Let's take a brief look back at the history of Tapco, just so you'll better understand where the Link.USB is coming from and why it has Mackie preamps and styling. Greg Mackie started the Tapco company in 1969 but a number of years later sold it to Electro Voice. Electro Voice had been the owners of Tapco throughout the late 1970's and into the 1980's. During that time, Greg Mackie had worked on a few other projects before starting the Mackie company we all know today in 1989. Eventually however, Electro Voice folded Tapco and gave up all rights to the name. However, back in 2003, not that long ago, Tapco was reborn again, this time under the Mackie umbrella however. Their aim always has been, and still is, to provide affordable audio products to their consumers. With that brief history, you'll understand why the Link.USB has very heavy Mackie influenced styles (such as the pots on the front seen in the image below) and Mackie preamps.
With that in mind, the Link.USB is Tapco's two in, two out USB recording interface. The two inputs can function simultaneously so you can do up to two tracks at a time in your favourite recording software. The connectors on these jacks are combo jacks and are both 1/4" and XLR on one plug. So you can plug any kind of mic into the Link.USB, even condensers which require 48V phantom power because it has a built in phantom power switch on the back! When depressed, a light on the front will light up so you know that phantom power is currently on. Right beside the gain knobs for each channel on the far left side of the front, there is a switch for choosing Line or Instrument level. With a built in DI, you can plug your instruments directly into the Link.USB without the need for any sort of external DI box! This adds another level of handiness for the home musician, as recording their instruments or vocals is extremely plug and play. Did I mention that everything you plug into the Link.USB is run through it's two Mackie preamps? I was extremely surprised to see that good quality preamps were onboard, especially for such a low price on this interface!
With hardware monitoring for any connected sources to the Link.USB you don't have to worry about latency being an issue. The dial on the front labeled "MIX" controls the level of the input source that is sent to the monitor/headphone outputs. So when you're recording to tracks already on the computer, you can use this dial to easily mix your level in so you can hear a good mix of both what you're recording in, and the current tracks.
The other two dials on the front are "MON" and "PHONES". The Monitor (MON) dial controls the overall output volume of the audio through the left and right monitor outputs on the rear of the Link.USB. The Phones dial corresponds to the volume level of the headphones which get plugged into the 1/4" jack directly to the right of the dial. The last feature to make mention of on the front are the two chrome "roll bars" as I like to call them, at either side of the front. These protrude just slightly further than the dials do and when transporting they'll help prevent any dials from getting turned or damaged if hit into something on the front.