Tascam DR-40 – 4-Track handeld digital audio recorder
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The Tascam DR-40 Portable Digital Recorder is a handheld 4-track recorder that gives you flexibility needed to record anything, anywhere.
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I was ready to be underwhelmed nonetheless, knowing that there are many far more 'pro' high-end devices out there for far more money.
But: so far, it's proving to be an excellent choice!
I''ll just get the obvious things lacking out of the way first [HENCE only 4 STARS in review rating]:
- lack of decent bespoke windshield ***see below
- no carry case or protective pouch
- plastic body (feels as if it probably would survive a modest knock or two, but could snap or split in really extreme scenarios)
- internal mics (on top of unit) have silver plastic bodies...cost cutting no doubt but no big deal really
- no internal lithium battery to preserve the time and date settings meaning changing the 3 AA main batteries causes the time and date to default to factory settings.
*** I bought a 3rd-party windshield from an ebay seller called 'windcut windshields', specifically made for the DR-40 and it's proved very effective in some early-morning outdoor recordings in moderately breezy conditions.
Now on to the things that impress me so far:
- 24-bit/96kHz recording
.....the unit defaults to 16-bit/44.1kHz but this is easily changed in the settings - 48kHz also an option
- 4 tracks available for recording: either stereo internal mics (2 track), stereo internals witth safety track (4 tracks..2 x stereo pair - you can set the safety track to record a number of dBs lower than the main track...this is configurable, i.e. not fixed to always be -6dB, you can set it to what you want), stereo internals with stereo externals (4 tracks), stereo externals, or one mono external.... I think these are all the options but I don't have the unit in front of me at the moment! Suffice to say it's a comprehensive and useful set of options.
- very easy menu navigation, once you get used to having to press the 'menu' button to return from an option you've navigated to with the >>| button, which is a little strange
- MOST IMPORTANT: excellent recording quality!
In coincident (XY) arrangement, the mics give a tight stereo image which feels rather narrow but would be well suited to close/near recording of e.g. vocal with acoustic guitar.
I have a Yamaha B1 upright piano and I placed the DR-40 on top of it, on the lid (lid closed), in XY configuration, and I got a very impressive 'close' piano sound with no distortion... more experimentation needed to find the ideal placement, but for a simple "bung it on the top and play and see what happens" I was very impressed.
In pseudo-ORTF (AB) arrangement, the internal mics give quite a pleasing stereo image which is more pronounced in terms of width and placement of sound sources. I took the unit out in the very early morning and recorded birdsong in a few locations using this mic
I've so far experimented with:
- quite close spoken word: 6 inches away from internal mics...gives very decent results suitable for radio reporter links, or podcast. NB this is no mere 'dictaphone' - the quality obtained with the internal mics for close voice is extremely good, but YOU WILL NEED A WINDSHIELD TO AVOID PLOSIVE POPPING.
There is a tripod mounting screw hole on the bottom of the unit, which is very handy. I have a photographic monopod and have been screwing the DR-40 onto this for outdoor work: it allows me to lean the whole thing up against a branch or tree stump and stand well away with the recording running - seems to work a treat.
Bear in mind that I'm not a sound geek although I'm somewhat hooked by this device and might now become a geek. It's become clear that a boom/shotgun mic would improve things even further but one thing at a time!
You can hear some of my early efforts made with the Tascam DR-40 here >> http://lifeboatstationproject.com/sound/
The supplied printed manual contains only one useful item of information - Teac's URL for the reference manual (p.7 in the English version). The reference manual itself is largely clear and comprehensive. The supplied manual is neither.
The DR-40 has an attachment point for a carrying leash - but no leash is supplied. You'd hate to drop it, so buy one.
It takes a full-size SHDC card up to 32GB. It is supplied with a 4GB mini-card - of indeterminate brand - in an adapter. You may like to replace this.
It comes supplied with a tiny slot-in foot, to prop it up slightly on a table-top, to be stored in the battery compartment. It also has a standard photo-tripod screw-socket. Unless you will be using it exclusively hand-held, you will need a tripod, mini-tripod, tripod-clamp or something of the kind to get the best out of it. For hand-held use you really do need a 'windscreen' - if only to keep spit off the microphones!
Early experience is that it eats batteries - but the supplied batteries may simply be no good. Duracells next time! It can be USB powered from a laptop or from a USB mains adapter via its supplied lead. However it is fitted with the older-type - now obsolete - mini-B USB socket, not the newer - now standard for mobile phones - micro-B socket. (If your 'phone charger.is of the common type which disassembles into a separate standard to micro USB lead and a mains adapter with a standard USB port you will be able to use the adapter with the DR-40's lead.)
A custom-fit case is offered by Amazon US but not in the UK. I have just taken delivery of a Lowepro Streamline 100 which comfortably accepts the Tascam DR-40 itself, its lead + a USB adapter plug, 3 spare AA batteries and a WST-R30 windscreen but with little room to spare. - perhaps just enough for a small - a really small! - tripod clamp. Dependent on requirements, any small to medium camera bag should do fine.
Once you have mastered the basics, using the DR-40 it's really remarkably easy to create high-quality recordings. You will need to turn ON the inbuilt speaker - OFF by default - before you can audition these, or if you want to play them back via your HiFi you will need a suitable 3.5mm stereo to whatever adapter lead. None is supplied, nor earphones which you may also find useful. Although recordings can be 'processed' on the device itself, this is fiddly and not altogether satisfactory. You may want to investigate audio-processing software, there are various free options, of which Audacity is probably the best.
I like it so much, I'm buying another - as a birthday present!
I was in the front row and had got a sound level during the band's sound check. It was perfect, just the very occasional peak light showing. I had the limiter on just to be sure but if it did activate I can't hear it. The quality is better than many live recordings I've heard - and studio recordings.
Next time I'll try and plug into the venue's sound desk - and use two mics into the DR-40 for the audience.This is a superb recorder at a reasonable price. Highly recommended.
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Bought this having used the Tascam DR05 (I also have the DR60D MKII which is excellent) simply because I wanted XLR inputs...Read more