Tascam DR-40

December 1st, 2011 | by Jeff Towne

Intro from Jay Allison

Transom is always searching for the ideal field recording devices at the lowest cost. Our TOOLS Editor Jeff Towne just reviewed the new Tascam DR-40 and says, “At last! The recorder we’ve been waiting for! Well, almost…”

Here is the full review—including audio samples with various microphones, comparisons to similar units, a full dissection of the menus and features, and all of Jeff’s typically thorough testing.

From Jeff Towne

At last! The recorder we’ve been waiting for! Well, almost…

Over the years, reviewing portable flash-memory-based audio recorders has required a lot of equivocation: there seems to always be a “but” lurking somewhere, even for the recorders we like. One machine might be versatile, but confusing to operate; another sounds great, but it’s heavy and expensive; this one is small and affordable, but is noisy when used with some microphones; that one has great sound quality, but lacks professional connectors. We’ve been developing a wish-list for an ideal recorder, and it’s not all that long or rigorous: we want a small, affordable device with XLR connectors for external mics, that sounds good and is easy to use.

The Tascam DR-40 comes pretty close, by combining a compelling array of features. It’s small – not as tiny as some, but still compact enough to be carried in a coat pocket. It’s affordable (street price of about $200.) It has built-in stereo mics that can be swiveled to create different pickup patterns. It has two XLR mic jacks for use with professional microphones. And in most circumstances, it sounds good.

We’ve found several small, affordable recorders lately that offer good sound quality and intuitive functionality, but we’ve always been disappointed by the lack of professional XLR connectors for connecting external microphones. It’s understandable: those jacks are physically large, which makes it impractical to include them on a compact device, and they’re probably more expensive than a single stereo minijack. But XLR connectors offer some major advantages over the minijacks that are more common on smaller machines:

  • The connection itself is more solid and secure, especially if the jacks have latches.
  • You can use an easily-found standard XLR cable to connect a microphone to the recorder, rather than a specially-wired adapter cable to convert XLR to mini.
  • Balanced XLR cables offer better shielding against noise, and are generally more reliable than converter cables.
  • XLR connectors can transmit phantom power from the recorder to condenser mics that need it.

That last attribute, the phantom power issue, is kind of a big deal. One of the major caveats about the small recorders that have minijack mic inputs is that some mics will not work with them. Our tests have shown that these little recorders usually sound much better with microphones with a louder output, such as condenser mics. All condenser mics require a small charge, known as phantom power, in order to operate at all. Some condenser mics have battery compartments built-in to provide that phantom power internally, but others require that current to be transmitted down the mic cable from the recorder (or a mixer, or preamp, or some other source.) Phantom power requires a three-conductor balanced cable, such as an XLR cable; it cannot be transmitted by a cable that converts the XLR jack to a mini connector on the recorder end. There are professional-quality microphones that have internal batteries, and therefore are compatible with either kind of cable and input jack, but there are many more condenser mics that require external phantom power, and there’s a real advantage to having a recorder that can provide phantom power and be able to use a wider range of microphones.

It’s worth noting that turning on phantom power on the recorder will reduce the recorder’s battery life, so it might still be more practical to use microphones that can provide their own phantom power via internal batteries. It’s also possible to damage this recorder and/or microphones if phantom power is on when plugging and unplugging microphones, line inputs or power cords, so be attentive to whether phantom power is switched on or not. It’s engaged with a hardware slider on the side of the unit, the same switch that chooses the source for the external inputs. Additionally, a message on the main display will appear asking to confirm that you want to turn phantom power on or off. The voltage for phantom power can be adjusted in a menu, but it’s generally suggested to use the default 48-volt setting, unless your mics are designed to operate at 24 volts.

The Tascam DR-40 is not the only small recorder with XLR inputs: the Tascam DR-100 and Zoom H4n have them, and are only a little bit larger, but both of those machines are significantly more expensive. The Zoom H4n is the most directly comparable recorder, in fact it’s hard to imagine that the DR-40 wasn’t designed as a direct response to the H4n – it has many of the same functions, and even looks a little like it. The most obvious function that seems modeled after the H4n is the ability to record from the built-in microphones and the external inputs at the same time. Recordings made this way are saved onto two separate stereo tracks – one for internal mics, one for external inputs. This has a lot of possible uses: close-micing an interview with external mics, while using the built-in stereo mics to pick up the general ambience of the scene; taking a feed from a mixer or press-box through the external inputs while recording stereo crowd sounds with the built-ins; using an external mic to capture a singer while the built-in stereo mics are pointed at a guitar or piano; there are many potential uses for the 4-channel mode.

There’s also an overdub mode that allows layering of recordings. That functionality is of more interest to musicians than to radio producers, but it still could be useful for creating special effects.

The DR-40 can also employ its ability to record two simultaneous stereo files in another useful way. By using “Dual Record” mode, you can make a normal stereo recording (from any of the inputs) while simultaneously making a duplicate recording at a lower volume. That second file can be recorded between 6 and 12 dB lower than the original, as set by the user. This is a great way to record an event with unpredictable levels without resorting to limiting or automatic gain control. Set your level as you think will be ideal, and if something louder than you expected happens and causes distortion on your main recording, you have a safety version recorded at a lower level which hopefully registered a clean version of that unexpectedly loud event.

The DR-40 provides three other ways to approach unpredictable levels: while in record-pause, press the “Quick” button on the face of the recorder, then select Level CNTRL. From there, you can choose Peak Reduction, Auto Level, or Limiter. Peak reduction mode is a clever way of setting levels: you set your input gain manually, using the up-down rocker switch on the left side of the recorder, but if a loud sound that would overload the input is registered, the input gain is automatically turned down to a safe level. The input gain remains at that lower level. This mode will not raise the input gain automatically, it only reduces the level in response to incoming audio levels. It can be raised again manually if desired, but this is an easy way to set maximum levels without any of the artifacts of the Auto Level or the Limiter, which adjust the gain dynamically in response to the input, but can create an unpleasant pumping effect because the input gain is being automatically adjusted up and down.

The Auto Level is helpful for non-critical recordings, like documenting a meeting or lecture, or recording dictation, but the continual changes in gain make background sounds change unnaturally, so it’s not advisable to use this for important recordings intended for broadcast or other attentive listening. The Limiter is subtler in its action than the AGC, reducing only loud peaks that are likely to distort, but there can still be artifacts from its action, so the Peak Reduction or Dual Recording modes are preferred when making important recordings. The Level Control functions are not active when in Dual Record mode, but you could use Peak Reduction to set a level while checking levels in record pause, and then switch to Dual mode. That way the recorder has set a safe level based on the test of incoming audio level, and is also making a back-up recording at a lower level, just in case.

Of course, professional connectors and fancy record modes don’t mean much if the basic sound quality isn’t good. The news here is mixed, but mostly positive. When using the built-in microphones, or when using high-output external mics, the audio quality is pretty clean. The DR-40′s mic preamps may not rival those in top-end professional recorders, but they’re good enough to make broadcast quality recordings. The downside is that when using lower-output external microphones, like the reporters’ favorite Electrovoice RE-50, the input gain needs to be turned WAY up, which results in hissy, unpleasant background noise. This phenomenon is not unique to this model; in fact we’ve discovered that many of these small, affordable recorders work best with louder microphones, such as condenser mics, when recording relatively quiet things, such as a conversational interview in a quiet room.

Luckily, the DR-40 can send phantom power to condenser mics without internal batteries, so there are many options for mics. External Dynamic mics will work fine when recording louder sources, and given that the primary market for these affordable recorders is that of musicians recording amplified music, it’s not surprising that these devices are geared toward recording loud things. And high-quality mic preamps surely cost more, so it may be asking too much to have lots of clean gain at this low of a price. That said Sony seems to be able to put quiet, powerful preamps into their devices, even the low-cost ones, so perhaps it’s not too much to hope for.

The DR-40 has a few other downsides. It’s more menu-driven than its big brother the DR-100. Hardware knobs and switches cost more, and take up more space than having functions controlled by software, so it’s no surprise that a small, inexpensive machine might go that route, but compared to the DR-100, the user will spend more time poking around menus to make adjustments. Thankfully, the menus are well organized, and navigating and selecting is fairly straightforward. There’s even a hot-key for the most-often accessed adjustment: Record Mode. That dedicated button directly under the display brings you to a screen that allows you to choose between Overdub, 4-Channel, Dual, Stereo, and Mono recording.

Overdub allows you to layer sounds over previously recorded material; 4-Channel activates both the internal and external inputs, recording to two stereo channels simultaneously; Dual also records to two stereo channels, one at a lower level than the other by a user-selected amount; Stereo records from either the built-in mics or the external inputs, making a single stereo file; Mono can record from either both internal mics or one external input. When using the built-in mics, both microphones are active; they’re summed to one mono file. When recording from external inputs, only input 1 is active. Oddly, neither external input is labeled as number 1 as is indicated in the menu, but by convention, the left input is number 1. The right external input is turned off in mono mode.

Mono mode is a quick and easy way to record from only one microphone, such as in a typical interview situation, something that’s not always so smooth on all makes and models. And what’s more, the DR-40 is actually recording a mono file, using only half of the disc space of a stereo file.

While needing to delve into menus is always more tedious than just grabbing a knob or flipping a switch, the DR-40 is fairly easy to operate, once one gets used to navigating the menus. Common adjustments are usually readily accessible within a few clicks, not buried in sub-sub-sub-menus. The input gain is on an Up/Down rocker switch, which is inherently inferior to a large hardware knob, as is implemented on the DR-100, but as Up/Down switches go, this one is not too bad – it’s fairly quiet, it will continue to increment up or down when the rocker is held, and it’s in a relatively good location under your thumb if you hold the recorder in your left hand.

Adjusting the input gain for the internal and external microphones when in 4 Channel mode is simple: press the 1/2 Solo button under the main display to assign the rocker switch to the internal mics, or the 3/4 Solo button to adjust the external input level. In each case, a stereo level indicator will appear on the screen to indicate the gain settings for each set of inputs as you adjust them. There’s a 4-bar-meter indicating input levels when in 4-Channel or Dual mode, only two bars when in Stereo Mode, only one when in Mono.

Unfortunately, all input gain adjustments are made to the left and right channels as a pair, there’s no way to apply more gain to one mic than the other. That’s not too common of a problem, but if you’re using two external microphones to record very different sound sources, or even just two people who speak at different volumes, you’ll have to set the levels for the louder of the two channels and fix it in the mix. This is unlikely to be a frequent headache, but if it’s a scenario that you encounter frequently, you might want to consider the Tascam DR-100, which has separate gain controls for the left and right XLR inputs.

There is a built-in playback mixer that can set playback levels for each channel of a 4-track recording, set stereo pan position, even add effects, and mix down to a stereo file. In most cases that’s better done in a computer audio workstation, but if you ever need to mix down in the recorder, the option is there. Similarly, there’s an option to add a delay to one pair of microphones when recording in 4-Channel mode, to compensate for the time lag that can occur between close and distant microphones. As with mixing tracks, fixing time delay problems can probably be done more elegantly and precisely at the mix stage in your computer, but it’s pretty slick that the recorder can do it if needed.

The built-in microphones can swivel from near-coincident XY stereo recording pattern, to a wide pattern that will create a wider, more vivid stereo image. When the mics are swiveled outward, the recorder asks if you’d like to change the mic direction, which means that the mics will be assigned to the opposite channels compared to how they would function if they were pointing inward. Because the mic capsules point in opposite directions depending on which position they are in, switching the left-right channel assignment can maintain a consistent stereo relationship regardless of the position of the mics. Or you can ignore that option if the absolute left-right position of the sounds is not important.

Selecting the input source for the external jacks is on a hardware slider on the side of the recorder. This will switch between the quarter-inch line-level inputs (for recording from a mixer, or another recorder, a stand-alone mic preamp, or some other device that outputs a line-level signal) and the XLR mic-level jacks. A third position selects the mic inputs and turns on phantom power. The inputs on the bottom of the recorder are space-saving combo jacks: one can plug in a standard XLR mic cable, or insert a quarter-inch jack into the center of the socket. The XLRs will latch for a secure connection that can’t be accidentally pulled-out. The quarter-inch jacks do not latch.

There’s a socket for an optional wired remote control, but the recorder does not ship with one. Nor does it ship with a power cord. There’s not even a power port on it: external power is supplied via the mini USB jack. The recorder can be powered by USB bus power from most computers (some computers do not provide enough current to run phantom power while on USB bus power) or an optional AC power supply is available that transforms 110 volts AC from the wall into USB power. When you plug-in a USB cable, a dialog appears on the main display asking if you’d like to use USB power or make a data connection to transfer files to a computer.

Without an AC cord, power is provided by three AA batteries. It can use standard Alkaline batteries or rechargeable Ni-MH. A menu item should be set to indicate the type of battery, in order for the main display to indicate accurate battery life information. Battery life will vary based on the kind of recording being done. Good alkaline batteries should last close to 16 hours when doing basic stereo .wav recordings using the internal mics. Recording as MP3 will use more battery power, as will high bit-depth recording, shortening battery life by a few hours. Using the recorder’s internal phantom power will drain the batteries more quickly, depending on the microphone.

A stereo mini jack doubles as a line out and a headphone output. The small connector is understandable given the size of the recorder, but we always prefer the robustness of quarter-inch jacks. Output volume is not controlled by a dial or switch near the jack, instead it’s controlled by the + and – buttons on the face of the recorder, where one navigates the menus. That works fine, provided you are not in the midst of navigating a menu at the same time as you want to change the playback volume.

Recordings are stored on a standard SD card. The DR-40 can take up to a 2-GB SD card, or up to a 32-GB SDHC card.

So, in the final analysis, is this the recorder we’ve been waiting for? Yes and no. It DOES have most of the attributes we want: convenient size, good price, XLR inputs, good built-in mics, decent construction quality, reasonably simple operation, and overall good sound quality. And there are a few unexpected bonuses: the 4-track and dual recording modes are very useful improvements over standard recorders, the Peak Reduction mode is a very clever level-setting aid, true mono recording saves memory space, it can record WAV files at up to 24 bit and 96khz, or several rates of MP3 files if desired. But there are also a few negatives: it’s unacceptably noisy with dynamic mics for recording quiet sources, such as interviews, too many of the controls are buried in menus, the input gain is on an up/down rocker switch rather than a dial, the headphone jack is a fragile mini, the built-in mics are very wind-sensitive and no wind screen is provided.

Tascam makes an optional furry windscreen that will fit several Tascam recorders including the DR-40: the Tascam WS-DR2. At $50, it represents a fairly expensive accessory, but one that is pretty crucial if you’re planning on using the built-in mics anywhere there might be a breeze. There are third-party windscreens available as well, some of which are less expensive. Check out Redhead Windscreens, GigWig, Rycote, and others.

Balancing all of these pros and cons, the DR-40 still comes out looking like a pretty great recorder, especially for the price. Making changes in the record settings via menus becomes second nature pretty quickly, and the sound-quality issues are only serious with low-output external mics. All of the built-in mics on these kinds of recorders need wind protection, and are susceptible to handling noise, that’s nothing unique to this model. Ultimately, we wish it had a large input gain knob (with separate left and right controls), a quarter-inch headphone jack, and more settings controlled by hardware switches, like the DR-100, but in many ways the DR-40 is more capable than the more expensive DR-100. The sound quality is very similar. We wish it had cleaner mic preamps with more gain, like the Sony PCM-D50, but we have always wished the D50 had XLRs and used standard SD memory cards. Given that all recorders have strong and weak points, the DR-40 is looking pretty good, especially for the price (commonly seen selling for $200, or even less, at the time this review was posted.)

If you’re really in love with your RE-50 microphone, or some other low-output mic, you’ll likely be disappointed in the sound quality of the DR-40. But if you intend to use its internal mics, or high-output condenser mics, the DR-40 has a lot to recommend it. In a world where smartphones are encroaching on portable recorders’ domain, the DR-40 underlines the value of a dedicated recorder. In addition to larger storage capacity and longer battery times, the DR-40 can use XLR mics, can record 4 channels at once, and can record a safety track a few dB down from the master recording. Lets see your smartphone do that!

Official Tascam Product page

Transom Portable Digital Recorder Comparison Chart

132 Comments on “Tascam DR-40”

  • Jeff, great review and it represents exactly how my DR-40 works. It works much better with my AT 8035 shotgun mic with built in battery than with my Shure SM58. The internal mics are pretty darned good, making it ideal to carry in my camera bag where space is limited and the mics left at home. Ideally when doing primarily audio, I carry the DR-40, the mic and a headset in a pocket of my photojournalists vest and a point and shoot camera in the other pocket. I have been very satisfied with the DR-40 and it has replaced my Marantz PMD 660 as the primary recording device, but I still use both.

  • Spencer says:

    Jeff, very good review of the DR-40. Coming from a video background, I’m used to plugging a mic into a camera with a XLR input, and I’m able to record a left and right channel with varying audio levels from the same mic. So when the Tascam DR-40 came out, it seemed like a good option with it’s dual recording feature.

    Overall for it’s price I’m really happy with the DR-40. The menu driven controls are manageable. That said I also have the Zoom H4n, and I like that it comes with a windscreen, power supply, and hard case.

    Ideally I’d like to see a DR-100 with some improved features. But hey, there’s no perfect piece of equipment out there. So for now the DR-40 is a good option for me.

    Thanks for the in-depth review.

  • Andy Kolovos says:

    Awesome. Thanks Jeff! Vermont Folklife Center just purchased several of these for a community project, primarily because of the price/XLR combination. I’ve been testing them with the CAD C195 and AT U873R w/cardioid capsule and so far I’m pretty happy with the choice. They will be deployed to community members tonight, so we’ll see how they manage with them.

    What did you have the levels set at in the recording of the AKG C900?

  • Philip Graitcer says:

    Should I consider selling the Sound Devices 702?

  • Jeff Towne says:

    Ack! Philip – Noooo!!! Well, if you find yourself not using the 702 all that much, then sure, it might be worth selling it and downgrading. But keep in mind it would be a definite downgrade!

    I really like the DR-40, but the sound quality, flexibility and general build quality are nowhere near the Sound Devices stuff. Of course the DR-40 costs about a tenth of what a Sound Devices 702 or 722 costs… So they’re not really in the same league.

    The Sound Devices gear is thoroughly professional, and maybe overkill for many users. For a $200 recorder, the DR-40 is pretty amazing. But it’s noisy and inflexible and fragile compared to the $2,000 Sound Devices 702.

  • Jeff Towne says:

    Andy – please let us know how those mics work for your users. I had the input gain at about 70 (out of 100) for the C-900. It’s a pretty hot mic, but then I was speaking relatively softly…

  • Jeff Towne says:

    And thanks all for the kind words, please do report back here with any stories of successes or shortcomings that you discover as you use your DR-40s.

  • Karen Michel says:

    I’ve had the DR-40 for a few weeks and am in the honeymoon love stage.
    Sounds great with the Rode short shot, my AT condenser mic for most interviews, and my Shure stereo mic (the sweetest combo of the lot, to my ears). The downside: no way to hold this puppy without feeling like a juggler: machine in left hand, mic or fishpole (my usual) in the right. I wish it had a shoulder strap! The placement of the site for a tripod or handhold device is bizarre, as it wouldn’t be possible to access the controls. That’s my next work-around: figuring out a strap. Suggestions welcome!
    Oh, and B&H in NYC sells this puppy for $159, shipping included. Sweetwater will meet the price, but without their 2 year warranty.

  • Michael Melo says:

    Great Review Jeff. You have single handidly encouraged me to spend 100 bucks on Hindinburg (so far though I’m likely to pop for the pro version here shortly…)

    I’m currently in the market for a new recorder and was about to pull the trigger on the PCM M10 (despite its age.) Seems to be VERY well liked. Considering you have reviewed both do you have a preference? XLR jacks are great but the audio samples you provided with the PCM M10 and adapter sound incredible compared to these DR40 samples…

    Cheers from Victoria, BC.

  • Erin Cisewski says:

    Thanks so much for the awesome review!

    I know it’s probably crazy, but I’m thinking about getting the Tascam DR100 because I am so in love with the dial feature.

    Does anyone know how the DR100 and DR40 compare otherwise, such as with sound quality and handling?

    ~Sitting on the fence in upstate NY.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Hi Erin, you’re not crazy for preferring the gain input knob on the DR-100, I’ve used both machines and MUCH prefer a knob to the up/down switch that the DR-40 has. And just in general, I like that the DR-100 has more switches. You’ll find yourself going into menus much less.

      THAT said, the two recorders sound pretty similar. The DR-100 might be a little bit quieter, but not by much. Neither of them have enough gain to get a clean. strong signal from a dynamic mic (when recording something like an interview… ) But, if you use a pretty hot mic, like the AT 8010, or the Beyer MCE-58, or a shotgun mic, pretty much any condenser mic, the sound quality will be pretty similar between the two devices.

      But of course, it’s not a simple calculation.

      DR-100 pros: input knob with separate left-right adjustment, more hardware switches, rechargeable battery -AND- AA batteries, separate line out and headphone out.

      DR-100 cons: more expensive than the DR-40, it’s a tiny bit bigger and heavier too, the built-in mics are not as flexible (they don’t move, and aren’t positioned as well to start with), the only line-in is on a stereo mini jack, XLR inputs do not have latches.

      DR-40 pros: cheap!!, the dual recording mode (and/or the peak reduction mode) might save your butt if recording something with unpredictable volume, the quarter-inch line-ins are very convenient for taking a feed from a mixer or other external source, 4-channel recording can be very useful, built-in mics are more flexible and sound a bit better, latching XLR jacks for more secure connections.

      DR-40 cons: input up/down rocker instead of a knob, no independent adjustment of left and right input gain, need to dig in menus to make many common adjustments, only line-out is headphone out, no built-in rechargeable battery.

      The good news is that BOTH of these recorders sound very good with the right mics, and give you a really powerful recording package in a small footprint, and at a low cost. So you’d be in good shape with either of them.

      Good luck!

  • Craig says:

    I too love this device, but lucky me, I have found a problem. Being just a poor guitar player I have no XLR phantom power mics. I do have a few old but nice mics with 1/4″
    plugs though. The problem is that when I plug even a 1/4″ adapter into the 1/4″ jack and close the switch inside the jack I get what sounds like clock noise and plenty of it. It seems worse on the left input but is heard on both right and left. A quick search of the internet found me at least three posts in audio forums about this problem, one with a wave file of the sound. I just bought this thing so I called Tascam’s USA service number to find out if it was an inherent problem or I just got lucky. I was sad to find out there is of course no American service department. Just a few non-technical people that do lord knows what, speak english on the phone to USA customers I guess. Who am I kidding, they were most likely in bangladesh. Anyway, I am going to keep it, it is so sweet even with that problem.
    I hope for a fix, and just wanted to let you all know about it.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Yeah, Craig, you have found a quirk – microphones are just not going to sound very good plugged into the quarter-inch inputs. When the machine is switched to accept signal from the quarter-inch jacks, it’s expecting to see a MUCH louder signal, like something from a mixer or a tape deck, or the output of a mic preamp. Microphone signals are VERY low-level, and need to be amplified pretty significantly (which is why so many of these little recorders sound hissy or gritty or spitty – you need a good mic preamp to crank that signal up cleanly.

      If you plug a mic into the quarter-inch jacks, you’re compounding the problem: the circuitry is built to amplify those signals much less than the ones coming in on the XLR jacks, so you’ll have to turn the input gains WAY up, which will start revealing the preamps’ weaknesses, and probably still not be all that loud, so you’ll have to push the gain up even higher when you mix, which will be turning the noise up too.

      So… basically, that’s not a good match. If you can get a quarter-inch-female-to-XLR male adapter (they exist) and plug your mics into the XLR jacks, you’ll probably get better results. BUT! those mics probably do not have a super loud output, so even the XLR inputs might not be able to get a good clean signal with them. But it should be better – less of that electronic trash you’re getting now.

      But the real answer is to use the built-in mics or to get some mics wired for XLR…

      Good luck, Please let us know how it works out for you!

  • Jo Furniss says:

    Dear Jeff,

    I’m a Broadcast Journalist – formerly BBC – just returning to freelance work after a five year break. My return to work happened rather suddenly last week when I got a commission out of the blue, so I had to drag my old mini disc recorder out of a drawer – remarkably it still works and I’ve done three pieces so far with it this week BUT it is clearly elderly and the battery is going to let me down soon. So I need to upgrade fast…

    However, things have changed in five years and I’m totally bewildered about what to invest in next.

    I mostly make news and feature stories that are heavy on vocal interviews and background atmos. So I need professional audio quality, reliable recording and battery life, and an affordable price. If you were me, what would you buy?

    I’d really appreciate any advice, regards, Jo

    • Kit Griffin says:

      Hello Jo,
      I see you have not received a reply yet so I’ll jump in — but first the caveat. This is my (italicised) opinion in the same way I prefer a certain brand of camera and a particular brand of computer.
      I’d recommend you watch the The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky video review on the Tascam DR100
      Here is the link the Youtube Chanel http://www.youtube.com/nunncenter
      As for a microphone, you will need a shotgun with fuzzy wind-shield also a lavalier microphone. You would use the inbuilt for ambient sound.
      As for which brand I’d be inclined to take the sales reps guide on the understanding you can exchange if not completely satisfied.
      If you are looking for ideas try the “Rode University” http://www.rodetv.com/channel/rode_uni/
      Note the Rode NTG-1 Condenser Shotgun Microphone (£159.00 at Amazon UK)

      Last but not least watch the videos from DV Gear Talk http://www.youtube.com/user/dvestore?feature=watch
      particularly the RODE Lavalier microphone (you can run it wireless or wired).

      Kit Griffin
      Vancouver, Canada
      PS – Merry Christmas

    • Sophie says:

      Hi Jo,

      Did you decide what equipment to get. I’m a total novice and looking for a good starting kit for radio documentary production… so would be interested to know what you decided on.

      Jeff – thanks for the reviews really helpful, but scary to know where to start for a beginner who doesn’t yet know the techie jargon. Any suggestions on a good starting kit?


  • Richard says:

    Hi, great review. I just got mine. I am having this weird thing happen. It seems to be stopping every 5 seconds when I record. I am searching for some mode that I might have accidently set but wondering if this is a total noob error I am missing. I put in my 8gb card and formatting it right now. Maybe it was the card that came with it. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      That definitely sounds like a bad recorder or a bad memory card. Try reformatting the card and/or a different SD card and see what happens. If that doesn’t do it, exchange it for a new one! GOod luck – please let us know what happened!

    • ray siler says:

      I am having the same problem. Right out of the box, it was stopping at 5 seconds. I did a full card reformat and now it still stops at 5 seconds, sometimes at 14 seconds. I guess I will have to dig a little deeper to see if there is a solution other than sending it back.

  • Jim Colburn says:

    FYI for those having trouble with the DR-40 and dynamic mics.

    Musicians Friend has a deal on the Electro-Voice PL84S hand held condenser microphone for less than $40 (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/electro-voice-pl84s-handheld-condenser-mic-with-switch/482602000000000).

    Being a condenser it has a much higher output than an EV635 or Shure SM58. I have one and it’s excellent for spoken word and singers. Battery life on the DR-40 doesn’t seem too bad with it.

  • George Jones says:

    As a journalist doing audio interviews, I think the Tascam DR-100 and a Rode NTG-2 Mic is a good kit.

    I have found that the way to power the NTG-2 Mic is WITHOUT THE AA BATTERY.

    Using the Tascam DR-100 Phantom Power seems to provide about 6 db improvement and lowers the noise floor. For interviews with the NTG-2 in a table top mic stand, I set the rear Mic Gain L-M-H switch on H-High Gain and the side knob gain at around 6 or 7.

    I see the audio test by Jeff in this review of the DR-40 runs the NTG-2 off of Phantom. It would be cool if he could test also the NTG-2 Mic with a AA battery in it.

    • Kit Griffin says:

      Thank you for jumping in there George, good info.

      Kit Griffin

      • George Jones says:

        The new DR-40 and the new DR-100mkII have about 3dB better preamps than the DR-100.

        The THD distortion specs are also improved. All in all it appears Tascam has redesigned the preamp circuits for the DR-40 and the DR-100mkII.

        However, the tip I provided above by running the Rode NTG-2 WITHOUT A BATTERY and using the Tascam’s 48V Phantom Power will give you about 6dB more gain. That, along with positioning the mic closer to the talent / proper over or under booming / selecting a quiet interview location with lower ambient noise helps improve audio performance every bit as much as using better or more expensive audio tools.

        Think of a hammer in the hands of a professional carpenter versus an amateur carpenter. It’s as much about the hammer as it is how the hammer is used.

  • Ariel Pasco says:

    Thank you for the review. It will help me a lot.
    I just got my DR40 2 days ago and have not tested it.
    But according to videos and comments, it is good.
    I want to ask something about the phantom power,
    the unit is powered with three (3) 1.5 batteries,
    i am wondering how many hours can it last
    when i used its phantom power?
    I just got my Rode NT1a 4 months ago



  • John K. Wilson says:

    Does anyone know about the high-output versions of the EV RE50/635 (they call them N/D-B)? Might they make a difference with noise floor issues on these small digital recorders while maintaining the qualities of the dynamic mic?

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Those N/DYM versions of Electrovoice dynamic mics, such as the RE-50N/D-B, are indeed louder than the original versions, but not by quite as dramatically as we would like in this circumstance.

      Of course the proof is in the listening, rather than looking at numbers on a page, often different companies measure things in different ways, or use different standard or references, so the numbers do not always reflect the exact same thing, so direct comparisons are difficult when just looking at specs.

      But just as a general comparison, the RE-50N/D-B has an output of 2.2 mV/Pascal. Of course that number doesn’t have any abstract meaning to the average user, but as a comparison point, the regular RE-50B’s output is 1.8 mV/Pascal. The 635A that is used as an example of a dynamic omni has an output of 1.4 mV/Pascal.

      So yes, the N/DYM versions have a hotter output, and will therefore require less gain form the preamps, and therefore be quieter. BUT! the difference is not all that dramatic. Yes those improvements of .4 over the standard RE-50 or .8 over the 635 are better, but as a contrast, the Rode NTG2 condenser shotgun mic is rated as having an output of 15.8 mV/Pascal. The Audio Technica AT-8010 condenser omni that we often recommend has a reported output of 5.6-6.3 mV/Pascal. So those condenser mics aren’t giving you a few more tenths of a mV over the dynamics, they have 3, 4, 10-TIMES as much voltage at the output, which roughly translates to more volume.

      It’s important to note that those numbers do not correlate in a linear way to how loud, or clean, or present, a mic sounds. Other factors can enter into it, and the way the numbers are reported can sometimes be misleading. But as a rough guide, higher numbers for a mic sensitivity rating (at least when reported as mV/Pascal) indicate a hotter output, and therefore a cleaner recording because the recorder’s preamps don’t need to be turned up as much.

      And in the end, it’s how each mic sounds that’s important, not how the numbers look on a report, so we should certainly try to test more mics. Of course it’s not practical to test every potential microphone with every potential recorder, but it might indeed be good to use one of the better examples of a modern dynamic mic, rather than such an old-school (and just plain old!) mic like that 635.

      In the interim, if anyone has any experience using a RE-50N/D-B with the DR-40 (or any of these new recorders) please report back…

  • Jeff Towne says:

    Thanks for all the info, George!

    I’ll need to do some comparisons myself, but a 6dB difference between using an internal battery with the NTG-2 and using phantom from the recorder seems like more than I’d expect..

    I have NOT done a direct side-by-side comparison yet, but I certainly will now, and will report back. I feel like I have toggled between the two modes in the past and hadn’t noticed much of a difference, but that’s no substitute for actually testing these things…

    It doesn’t make much sense to me, but George is right: using the phantom power from the recorder will reduce battery life rather dramatically. That’s odd, because a single AA battery in the mic will last a long time. Perhaps using phantom from the recorder draws a significantly higher current, which could explain the higher output level that George reports. So, this is an interesting trade-off: using phantom from the recorder could give a louder output, therefore better sound quality, but dramatically reduced battery life; using an internal battery in the mic will extend battery life of the recorder, but sacrificing some sound quality…

    This all suggests that we should do some more testing of these scenarios. Keep an eye out on the tools page, (and here in this topic) I’ll elt you know what we find. Thanks for the heads-up, George!

  • George Jones says:

    EIN – Equivalent Input Noise of Tascam Recorders (impedance 150 ohms; A-Weighted; recording at 44.1 KHz / 16 Bit; tests performed by Avisoft; B&H prices)
    EIN is a measure of how much noise a recorder’s preamps will add to a mic’s signal. The larger negative numbers are the better. The new Tascam DR-100MKII is significantly better in this area than the older DR-100 or the DR-40.
    1. $329 Tascam DR-100MKII EIN = 119bBu
    2. $269 Tascam DR-100 EIN = 113 dBu
    3. $169 Tascam DR-40 EIN = 107 dBu
    IMHO, if you are aiming for Radio Broadcast Quality Sound from a reasonably priced Portable Recorder, I would suggest the Tascam DR-100MKII coupled with a $249 Rode NTG-1 XLR Condenser Microphone. The NTG-1 is powered from the Tascam +48 Volt phantom power. Another option is the NTG-2 at $269. But, again I think it is best to power the NTG-2 via the Tascam’s +48 Volt phantom power versus a AA battery in the mic which I think degrades performance about 6 dB. I look forward to Jeff’s test in this area and the comments from others.

  • Dan R says:

    Did some overdubs on the DR40 today and one song played back with the added part out of sync by 4 seconds.
    Any ideas? 1/2 were dragged files from I-tunes.
    Also had it shut off on me after 10 minutes for no apparent reason a few weeks ago.
    Going to return it to Guitar Center.

  • Dan R says:

    Later I fast forwarded the song and the added tracks went out of sync then it crashed. Got the spinning reels logo and couldn’t even shut it off, totally unresponsive as it played wacky sounding music!

  • Joel B says:

    Quick question: Why did you cross out Readhead Windscreens from the list of third party windscreens? Do you dislike their products or is there an other reason? I was thinking to buy their windscreen for the DR-40.


  • sam says:

    Hey Joel -

    The link was crossed out only because it was bad. Thanks for pointing it out to us.

    – Sam

  • Fred says:

    I picked up a Dr-40 to throw in melody ideas from my guitar & overdub with a bass.
    I am somewhat technilogically challenged but have been able to work things out pretty quickly.Problem is I get a nothing more than a very faint sound from the internal speaker…I’ve read about & checked possible causes for this ..but everything seems to be enabled. Is there something obvious that I’m just not seeing or is the device defective?

    • Dan R says:

      return it. is it new?

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Yeah, the internal speaker is not super-loud, but it should be louder than what you’re describing, if you’re recording at good levels. Does it sound OK in headphones?
      Are your meters showing that you’re getting healthy levels on your recordings? You should see the meters bouncing so that they peak pretty close to the top of the scale, but not quite all the way… If it seems nice and loud in the headphones but not the speaker, then there’s probably something wring with your recorder and you should try to exchange it or get it fixed. But it it’s quiet in both cases, you might just have the playback volume set too low – it’s controlled by the up down arrows on the main navigation control on the face of the unit. You should see a bar display pop-up on the LCD screen when you toggle those arrows up or down.

      Also – if you’re overdubbing, there’s a playback mixer, perhaps you have the tracks turned down in that window. From the home screen, there’s a Mixer button you can push to bring up that control panel. Check the little virtual knobs for the playback channels, make sure they’re turned up.

      If you’re having trouble getting good levels, and these are just rough sketches of tunes that you aren’t going to try to use as final recordings, you might want to try the auto-gain-control and let it set levels for you and see if that’s any better. That’s going to tend to pump the volume up and down a bit, but it might be OK for a start. Or just go ahead and set the input volume higher, and just watch the levels to make sure you’re not clipping.

      But of course, there could be something wrong with the speaker in your specific recorder…

  • Dan R says:

    the dr40 seems junky. I returned the first one when it crashed and corrupted 2 cards. the replacment is now also showing error 50 when I skip to the next file. I’m getting rid of it for a Zoon H4n.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Dan, sorry to hear that you got two bad ones in a row… I’ve been using one for a while and it’s working fine, and I’ve heard mostly good reports from several other people. While it’s true that for $200 they might not be using top-of-the-line components in every part of this machine, it’s definitely an aberration for it to be corrupting memory cards or random errors right out of the box.

      This may have nothing to do with the problems you saw, but it’s generally a good idea to reformat the memory card in the recorder, and to do that from time to time just to give yourself a clean slate, and to be sure the directories are written in the way the recorder wants to see them.

  • gilad says:

    tascam dr 40 is going out of sync: i make video recordings of concerts and show’ using panasonic HD hs900 camera and zoom h4n recorder that are perfect in sync’ have a new tascam dr 40 recorder but the tascam is goin out of sync’ why????????’ thanks gilad haclili

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Gilad, if your Zoom H4n is staying in sync with your video camera, you’re incredibly lucky! Any two digital devices that are not physically synchronized with a cable transmitting time-code and/or word-clock are invariably going to drift. The amount of drift may be more or less depending on the specific devices’ clocks, but it’s really too much to expect that any recorders will stay in sync when run “wild.” Again, perhaps you’ve gotten lucky and the H4n clock and your video camera’s clock just happen to be very similar, but I wouldn’t count on that staying the same over time.

      Ultimately, if you’re not running a physical sync connection (and are recorders that can read and/or write it) you’re going to need to do some manual re-syncing during a project. Usually, that means making some cuts to the audio and nudging the audio forward or backward. There are software solutions for this too – such as VocAlign that can automatically sync a separate recording to scratch audio printed to the video.

      I have not personally used the DR-40 for this kind of recording – as a higher-quality audio track for video, especially when using DSLRs or other cameras with less-than-ideal audio inputs. But I know that many videographers are doing so, and the random reports that I’ve come across of the web seem to indicate that all of the recorders drift…

      If you want to spring for a (large, expensive) Tascam HDP2, or the (even more expensive) Sound Devices 702t, or 722t, they have timecode inputs, so if your camera generates timecode, or you have a standalone timecode generator that your camera will sync to, you should be able to keep things together a little tighter. But the easier, cheaper solution is to just be ready to do a little nudging of the audio in your video editing program.

    • John C. says:

      I’m using DR-40 And it sync ed up to my video from a T2i DSLR pretty well. However my b roll from a point and shoot didn’t. Premiere Pro 5.5 has a time stretch feature that can be used on the video and audio I believe. It worked for my b roll. I don’t know about Final Cut.

  • Josh Z says:

    Hi Jeff — Thanks for the thorough and helpful review — and the past ones, too. I’m wondering if you can speak to how this recording might work in recording from an iPhone? Thanks again.

  • I wish I’d found your reviews months ago. Nobody knows the digi-corder woes I’ve gone through in the last few months. All sorts of Tascam-doodads which I thought I could plug into my iPhone and record like billy-ho, but they’ve all been buggy and fuggy.

    A dedicated digital recorder is what I realise I now need. And this review has decided it will be another Tascam. Third-time lucky!

    Thank you Jeff, incredibly comprehensive and useful. I take my hat off to you and do a merry little jig in appreciation.


  • Laura H says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Right now I own the Sony PCM-M10. It’s the first recorder that I’ve purchased and I learned a thing or two about phantom power and condenser mics when I got my first legit tape sync and found out that I couldn’t the condenser mic they wanted me to use with my recorder without buying some kind of an external phantom power generator. Since then I’ve been on the look out for an affordable recorder that has XLR-inputs and can also generate phantom power. So, for obvious reasons I am very intrigued by the Tascam DR-40. Here’s my question for you though: As I’m pondering buying this recorder, I’m also imagining my new set up. I’d like to be equipped to do 2 person interviews where the host and the guest are both on mic in a sound booth (without any kind of board, just the digital flash recorder). I’m about to ask you this question because I am far from a techie. If I were to purchase the Tascam DR-40 what mic would you recommend I purchase two of, in order to generate a broadcast-worthy recording of two people on mic at the same time? Given that end goal, what mic do you think would sound best with this recorder? Or, should I consider trying to mic directly into Pro Tools 8 and if so how and the heck would I do that?

    Your input is very much appreciated. Not being a technie, I find your blog here on Transom and your input on the AIR list, invaluable.

    • George Jones says:


      According to your post, you seek:

      1. the BEST possible “broadcast-worthy recording”;
      2. of two persons in a sound booth type of controlled interior setting;
      3. using only: (a) one portable recorder which can power XLR P48V mics, (b) one XLR / P48V condenser mic, (c) no board / preamps – external power supplies etc.

      In the BEST category, my recommendation is to consider the new Tascam DR-100MVII recorder ($329)and a Rode NTG-2 XLR P48V mic ($269) … (do not use this mic with a AA battery as it will degrade performance about 6 db)

      The Rode NTG-2 is a hot mic and in your situation with only ONE external mic you could: boom from overhead using a portable mic stand and shock mount the NTG-2 and position it midway between the interviewer and interviewee. Or with a bigger budget, you could use TWO mics.

      EIN is a measure of how much noise a recorder’s preamps will add to a mic’s signal. The larger negative numbers are the better. The new Tascam DR-100MKII is significantly better in this area than the older DR-100 or the DR-40.
      1. $329 Tascam DR-100MKII EIN = -119bBu (BEST)
      2. $269 Tascam DR-100 EIN = -113 dBu (BETTER)
      3. $169 Tascam DR-40 EIN = -107 dBu (GOOD)

      If you desire to be in the GOOD category … then go with the Tascam DR-40

      • David Silberberg says:

        Hi Jeff, I’ve been poring over reviews of small recorders and I’m hoping you will be testing the DR-100MKll. I’m really into finding a small recorder with very quiet noise floor and of the models you have tested, it seems the Marantz 661 seems the best so far (in the <$600 range). Do you think you will be testing the Marantz DR-100MKll ?

        Thanks, David S.

      • George Jones says:

        David Silberberg … I think you meant to say TASCAM … NOT – MARANTZ (you saif “Marantz DR-100MKII”)

        The Tascam DR-100MKII has some of the best LOW NOISE FLOOR – Bang-For-The-Buck right now.
        I see it is around $299 B&H or Sweetwater. Please describe your recording application (indoor / outdoor … radio interviews or audio podcasts or filming … studio music or concert music … club music etc) and what external mics (if any) you plan to use.

        Until Jeff can Comment here … you might also want to see a hands on review by users:

  • Ed says:

    Great review of the DR-40, Jeff– your thoroughness is unmatched. I’ve been reading about the Olympus LS-100 but won’t make any buying decisions until you put it through its paces. Coming Soon?

  • Bob says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Based on your review I bought a DR-40 It works great EXCEPT that I am concerned about the battery life on mine. I immediately replaced the batteries that came with it with Duracell
    ULTRA’s and tested the battery life on a trip home to Maine from NYC. I put the DR 40 on record and left it on for most of the 9 hour trip. It died at 8.5 hours. It was set at MP-3 256 and switched to 128. I noticed that the review mentioned MP3 will shorten battery life but was wondering if 8.5 is acceptable. Thanks.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Hi Bob – it’s hard to make absolute statements on battery life: different brands and types have different lives, and while phantom power and type of file being recorded make the biggest difference, there are other variables as well – backlight settings, speaker on or off, etc.

      But the short version is that recording to MP3, as opposed to WAV, will use more battery life, and yes, 8-9 hours sounds about right for recording to MP3. On one hand, we always want more battery life on all our devices, on the other hand, we have to have reasonable expectations. It wasn’t too long ago that 2 or 3 hours was about all you could expect from a battery-powered recorder, so 8-9 hours still strikes me as pretty amazing. It’s even cooler that some of these recorders can go 10-12 hours or more. So I’d either switch to recording WAV files (always a good idea anyway – get a larger memory card, or be ready to swap-in a spare) or just keep some spare batteries on hand (also a good idea anyway!). Also – The DR-40 can run on USB power, so if you can plug it in, or have an external battery-powered USB power source, you can extend your recording times using those techniques.

  • Bob says:

    Oh yes, I w3anted to mention that Phantom was off. Thanks again.

  • James says:

    Hi, Jeff. I, too, was hoping you might soon weigh in on the new Olympus LS-100 (especially as it compares to the Tascam DR-100MKII). I’m about to drop some pesos on a new mid-level field recorder and it seems an auspicious time… Olympus has put out some great LS’s in the past, so my gut suspects this one will be super, but I trust your word more than my guts – more than my own mother and all the saints combined… so I’m biding time. No pressure… I’m just sayin’…

  • Eric Anderson says:

    I found that the warning message for the A-B to X-Y positioning of the internal mics appear to be incorrect. If you press the “enter” to switch to X-Y, you end up with the left mic active in the left headphone and right mic active in the right headphone where in X-Y configuration they should be opposite, correct?

    Can someone verify this error for me?

  • Jay Allison says:

    We’re shopping for a good price on an Olympus LS-100 right now, so Jeff can test. But it costs double the Tascam DR-40, which is an obstacle for us. And it doesn’t seem to have the advantage of smallness, like the LS-10.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      FWIW, we have the Olympus LS-100 is in-hand, testing is beginning! Quick initial thoughts: it feels solid, has some very nice accessories, like a padded carrying case and a USB/AC power cord. It can do multitrack overdubbing, but it does not seem to be able to record from the built-in mics and external mics at the same time. Nice-feeling hardware input gain knobs which can be adjusted separately for Left and Right channels. Phantom power can be turned on or off independently for left and right XLR inputs. The recorder uses a proprietary rechargeable battery, there’s NO way to use AA batteries or other easy-to-find common alkaline batteries. I haven’t had time to assess the sound quality yet – that, and a full report will be coming soon!

  • Jeff Towne says:

    Important update: Tascam has released a firmware update that enables the DR-40 to set the input gain individually for the left and right inputs. That can be very helpful if one is recording with two different microphones (for instance, a lavalier and a shotgun mic) that need different gain settings. It’s also good for recording a two-mic interview if one subject speaks louder than the other, or is closer to the mic, etc.

    Download here: http://tascam.com/product/dr-40/downloads/

    • George Jones says:

      Thanks Jeff!

      That’s a cool and needed update.

      Once you have installed this update on a DR-40 … can you please do a A / B Test with a Rode NTG2 Mic and post the audio files here along with your assesment?

      A. NTG2 with a AA Alkaline Battery IN it.

      B. NTG2 with the Battery OUT and P48 powered via the DR-40

      I believe you will find somewhat better performance in B. See my notes above.


    • Eric Anderson says:

      Even MORE important for version 1.1…
      The microphones now are selected correctly. The left mic is set for the left speaker and the right for the right. I have not seen ANYONE notice this problem which stupefies me..
      Such a basic part of the operation of the recorder. In version 1.02 if you followed the microphone orientation warnings, you would have the wrong microphone selected for the right and left side. I put this in several forums and even called tech support. I am so glad this has been corrected. Not being a professional I was beginning to doubt myself although I knew something was wrong.

  • scott says:

    I just got my dr-40 today and for the life of me I can not get it to play back through the speaker or head phones. I have turned up the volume and also toggled the speaker setting. If I take the memory card out and plug it in to the computer it plays OK. Am I missing something or do I have a dud unit?


    • James says:

      I just received the DR-100. If it’s the same type of set-up, the problem might be that your levels (not volume) are set to zero. On the DR-100, there is no sound in the headphones if levels are too low – even though playback does produce sound…

  • Martin says:

    I’m loving the quality of the reviews and am about to take the plunge and buy a Tascam DR 40 recorder. Any ideas on my best option / website for buying one of these (I live in Dublin, Ireland)

  • Stuart says:

    Does the XLR input bypass the internal mike preamp when the switch is set to Line? I have a low output mike, but a very nice portable mike preamp that I can use, but wouldn’t bother to buy the DR-40 if that’s not going to get me a good S/N ratio.

    Are there units comparable to the DR-40 or DR-100 that don’t have built in mikes and cost less?

    • Jeff Towne says:

      The external inputs are combination XLR/quarter-inch jacks, so if you were interfacing with an external preamp, you’d use the quarter-inch line inputs, not the XLR mic inputs. So yes, that would go around the mic preamps. At least I’m pretty sure it would go around them completely, but I”m not 100 percent sure about the internal wiring. In any case, relatively little gain would be required from the DR-40, so the hiss that results from turning the gains up high should be negligible, or missing altogether. An external preamp certainly should solve that noise problem.

      I can’t think of any cheaper recorders that don’t have mic inputs, designed to do what you’re describing, but many recorders have dedicated line inputs…

      • red-bike says:

        Hi Jeff (and Stuart),

        This thread addresses the query I’m wondering about — whether or not the XLR and ¼” input connectors are wired in parallel. Thanks!

        Reading page 114 (Specifications: input/output ratings) from the Owner’s Manual, it appears they are and that switching between “mic” or “mic + phantom” and “line” adjusts both sensitivity and impedance. If yes, that would be sweet! (Unless “line” merely switches a pad into the circuit.) If I buy a DR-40, there are various instances when I’d like to connect line-level inputs using XLR cables for many of the same reasons they’re good for mic-level signals. Any sense of what’s actually going on?

  • Bill Bentley says:

    Come on Tascam I was going to buy DR40 until i heard
    all that background hiss.
    Absolutely unacceptable.
    It costs nothing to design and build a quiet preamp.
    I can even tell you how to do it on the cheap.
    Doesnt even handle a dynamic mic.
    We are going back in time here.
    What you guys upto at Tascam?

    Why not put XLR’s top and bottom and just supply Small xlr plug mics to fit, similar to fold back mic on some desks.

    Really what we need is 3 sockets top 3 sockets bottom, for 5.1 surround recording, and even Middle and Side recording on top 3 inputs.

  • Hey Jeff, great review of the DR-40. Like some guys here I have a few doubts on how this recorder goes about in recording from an iPhone? It’s like plug and play or there are any special requirements like config or so in order to accomplish the recording nicely?

    I can say you almost made my mind with this review, but I wanted to make sure it would work with my iPhone.

    Thanks in advance man, and great work!

  • James says:

    So the next and latest comparison would be the DR-40 to the DR-100mk2. Supposedly, the 100mk2 has better mic preamps than the DR-100. So I wonder how that would hold up to an RE 50 mic.

    The other question is, are there any alternatives to the RE 50 that have a higher output?

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Dr-100mkII on the way, haven’t had a chance to assess it yet, but will soon! In the interim, there is indeed a hotter-output alternative to the RE-50: we’ve been liking the Audio Technica AT8010. It’s an omni, like the RE-50, but it’s a condenser, so it has a lot more output level. And it can use an internal battery, so you can use it with any recorder, even if the recorder only has a minijack for mic input, and can’t send phantom power to the mic. There are many other condenser omni mics, we used to recommend the Beyer MCE-58, but it’s pretty pricey in comparison to the AT8010.

      In any case, soon, we’ll have a sense of whether the DR-100mkII has enough input gain, and clean enough preamps to work with dynamic mics, such as the RE-50.

      • James says:

        Thanks for the alternative. How does the Audio Technica deal with handling noise?

        Also, how do you like the RE 50 N/D-B? It has a different pattern than the straight up RE50, but seems the same case and function, just higher output.

      • Daniel S says:

        Hi Jeff,

        Loved the review.

        Checking back to see if now that you’ve had the dr 100 mk II – what you think of it? Are the pre-amps better? Is it nicer enough than the dr 40 to justify the price?

      • Jeff Towne says:

        Yes DR-100mkII is much cleaner and more quiet than the DR-40, or the original DR-100. I like it! Full review coming soon!

      • James says:

        There is on;y one thing that keeps me from getting a DR-100mkii, and that’s the lack of dual recording mode. That feature is so good, and has real bacon saving potential in the field, I can’t see getting a Tascam without it. Funny that the DR2d and the DR-40 (and one or two others) have that function, but not the flagship unit. Too bad, as I need to buy a second recorder for backup.

  • John C. says:

    Great review and forum.
    Has anyone had a problem with picking up cell phone signal while recording? This is not the voices but the carrier signal that goes beepity beepity beep. Sometimes you hear this over guitar amps. I saw one post that said keep away from laptops and cell phones…. Good luck with that!

  • John C. says:

    PS. As far as wind screens you can make your own dead cat cheaply. look on you tube for “make your own dead cat” for a few instructional vids. Who wants to pay 50 smackers?

  • Patrice Venne says:

    Hi Jeff,
    First thank you for your review and the test files you have provided, it helped me managed my expectations on the Tascam, or so I thought. I received my DR-40 yesterday with great expectations, unfortunately I’m disappointed because I have a lot of background noise. I use a Rode NTG-2 on the line 1 ext, 24 bit BFWm 96k, mono and the noise is unbeareable in the same way that your test result with the EV-635A. There is no way I can use it as a broadcast tool. I tried all possible (?) combinations, permutations: phantom, battery, mp3@256k (the same config that you use), BWF, WAV format, etc but I still have the noise . . . Am I missing something or my unit has a serious problem?

    • James says:

      I use the DR-40 with a Rode NTG1, which is pretty much the same mic but without the slot of a battery. So far, it’s been great. I did a test in mp3 for a friend with it, and I will like to it here. The room was kind of noisy (bedroom with a poorly installed window A/C unit, so there is a little outside noise), but the results were still pretty good. Please be kind, it was just a test. :)


      • Patrice Venne says:

        Thanks James,
        Your recording sounds great that is exactly what I was looking for but for whatever reason I get a loud hiss all the way from recording to playback :-( By any chance, do you remember your settings?


    • Jeff Towne says:

      Hey Patrice, as James indicated, you should really be getting a good clean signal with the NTG2, so you either have a bad recorder, or a bad mic… I know you said you tried all the combinations, but I’m wondering if it’s a phantom power problem – if you used an internal battery in the mic, make sure it’s a brand new one (and that there’s no corrosion or anything on the battery contacts. Or try turning on the phantom power from the recorder. Without phantom, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear anything at all, but you could get a very low signal, whihc would account for the hissiness… But yesh, something’s wrong! Good luck…

      • Patrice Venne says:

        Thanks James,
        The NTG2 works fine with my EX3 either ways (battery or phantom), I used a brand new battery for testing. I guess I should return the unit . . .
        Thanks again!

    • James says:

      Looks like you did a good job of troubleshooting the problem. Yep, sounds like a bad unit. I also used the DR-40 with an Audio Tecnhica shotgun and a Rode Procaster with a dbx 286s voice processor / mic preamp and it worked great. So you probably have a bad unit, but don’t be discouraged. The next one is going to be great. :)

  • Elvin Edmeade says:

    Hey guys,

    i saw some earlier post noting that after a while the recording would stop. It happened to me too. When it does this you will see on the left side of the screed the record circle change from record to a record pause symbol. To fix this enter the menu and go to record settings. You should see a list starting with format, sample and so on. scroll down until the mode is highlighted and turn it off. This will solve the problem. if it doesn’t then you have another problem.

    Good Luck

  • Mark Lyons says:

    I just purchased a DR-40 and Rode NTG-2, which I run on phantom power only. I set the input level at 70 to get the volume I need for an interview with the mic about 5 inches from the source. Here’s my problem: when I am recording and listening through the headphone, the noise is incredibly loud, filled with buzzes and hisses and ambient sound–really too loud to listen to for any length of time. However, when I download the file to edit it on my laptop, the sound is clean, without the awful noises I hear through the headphones. The headphones seem good–I use them for editing with no problem. Is there a setting I can do do eliminate the loud awful noise in the headphones? Thanks, you do great work.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Hi Mark,
      You can adjust your headphone levels by pressing the plus or minus buttons on the face of the recorder, in that circular menu/navigation area. You do want to monitor loud enough that you can tell what the mics are picking up, but you don’t want it painfully loud, or to get distracted by background noise. You really shouldn’t be hearing too many buzzes and hisses, even with the headphones up pretty loud, but just try turning that headphone level down a little and see if that sounds more natural. Most recorders have a headphone volume knob or buttons near the jack, I’m not sure why Tascam decided to put the controls for the volume where they did, but it’s pretty easy to use once you get used to it. Glad to hear you’re getting good recordings as you listen back in the computer.

  • Patrick Collins says:

    Have just received my DR40 which I got as replacement for a faulty DR100. (and some change) I have tested it with the internal mics and externals. I used a Rode NTG2 and a Sennheiser K6/ME66 combo, and am very pleased with the results. Since the firmware update V1.10 allows me to adjust levels separately I can now compensate for the lower output of the Rode.

    I dont notice any difference in the sound quality of the DR40 to the DR100, and the only reason I can think of getting the DR100 (Mk II) is the optical in. I also really like the dual recording mode of the DR40 for situations where there is a large dynamic range.

    • Jon says:

      Patrick, can you add any information on the ‘helicopter noise’ problem others have experienced with the DR-40? It sounds like you have no such problem.

      Do you know if has it been fixed for everyone or were you just lucky?

      Looking forward to Jeff Towne’s review of the DR-100 mkii to know if it will work well with the Electrovoice 635 or RE-50, if the DR-40 is suspect. Though the lack of DR-40 four track / backup track would be a disappointment. With thanks, Jon.

  • Chuck McGregor says:

    Hi Jeff,

    “Unfortunately, all input gain adjustments are made to the left and right channels as a pair, there’s no way to apply more gain to one mic than the other.”

    Happily, this has been fixed. Among a couple of other things, the firmware update 1.10 –
    “allows independent control over the two input levels, so you can match up different microphones. The delay setting has also been expanded to 150ms, especially useful for live recordings when the mixing console is far away from the stage.”

  • Timo says:

    i´ve got an question about the level controls. i´am doing a lot of accustic videossessions with diffenent artists and the tascam ist my new toy. most time, the setup is the tascam stereo mic + 2 ntg1.

    the ntg1 are for instruments and vocals.
    could someone give me an advice for the best workflow with the peak reduction and the limiter. where is the difference?

    first the peak redcution for the max level and during the recording the limiter?


  • Peppe says:

    Hi Jeff, thanks a lot for your great review, has been really useful. I’ve got a little little problem with my Zoom H4n. I bought two days ago a Rode NTG2, I’ve heard great things and the mike itself sounds really good but the combination with the zoom is a downer, is too low. I’ve seen this as a commont problem with other users. Would you suggest the tascam dr-40 over the Zoom? How the preamps on the Tascam work? If I sell the zoom I’ll be right on the tascam D-40 with the same money and my problem will be fixed.
    I work mostly with documentaries and I thought the NTG2 would suite me in different situations like indoor/outdoor kind of works. Thanks for your attention though and for the review.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      The Zoom H4n and the DR-40 are pretty similar recorders: they can do many of the same things, such as record from internal mics and external outputs at the same time, and they both are clearly oriented largely toward the music recording scene, especially recording live, amplified music. That said, either one can work for other kinds of recording, like interviews. Hot output mics are much better, and the Rode NTG-2 is one of those, but it’s true that both recorders are going to require cranking the gain up pretty high to get a good signal. Doing that can increase the hiss and background noise on your recordings. Sadly, there’s not a dramatic difference between the two – I might give a small edge to the DR-40. But it’s somewhat down to personal taste… That’s why we put the sound files up in the reviews, so you can listen and decide what you think! Ultimately the best solution if you’re having trouble getting clean gain is to try the Tascam DR100 mkII, the updated version of the DR-100. That mark II version has cleaner preamps and a really good sound overall. Neither version of the DR-100 can do the trick of recording from the built-in mics and the external inputs at the same time, but on the sound-quality front, the DR-100 mk II wins… Full review coming soon…

  • Still awaiting a response to Peppe’s question from Mr. Towne. Mr. Towne – we look forward to your reply this year!

  • phil martino says:

    i would just like to know how to set the dr-40 for recording our 50′s musical group; there are plenty of websites showing the dr-40 features, however how about some hands on vidio with actual settings , including two external mikes, and how to play back through a sound system; also how to burn a demo cd for club owners and bookings; thanks; bigredbarn1@yahoo.com

  • duncan_mk says:

    I have no experience of this sort of thing but I’ve decided (in my retirement) construct an oral history of my village. This will be derived from a series of (fairly small – between 5 & 12) groups, of between 60 and 86 years old (I am 67 but not ‘of’ this village). sitting round a table in a large, high ceilinged room and talking about their youth & childhood: echo, background noise, more than one person at a time speaking and, on occasion, raucous laughter – BEER & strong spirits will be involved.

    At £170.00 I can afford DR-40. Will it be OK for the job or should I look at something else?

    Thanks for any advice


    • The DR-40 should work quite nicely for this application. The only thing is that you will want to record in a lower quality format for anything like this over 30 min long. The DR-40 can record in a few different qualities of MP3. The limiter feature will really help you with the audio level fluctuations. It will require some experimentation to get the settings right but I think it would be just about perfect for you.

  • john swan says:

    Hey Jeff I wish I had read this before I purchased the DR-40. I am working on a documentary using a DSLR doing quiet interviews. What would you suggest I do. I am using 2 SM-11 Shure dynamic mics and getting a terrible hiss as noted in your review but I really like the features and price of the DR40. What are some good high output condenser lav mics and or can you suggest a recorder that has XLR inputs and better mic pre’s. Great review thanks for taking the time to do it.

  • I can highly recommend the DR-40. We use it to record audio while shooting video with our DSLR cameras. For mics, we have had by far the best results with Seinheisser shot gun mics. I have thankfully not used any of the cheap Rode mics which everyone tends to use and have problems with. We are primarily using the Seinheiser ME66/K6 mic. It is a mono mics so having the built in stereo mics to record a seperate ambient stereo track to mix in later is perfect!! The ME66/K6 also has its own battery so it can supply its own phantom power. Because the only gripe I have with the DR-40 is that it PLOWS through batteries like mad!

    Anyway, I am able to help answer a few othe questions posted here. (which I will go back and reply to individually)

    Thanks very much for the detailed article!

  • Clark B. says:

    Hello, Jeff! I’m truly sorry if you’ve addressed this issue already — presumably you have — but I’m failing to access the remaining comments already posted so it’s hard to tell.

    I just purchased the Tascam DR40 with the Rode NTG2. All over the web it’s too easy to find complaints/horror stories about how the two devices together produce a frustratingly low sound. It’s either due to the DR40′s preamps or the low signal of the NTG (relative to other “hot output” mics) . My case is no exception. I was wondering just how you managed to achieve such rich sound from your quality test using the NTG2 and the DR40 together. The audio level is significantly louder than my recordings. Even when I boost the volume in post, they still don’t even approach your recording. Physically bringing myself closer to the mic produced the same failed results. The audio is clear, just VERY low. Were you using an additional preamp? Or simply the NTG2 + balanced XLR cable + DR40? What were your settings on the DR40 that allowed you to achieve this sound without increasing the gain to the point where background noise was overwhelming? Did you edit the recording in any way?

    Anyone who has solved this problem, I’d love any sort of help.

    What is the key?

    Thanks for your time!

    • Jeff Towne says:

      I’m surprised that folks are having problem with this combination – but it’s not just you, indeed I’ve heard from a few folks with similar scenarios. I really didn’t do anything special – no editing afterward, just plugged in the mic and recorded. It’s unlikely that any of these things are causing your problems, but just to systematically troubleshoot:
      - you DO have a fresh battery in the NTG2 -OR – have phantom power turned-on ? (EXT IN switch on the side of the recorder is set to Mic+Phantom, or just mic if you have an AA battery in the NTG2) I don’t think you’d be getting much of anything without that, but just in case…
      – you are SURE you’re set to record from the XLR (EXT IN switch on the side of the recorder is set to Mic, not line) , you’re not hearing the built-in mics instead
      – you are set to REC MODE: Mono, and your mic is plugged into the LEFT XLR input.
      -you don’t have a pad turned on in the menus
      -Level Control OFF? those level control modes can be useful, but if you have it set to Peak reduction, it will turn down the input gain on its own, that’s how it’s supposed to work… to just do a basic test recording, go full-manual.
      The input gain does need to be up fairly high – but not cranked all the way, so you shouldn’t be getting too much preamp noise.

      That’s all I can think of right now – double check all that stuff and check back with us and let us know what happens!

  • Hello, I have recently purchased the TASCAM-DR40 and it’s great; with high quality recording using the built in mikes. There is no problem with sound, WHEN I listen to my files directly from the TASCAM. However, when I play the wav files via the computer, or moves the files to a usb drive or hard drive, the vollume is very low and barely audible. Can someone please help me with this asap? I have to record some audio files form my college subject, which is due Monday night. Apart from that, I would like to HEAR my files properly. Thanks in advance. I will also review the information posted above on 22nd Feb. I just don’t understand why the files on the unit are near perfect, but don’t have vollumek via any other mode.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Susan – it’s hard to imagine what would cause that problem – of your recordings sounding fine in the recorder, but too low when you transfer the files. The only thing that I can think of that would explain it would be if you recorded way too low in the first place, but you can hear it pretty well by cranking up the headphone level on playback. When you play back the sound on the DR-40, what’s happening on the meters? Are the meters bouncing healthily, with peaks up near full scale (all the way to the right) or do the meters show much lower levels, with the black bars only reaching half-way or less? If so, you’re recording too low. It takes a bit of practice to balance the input gain and the headphone level. Make sure to set the input gain so that it looks good on the meters, THEN set the headphone level so that it’s comfortable to listen to: loud enough that you can hear clearly and make sure that your mic positioning is good, and you’re not getting P-Pops, or handling noise, etc, but not so loud that it’s fatiguing your ears, or that you’re tempted to turn down the input gain. If it’s not that, I’m really not sure what could be going on…..

  • Peter says:

    I have a Rode NTG-2 and I’m looking for a recording device that I can pair with the Rode so I can record both the interview subject and the interviewer using the Rode and the recording device’s internal mics, recording both sources at the same time. Would the DR-40 be a good pick for this kind of setup? Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere but I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of product reviews and I don’t know which way is up anymore! I’m just looking for an affordable and efficient way to mic two people at the same time without using two external mics.

    • Jeff Towne says:

      I’m generally not a big fan of using the built-in mics as interview mics. Those mics on most recorders are very good for recording music, or ambience, or you-are-there scenes where your in the middle of some action. But those mics are not the greatest for up-close voice recording. Of course you can get away with using them if you’re careful, but you’ll generally get a better sounding recording by using two mics that are designed more for voices, plugging one into the left XLR input, the other into the right XLR input, and just recording in stereo mode. That said, you CAN do what you describe by using the DR-40′s 4-track mode. Position the recorder so that the built-in mics pick-up one person, and position an external mic for the other person, then record in 4-track mode – you’ll end up with a pair of sound files, one from the built-in mics, one from the external mic. You’ll have to do a little twiddling after that fact: you probably want to pan both channels of the built-in mics to the center, or only use one track of that stereo pair (whichever sounds better – you may need to think about this as you position the recorder, perhaps pointing one of the mic elements more directly at the source.) And then the stereo track from the XLR inputs will have signal just on the left channel, and nothing on the right. Be sure to split that recording into its left and right channels, and throw away whichever one doesn’t have the audio recorded on it, if you leave it in the mix, it will likely add noise. So again, I’d try to get a second interview mic (or just hand-hold the mic and move it between the interviewee and interviewer) but if you need to use the technique you described, the DR-40 should work fine for that…

  • I have the Rode NTG-2 and I’m looking for a recorder for live concert (with loud music). With my videocamera the NTG-2 picks up the sound but my camera can’t handle that. So I got the advise to buy a recorder. Is the Tascam DR-40 the right one for me?

    • Jeff Towne says:

      The DR-40 will do very well recording loud concerts – in fact I suspect that’s what it was primarily intended for! And I’d just use the built-in stereo mics, I think those will give you a much better you-are-there sound than a shotgun mic. That’s a good mic, but not really intended for recording loud music. That said, if you want, you can use both: plug the NTG2 into an XLR input and record in 4-Channel mode, using both the built-in mics and the shotgun. Of if you have access, you could get a line-out from the mixing board, run that into the line-ins, and again, record in 4-Channel mode using both the line inputs from the mixer and the live sound from the mics.

    • James G says:

      For plugging into a console, 1/4″ cables to whatever they have to send you. Could be 1/4″, could be RCA, could be XLR. Set the switch on the side to External source.

      Also, the dual mode is pretty good for live stuff. You can only record in stereo, but it records a quieter copy, in case you peak on your main recording.

  • I have the Tascam DR-40 and the DR-05, and they both suffer from the same noise issue when recording Mp3 files. There is an odd background noise generated by the recorder, and it’s irrelevant of the Mp3 quality level setting. At first, the louder recording levels I made masked the noise. But while recording in a quiet room, the silent passages between speaking were infiltrated with a crystalline noise that ruined the recording. Even at the 128, 192, 256 and 320 settings, the noise is still there. The odd thing is, it’s the same noise that is present on all the newer model Tascam recorders. Granted, it’s pretty subdued. Many will not hear it, but it’s still there. The older style Tascam DR-100 model did not have this noise. My Zoom H2 recorder and my Sony recorder do not have this noise at ANY Mp3 setting. Fortunately, the noise is not present on the Tascam when recording using the WAV format, but let’s face it, this noise should not be there in the Mp3 mode either. No other brand of Mp3 recorder has this odd noise, even the cheap units.

    Here is a link to the recording demonstrating the noise. I accentuated the noise level by using AGC so it could be easily heard and identified. Normally, the noise is much lower than this, but it shouldn’t be there at all. Anyone know how to get rid of it?


  • andres says:

    Hi i just get the Tascam Dr-40. I made a test with the internal mics but when hear them on the computer, i get a faint volumen level. I had to normalize it on Audition. This expected to work this way or something must be change on settings to get a louder sound? regards

    • Nathan says:

      You need to include more information. Such as, how far was the source sound (person speaking or whatever) from the recorder. Also have you adjusted the input gain so that the input level meters are nearly hitting the arrow mark on the meter?

  • aman syed says:

    Is dr 40 recorder for singing use…will it sound better if I sing on dr 40 mic without any other mic attach to it?

    • Nathan says:

      The DR-40 can sound very good for singing with no other mics but it depends on the level of quality you are trying to achieve. This is not going to be as good as any “studio” vocal mic but you might find it better than a basic Shure SM58. One main difference is that the DR-40 will record in stereo and the mic positions are adjustable. So it depends on if you are recording someone singing for a professional level album or just for personal use. At a professional level, the mics are not even close to even a cheap “studio” condenser vocal mic.

      • aman syed says:

        Thanks for the reply nathan, I bought the tascam dr 40 as a recorder now would you suggest me any good affordable mic for professional singing. It will be really helpful if you explain me on how to connect the mic to the tascam . Since I don’t have much knowledge with mics.

    • Nathan says:

      If you bought the Dr-40 for recording professional level singing then that was probably a mistake. I assume you are planning to use a computer to edit the singing, in which case you should have just got a USB recording interface with good quality preamps. Also, the dr40 will likely not have enough power to run most studio mics. I get lots of noise when i try to run my MK4 off the phantom power of the dr40. Try some recording with the dr40 by itself first to get some practice with it. Record some singing and see how it sounds. Other things like sound damping and room size are going to play a huge factor so i would say see how good you can get it to sound with just the dr40 first before you spend more money on mics

  • MrArarat says:

    He aqui una video-review de la Tascam DR40 (en español)
    Revise las principales funciones y tambien comento acerca de sus microfonos y la calidad de grabacion del mismo (en la descripcion del video encontraran un grabacion hecha con la interfaz)

  • damianadodd says:

    I have a DR-40 and just purchased a used NTG-2. I don’t know how you got that loud/clean recording. Using phantom power over XLR (battery removed) and Mono External In, I either get a very low recording or after cranking the input, one with a lot of distortion. I tried using my JuicedLink Riggy RM333 between them and the result was MUCH better.

  • Kate Hallen says:

    OK – I’m a complete novice at this so please bear with me! I bought a Tascam dr40 so that I could very simply record rehearsals, jams, and solo practice for the purpose of learning/improving my playing (and possibly come out with a track or two for sharing when people ask what I’m doing, musically). I’ve made a coupla recordings and can listen through the mini output, but I cannot figure out how to interface with my macbook. When plugged in to the usb port, I can neither view the recorder’s anywhere nor, therefore, save files. I’m old, but not totally useless when it comes to dealing with digital files and applications, and maybe my frustration with this has allowed me to miss something in the manual or the searching I’ve done online… but I’d really appreciate some help!!! thanks!

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Make sure the DR-40 is powered-up, then when you plug the USB cable between the DR-40 and your Mac, you should get an alert on the recorder’s main screen, asking you if you want to use the USB connection for bus power or for Storage. Select Storage (by using the +/- keys to highlight the word Storage, then pressing the Enter/Mark button to select.) The DR-40 should appear on your Mac as an external hard drive. If it doesn’t, make sure you’re plugged directly into one of your computer’s USB ports, not a hub. If you can see the DR-40 on your computer’s desktop, or in a list of hard drives, double click on its icon, then double-click on the “Music” folder, and you should find your recordings. If for some reason this process still isn’t resulting in the DR-40 appearing on your Mac, try a different USB cable, or just remove the SD card from the recorder, and insert it into a card-reader attached to the computer. Many newer computers have an SD slot built-in, or external card readers are quite affordable. Hope this helps !

      • Kate Hallen says:

        Jeff – thanks so much for the info including the potential troubleshooting extras (which I didn’t need- connection was fine, but so thoughtful of you to include them!) I’d been leaving the screen setting on bus power… So now I’m able to save the files–and am signed up to learn some garageband editing basics, comin right up. You’re a gem–I really appreciate the help! Kate

  • Johan says:

    Hello Jeff,

    Thanks for the review, really nice.

    I’ve bought this recorder a little while ago, included with an AKG C568EB microphone. I’ll mainly use it for my fireworks video’s.

    I got two records of the same fireworksshow, one with the in-built camera microphone (first link) and one with the Tascam DR-40 and the AKG microphone.


    Actually I was a little dissapointed when I listened back the record of the Tascam. It’s hard to explain why, though. I would love to hear your meaning of both records and I’d appreciatie it if you could maybe give some advice.

    Best regards,

  • Mark says:

    Having an odd problem with my DR-40 and would appreciate any suggestions. I need to transfer material from a DAT machine (old studio rack mount unit) and am using XLRs outs to the 1/4 jacks input on the DR-40. Have the switch set for line input, but even when I use the side rocker switch to lower the input volume all the way, the levels are still too hot.

    Have only used this particular recorder with mics before trying to do this transfer. Is there maybe something wrong with my unit — so it’s not switching to line level for the input? Or am I doing something dumb?

    Thanks in advance for any help!

    • Jeff Towne says:

      Mark, what you’re doing is technically correct: you have the right idea, but I suspect that the output of the DAT machine is just a bit too hot. Using the balanced XLR line-outs from that DAT to the quarter-inch line-ins on the recorder should be a very good, high-quality connection, but in reality, as you’ve found, it might be too much level for the DR-40. The balanced XLR outs of the DAT are sending level at +4 dBu, and the line-in of the DR-40 is supposedly rated to handle that, but the actual level coming out of various equipment varies pretty widely, and you might happen to have a hot-output DAT. There are a few work-arounds. The easiest is to try the unbalanced -10dbV line-outs, if that machine has them, they’re probably on RCA jacks. I suspect those would work fine. The other simple option is to try the headphone output. I don’t love that idea, headphone outputs are often noisy, but at least they’re variable, so you could back the level down a little, then adjust the input gain on the DR-40 to get your meter bouncing right. Another solution is to plug the DAT into a mixer, then the mixer into the DR-40, and use the mixer to back the levels down a bit. You could also use in-line attenuators, or “pads” if you happen to have access to those. They’re little XLR barrels, with an input on one side and an output on the other. Some have switches for variable level reduction, others are set to one level: -10dB or -20dB etc. A 10 dB reduction would probably solve your problem. Many recorders have an internal pad you could switch on, but I do not believe that the DR-40 has one. Do make sure that you don’t accidentally have automatic gain control turned on, that can result in a too-high input level, and the input gain switch has no effect. You MIGHT try the DR-40′s “peak reduction” mode: it analyses the input signal and automatically sets it so that it won’t clip, but leaves it at that one stable level, it doesn’t ride the level up and down the way Autiomatic Gain Control does. But if the signal is too hot at the input, you might still get some distortion, regardless of you your meters look. In that case, you’d need to try one of my early suggestions, like using the RCA line outs, or a mixer, etc. Good luck, please let us know how it goes, and what works!

      • Mark says:

        Jeff — Thanks so much for the really quick and helpful reply!.

        The DAT only has XLR outs and I think you’re right about the +4DB. Just tried Peak Reduction — great feature, BTW — but it was still too hot. So I will ask around to see if I can borrow a small mixer or some attenuators. And if not, will use the headphone out as a last resort. Thanks again!

        Best, Mark

  • Nina says:

    Hi Jeff,

    My tascam dr-40 won’t hold a charge. I put in three brand-new AA batteries and the icon on the upper right hand side of the screen waivers from empty to one bar to two bars. When I try to record, it says that battery is empty. And won’t let me. Sometimes, if I wait long enough it will display one or two bars and let me record, but it doesn’t last long. Thoughts?


  • Sarah Dunlap says:

    How do I reformat the memory card for a DR-40. It keeps showing my there’s no music file on it

  • Lucas says:

    Ahoj, omlouvám se za svůj jazyk, nejsem příliš znalý toho Vašeho.
    This is translate my query:
    Hi, I apologize for my language, I’m not too familiar with yours.
    Maybe this is a stupid question but: today is the Tascam DR-40 Tascam DR-07 MKII small price difference. Includes DR-40 microphone preamplifiers noticeably better than its cheaper brother? My intention is to use the device in nature, the quiet sound source to minimum systems noise. I would like to use the device with internal microphones and also connected with Rode VideoMic (self-powered) to 1/4 input. Will the Tascam DR-40 on both of these purposes better involvement, or comparable as DR-07 MKII? It is the sensitivity of DR-40 inputs XLR and 1/4 the same, for the microphones with their own power supply? Personally, I does use XLR inputs alone is not used, only the inner 1/4, so I’m having second thoughts. Connecting Rode VideoMic would probably dealt with recording in mono. Will the signal / noise ratio greater for DR-40? I have a limited budget … Thank you very much for every answer :)
    I am sorry, this must be very stupid translated :D

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