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, I’ll be describing this little audio recorder as:
Professional, Clean, Capable, Hungry, Stuck
It’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. It’s got two combo 1/4”-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, it’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. (I’m not joking—why do you think so many editors have those multi-colored keyboards?)
In action, with the levels moving.
Compared to my older Zoom H1, it’s much cleaner. The pre-amps in the Zoom H1 aren’t my favorite feature, and the built-in X-Y mic is OK but not great. I’m not an audiophile, but I’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 RØDE Pinmic) on both systems produces has a lower noise floor on the Tascam at the same volume—it’s got less hiss and it’s more configurable. (To be fair, apparently the Zoom H6 also has cleaner pre-amps, but I don’t have one here to test.)
You want features? It’s got features. Plug-in power for minijack? Yep. Phantom power for my new RØDE 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 doesn’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 camera’s possibly dodgy pre-amps.) It’s almost all things to all people—but unfortunately, it’s not a USB interface like the Zoom mics are.
Yes, it’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 doesn’t matter: they won’t last. That’s OK, it’s par for the course, but know that you’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 isn’t coming out.
A curious one, this. The only XLR plug I’ve ever inserted into socket 1 is unable to be removed. It’s stuck, seemingly because the lever that should release the plug isn’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 I’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 I’m in Australia but bought it from the USA, Tascam apparently won’t ship it back to me, even if I ship it to them. That’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, it’s still a shame more companies can’t offer worldwide warranties like Apple and others do.
It’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-sync—a bargain.