Tascam DR-Series Flash Recorders

Tascam DR-series recorders

Intro from Jay Allison: Jeff Towne reviews three new portable digital recorders from Tascam (The DR-07, DR-1, and DR-100): “Tascam has released three smaller, less-expensive SD card-based recorders, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all offering good functionality and decent sound quality.” I won’t give it away, but one of them gets the nod as the best new budget recorder. Jeff also includes a mini-review of a relatively inexpensive omni field mic to match with the new generation of recorders, the Audio Technica 8010.

Tascam DR-07, DR-1, DR-100

Tascam has been a serious player in professional-level field recording for many years. Their DAP-1 portable DAT machine was a very popular device for remote recording, and its digital successor, the HDP-2 (reviewed here>>) offered the same functionality, recording to Compact Flash media rather than digital tape. But the HDP-2 is big and expensive. Tascam has released three smaller, less-expensive SD card-based recorders, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all offering good functionality and decent sound quality.

Tascam DR-07 USB

Transferring files to a computer for editing or archiving is simple: plug in a (supplied) mini USB-to-USB cable from the recorder to a USB jack on your computer. Do not plug into a USB hub, plug directly into the computer. The recorders will automatically go into USB transfer mode, and appear on the computer as a removable drive. Soundfiles are stored in a folder called “Music” and can be copied to another drive by dragging and dropping or any conventional file management technique.

The DR-1 and DR-100 can also charge their internal Li-Ion batteries while connected via USB, but it’s a slow process, allow several hours for a full charge using this method. Unlike some manufacturers devices, these recorders can NOT perform record or playback functions while connected via USB, so your computer or a portable USB battery pack cannot act as a back-up power source. One can purchase an optional A/C power adapter from Tascam, but none of the recorders ships with one.

Tascam DR-07

The internal mics are of decent quality, although there is a noticeable amount of hiss when used to record quiet sources. Their position pointing out the end of the recorder make the DR-07 much better-suited for impromptu interviewing than the Zoom H2, another sub-$200 flash recorder that’s proved attractive to budget-minded recordists. The built-in mics are very directional, and so they’re pretty susceptible to P-Pops, wind and handling noise, so ideally, one would want to use an external microphone for serious interviews, but it’s nice to have the built-in mics for fast-paced run-and-gun circumstances. Tascam provides a foam windscreen that helps reduce the effect of wind on the mics, and it does help, but it only goes so far. Any hand movement on the case is very audible as well, so the built-in mics are not an ideal choice for interviews, but they can work well for recording ambiences and impromptu vox populi comments.

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Listen to “DR-07 Built-In Mics”

There’s no switching required or menu settings to change when using an external mic, just plug the mic into the mini jack and the recorder automatically switches to that input. (There’s a menu setting to activate the separate line-level input.) The record volume for all inputs is set in two places: there’s a menu setting for low, medium or high gain, and then a volume knob on the side. Choosing high gain and then turning the input knob up high creates a problematic whiny buzz, so a high-output microphone is best suited for typical interviews. Popular dynamic omni mics, such as the RE-50, don’t have a loud enough output for this recorder, resulting in buzzy, or hissy background sound when levels are normalized at the mix stage.

However, this inexpensive recorder sounds pretty good with higher-output microphones. Condenser mics that get phantom power from internal batteries work very well with the DR-07, creating relatively low-noise recordings. There is a built-in limiter that can be engaged via a menu, and it doesn’t impact too negatively on the sound quality, but the Automatic Gain Control is pretty heavy-handed, and is best avoided if sound quality is an issue. This sub-$200 recorder’s sonic purity is not going to rival machines 5 to 10 times its price, but it sounds much better with external microphones than the other recorders in its price range.

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Listen to “DR-07 Dynamic Omni”
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Listen to “DR-07 Dynamic Cardiod”
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Listen to “DR-07 Condenser Omni Mic – High Gain”
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Listen to “DR-07 Condenser Omni Mic – Medium Gain”
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Listen to “DR-07 Condenser Shotgun Mic”


Tascam DR-1

The DR-1 functions very similarly to the DR-07, and has the same basic sonic behavior as well. The built-in mics are pretty good, but using them requires a steady hand, as handling noise and wind can be a problem. If an external mic is used, like with the DR-07, the DR-1 requires a fairly high-output model to avoid hissy background noise, unless one is recording loud events. But with a condenser mic, the DR-1 can make very good sounding recordings even of quiet sources like interviews.

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Listen to “DR-1 Internal Mics”
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Listen to “DR-1 Dynamic Omni”
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Listen to “DR-1 Dynamic Cardioid”
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Listen to “DR-1 Condenser Omni”


Tascam DR-100 input switch

In a refreshing change from most recorders, choosing which input is live does not require hunting through menus and sub-menus: there’s a hardware switch on the top of the recorder that allows easy selection and confirmation of the active input. Unlike the Zoom H4n, the DR-100 can only record from one pair of inputs at a time, which is pretty standard, and usually sufficient for most field recordings.

Tascam DR-100-XLR inputsSurprisingly, the DR-100 displays similar audio performance as its smaller relatives. The XLR jacks provide a more secure connection, and the phantom power allows a wider-range of microphones to be used, but the mic preamps still don’t have sufficient gain to make strong recordings with low-output mics. The preamps are a bit cleaner overall than the ones in the DR-1 and DR-07 – not pristinely quiet even with high-output mics, there’s a small amount of background hiss – but overall, the sound quality is quite good. But the DR-100’s performance with low-output mics such as reporter stand-bys the EV RE50, or 635A, leaves much to be desired.

DR-100-left sideThe built-in unidirectional microphones are handy for recording music, ambiences and live events, but like the external inputs, they seem to be optimized for loud sounds. While these internal mics could be used for interviewing in some circumstances, there’s a noticeable whooshy background hiss, and a low-level pulsating high-pitch tone that’s clearly audible when recording in quiet spaces. Additionally, the microphones are very sensitive to P-Pops and wind, and handling noise from the case is readily transmitted through the mics, so in most cases, an external microphone is better for interview work.

Download
Listen to “DR-100 Internal Unidirectional Mics”


Tascam DR-100 windscreen

The built-in omnidirectional microphones are almost useless; any recorded sound is muffled, buried in hiss and that pesky high-pitched tone. Still, there could be some practical use for these mics, as long as the recordings were not meant for broadcast or critical listening.


Download
Listen to “DR-100 Internal Omnidirectional Mics”
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Listen to “DR-100 Dynamic Omni”
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Listen to “DR-100 Condenser Omni”
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Listen to “DR-100 Dynamic Cardioid”
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Listen to “DR-100 Condenser Shotgun Mic”


Tascam DR-100 case

The DR-100 ships with a soft carrying pouch, which offers some protection, but sadly doesn’t have a pocket for cables or spare media, or even space for the foam windscreen. But it’s better than nothing, and can protect the unit from minor scratches and bumps.

One big difference between the three recorders is the powering scheme. The DR-1 is burdened with a proprietary rechargeable battery, not AA cells as has become fairly standard for these compact recorders. The battery is relatively long-lived, and can be removed, so carrying a spare is a possible solution, but it’s not nearly as convenient as being able to use readily-available AA batteries.

The good news is that the DR-07 and the DR-100, do not suffer from this problem. Two AA batteries power the tiny DR-07, and the more professionally-oriented DR-100 can run on either an internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery or two AA batteries. Even better than that, the DR100 can start recording with the one battery, then switch automatically to the other without interrupting the recording (although in our tests, we haven’t been able to make this seamless transition work!) If one is meticulous about recharging the internal battery, you may never need the AAs. But if recharging is not practical in the field, one can use easily-sourced AA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable Ni-MH types. For long recording times, the two batteries can cascade. Tascam claims that the DR-100 can derive about 5 hours of record time from the rechargeable Li-Ion, approximately 2 hours from two Alkaline AAs, or about 4 from good quality rechargeable Ni-MH rechargeable AAs, and in our real-world tests, those numbers look pretty accurate. The DR-07 recorded over 9 hours on a single pair of Alkaline AA batteries.

AT 8010

As mentioned above, none of the recorders ships with an AC power adapter, but it’s available as an option. The DR-1 and DR-100 recharge when connected to a computer via USB, but recharging takes a LONG time (the DR-100 requires several hours to fully-charge this way) and the machines will not record while connected to a computer, so if one makes long recordings in places where wall outlets are available, it might be prudent to invest in the AC power cord.

Jeff Towne

About
Jeff Towne

During more than 25 years as a producer of the nationally-syndicated radio program Echoes. Jeff Towne has recorded interviews and musical performances in locations ranging from closets to cathedrals, outdoor stages to professional studios, turning them into radio shows and podcasts. Jeff is also the Tools Editor for Transom.org, a Peabody Award-winning website dedicated to channeling new voices to public media. At Transom, he reviews field recorders, microphones and software, helping both beginning and experienced audio producers choose their tools. In his spare time, Jeff will probably be taking pictures of his lunch in that little restaurant with the strange name that you've been wondering about. 

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  • edmitchell

    9.21.09

    Reply
    Tascam DR-Series Flash Recorders

    Good stuff as usual Jeff.
    I just finished teaching an "intro to audio" class at the CUNY Grad School of Journalism. Quoted you and Transom early and often.
    And, I send folks to transom from Knowledgewebb.net where I do regular web chats about audio.
    Thanks for all your work here and on on the AIR site. It’s not going unnoticed if I have any say…

  • tim cumings

    10.12.09

    Reply
    suggestion for high-output omni dynamic microphone

    Hi, Jeff. I love your reviews. I have a mic recommendation for an omni dynamic mic that has about 6 db more sensitivity than the ev re-50 or 635, which you use in a lot of your testing. It’s the audio technica at-804, which has a sensitivity rating of -49 db, compared with the 635 or re-50 whose sensitivity ratings I think are about -56 db. I use it with my edirol r-1 and it works very well. It also has an impedance of 600 ohms, which is better than the impedance of some other mics in the omni dynamic category. It retails for between $80 and $100. Keep up the great reviews.

  • Lisa Babington

    10.23.09

    Reply
    Finding a microphone and recorder that won’t sound awful with white noise or manufacturing background noise

    I work in a corporate communications group and would like to do informal interviews of our leaders in different settings. Unfortunately, our main building is an open environment, complete with white noise. Even when i find a conference room where the noise is supposedly turned off, the result, using a sound mixing board and fairly nice headset microphones, is very whooshy. I would prefer to interview in the hall while walking, or even better, on the manufacturing floor. Would these DR1 and DR7s work – and what external microphone if any? I read the hepful advice from Jeff, but can’t really discern what is right for my goals.

  • LISA SMITH

    11.14.09

    Reply
    Flash Recorders – Update?

    Jeff:

    It’s great to have someone so knowledgeable vet new equipment and I keep up with your reviews.

    But my M-Audio Microtrac just died and I want to replace it.
    Sony PCM D50 is too expensive – Which of flash recorders do you think has better overall sound? Olympus 150 or the Tascam DR07?

    Thanks.

  • Ruby

    11.20.09

    Reply
    cable connection

    I purchased the Tascam DR07 and the AT8010 mic but have just discovered that my connecting cable does not have the right connection for the DR07. Do you have any recommendations for a cable that has the 3-pin XLRM-type on one end and the 1/8" 1point connection on the other?

    Thank you for a super helpful website. I love every inch of it.
    Ruby

  • Timothy Kaufman

    1.05.10

    Reply
    Cable Connection

    Hi,
    I am new to this game, so please excuse my ignorance. Anyways, I like Ruby, have a Dr-07 and have recently purchased a used AudioTechnica 635A mic to go with it. I purchased a cable that had the female XLR connection for the mic end and a 1/4" for the other end. On top of that I purchased a small device that converted the 1/4" connection into a 1/8" connection. In the process the microphone has lost the stereo capability, and the sound quality is very poor. I have played around with the input settings, but I can’t seem to get a clear recording with this setup.
    Please let me know where I am going wrong. Thank You
    Timothy

  • Tom Niemisto

    2.17.10

    Reply
    DR07

    I have a similar issue. Same hardware Tascam DR-07 and AT1080, I can’t get it to work with the mic-in jack. I have one cable that goes from XLRM to 1/8th inch mini-jack. I’m not sure if it is a phantom issue or cable issue, but the only signal that comes through is very scratchy and sporatic.

    b help!!
    Tom

  • Jeff Towne

    2.17.10

    Reply
    The right cable to convert XLR to mini

    The cable used to convert from XLR to mini can make a big difference in sound quality, or just convenience. That cable needs to be wired correctly for this particular use, and many off-the-shelf cables and/or adapters are NOT wired the way one would want.

    There are a few we like: Sonic Studios makes one they call the M-XLR-F

    http://www.sonicstudios.com/access.htm#adapters

    The website is a little chaotic, and the cable isn’t cheap ($35) but it’s very well-built and worth it.

    We used to recommend the Shure A96f, which was an impedance transformer as well as an XLR-to-mini adapter. That adapter used to give a much better signal into minidisc recorders. It’s still theoretically a good idea, most XLR mics are low impedance and most minijack inputs are high impedance, but the difference between a straight cable and one that’s adapted for proper impedance is very small with most of these flash recorders. Still, this isn’t a bad product to use, it’s just a bit more expensive, and the cable itself is short.

    There are many different lengths of a regular cable here:

    http://www.soundprofessionals.com/cgi-bin/gold/item/SP-XLRF3-MINI-1

    you want the "dual-mono" option that will send the signal from a mono mic to both the left and right channels of the minijack mic input.

    A fairly inexpensive solution is the Hosa XVM105F:

    http://www.fullcompass.com/product/290022.html

    Just make sure you’re getting something specifically wired for this purpose, to interface a mono mic with a camcorder, or a stereo audio recorder.

    If you’re still having trouble, it could be a problem with the microphone. If you’re using a mic like the AT 8010, remember that it needs a battery in its handle. Some mics have on-off switches. Condenser mics need phantom power and you can NOT provide that from the recorder over a mini-to-XLT cable. A condenser mic needs to use an internal battery when used in this scenario. If your condenser mic cannot use an internal battery, it’s NOT going to work with a recorder such as the DR-07 that only has a minijack mic input.

    Hope that helps!

  • Troy

    2.20.10

    Reply
    Microphone Suggestions for an Old Man Telling Stories..

    Hi,

    I’m loving this website. I recently bought a Tascam DR-07 based on the reviews here. I bought it for my grandfather to tell stories. I wanted to keep a quality audio version that I can have as well as to type it out for the family.

    He has it now, but we’d like to get him a microphone. I believe he is going to sit in a recliner and tell his tales. Any recommendations for this situation?

    I know very little about professional audio, but I’m hoping to learn with hours of content to play with. I’d like it to be as good a quality as I can.

    Thanks in advance.

    Troy

  • Tom Niemisto

    2.21.10

    Reply
    DC filter?

    That is very helpful. On the Sound Professional’s website, it inquires weather to get DC filter protection on the SP-XLRF3-MINI-1 cord for use in dynamic mics. Is that necessary for the AT1080 or other mics?

    Also, in general do you recommend right angle or straight 3/5 mm jacks?

    Thanks!

  • clay

    6.03.10

    Reply
    DR-08 and the Teac VR-10

    Any opinions on these newer models? The seem to be pretty similar. I’m heading out to do some ecological fieldwork in northern Australia and was hoping to get a solid field recorder for interviews with landowners and perhaps record some music/dances as well.

  • Jackie

    10.02.11

    Reply

    Purchased a DR-07 largely on the strength of reviews here. Unfortunately its been rather disappointing due to mic drop out and intermnittent popping. I cant use my audio technica mic with it either probably for the reasons explained above. Ive been told that tascam equipment doesnt fare too well in the tropics (I am based in Kenya where its hot but pretty dry but I do use it in humid places) I wonder if anyone else has that experience?

  • Karen Michel

    11.07.11

    Reply

    Jeff!
    You use the Rhode NTG2 all the time; how’s that compare with an AT8035? They’re both about the same price.
    I’ve used a Sennheiser MKH416T for many years and want to eliminate the additional piece of gear, since it’s incompatible with phantom power.
    Oh, and I’d like to do it this week…
    Thanks, Mr. Golden Ears!

    Karen Michel

  • Derick Joe

    12.15.11

    Reply

    Jeff!

    Great reviews on your website. I just purchased the Tascam DR-100 and I’ve noticed that the pre-amps on the device are very low like you have discovered. Most of the time I’ve had to set the gain switch to High and crank the levels all the way to 10 like you have done with your sample recordings for the review. Is this something I should be concerned with? I’m thinking about sending it back to where I bought it and getting the Zoom H4N which in my opinion has higher pre-amps. I do like all of the physical switches of the Tascam and the battery backup is nice to have. I just want to make sure I’m not making a mistake in my decision. I’m not a pro-audio guy by any means. I plan on mostly use this recorder for video production in conjunction with my Canon 7D DSLR. Any advice would be great! Thanks!

    -Derick

  • George Jones

    12.26.11

    Reply

    1. QUICK CHECKLIST & INSTRUCTIONS FOR: (1)TASCAM DR-100 PORTABLE RECORDER & (2) RODE NTG-2 XLR PHANTOM POWERED SUPER-CARDOID CONDENSER MICROPHONE FOR REPORTER INTERVIEWS
    2. For most interviews out in the field by a journalist, the Tascam will likely be running off of batteries (3-4 hour life with Phantom Power On). Prior to each interview, it is important to fully charge the Tascam Main Internal Li-Ion Battery and the 2 Auxiliary AA Rechargeable Batteries. Always carry 4 fully charged rechargeable AA batteries. When feasible and where AC is available, run off of AC charger.
    3. Install a formatted 16 Gig Class 4 SD Card for about 26 hours of WAV recordings. Carry a 2nd SD Card as a backup.
    4. Where feasible, place the Tascam DR-100 Recorder on a Mini Tabletop Tripod to visually monitor record levels during the interview.
    5. Especially during the initial sound check and test playback plug in to the left side of the DR-100 headphones to listen and monitor test track recordings and audio levels.
    6. Find a quiet and low background noise interview location. Where feasible, place the NTG-2 Mic (with foam screen) in a Desktop Mic Stand. Point the Mic at an UPWARD 45 ANGLE and ABOUT 2 FEET from the interviewee’s mouth. The upward 45 angle and closeness both improve the audio S/N. Note: You can also use a camera tripod and boom the interviewee from overhead. Note: Use the Mic’s Fuzzy Wind Sock if interviewing outside. Note: The NTG-2 condenser mic is not the best Mic for handheld use.
    7. Via the DR-100 Menu: (a) Record Settings Format = 16 Bit/44.1 kHz. Input Settings Mic (b) Mono Mic; (c) LCF – Low Cut Filter = OFF; (d) Level Control = Auto
    8. Plug in on bottom of DR-100 the Mono NTG-2 Mic Cable to the L-Left XLR Jack An identical mono audio signal will be recorded on both the Left and Right Tracks.
    9. Set the front Input Switch to XLR
    10. Set the rear 48 Volt Switch to ON (If the Rode Mic has a Battery in it … take it OUT! DO NOT use the Rode NTG-2 Mic with a AA battery in it. That’s a mistake. When running on AA battery power, the NTG-2 Mic is 6db less sensitive)
    11. Set the rear Speaker Switch to OFF
    12. Set the rear Auto Gain Control (AGC)/Limiter Switch to OFF
    13. Set the rear Mic Gain Switch to H-HIGH
    14. Set the right side center Mic Gain Control Knob for the L-Left Channel to around 7. Keep the interviewee’s LCD displayed metered dialog levels Averaging -20db to -16db with peaks not exceeding -10db. This provides about 10db of headroom (20 -10=10) and eliminates clipping / peaking by going over 0db which turns the peak light on).
    15. Press the left side Power Button to ON (Make sure the power is OFF when connecting or disconnecting the Rode NTG-2 Mic, otherwise it could be damaged)
    16. Press the front Record Button twice to RECORD (Red light is solid)

  • RFPhoto

    1.05.12

    Reply

    In your sidebar you mention favoring the Audio-Technica 8100 mic. I
    have not been able to find that mic on AT’s website, BHPhoto or ProAudio.

    Have you a second recommendation? I’m trying to decide between the
    Tascom DR-40 and the Zoom H4N and hold my purchase price down.

    • jeff

      1.05.12

      Reply

      The mic model is actually the AT8010, you should have much better luck finding that!

      • RFPhoto

        1.05.12

        Thanks, Jeff, I should have reread my typing. I had been searching AT’s
        site for AT 8010 and it didn’t show up. When I looked for just 8010 it
        showed. On BHPhoto’s site searching for 8010 it showed up as a different
        model:

        Audio-Technica
        ATM10A – Omni-Directional Instrument Condenser Microphone

        B&H # AUAT8010
        Mfr # AT8010

        Again, thanks for the help.

  • Jason Hoye

    3.06.12

    Reply

    Guys, nice article. I need to record my fairly loud basement band (drums, bass, guitar and vocals. I need it more so for recording the ideas and need to just be able to hear the parts that are played and vocals. Which DR do you recommend, and do you recommend an external Mic? If so which one or kind?

  • Nicolas

    8.07.13

    Reply

    Hi,
    as a lot of other people, I thoroughly appreciate Jeff Towne’s tools reviews. Thanks for this Jeff.
    I have been checking different reviews and I was thinking that maybe a small update on the Tascam DR-07 MkII would be welcome as nothing about it has been said on Transom…

  • davidicus

    11.16.14

    Reply

    hi! might be a long shot, but since you noted high pitched noise: my Tascam DR-07mkII records a high pitched whine that’s driving me absolutely nuts. cannot figure out why it’s sometimes there, but it ruins recordings. maybe you know what causes this?

    https://soundcloud.com/davidicus/tascam-dr-07mkii-high-pitched-whine

  • drB

    7.20.16

    Reply

    Same here–high-pitched whine started showing up in background when connecting to the same mic I’ve been using ever since I got it through an XLR cable. I have no idea why. It is driving me nuts.

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