An oldie but goodie. I picked one up for less than half-price – it was reboxed since it had a cracked plastic LED pane. It has worked fine for a couple of years, so the couple of hundred bucks I saved there was worth it. They were blowing them out for $800, but now the units seem to have crept back up toward $1000 in 2011. Not bad for an interface that originally listed for $1700+.

So, what is it? The TC Electronic Konnekt 48 is an audio and midi interface; it is an effects unit; it is a controller and a digital mixer. As a midi interface, it has one midi I/O. It is a 12 in, 10 output analog audio interface with 4 preamps. The 10 outputs are configured as 8 channel outs and a stereo “master” output. The main outputs are on XLR cables, while the rest of the analog output connections are ¼ inch, as are inputs except, of course, for the front mic inputs (XLR/jack combo). There are no inserts for patching in outboard gear, which isn’t good. On the upside, conversion is great so you won’t muck up your signal running it in and out through the unit to add analog effects. Most modern converters are hardly the weak link in a system anyway – all audio interfaces use the same chips from a couple of manufacturers. What differentiates them is the quality of the surrounding electronics rather than the chips themselves and TC conversion is pretty good. Even back when their Finalizer outboard effects box was a stable for mastering. The conversion is a lot better than my old Presonus FirePod here at home, which isn’t surprising since the Pod was one of the first low-cost, high-count channel boxes. Nothing wrong with the FirePod, but the TCK 48 has a few more dB’s of dynamic range and seems a lot “brighter, sharper, clearer, cleaner” or whatever you want to call it. I wouldn’t call it night and day like so many want to when they get a new interface, but you can hear it.Unless you are doing pro work and have stupid money to spend, you just aren’t going to get that much bang for many more bucks in conversion. If you have a TCK and money to spare, spend it on some front end extras like preamps, mics, monitoring or comps/EQs.

And how ‘bout them preamps? You only get four of them, which is a bummer, but they are pretty good. To reverse Stalin’s old maxim, quality has a quantity all its own. In addition to the preamps/DIs on the front, the TCK 48 includes 8 line inputs where you can patch in some superior preamps or channel strips. Don’t get me wrong, the TC Impact II preamps are quite good for a combo interface and better than many others. It is just they might not match up to stand alone or boutique preamps, which can cost as much what you can pay for the entire TCK 48. Like the conversion, one pays a huge premium to squeeze a little bit more quality above the TCK preamps. All four switch phantom power on from one switch, which isn’t ideal, but an understandable compromise.Phantom power ain’t going to hurt your dynamic mics, so feel free to track with them and any condensers with the phantom power on. Do be wary of using ribbons with it, though, especially older models (but if you have a ribbon you should already know that). The TC Impact preamps have more gain than the old Presonus one’s – 62 dBs worth. At this end of the scale, even a few extra dBs give you more flexibility with mic placement, which is a very good thing. The FirePod’s strained on softer sounds and you had to crank up the gain; the TCK’s are better in such situations. They also sound a tad fuller, thicker. They ain’t Neves – all the “cheap” transformerless mic preamps share a common linage (that must be true since I read it on the internet), which was first popularized in Mackie mixers. These type of preamps do their job well and fairly transparently, though not adding much in the way of oomph (another technical term). The DI is nice, too. Overall the entire “sound” of the TCK 48 is good – very good. You can do pro work with it. If someone says your song would be good except you should have used x through y on z, they are probably either a neophyte who has read too much tech literature or an asshole; or maybe both. Once you reach a certain point, the sound should be good enough not to interfere with the song, if your skills are up to it .It is like a wine connoisseur at a dinner party – you put out a nice table wine and they complain that a different one (and more expensive than the rest of the dinner) would make the meat taste better. Right, but how’s the steak, buddy? Better equipment might make other engineers happier (and you, too), but won’t matter to most of the hoi-polloi that will be enjoying it on their ear-buds. To finish up the I/O specs, there are up to 8 channels of ADAT SMUX (at up to 96 kHz) or 4 channels of TosLink on the same two connections, as well as a separate SPDIF I/O and Word Clock I/O.

The rest of the hardware includes the built-in DSP, remote controller and digital mixer. The DSP includes two separate stereo channels strips (at 48 kHz and lower) of Fabrik C, taken from their System 600 series. The Fabrik C has a four-band EQ and multiband compressor and limiter. The Fabrik R is, not surprisingly, a DSP reverb. The algorithms are derived from the mucho-bucks TC Reverb 4000. The effects are nice and a step up from most found in DAWs. There are several other VST effects, including a nice resonant filter, but the channel strips and reverb will probably be the most used. The channel strips can be used before sending off a recording to your computer (though not, of course, before conversion), or for master bus action or as stems. While the channel strip EQs are pretty conventional, the compressors and reverb uses icons set within a pyramid to control the amounts. Fortunately there are numerical readouts and LED-style meters, so it is pretty easy to figure out which icon is controlling what feature besides just using your ears. The DSP reverb is really tasty. Dedicated DSP still sounds smoother than most computer-generated reverb – to my ears, anyway. I find I can use less of it for the same “effect” and it doesn’t clutter up a mix as much. TC has been doing reverb for a while, successfully, and during tracking you can add some lush reverb for your singer’s headphone using the TC mixer. I do wish there were time-based effects, too,however what we got is reverb, which is the hardest effect to replicate anyway. There are presets for each of the effects units, and you can save your own, mixing and matching within the individual units or the overall channel strip settings. The DSP effects will also run as VSTs in your DAW, but it needs to be set to “real-time processing” since they are calculated in, well, real time by the DSP. The DSP is an easy way to “finalize” a master or put some high-quality comps/EQ on a bus stem, add some high-end reverb on vocal tracks or anything that needs good reverb. Combined with good outboard compressors, you can use smaller amounts of quality compression serially to achieve very full and steady sound levels without getting overly squashed. High-quality effects, even just a couple of them, can add a lot class to a project. And though they aren’t really “free,” they are a nice perk.

The remote is the last bit of hardware. When my “demo” unit came I was afraid it didn’t include the remote since it is “optional.” Optional seems not including the remote since it seems to come with every unit. The remote is one of those things that you wouldn’t miss unless you’ve used it. First off, it is a nice bit of hardware. It feels great, and music needs some tactile input. The little table top unit is heavy enough not to move while adjusting the big knob, and the feel of the knob is superb. Enough push back to keep track of where you are but still smooth. The knob defaults to the master volume, which is digitally controlled analog. That which is what I use it mostly for.I have a separate amp/speaker set up, and the amp volume knob is close but still a long stretch or short chair roll away. I’m spoiled now, since the volume knob sits right next to the mouse. It has a nice, green light ring readout of the amount of volume. The remote has six buttons above the knob so you can switch it between inputs on the TC or your DAW, or program your own button presets. Below are more function buttons for output master, effects and talk back. The remote has the talk-back mic imbedded in it (defaulted to input channel 12). A nice touch is the panel button, which expands/minimizes the mixer panel on the computer screen.

The TCK 48 sounds good, has great effects and a handy remote. What about the driver software? Originally, the software was glitchy, to say the least. TC developed Dice II and Jet PPL Firewire chip and sold the package to PreSonus, Focusrite and other interface companies. It came to market before all the kinks were worked out, though with all the idiosyncrasies inherent in individual PC systems final tweaking probably needed a wide release. All these companies got slammed and many users burned during this learning process. You’ll still finds some frustrated posts if you look on-line. The good news is that the underlining technology works and most of the problems have been ironed out. I got my TCK 48 a year or two after it came out and was sure the teething problems had been resolved. Since then another TC “Near” software update has come out, making the hardware even more stable. Stability was always the main problem, along with high latency. My TCK 48 is stable, and I can get down to about 10 ms roundtrip latency for recording. That is only about as good as my old FirePod, but still fast enough for me. For mixing, I usually up the sample buffer to 192 from 128, creating too much lag for playing but fine for mixing with lots of heavy CPU effects, etc. Others claim much lower latencies, but they probably have faster computers than my elderly but pimped up dual core. I also run a VIA Firewire chipset instead of TI. For any FW interface TI is recommended. That doesn’t guarantee it will work, anymore than any “off” brand won’t. It does mean you have better odds in the crapshoot of FW interfaces with a TI chipset. So, you are no more likely to have a problem with a TC than most other makes of FW or USB interfaces. On the plus side, all the TC units use the same software/drivers, so obsolesce isn’t likely to happen anytime soon since TC are still rolling out new makes and models using DICE II chips.

The “Near” software contains the software control panel and mixer. The mixer works great. It is 48-bit summing and 56-bit internal, which is right up there with the most digital mixers – hard or software. I don’t use it much since SONAR’s internal processing is 64 bit, but wouldn’t be afraid to. The actual mixer software itself is pretty straightforward, looking like a virtual mixer. It is easy to set up direct monitoring for tracking and adding DSP to channels. Unfortunately TC abandoned the traditional mixer paradigm for routing, which is on an entirely different tab. So, in order to get things flowing from the computer to TC analog outputs and visa versa you need to switch from one page to another, and this doesn’t even include your internal DAW’s setup. The inputs/outputs also shrink themselves, which saves screen space but is yet another variable to deal with. You can also have up to three sets of speakers hooked up and switch between them, as well as a nice surround sound matrix and bass management. This is all a thorough if unwieldy process and can be a long slog to get things routed right – but fortunately your hard-won set up can be saved as a preset, including effects.

All-in-all the TCK 48 is a professional-level interface and even at its original list-price was a good deal. The sound, internal, preamps and conversion is all good and clean. It might not deliver that bigger-than-life sound you can get with high-end boutique gear, but that is simply a matter of getting what you pay for. However, the TCK 48 won’t get in the way and delivers a true-to-life sound. When doing some 60-ish songs I actually liked the duller FirePod better – or at least it was easier to get that sound, even though the TC unit still retained better depth and back-to-front soundstage. Otherwise, the TC wins hands down in the sound department. The drivers are now good and the software, if overly complex, is certainly complete. And few (if any) high-end hardware units combine all the elements found in the TCK 48 – from digital expandability to speaker set up to high-quality DSP. Because the TCK 48 originally suffered from driver issues originally and got a bad reputation, that was bad news for TC’s bottom line. However, TC’s loss is the end user’s gain, since the pricing never recovered and still hovers around half the list price. If you need more than 8 inputs as well as high quality without breaking the bank, it is one hell of a steal.