By technical editor Matt Allard:
Recently I’ve been looking at small audio recording devices to remotely capture broadcast quality sound. There are several small recorders like the Zoom H1, or alternatively iPhone or iPod based solutions such as Rode’s smartLav+ coupled with their Rode Record app. Finding a small device with a professional XLR audio connection has been near impossible until now. Enter the Tascam DR-10X – a tiny device with some very professional features.
The the DR-10X compact PCM recorder is designed to capture audio during interviews, press conferences and meetings. It attaches directly to any dynamic or battery-powered condenser microphone with a XLR output. The captive XLR connector attaches firmly to the microphone and essentially turns it into a single hand holdable unit. It can capture audio at Broadcast standard 48kHz/24-bit in WAV format. Offloading recordings is a simple matter of connecting through the microUSB connection or by removing the microSD card and placing it in a reader.
The DR-10X has both manual and automatic gain settings, with a low cut filter and limiter to prevent overloads. There is however no way of fine tuning the volume manually, you have to either set the gain to low/mid/high, or leave it on automatic. Recording can begin instantly when turning the device on – you hold the record side switch during startup.
The recording switch uses a sliding mechanism instead of a designated recording button. There is a hold function that can prevent recording from being stopped by accidental button presses.
The DR-10X has a headphone socket for monitoring, but in many cases the locations where you put this recorder will prohibit the use of headphones. You aren’t going to be able to trail a headphone cable half way across a room to the front of a news conference from your camera position.
If you can’t easily monitor setting the record level correctly can become problematic. The DR-10X has several functions to prevent issues related to recording level settings, These include a dual recording function that allows you to set one recording level while simultaneously recording a backup track at a lower level. If the primary track overloads and clips then you can simply use the one recorded at the lower level. This is a really nice feature and I would use this all the time as there is no downside in doing it. In addition the unit has an automatic gain control function that can adjust the input level. In common with most other professional recorders it also has a limiter function.
Even though this unit is very compact it can still play back recorded files via the headphones. You can check the battery level on the easy-to-read display. Even if the battery should run out the unit will automatically close the current audio file to prevent the loss of already recorded data before it shuts down. While the display is handy I did find it a little too small for my eyes.
I tried the DR-10X with a multitude of different microphones and was very pleased with the results. The locking mechanism at the base of the XLR connector enables you to use a large microphone such at the Rode Reporter Mic and keep a solid connection that doesn’t wobble around. You can also use a normal lapel style mic as long as it is powered, then use the DR-10X as a bodypack. It is a very cost effective alternative to a wireless mic as long as you are prepared to sync up the audio and video tracks in post production. Even if you have expensive wireless solutions there are times when you can’t use a radio mic because of restrictions or transmission break up – in these cases the DR-10X could be a life saver. I have used it to record a third channel of audio when I have had to mic up three people and have only had two radio mics.
The only negative aspect about the DR-10X is that it only records a single (mono) channel of audio. If you wanted to use it with something like the Rode Stereo Video Mic X to record great ambient location sound somewhere you wouldn’t get stereo recording. In the future it would be good to see Tascam release a stereo version of the DR-10X. The other thing that puzzled me was when I initially put a MicroSD card into the device is that it would not work. I was using a 4GB card and only after looking carefully at the specifications did I find out that it would only work with a microSD card between 64MB to 2GB. Be careful too if you choose to use microSDHC cards – these you can only use between 4GB to 32GB. I would of also liked to see full manual control for setting the record level included.
Overall the DR-10X is easy to use, light weight and versatile. There are other solutions that can record multiple channels of audio and include more features but they lack the compact size and low cost of the DR-10X. To have a small recorder that you can carry in your kit at all times can be very handy in a lot of situations.
Here are some audio samples recording to the DR-10X.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/187284254″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
Recording media microSD card(64MB to 2GB), microSDHC card(4GB to 32GB)
Media discharging Push-Push type (Guard cover mounted)
Recording format WAV(BWF)
Sampling frequency 48kHz
Quantization bit rate 24bit
Number of channels 1-channel (Mono)
Analog audio iInputs
Input Impedance 10k ohm or more
MIC input gain LOW / MID / HIGH
PHONES Connector 3.5mm(1/8″) stereo mini jack (DUAL MONO)
USB Connector Micro-B type 4pin
Power 1 AAA batteries (Alkaline or NiMH), USB bus power
Battery Operation Time Alkaline batteries (EVOLTA) About 10 hours
Battery (RTC) Lithium × 1(built in with soldering)
Dimensions 52(W) × 94.4(H) × 28(D) mm
Weight 68.3g (including batteries) / 56.3g (without batteries)
Accessories USB cable, Owner’s Manual (including warranty)