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Tascam VL-A4 Monitors Reviewed: Trash or Treasure?

Updated on August 29, 2010

Let’s face it. Tascam isn’t exactly a top name in reference monitors. In fact ever since their cassette tape Portastudio machines became passé, Tascam has been struggling to make a mark in the pro audio market.

Although many pass by the VL-A4 monitors because of the name stamped on them, those that stop to take a closer look are well-rewarded. For the money, these 35-watt active bi-amped monitors don’t have much competition.

I first learned about the VL-A4s when an employee at Frontend Audio spoke of a speaker roundup they did. Among the small speakers there were two standouts: the Yamaha MSP3 and Tascam VL-A4. The Yamaha’s did sound a touch better according to the reports; however a pair will cost you more than twice as much. When pressed to suggest the best small speaker by the members at Gearslutz, the employee replied that he’d be strongly considering the VL-A4 monitors due to the amazing value.

As I was in the market for a pair of compact monitors, advice from someone who had tested all the available options was godsend. I “pulled the trigger” on a pair of VL-A4 that evening. Although I originally intended to go a little more high-end, the thought of paying twice as much for something with slightly better performance didn’t make sense.

Musicians looking to spend $150 to $250 at some point reading up on M-Audio’s monitors. Be warned that M-Audio’s offering in this price range are in entirely different league than the Tascam VL-A4 monitors. You can tell just by looking at them. The rock-solid wooden cabinets on the Tascam VL-A4 are practically comparable to the Paradigm Focus enclosures in my living room costing several times more. The popular M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 monitors look more like cheap, plastic computer speakers (and sound like it too).

The VL-A4 monitors are amazing for the price.
The VL-A4 monitors are amazing for the price.

Getting back to the VL-A4s, there is a 4” woofer and 1” tweeter pushing out 35 watts of power. The cabinet is nice and deep, more so than you can tell in the photos. Although his helps for reproduction of rich low frequencies, if you need very accurate bass I’d step up to the VL-A5 or add a LF-S8 subwoofer. Frequency response goes from 90Hz to 23KKz, so the highs are excellent and bass is merely adequate but impressive for a speaker of this size.

The back is pretty simple with just basic connection options. Standard ¼” TRS instrument or XLR cables go from your audio interface to the back panel. Personally these are the only inputs I need so anything else would just bump up the price of the product. Beyond that, there is the power cable input and on/off switch. Once switched on, a yellow-orange LED lights up in the front.

The Verdict

If you need small, inexpensive monitors for your home studio, going with the Tascam VL-A4 powered monitors is an easy decision to make. While the low-end frequency specs don’t seem good on paper, I definitely wasn’t disappointed with the lows when listening to the Tascam’s for the first time. The highs are nice and crisp although a bit grainer than I was used to. After the break-in period the sound smoothed out (or maybe my ears adjusted). Overall, I’m thrilled with the performance and value these monitors provide.

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