Tascam DR-40: A Budget-Friendly, XLR-Equipped Portable Recorder

Share

There are lots of compact portable digital recorders on the market today that are popular among musicians, journalists and HDSLR filmmakers, but not many of them feature professional XLR inputs. Having the ability to connect XLR microphones and line-level sources to a recorder is appealing because it’s the best sounding, low-noise analog connection available. Before the Tascam DR-40 was announced, the least expensive recorder with XLR inputs cost around $300.

While the main selling points of the DR-40 are its dual locking combo XLR and ¼" inputs (which feature the ability to supply phantom power and be switched to accept true line-level signals), there are some other standout features as well. Chief among them is the DR-40’s ability to record four tracks simultaneously, its extended 15 hours of battery life, the built-in condenser mics that swivel into different positions and its ability to record Broadcast Wave files.

You can record with the DR-40’s external inputs and with its two built-in microphones at the same time. When you’re not using the four-channel mode, you can opt to record a duplicate “safety” version of two tracks internally at a lower input level setting. This way, if you get a spike in volume and your main recording peaks and distorts, the second copy that you’re recording internally will be free of distortion.

If you’re looking for features like separate headphone and line-level outputs, an included rechargeable battery and wireless remote and four built-in microphones, you’re going to have to go with the popular Tascam DR-100. But if you’re on a tight budget and you need a recorder that can connect to professional equipment and create high-resolution recordings, the new DR-40 is a sweet new option.

UPDATE:

A free firmware release from Tascam (V1.10) gives the DR-40 independent level control over the left and right inputs. 

Type Handheld 4-Track Digital Audio Recorder
Recording/Reading Methods SD or SDHC Card (64MB to 32GB)
Recording Bit Rate WAV: 16 and 24-bit
MP3: 32-320 kbps, VBR
Sampling Frequency WAV: 44.1, 48, or 96kHz
MP3: 44.1 and 48kHz
Number of Channels 4 (2 Stereo)
Frequency Response 20Hz~20kHz +1/-3dB (44.1kHz, EXT IN-LINE OUT, JEITA)
20Hz~22kHz +1/-3dB (48kHz, EXT IN-LINE OUT, JEITA)
20Hz~40kHz +1/-3dB (96kHz, EXT IN-LINE OUT)
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) < 0.05% (44.1/48/96kHz, EXT IN-LINE OUT)
S/N Ratio > 92dB (44.1/48/96kHz, EXT IN-LINE OUT)
A/D Conversion 24-bit
D/A Conversion 24-bit
Pitch Adjustment 50-150% Without Affecting Pitch 1
Connectors 2 x XLR/TRS Combo Inputs
1 x 3.5mm Headphone/Line Out
1 x High-Speed Mini-B USB 2.0 Port
1 x Remote Jack
Input Impedance Mic: 2.2 kOhms
Line: 10 kOhms
Input Level Nominal: -19dBV Mic, +4dBu Line
Max: -3dBV Mic, +20dBu Line
Output Impedance 12 Ohms
Output Level Nominal: -14dBV (10 kOhms)
Max: +2dBV (10 kOhms)
Microphone Adjustable Stereo Condenser (X/Y and A/B)
Headphone Output 20mW + 20mW (32 Ohms)
Speaker 0.3W, Mono
Filter 40/80/120Hz Low Cut
Battery Type/Life 3 x AA (Alkaline or NiMH)
Up to 15 Hours of Continuous Operation, Phantom Power Off
Power 100-240VAC, 50/60Hz (via Optional AC Adapter)
Power Consumption 2.5W Max
Dimensions (WxHxD) Mics Open: 3.54 x 6.1 x 1.38" (90 x 155 x 35mm)
Mics Closed: 2.76 x 6.1 x 1.38" (70 x 155 x 35mm)
Weight 7.5 oz (213 g) (Without Batteries)
System Requirements Windows XP, Vista, or 7, Pentium 300 MHz, 128MB RAM, USB 2.0 Recommended
Mac OS X v10.2 or Later, Power PC G3, G4, or G5 266 MHz Min, 64MB RAM, USB 2.0 Recommended

Add new comment

Sam,

Have you tried it with an xlr mic like a rode ntg1 or an oktava? Does it sound good enough to go without a mixer for doing shorts, nothing commercial. Thanks.

Hi Richard,

Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to test out this recorder yet. Although, I imagine you could capture decent quality sound without needing an external field mixer. Of course, this has everything to do with how well you position the microphones and protect them from wind and vibration noise.

While you don't need to use a field mixer with the DR-40, its line-level compatible XLR inputs are one of its nicest qualities. The ability to accept professional line-level signals means that you don't have to hit the recorder's preamps at all. If you have a field mixer with good quality preamps (such as the Sound Devices MixPre-D), you can send the DR-40 a line-level signal and record much better sounding audio.

Thanks for taking the time to comment on B&H InDepth!

Sam  

Richard,

And it's only $899.00. Great for the BUGET minded. Which seems to be mostly who has led this thread.

Dave

Sam,

I've used a Rode NTG-2 for the DR-40 and it sounds AWESOME.  No need for a mixer.  BTW I've also used the NTG-2 with the Zoom H4n and it also works perfectly with the recorder.  They're great mics!

Eric

Thanks for reporting your findings, Eric! It's nice to hear that the DR-40 is working out nicely for you.

I'm also glad that you brought up the compatibility between the Zoom H4n and the Rode NTG-2. I've read claims on Internet forums that the H4n is incompatible with the NTG-2. So I intentionally tested it out a few months ago. I plugged an NTG-2 into an H4n, adjusted the gain on the H4n until I was getting a nice level (around -12 on the meters), and recorded some dialog. It sounded and worked just fine.

No problem at all!  The DR-40 is definitley the choice for me over the Zoom.  The Zoom was a great recorder but the DR-40 does everything and MORE for $100 cheaper.  However, the H4n will win a fight (just because it seems to be a more solidly constructed device...less plastic).

BTW I meant to write back to Richard, not Sam.  I read the name wrong.  Oops!

Eric

Eric,

Thanks so much for sharing! How long did the batteries last for on phantom power? Trying to figure if I need to buy extra batteries, ac adapter, etc. The tascam 100 I think comes with this stuff. Just trying to pinch pennies. I want to figure out what I need to do 8n hours of phantom power on one mic. Thanks!

R

Since you've tried the NTG-2 with both the H4n and the DR-40, do you think it's better to go for the DR-40 combo or would those extra $100 of the H4n provide a superior quality?

Hello -

I do not think you will find a clear advantage one way or the other in terms of the recorded audio quality between either of these two fine machines.  Buy the DR -40 and save more than a few bucks in the process!

Guys, don't spend money on the H4N, that's not that big of a quality jump from the DR-40.  I recently traded in my DR-40 for a DR100mkII (the new model) and its so worth it!!!

Hi Eric,

Do you use your NTG-2 on battery or Phantom Power ?  I wonder if you have the same level on both and if you have noise with Phantom Power.   I didn't tried wiht the DR-40, but I tried with the H4n and the ART USB PRE and my NTG-2 sounds terrible on Phantom power.  I bought the mic from B&H a couple weeks ago, and may be I have a fulty unit.

You can't plug a battery-powered mic like the Rode Videomic Pro or Rode Stereo Videomic into the Tascam DR-40 without an XLR adapter. You can plug those right into the Zoom H4N's 3.5mm mic plug.

Even with an adapter the Rode Stereo Videomic suffers because it doesn't have the +20db gain that the Videomic Pro has.

You can NOT adjust L & R channels independently on the DR-40 like you can on the DR-100, but that is only missed if you're plugging 2 different mics in. The trick of using an XLR splitter with one mic to set one channel a little lower in case of sound spikes is taken care of in the DR-40.. It records a separate lower input channel automatically.

The internal mics of any of these recorders are mediocre at best. I used the DR-40 3 feet from a Cello with input level set at +70(out of 90) and it still recorded very low with some noticeable hiss.

The 2 gig card (class? it doesnt say) that came with the DR-40 is a complete p.o.s. It had recording errors the first time I used it. I put in a 16gb class 10 card and that's been working fine so far.

Putting freshly charged (and brand new) NIMH batteries into the DR-40 show's 2 out of 3 bars of battery. Odd. I just received the charger for the DR-40, which is USB to wall socket. If you plug the DR-40 into your computer's USB you can transfer files, charge.. but you can NOT record like you can with the Zoom H4N.

But for the price, I'm happy to have an XLR solution.

so is that always better go with h4n if do not mind that extra 100 bucks??

You can use a simple 3.5mm to 1/4" headphone adapter (the XLR ports double as 1/4" inputs) to plug the Røde VideoMic in the DR-40. I have been using this setup without a single problem. Note that I also have a JuicedLink DS214 with gain set to high since the output from the VideoMic is way too low.

I just got my DR-40 and most recordings are fine, however using a lavalier mic that ends in a 3.5 minijack stuck into a 1/4 trs jack into the XLR/TRS combo connector and setting the DR-40 rec mode to mono ext in 1 gives me a crazy tapping (helicopter like) noise.

Do I haveto use a 3.5 minijack -> XLR converter?

Or is the problem somehow caused by the MS Decoder? Wenn I try to change it in the Mixer it shows NOW MONO MODE and jumps back, but during that split second the noise is not there.

Any suggestions? Or anyone know what I am doing wrong?

Thanks. 

JB

Hello,

A solution will depend if the 3.5mm jack is TS or TRS.

The VXLR from Rode Microphones is an adapter that converts a TS 3.5mm mono mini jack input to a male XLR output. It can also accept a stereo input, but will send a mono signal to left and right channels.

For a TRS plug you will need the following;

The Hosa GMM303 is a 3.5 mm female stereo mini to 3.5 mm female stereo mini adapter for joining two male 3.5 mm stereo mini connectors.

This Comprehensive XLRP-MPS-3ST EXF Stereo Mini Male to XLR Male Cable is a high resolution, low loss cable for professional audio applications. EXF series audio cables employ 100% Micro-weave bare copper shielding and CFP low loss dielectric for fast, accurate wide bandwidth signal transfer.

We have this "helicopter" sound in the Tascam DR 40 too and will be sending it back as faulty. This is most unfortunate as the shipping costs were like 100 USD for Europe :(...

There is some obvious analogue interface noise bleeding into the recordings, the backlight, the level controls, sample clock, everithing has audible tone to them (that is in external 1 mic with phantom on).

It seems that these problems are even worse than they were on the original Zoom H4.

I concur with the "analogue noise bleeding" issue.  Luckily, it is very easy to remove in post with an app that can sample the noise and then remove it.  I used Adobe Audition.   I called Tascam to verify that it was not just my unit that did this.   I figured for $199, you kind of get what you pay for.

I had the same issue of hearing the helicopter noise when using an external mic in mono mode. I used a different mic and mic cable and have no more noise issues. Some cheaper dynamic mics will make that noise but a good xlr cable and good high quality mic will eliminate that issue altogether. Also if the XLR is slightly loose it wil make that noise, jiggle it around a bit and see if it changes then try different xlr cables and mics. I also noticed if you switch on phantom power it takes about 5 seconds before it will work properly, (charging cpacitors maybe). The helicoper noise is not a defect in the product as far as I can tell.

Mine does it with *no* microphone attached.   The noise in definately being generated intenal to the unit.  Tascam tech support duplicated the issue over the phone with a unit they had.

Hello,

I have a similar issue with my unit. No point trying other cables or mics- as soon as i switch it to "mic" and press record (with no cable connected) still makes that "helicopter" sound. And NO - fixing it in post is not a solution, the product is faulty and I'm sending it back. 

*Newbie question*

Hi I'm a video blogger and needed a solution for my SLR (Nikon d5000) which has a terrible mic.  I got the Tascam as a workaround.

I've gotten a Rode video mic and the Tascam (with the adapter of course) but I'm having trouble with recording sound.

I've recorded things but when I play them back they are either blank or very very low volume.

To summarize:

1.  I have the adapter and the Tascam is connected to the Rode Mic

2.  Yes the Rode mic is "on"

3.  I'm guessing this is a settings issue but not sure how to procced.  Thought it was the format that I saved it (.WAV) so I changed it to .MP3.

4.  I would like to import these files into Final Cut to edit...

 Thanks so much!

Hello;

Let's assume that all the batteries in the mic (9 volt) and the recorder (3 AAA) are fresh and are inserted correctly.  Make sure that the mic's connector is firmly inserted and seated securely into the recorder.

When using an external mic, please set the "EXT IN" switch on the left side panel of the recorder to "MIC"

To adjust the INPUT level you, the Automatic Level Control mode must be de-selected.  Please refer to pages 48-51 of  the DR-40 instruction manual for further instructions and diagrams.  I have provided a link to the manual for your convenience, below:

Tascam DR-40 Manual pg 48-51

My DR-40 arrived last Friday.  I think I have a defective unit.  To make a long story short, here is a simple explaination of the problem -

When the DR-40 is set to record from external microphones, and *no* microphones are plugged in, and the input volume is all the way up, I get a noise floor at about -40db (displayed and shown on the meters).  The right channel has a bit more noise than the left.  The noise is also present with microphones plugged-in.

I can remove the noise in a post-process with Adobe Audition, but I don't think I should have to do this.

Can someone else with a DR-40 do this simple test?

I do have a support ticket open with Tascam, but no answer yet (not expecting one on a weekend).

Thanks.

I can achieve -45 to -47db in mono mode with the safety track on :(

You can download the samples from here - http://www.kinotehnik.com/tascam/KINOTE_0017.wav and here http://www.kinotehnik.com/tascam/KINOTE_0019.wav (here you can even hear the backlight coing off etc...)

so if do not mind that extra 100 bucks..is that defintately better go with the h4n???

one thing borther me is that I heard h4n has time drift...Those people say it is not accepted.

but I still see so many people use h4n for their dslr...and the audio of their product looks no problem...

The nice thing about the H4n is that it has features like the mini-plug 3.5mm mic input and the ability to act as a USB microphone. I've heard of people claiming to have trouble with time drift, but I haven't experienced it myself. Typically, time drift will occur during a really long take, such as the filming of live performance. However, this issue has been around a lot longer than the Zoom H4n has. The fact of the matter is that if you want to avoid time drift, you need to upgrade to a field recorder that has a time code generator, and these recorders are far more expensive.

I have a question on Dual Mode.

If I had two XLR mics, lets say 2 sennheiser wireless lavs.  Would I be able to record them on two channels and then on the other 2 channels record the safey -12db version?

My other question is: I've heard that you can't adjust levels of individual channels.  IE. If you have two XLR mics, you have to set them both at the same level. I don't own the wireless lavs yet, but would I be able to indvidually set levels on those lavs, meaning this issue of levels on the DR40 wouldn't be a problem?

 Thanks!

Hello -

You are correct - the two original tracks will be recorded at a lower level on the two remaining "back-up" tracks.

On many wireless Lavalier microphones you can independently adjust the gain levels:  Sennheiser EW112-p G3 Wireless Portable Microphone System

For the ability to adjust the XLR input levels independently, you’re going to have to consider going with the popular Tascam DR-100

This is super good news. Only if the firmware allowed separate level controls this little Tascam would be The Portable Recorder for many many more customers.

As currently you can adjust the locked levels via the remote control I can see the problem there - you don't have enough physical buttons to adjust the levels separately so one could maybe toggle the channels by pressing another button - nothing ofcourse that couldn't be done with firmware update...

T

Thanks for the reply, just got the recorder and had some questions.

I tried out a Senn G3 Wireless Lav and to my ears, it sounds pretty nice with the Tascam.  However, the Senn MKE-400 I own, which I thought sound pretty reasonable sent directly to my Panasonic GH2 sounded worse with the Tascam.  And this is with the Senn XLR adapter etc.

My inclination (for now) is to just use the Tascam with the Lav and record the MKE400 onto the GH2 and sync in post.  But, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to the MKE400 to make it play nicer with the Tascam, seeing as how, I'm sure the audio quality/compression is better than that of the GH2.

Thanks again for your help with all these newbie questions,
Bobby

 Hello -

Two things to check:

1.  Test the MKE 400 at the "High" and the "Low"  volume settings.

2.  Turn OFF the AGC control on the DR-40 and then adjust the gain levels manually for optimal recording levels. See page 49 of the owner's manual:

http://bhpho.to/vJ89LT

NEWS:

Tascam released new firmware for the DR-40 on December 13th, 2011. We highly recommend updating to the new firmware. It adds new functions and fixes a few bugs. Here's a link to the download:

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

I was told that this should fix the "Noise" issues

1.02 has no effect at all on the -42Db noise issue.

Nope, the sample clock rate can still be heard when XLR input number 1 is used. Most unfortunate.

 T

Tonis, are you speaking about a weird, some people describe it as "helicopter" noise?  Its odd because sometimes Ill hear it on tracks and sometimes I won't. 

To hear/see the noise:

     Set the device to record from external mics (mono or stereo).

      Plug-in head phones, but no mics

      Turn the input gain all the way up.

      Start recording.

 You can see the device display noise on the meters at around -42Db.   You can also hear it in the headphones quite distinctly.  "Helicopter noise"?  I guess you could describe it that way.   The noise is also there with a mic plugged in, just easier to hear/isolate without that.

I think it's indeed this helicopter sound. I haven't done any scientific testing but it seems to correlate with set recording sample rate... T

So this issue in unfixable ?

Can the dr-40 act as a USB mic?

Hello -

Regarding the tapping, helicopter noise:

First - be sure to download this new firmware:

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

If you are using one external mic - make sure you are in MONO mode.  Check that you are using either the mic's battery power or the DR-40's phantom power - but not both at the same time.  Use both XLR ports and be switched to STEREO mode. 

The DR-40 cannot be used as a USB microphone.

The manufacturer may also be able to lend their insights into any potential issues or remedies regarding this product:

TASCAM Professional Division
TEAC AMERICA, INC
7733 Telegraph Rd.
Montebello, California 90640
Voice: (323) 726-0303
Fax: (323) 727-7635
Web: www.tascam.com

My recently purchased DR-40 was shipped with the latest firmware update (v1.02) and exihibits the "helicopter" noise others have described.  Nonetheless, I performed the update just in case.  Unfortunately, I'm still experiencing the same noise issues.

Too bad, sounds like the issue is pretty widespread.

I just updated to firmware v1.02 and still had the helicopter noise - but I found that setting it to record in mono for my one external mic completely removed the problem. I guess that setting it to record in stereo with only one mic connected messes it up. Switch to mono recording!

On my unit, setting it to mono helps by lowering the noise about 5dB.  But it does not totally remove the issue.  Still not really acceptable.

I'm looking to film and mic a round table discussion of 4 guests with lavs. would the Dr-40 allow me to use the 4 channels to record 4 lavs?

Hello -

The DR-40 has 4 track recording capability, using it's two built-in mics and connecting two external mics via the XLR inputs.  To connect four lavaliers, a mixer would be called for.  All four lavaliers connected to the mixer and the mixer connected to the DR-40. One or two boundary mics  could also be used with or without the DR-40's built-in mics to eliminate the use of an external mixer.

there's few 4-channel mic input recorders around. best alternative: boom recorder (mac OSX only) with some type of USB interface. 2 ch version is free. the 256(!) ch version is about 250 or so. but i like the little Tascam, and other such recorders IF i use an external mic pre, such as a sound devices or Shure FP33. this is for more serious type film recording, not needed for most reality show, corporate video, or boisterous level indy films. quiet stuff will be more of a challenge to get clean simply because the price is so nice and low no one could afford to put in super clean mic preamps. have been using an older Marantz CF recorder with external preamps and it works very well; without the preamps it is rather noisy.

To everyone with the "Helicopter Noise".

First, because of this stupid workaround, I'm not sure I'd recommend this device.  That said, if you've got the device already or don't want to spend the extra $100 for the zoom h4n then here you go (I assume doesn't have this issue).

You cannot insert the XLR input in all the way in.  If you leave it 75% of the way in (i.e. usually the first click; not the second), then the noise goes away, and you still get the sound.

This has worked for me recording my guitar in MONO mode only.  I haven't tried any other modes; i assume this would work for them.  I am able to set the dr40's output level all the way to 100 while monitoring, np.

Before trying this I installed the 1.10 firmware update, but I was still getting the dreaded "Helicopter Noise"

As explained at TASCAM website FAQ this noise happens when a unbalanced signal is connected to DR40 balanced input.

A ease solutions, that I use to record my guitar, is to use a unbalanced to balanced adapter like the cheap Pyle PDC21. It not only solve the problem but also gives you a clear signal, filters hum and so.

You can find more more expensive adapters but this one around $8 - $13 works perfect.

Would the DR-40 be preferred over the Zoom h4n as a line-in recording device for use with a mixer like a SD-302?

Is there still noise (that helicoper sound that everyone is talking about?) being introduced by the device in this situation?

Pages