There are a lot of quality digital recorders on the market nowadays. The Tascam DR-05 is certainly one of them, but is there anything in particular that makes it stand out against the rest?
Let’s take a look and find out.
Who Would Use The Tascam DR-05?
You could refer to the DR-05 as an “entry level” recorder, but that would be down to its simplicity of use and not because of any lack of professional sounding audio.
Like all digital recorders, the DR-05 is small, light and portable. So it suits the needs of someone who doesn’t want to be tied to any one place for recording interviews or episodes.
The user would be someone who either wants to record directly into the built-in mics, or use an external mic or two which can be added via the 3.5mm (standard headphone connection size) Line-In jack.
Look, Feel, & Build
The DR-05 has a nice, simplistic design, which means it shouldn’t be too intimidating even for the absolute beginner.
Tascam say that it has been designed “to be quick and easy to work with one thumb” – pretty much in the same way you’d hold and use your smartphone.
On the top, we have the two built-in stereo mics, pointing to the left and the right.
On the front is a digital display screen for viewing recording levels, menus, settings, etc.
Above the screen you’ll see two LED lights. PEAK lights up when your recording source is too loud for your gain setting, and REC flashes in recording standby and lights up fully when recording.
Under the display window, there are two main buttons. One doubles up as a power on/off and home screen button, whilst the other is a record button.
And on the lower half of the front, there’s the standard multi-purpose Up, Down, Play, Forward, and Back buttons.
We also have four menu buttons on this lower-front section.
MENU – this, funnily enough, opens up the recorder’s menu, where you can access and alter all the recorder’s settings, sound levels, etc.
QUICK – What this brings up depends on what you’re actually doing at the time. Basically it’s to give you quick access to settings for that particular task. For example, if I’m in Recording Standby mode and press Quick it’ll bring up the Level Control menu.
PB CONT – This is Playback Control. Browse back through and listen to all your recordings here. You can change the playback speed too, up to 1.5x speed, and down to 1/2x speed.
MARK – Pressing this whilst recording drops a marker into your audio.
Connecting an External Mic
Between the two stereo mics, there’s a 3.5mm Line In jack.
Here, you can plug in any external mic with a 3.5mm plug. Commonly, these are lavalier mics.
If you want to record on-location interviews then an ideal setup is using a stereo splitter with two lavalier mics.
Other Physical Features
Looking around the side of the recorder, we’ve got…
A standard 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring your recordings and listening back to them.
A speaker on the back, so you can listen back to recordings without using headphones.
A Hold button, which means you can’t stop or start a recording or alter any settings whilst this is down.
A USB connection port for transferring files or for powering the recorder with an AC adapter.
A Micro SD card slot for your memory card.
A battery compartment on the back, which fits two AA batteries.
There’s a tripod attachment screwhole on the back, and a strap attachment on the bottom of the recorder too.
Main Recording Settings
You can record in MP3 or WAV form.
WAV formats are 16 bit or 24 bit.
MP3 settings are 32, 64, 96, 128, 192, 256, or 320kbps.
You have the option of three different sample rates too. 44,100Hz, 48,000Hz, and 96,000Hz.
You can switch on a Low Cut filter to reduce the impact of unwanted low frequencies (wind noise, mic pops, etc) in your audio.
And you can choose whether to record in mono or stereo.
Other Recording Settings
There’s a Peak Reduction setting to automatically reduce the impact of overly loud sounds in your recording environment.
The Automatic Level Control setting can increase or decrease your gain settings if your recording source is varying between being too loud and too quiet.
And there’s an Overdubbing function, which means you can record on top of a pre-existing audio file on the recorder.
Here’s two sound samples we recorded in our studio.
Neither have had any cleaning up, EQ, etc applied.
The first is through the ‘mobile interview kit’ setup of using two lavalier mics into a splitter.
Here, quality will very much depend on your external equipment. The ATR3350 lav mics are on the beginner/budget side, though they are great value for money. We ran them into the Tascam DR-05 using a HosaTech stereo splitter.
Recording directly into the DR-05s built-in mics (below) has the capability to give you a better vocal recording.
But on the other side, it can also make it harder to capture consistent sound levels from both participants. You need to position yourselves very carefully and try not to move too much, which can be a difficult ask for the inexperienced guest.
Holding the recorder is another option, though this can bring its own handling noise issues into your recording.
At the time of writing, the Tascam DR-05 is available new on Amazon for $100, and Amazon UK for £84.
Summary – The Tascam DR-05
If you’re looking for a high-quality, easy-to-use, and affordable entry level recorder, then the Tascam DR-05 is an excellent option.
I’m a huge fan of its rival, the Zoom H1, but the DR-05 arguably edges ahead in some small areas.
It looks and feels a little more robust, and the “control everything with one thumb” design makes it really simple to use.
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