The wee beastie.
To evaluate the Tascam DR-60D, my new audio recorder of choice to accompany me on location and on set with my Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Pocket Cinema Camera, the five words are back. This time, Iâ€™ll be describing this little audio recorder as:
Professional, Clean, Capable, Hungry, Stuck
Itâ€™s a sleek little bit of kit: black, lots of buttons, able to be slung around the neck of a studious-looking headphone-wearing audiophile. Itâ€™s got two combo 1/4â€-XLR inputs and a minijack for mic inputs, a camera-in minijack, plus three minijack outputs: camera out, headphones out, and line out. All have separate hardware volume controls, so you can monitor at one volume while passing another to your camera.
With the in-built tripod socket on the bottom and screw on the top, itâ€™s designed to sit under your camera, and that certainly keeps the levels front and center for a one-person crew, but of course it could be completely stand-alone if needed. It looks like a professional piece of equipment, which can be important when impressing clients. (Iâ€™m not jokingâ€"why do you think so many editors have those multi-colored keyboards?)
In action, with the levels moving.
Compared to my older Zoom H1, itâ€™s much cleaner. The pre-amps in the Zoom H1 arenâ€™t my favorite feature, and the built-in X-Y mic is OK but not great. Iâ€™m not an audiophile, but Iâ€™ve hit that unfortunate trap of hearing bad audio and not being able to stand it any more. Without doing exhaustive tests, to my ears the same microphone (a RÃ˜DE Pinmic) on both systems produces has a lower noise floor on the Tascam at the same volumeâ€"itâ€™s got less hiss and itâ€™s more configurable. (To be fair, apparently the Zoom H6 also has cleaner pre-amps, but I donâ€™t have one here to test.)
You want features? Itâ€™s got features. Plug-in power for minijack? Yep. Phantom power for my new RÃ˜DE NTG-3 XLR mic? Yes indeed. Four channel recording? Mhm. Backup recording, so you can record two mics at the normal level and another copy at a lower level, in case the first one peaks and clips? Absolutely. A slate button to generate a tone? Well, FCP X doesnâ€™t really need it, but sure.
You can record to SD card then sync in post, or treat it as a pre-amp and push a feed direct to your camera. (Supplying a high enough level will avoid the worst of a cameraâ€™s possibly dodgy pre-amps.) Itâ€™s almost all things to all peopleâ€"but unfortunately, itâ€™s not a USB interface like the Zoom mics are.
Yes, itâ€™s nice to have output options too.
If you want to supply phantom power for an XLR mic, this box will eat batteries. Alkaline, rechargeable, it doesnâ€™t matter: they wonâ€™t last. Thatâ€™s OK, itâ€™s par for the course, but know that youâ€™ll need a stack of AAs to feed this box. You can power through USB if you have a computer or an AC charger handy.
Lots of inputs, but that XLR isnâ€™t coming out.
A curious one, this. The only XLR plug Iâ€™ve ever inserted into socket 1 is unable to be removed. Itâ€™s stuck, seemingly because the lever that should release the plug isnâ€™t doing so. This problem is hardly unique to this box; apparently XLRs get stuck in mixing desks quite a bit. And due to the M-F nature of the cables, I can always plug another one into the 9 meter cable Iâ€™ve got in there right now.
I hear you: Why not return it under warranty? Well, mostly because I need it for a job in a couple of weeks. Also, because Iâ€™m in Australia but bought it from the USA, Tascam apparently wonâ€™t ship it back to me, even if I ship it to them. Thatâ€™s part of the risk of buying grey market goods, but at half the local price, a stuck cable is a small price to pay. Not a disaster, but an annoyance. Though I understand why, itâ€™s still a shame more companies canâ€™t offer worldwide warranties like Apple and others do.
Itâ€™s a nice, tough little box, and now that I can finally record from a good XLR mic, I can get much better sound both in-camera and for later syncing. If you need cleaner sound, this is a good way to go. Currently on sale for $199 at B&H including PluralEyes for post-syncâ€"a bargain.