Review: Tascam DR-08 Digital Linear PCM Recorder

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Recording different types of audio is tricky. One recorder might be great at soaking up a quiet conversation, but take it to a rock concert and your audio will sound like a coffee grinder crammed with ball bearings.

That’s not the case with Tascam’s DR-08. This linear (meaning it doesn’t compress sound files) voice recorder, dressed in black and dreamy tangerine, uses tiltable twin microphones to compensate for a wide range of different sounds, from soft whispers to head-banging hair metal.

Essentially an inch-thick stick, the DR-08 weighs less than a deck of cards but still manages to soak up the sounds with great fidelity. At its peak setting, the device can store an hour of uncompressed, 96-kHz, 24-bit WAV files on the included 2-gigabyte microSD card. Dial down to the lowest quality setting and it’s good for up to 23 hours of 32 kbps MP3s (great if you’re running sound on a mumblecore film).

But the main attraction here is definitely the dual cardioid microphones sitting atop the recorder like gun turrets. Instead of being affixed in place, the mics can be twisted outward and forward to accommodate a variety of settings, from mano-a-mano interviews to stadium concerts.

We tested the DR-08 in three spaces: an improvised piano room, a speeding car and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on a busy afternoon. In each space, the recordings turned out nearly flawless when the device’s low-cut (noise-canceling) filter was flicked on. Minus the filter, which erases low frequencies from the audio signal, the tracks were laced with a hectoring hiss.

Like most consumer-level digi-recorders, the DR-08 has trouble filtering out wind noise. While walking around outdoors with the device on a fairly calm day, we picked up a lot of extraneous noise. Though Tascam sells screens that fit snugly over the mics, we’d love to see future models that incorporate built-in breeze-blockers.

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