Portable Stereo Audio Recorder
Tiny Audio Recorder for Music & DSLR Video
Peter Kun Frary
I bought the DR-05 because I wanted something smaller than my DR-100 MKII for travel, hiking and wandering around town. Here’s what I thought about this little recorder after a couple spins around the block.
Tascam DR-05 • (image courtesy Tascam)
Tascam DR-05 Recording Sample • Carulli's Andantino in G Major played on a Hirade TH90 guitar and recorded at 48kHz 24-bits.
Appearance & Construction
My DR-05 box was labeled “Version 2 Enhanced Performance” and shipped with a 4GB microSD card and USB cable. Performance enhancements consist of minor internal changes over the original (hence no "MK II" moniker): nondestructive overdubbing, reverbs, auto tone (to sync with DSLR guide tracks) and a few firmware tweaks related to auto record modes. This is a bare bones package with no case, handle or wind muff (dead kitten).
Styling and control layout are similar to the DR-07 and DR-40: dark gray plastic, raised buttons and pumpkin orange monochrome LCD. The small LCD is 1990s tech but readable in both bright sunlight and dark venues. Fit and finish appear excellent but build is light duty consumer grade and will not survive heavy rain or a drop onto concrete. It's considerably smaller and lighter than the DR-40 and DR-100 MKII, fitting comfortably in my medium sized hands.
Physical controls are basic but the important ones—record, stop, levels, pause, hold, etc.—fall nicely under the fingers. The DR-05 can be held in the palm like a smartphone and controlled with a single thumb. Unlike touchscreens, physical buttons are raised, varied in shape and positioned so they can be operated by feel in the dark.
Level adjustments are global (no individual channel adjustment), but may be quickly accessed on the arrow keys. Most other features are buried in the menus. You can set the limiter with the “Quick Menu” but will need to swim through a half dozen submenus to enable mic power, format or set a low cut filter.
Audio input options are twofold: built-in omnidirectional mics or a 3.5mm jack for a powered stereo mic. Once I enabled mic power in the menu, my Tascam TM-2X cardioid stereo mic worked flawlessly.
Output consists of headphone/line out from a single mini stereo jack. Adapters are needed to interface with most studio and home stereo systems. However, I suspect most recordists are like me: the Mini SD card goes straight into the computer for storage, playback and editing. The DR-05 has a mini-USB port for buss power or uploading to a computer, but is not enabled for playback, recording or battery charging.
Two AA batteries provide power. I use Eneloop rechargeables and they easily last through a long rehearsal. If I need to track all day I plug a USB battery pack into the USB port.
I use the DR-05 to record rehearsals, guitar lessons and ambient nature sounds. The built-in omnidirectional mics sound very good--clean, full range and accurate--and easily picks up sound throughout the room, even to the extreme sides and behind the mics. The DR-05 is not a good choice for reportage as omnidirectional mics pickup too much surrounding sound for sidewalk interviews. A unit with cardioid (directional ) mics is a better choice if ambient sounds need to be reduced, e.g., DR-07 MKII or DR-40.
Mics are slightly bright but mellower and more diffuse than the mics on the DR-100 MKII and DR-40. Handheld recording with the built-in mics works great if I’m careful not to shift position or bump the housing. I mount it on a tripod or mic stand (it has a tripod socket) for extended sessions so I don’t spoil the track with careless movement. If you plan to record outdoors, use a wind muff/dead kitten as even a light wind creates loud booms and thumps.
Omnidirectional mics and 3.5mm stereo mic input
Preamps have plenty of gain and I was able to record soft finger picked classical guitar with optimal levels manually set at 75 to 80%. Unlike the DR-100 MKII and DR-40, the DR-05 lacks a gain sensitivity menu/switch but the default seems to be equivalent to “high” on the DR-100 MKII. I normally stick to manual gain mode as auto gain compresses dynamics too much.
The DR-05 has a new "smart" auto gain mode, Peak Reduction. Peak Reduction automatically sets levels by measuring input and adjusting for optimal level (-12dB). Unlike Auto Gain, Peak Reduction only backs off gain to prevent clipping. It's less dynamic squashing than traditional auto gain mode and, used with the limiter, might be a good choice for "unmanned" recording of performances. I probably won't be using Peak Reduction as it's rare to clip correctly set levels with classical guitars (save for flamenco strumming!).
Wav files recorded at 48kHz 24-bits and 92kHz 24-bits sound excellent and process easily in Bias Peak Pro or Apple Logic. For the best sound, guitar tracks need a slight EQ boost in the lower midrange.
The DR-05 is extremely portable and easily slips into a camera bag or pant pocket. It’s intuitive to operate and, indeed, tracks from the DR-05 sound great on studio monitors and headphones. Features are mainly aimed at musicians but it's also a good general use recorder for dialogue and DSLR audio in spaces appropriate for omnidirectional mics. I'm pleased with this little recorder: most of the audio quality of the DR-100 MKII but at one third the cost and a much easier carry.
Finally, please help support this website by purchasing this item at Amazon.
• Hand held stereo audio recorder
• Stereo omnidirectional condenser mics
• Manual gain, auto gain and Peak Reduction ("smart" auto gain)
• Nondestructive overdubbing
• Up to 96kHz/24-bit WAV recording
• 3.5mm stereo (1/8") LINE output and input jacks
• Limiter and low cut filter
• Records to microSD (64MB-2GB)/microSDHC (4GB-32GB)
• USB 2.0 port for transfer to PC and external power
• Built-in speaker
• Tripod mount
• Batteries: 2 AA
4GB Micro SDHC card
©Copyright 2016 by Peter Kun Frary All Rights Reserved