottest pickups with ease.
Additionally, there are 8 balanced inputs which make the OctoPre an ideal solution for live mixing. DJs and touring bands can use it as a backup in case their mixing console breaks down. Also, due to its smaller size, it’s a more compact solution for when the mixing booth is overcrowded.
Tascam Celesonic US 20×20
The Celesonic US 20×20 is basically a hugely improved and upgraded US 1×2. It comes outfitted with 8 ultra-HDDA mic preamps with up to 56 decibels of gain, plenty of headroom, and 10 separate I/O channels.
Using it is a breeze, and it packs the same metal casing as its predecessor. What separates the Celesonic US 20×20 from similarly priced audio interfaces and preamps is the fact that it features the USB 3.0 type of connectivity. It’s compatible with virtually all smart devices and operating systems, allowing sound techs to utilize its benefits across various platforms.
Atop of being superior in terms of durability and connectivity, the Celesonic US 20×20 also packs an integrated DSP mixer with a parametric equalizer and compression working on every channel. It makes it absolutely ideal for live mixing, although its not-so-compact size might make you reorganize your gear.
Furthermore, the Celesonic has 3 working modes – it can be used as an audio interface, as a digital mixer, or as an 8-channel microphone preamp. With this in mind, it’s quite easy to see that Celesonic US 20×20 is equally good as Focusrite’s OctoPre in terms of versatility. On the flip side, its microphone preamps are superior and its casing more robust.
Most beginners favor Focusrite preamps as they’re incredibly easy to use and setup, while professionals and those with some skill prefer using Tascam models.
It’s hard to say which brand has better models as they’re definitely not meant for the same target groups, but from an objective point of view, Tascam preamps offer a bit more flexibility. Additionally, their preamps simply perform better, but they are a bit harder to setup.