Review: Tascam DR-07 portable audio recorder

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Producing broadcast-quality interviews for podcasts and playback on websites is becoming, if not easier, then at least a little cheaper.

The growing range of solid-state audio recorders, designed mostly with musicians in mind, provide plenty of the features needed for capturing good-quality sound in the field. These portable recorders offer a viable alternative, both to ageing Minidisc recorders and DAT machines, and to digital devices designed for the office dictation market.
The DR-07 from Tascam is the latest to find its way into our kit bag. This handheld stereo recorder is small and light (125g), but has a pair of good-quality condenser microphones, a connector for an external mic, a separate line input and a clear screen with an easy to use interface.

The Tascam’s long, thin shape doesn’t always make it the easiest device to keep in a pocket, but it has the advantage of making it easy to point the microphones at the talent and still keep all the controls to hand. In fact, for on the hoof interviews, the DR-07 is simplicity itself. Press the power button to turn the device on, press record once to “arm” it (this also starts the pre-record function) and once again to record. At the end of a take, pressing record again pauses the device. Recordings can be 44.1kHz or 48kHz, 16 or 24 bit WAV, or MP3.

The audio quality from the built-in microphones is very good indeed (if any readers are interested, I will be able to put up some samples on this website as well as links to published work using the DR-07). But as they are condenser microphones, they are quite sensitive. This means monitoring on headphones is a must, not least to ensure that no handling noise comes through on the recording.

Our experiences with external microphones were mixed, at least at first. A range of professional XLR mics produced a horrible buzz using an XLR to stereo minijack cable, although a Sony minijack mic and a Rode M3 condenser both worked without a glitch. Switching the cable to a mono jack to XLR solved the problem. Clearly the DR-07 is sensitive to the way the mic connectors are wired up, in a way that other recorders are not.

Once this problem was solved, the Tascam produced very decent results with a range of microphones, certainly on a par with Minidisc recordings. The fact that the unit records on to low-cost SD cards, and comes with a 2GB card in the box, is a bonus. It also uses two AA batteries, which again are available almost everywhere. These are points that are almost as important as raw audio quality for a journalist in the field.

There are other contenders in the portable recorder space – in particular the Edirol R09HR, which offers a higher-quality, 96 kHz recording mode, Olympus’ LS-10 and the more feature-rich but more expensive Tascam DR-100. But for under £200, ready to go out of the box, the DR-07 is a very good starting point for audio journalism.

Tascam DR-07 portable audio recorder

  • Pros: lightweight, relatively cheap, SD memory cards, good internal microphones, pre-record function
  • Cons: a bit fussy about cabling with external mics, no 96 kHz mode.
  • Price: from around £165, inc VAT.
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    About stephenpritchard
    Freelance journalist specialising in business and technology, based in London (UK).

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