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

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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

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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.

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!!!

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.

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

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!

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.

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...

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?

Hello -

Either device will work well with youir 302. Be aware that the Zoom has a unique feature that allows it to be used as a live audio interface.  Be careful regarding your gain levels and "helicoptering" should not be an issue regardless of the device you choose.

I believe the Zoom h4n ext inputs are fixed--> XLR= mic-in, 1/4"= line-in

Thus requiring a XLR to 1/4" cable to connect the SD-302 mixer, while the DR-40's ext inputs can be switched between- Line, Mic, Mic+ Phantom.

I have been using my DR-40 with my SD-302 and a AT-897 for about 6 months in which time, I have recorded numerous low budget cinema and television projects with no problems, no complaints from post-production, and 3 of the shorts I worked on recently are being showcased in May.

I have recorded over 1,200 hours on the TASCAM DR-40 since I bought it 4 months ago so I can share first hand experience. People who crank up the input gain to max, the output volume to max and then listen to the headphone noise must have a lot of time to kill. This puts the little unit in the worst combination of settings, and then people complain. This is a recorder, not a headphone monitor amplifier. It is made to record, so I suggest you record and listen to the actual recording on a system that is meant to drive your headphones, then decide on the noise. The headphone amp in the DR-40 is not exactly studio quality, and who can compalin about it for $200?

I ran extensive testing with a NTG1 and AT2035 phantom mics to test out the microphone preamps prior to determining how to properly use the DR-40. The mic preamps are not Sound Devices and yes, you will get -42Db noise at the max gain of 90. Yes, it is not very useful. Guess what? There is -92Db of noise at gain setting of 75, and even less at 65! I suggest people don't exceed the gain of 75 and place the mics closer to the action. If unable, buy a dedicated quieter preamp or a recorder for x10 the money.

The internal mics are not Sennheizers 416. What a surprise. However, they are completely useful for dialog and even songbird recording. I have used it for both. Yes, a shotgun XLR is better but it is also bulkier, and the phantom power will deplete AAs relatively quickly. In a pinch the the built ins are not bad at all.

With the latest firmware allowing independent XLR level control this unit has become just about perfect for the miniscule price you pay. I am amazed how people find a way to complain about such a feature full unit that can be bought for less than four tanks of gas when they subject it to meaningless tests.

I highly recommend the DR-40 for people who actually record audio instead of repeating pointless testing posted on the web that does not have any practical application. My DR-40 has been reliable, worked in temperatues down to -25F and was snowed in, had condensation collect on it when brought indoors, and it never skipped a beat. TASCAM hit the nail on the head with this one.

Have you tried using this in junction with a sound device mixer? i.e. taking a sd302 and sending a line out to this Tascam? I wonder if that would remove any (additional) possible noise from the Tascam.

The noise I get is a repeating beep on the recording at about 2000Hz. It is not real loud but is sure to ruin any kind of ambient recording that I had hoped to do. I did a little checking on the newsgroups and based on several posts, I think these are the kinds of "noise" people are complaining about.

You are absolutly right about setting expectations about critical listening on the device, at the same time it would seem that Tascam may have a QC problem.

HELICOPTER NOISE NO MORE

While trying every possible settings with the newest firmware installed on the DR-40 unit, accidently this happened:

Recording with one external mike in mono mode I just hit the menu button. The recording screen and the famous helicopter sound gone but recording continued with excellent clear sound. Then I hit the menu button again and the recording screen with the helicopter came back again. Now this looks like  a software problem and I dont know if it can be corrected with a new firmware development. I have written this to Tascam. Please try the same and contact Tascam hoping that they find a solution for this error otherwise DR-40 is an excellent device for indie/low budget filmmakers.

Hi,
i bought TASCAM DR-40 recently. i wanted to know what type of AA battery i can use? whether 1.5v or 1.2v NiMh type cells ?
Thank You

Can you please help me with my Tascam DR-40? I have the most updated firmware (1.3). I am trying to record a Wav 24bit/96k in duel mode. I am using a 32 gig SDHC card. According to the book, using this mode I should be able to get about eight hours of recording time. However, when I put the card in, it only shows a little over an hour (1:02:00) of recording time. I have tried an 8 gig SDHC card as well, and the same result. Can you please help—how do I get the full eight hours of recording time?

Thanks for all your help!

Hi there.

Could you kindly advise whether the TASCAM DR-40 allows wireless mics to be connected via the XLR?

Thank you,

Preshanthan

I have the DR-40. I am using sennheiser g3 wireless mics. The only way I can get a clean recording is to switch MS-Decode on. Is that strange? Everything I have read says there is hardly ever a need to use that.

What settings would you suggest for my wireless mic setup?

Hi Rich-

Try restoring the factory settings:

Use the INITIALIZE item to restore the various settings of this unit to their factory settings.

1.  Use the + or − button to select INITIALIZE, and press the ENTER/MARK or >> button to highlight Exec.

2.  Press the ENTER/MARK button again to open a confirmation pop-up window.

3.  Press the ENTER/MARK button to initialize the unit.

4.  Press (HOME) to cancel initialization.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hello,

I'm looking for a backup solution for audio recording in a courtroom. Current PA connects to a ASIO 4-channel mixer then connects to a PC via USB. Intermittent issues ( with multiple causes) have occurred over the years and can be frustrating to courtroom personnel and judges. 

I'm need the ability to split the incoming signal...ending one source to the existing mixer and USB connected PC and one to a standalone digital recorder. The Digital Recorder is for backup purposes..in the event of a failure with the PC or software.

Hi Mark -

This recorder would make a great back-up recording connected via its line inputs  to your mixing board.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi,

I have bought a Tascam dr 40, and is very content. Currently I am using a mobile charger ( 5.2V  650mA). It works fine, but I am not sure if it is safe for the recorder? I can see that the original AC Adapter is at 2000 mA.

Hi Nicolai -

A device with output power of 5VDC, 1.5A, 7.5W will be compatible.  The impedance of the device you are using is a little light,  but should not cause any damage.  5.2 volts is within safe limits as well.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

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