I danced back and forth between the Olympus LS-100 ($400), Roland R-26 ($500) and the Tascam DR-100MKII, struggling to make a purchase decision. They're all able audio recorders. When the Tascam dropped to $225 on Amazon, the choice became easy. I only need stereo recording for live performances. If you covet mobile multitrack recording, you'll need to cough up the extra benjamins for the R-26 or LS-100.
Appearance & Construction
The charcoal gray anodized aluminum body is solid, attractive and has excellent fit and finish. I wish the cardioid mics were black instead of glitzy chrome. The monochrome LCD is 1990s tech but easy to read.
I have Arca quick release plates on all my gear for fast setup/tear down. The tripod socket is a stainless steel insert but is a little shallow: most plate mount screws bottom out in the tripod socket, allowing the plate to spin. The obvious workaround is to file down the screw. However, I found a slightly shorter Sunwayfoto replacement screw and all is well.
Leeward Coast Guitars | Ballet du Grand Duc | Tascam DR-100 MKII (built-in mic)
One of the hallmarks of this model is an abundance of clearly labeled physical controls, resulting in less menu surfing. Lessor models force you to struggle with nested menus to switch input sources or set the limiter, a buzz kill during performances. The MKII designers thoughtfully provided switches for those and most options! And those switches and buttons feel reasonably sturdy and responsive. The gain wheel is smooth but stiff enough so inadvertent level changes should be rare. If you've used a recorder before, you'll find the controls and menus intuitive. I barely cracked the manual.
Calibrated Gain for Both Channels | Coaxial digital-in port & battery door
Rear Panel | Controls for mic gain, phantom power and limiter
I live in the inner city and am surrounded by cellphone and radio station transmitters. RFI is a major problem and every piece of gear needs shielding or it becomes a classic rock station. I am happy to report the DR-100 MKII greeted me with complete radio silence and is well shielded. In contrast, my plastic DR-40 picks up a Morse code like RFI from cellphones even in the next room!
The versatile input options of XLR, coaxial and unbalanced analog allow you to record any source needed from phantom powered condenser mics to digital mixers to turntable preamps. The DR-100 MKII has a switchable pad to toggle the XLRs from mic to line level input. Unfortunately, since this is a palm sized unit, phono and RCA jacks are MIA. You'll have to make due with adapters to plug RCA or phone jacks into the XLR or mini stereo jacks.
XLR Inputs | Clean mic preamps with locks but no TRS
One of the hidden jewels of the DR-100MKII design is the coaxial digital-in port, allowing direct recording from a digital mixer, mic preamp, or DAT. Wish it was a RCA jack instead of a 3.5mm but still a welcome feature, especially since few portables have digital in. And it ships with a mini to RCA adapter so you're ready to go out of the box! The digital in works great with my MOTU Ultralite, reaping the benefits of the better preamps and DAC while sparing me from dragging around my MacBook Pro.
Output options are few: headphone port and analog stereo out, both mini stereo jacks. Tascam could have easily squeezed in a pair of RCA jacks. So adapters will be needed to interface with studio and home stereo systems. I rarely use output jacks since the SD card goes straight in my Mac for storage and editing, so no biggie. It has mini-USB for charging and uploading to your computer, but not for playback or recording. A card reader is faster for uploads but it's good to have a USB port just in case.
I love the dual battery setup with rechargeable Li-Ion and AA backup. No problem lasting through a long rehearsal and concert. Although the DR-100MKII doesn't ship with a charger, you can charge it with any USB charger, including iPhone chargers, or plug into a computer USB port.
Most of my recordings are casual recordings of rehearsals or student performances so the built-in cardioid mics are on the bright and thin side. The built-in mics on the DR-40 and DR-44WL sound a notch better (sweeter with fatter mids). Boost midrange EQ in post production and they sound surprisingly full. The omnidirectional mics--the little holes above the LCD--are horrid. I pretend they don't exist.
I'm a music educator and use the MKII to record college music ensembles, primarily classical guitar. I attach the DR-100MKII to a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with the mics pointed at the ensemble. An Arca quick release plate lives on the MKII for fast setup/tear down I'm directing and playing, but also operating the DR-100 MKII, so having a wired remote to start/stop record is a Godsend. IR remote doesn't work from the rear, hence the wired remote.
Frary Guitar Duo | La Vechia Galliard | Tascam DR-100 MKII (built-in mic)
Solo and small ensembles of classical guitars are challenging to record due to low sound levels and subsequent high preamp gain and spare mix.And this is where the MKII shines: preamps are transparent and clean, a improvement over the DR-100 and DR-40. If I record in a quiet room, no Bias SoundSoap noise reduction is needed!
The main sound quality gotcha is the limiter: sounds terrible so I don't use it. I've learned to be meticulous about gain levels. The limiter in the DR-44WL and DR-60D MKII sound considerably better.
Peter Kun Frary | Agashi (Frary) | Tascam DR-100 MKII (built-in mic)
Honybal Sosa | Better Days | 80D and Tascam DR-100 MKII (built-in mic)
Recording with External Mics
Jack in a good set of condenser mics and the DR-100 MKII is transformed into a serious recording studio. I use a matched pair of Neumann KM-184 condenser mics and tracks sparkle. With mic sensitivity set to high and typical gain at 50 to 75% for acoustic guitar the noise floor is virtually inaudible with these mics. The MKII preamps also work great with my Audio-Technica AT8022 Stereo condenser mic, yielding a rich stereo image at reasonable gain. Finally, I did a brief test withmatched Shure 849 condensers and there was plenty of gain for a clean recording of acoustic guitar, albeit these mics are slightly noisier than the Neumann and AT8022.
Peter Kun Frary | Rosita (Tarrega) | Tascam DR-100 MKII | Neumann KM184 (2X)
Peter Kun Frary | Prelude BWV 998 (Bach) | Tascam DR-100 MKII | Neumann KM184 (2X)
DR-100 MK II in action | Gitzo tripod with RRS Arca-compatible quick release
I have a long history with Tascam equipment, going back to cassette Portastudios and DAT. And they always seem to masterfully balance great sound quality, musical needs, portability and cost. And, indeed, I'm pleased with the DR-100MKII: great features, thoughtful ergonomics, good fit and finish, sturdy metal build and wonderful sound at a nice price.
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• Balanced MIC or LINE inputs via XLR jacks
• XLR jacks have locking latches
• Cardioid & omnidirectional microphones
• Mic pre amps improved with higher gain and lower noise
• Up to 96kHz/24-bit WAV recording
• 32 to 320kbps MP3 recording
• XLR or 3.5mm stereo (1/8”) LINE input jack
• 3.5mm stereo (1/8") LINE output jack
• S/PDIF digital input (3.5mm stereo to RCA digital cable included)
• Wired/wireless remote control included (RC-10)
• Limiter and low cut filter
• Back panel dedicated switches
• Aluminum case
• VSA changes playback speed from -50% to +16%
• Records to SD or SDHC card (2GB card included)
• Cable with mini USB 2.0 jack Included
• Large thumbwheel individual gain control
• Built-in speaker
• Tripod mount
• Li-Ion battery, windscreen and carrying case also included
• Dual batteries: AA plus rechargeable Li-Ion
2GB SD card
BP-L2 lithium ion battery
USB and digital cables