Roland R-26, Tascam DR-40, and Nagra SD Portable Handheld Recorders Review

Mar 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Brandon T. Hickey

VERSATILE, FEATURE-PACKED UNITS EXPERTLY CAPTURE AUDIO

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Tascam DR-40 Linear PCM Recorder

TASCAM DR-40
Tascam’s DR-40 has stepped up as the least expensive ($199) XLR-input recorder on the market. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the higher-priced recorders, but offers features that allow it do almost everything you need at a reasonable price. The onboard pair of electret mics can be adjusted between X-Y and A-B (wide stereo capture) recording configurations. The XLR inputs can receive dynamic mics or phantom-powered condensers, or can be switched to easily receive line-level signals. Up to four tracks can be recorded simultaneously, always resulting in stereo files. Naturally, the four tracks can be used to capture a combination of the two built-in mics plus signal from the XLR inputs. Skipping two of those inputs frees up two tracks, which can then be used to redundantly record a single pair of inputs at a lower level, providing a safety copy.

When close miking a train engine with an SM57, the DR-40 got the job done without coming up short. Recording voice with phantom power engaged, there was a cyclical, intermittent, high-frequency whining sitting deep beneath the track. This was absent when using an external mic pre, suggesting that there was some sort of electronic bleed creeping into the low-level-input microphone signals. That said, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound of the onboard mics. For the size and price of the capsules, the amount of low-frequency pickup and clarity in the top-end was impressive. Concert recordings were true-to-life. The stereo imaging on music as well as sound effect recordings reads really well. The ability to pan a mono spot mic up the middle while using the onboard stereo mics was really helpful. The panned and leveled mix of the four tracks could also be mixed down to a new stereo file within the DR-40. M/S decoders were common on all of the recorders reviewed. However, it was nice that the DR-40 would allow monitoring through the decoder using its variable-width option, and then print the result if desired. The headphone output was weak, especially when working in close proximity to the sound source; it was often difficult to hear the recorder’s output over the actual sound traveling through air. Moreover, the plastic body and noisy buttons made this the recorder most subject to handling noise. But all in all, this is a great little unit for under $200.

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