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Tascam DR-05 Review | A Digital Recorder for Podcasting

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.

It doesn't have XLR/TRS jacks like many of the higher-end multitrack recorders. The DR-05 is more of an alternative to the Zoom H1.

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.

Tascam DR-05 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.

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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.

Tascam DR-05 Menu 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.

Tascam DR-05 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.

Want to know more about bit rates?

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.

Sound Quality

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.

Price

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.

Discussion:

9 Comments

  1. Jake on 29th September 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Hey there!
    I actually bought the Audio Technica 3350 mics, two of them – in fact. I already had a Tascam DR-05, but now that I’ve tested it. It didn’t work well for me, as planned. But what are the optimal settings for an interview?
    I bought the stereo splitter for both mics – but I’m at a loss as to how I’m meant to harness this contraption to its best. Help would be amazing and I thank you in advance if you can!

    • Matthew McLean on 2nd October 2017 at 11:49 am

      Hi Jake, just plug in the splitter to the Line in jack on the very top of the recorder. The device will automatically switch to picking up whatever mics you connect to that, as opposed to the built-in mics.
      Then you just set your levels accordingly in the same way you would with the built-ins.

      • Andrés on 21st February 2018 at 8:29 pm

        Hi Matthew! first of all, thank you very much for everything.

        I am having the same issues as Jake. I have tried to record interviews in a museum, with lavalier mics and also with the built-in mics, but I am not getting the sound qualitty I expected. Could you be more specific about the optimal settings for interviews and how to set the recording levels? This might be an stupid question but I am really very new at this. Sorry.

        Also, I bought the Tascam Dr 05 because I wanted to do interviews outside and also podcasting at home with another person, but so far I am feeling that maybe buying the recorder for podcasting at home wasn’t such a good idea. I think it is too sensitive and I am getting a lot of background noise. Do you think there is a way to fix that? or is it better that i buy a bidirectional mic like for example the blue Yeti?

        Thanks!

  2. TOny on 2nd January 2019 at 12:08 am

    Good recording quality and easy to use, but the built in speaker is poor. Max speaker volume is fairly low and its audio quality is unacceptaple.You have to literally put it to your ear like a phone to listen to playback even at max volume.I purchased for this to record nature sounds like birds tweet and water drops etc. because in description says it could. But I don’t believe so. The audio is way too quiet even I set the volume at the highest level. Also, a lot of buzzing noise could be heard. It isn’t worth $100 at all and IPhone recorder may do the same as this thing.
    Fast boot time (only about 3 sec)Sturdy for the price,nice build quality.

  3. Lawrence on 18th February 2019 at 9:25 pm

    What’s the best way to record telephone conversations using the DR 05

  4. MA Spencer on 21st May 2019 at 7:16 pm

    The volume is far too low. I need to wear headphones to confortably listen to an indoor inteview. What am I doing wrong?

  5. Daryl Kirkup on 16th July 2019 at 6:17 am

    Hi Guys,
    I have a Tascam DR-05 and have just bought a Rode Smartlav+ mic however, when I plug the Rode into the external mic socket on the top of the Tascam, I can’t get audio through. When I record directly into the unit’s two inbuilt mics, it works fine. If I plug the Rode into my smartphone, it works perfectly. Is there a setting on the Tascam that I’m missing or do I need a splitter?

  6. Liz Hutchinson on 7th October 2019 at 8:47 am

    Hello. Everyone who thinks the volume to playback recordings is too low, hear this: YOU NEED HEADPHONES. It is designed for playback with headphones. Always have headphones with your device and there is no problem. I personally find The Tascam DR-05 to be an absolutely brilliant bit of kit producing really great results. I’ve used it to record live music, interviews, experimental sounds, wedding speeches… it’s really useful with or without an external mic.

  7. Tim on 20th November 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Firstly, I’m not planning to do a podcast. I am in an amateur writing group/workshop that with weekly prompts writes one short story a week. We then each week read our stories aloud and are critiqued by fellow students and the teacher. I, unfortunately, often am unable to read aloud without falling apart. Aside from therapy or a hypnotist, I’d like to be able to share my work without turning into a babbling, snively idiot. I practice my stories at home ahead of time and there’s no problem, but get me in front of a small group, even people I’m familiar with, and I often fall to pieces. Can you suggest a recording device that I can record my reading ahead of time and then use in class to replay and that a small group of 5-10 people migjt be able to hear. I currently write on an Apple laptop or an Apple computer that I print hardcopy from. Not sure whether I could use my laptop instead. I’m no computer geek. Tying my shoe laces is a challenge! Maybe I should just wear slippers? Anyway, any help would be appreciated. I’m loving writing but the in class breakdowns is killing me!

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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

August 2nd 2017