TASCAM Sound Recorder (Part 1)

Part 1, 2, 3

The followers of arduinoos know that I have a constant and strong interest in sound recording and analysis. As I get more and more requests for specific sound analysis, I decided to get a semi-professional sound recorder to capture sound events in various environments. Thus the wish list that I used to find commercial products:

  • Portable device
  • Self powered (primary batteries)
  • Good autonomy (> 4h)
  • Powered through and AC adapter
  • Built-in microphones
  • 2 external microphones
  • 2 tracks minimum, 2 additional tracks for recording at a lower level or for recording external microphones is a solid option
  • MP3 and WAV formats
  • >= 24 bits
  • >= 48 kHz sampling rate
  • Low noise
  • Large dynamic range
  • USB port
  • Remote control, wireless remote control (BT, WiFi or IR)  is a solid option
  • Availability of compatible accessories: carrying case, wind shield, external microphones (Possibly XLR), etc.
  • Reasonably rugged

From my early searches, I understand that very good CODEC chips handle the main recording and playback functions from these digital recorders. The difference comes from various aspects that I am trying to enumerate below:

  • Casing: ranges from plastic to strong metallic casing. Cheap solutions may not be reliable and strong enough in the long term and generate noises when handled without extra care.
  • Amplifying stages: ranges from basic designs to very carefully designed pre-amplifiers. This draws us back some decades ago and is still meaningful to me. Noise and dynamic range are directly affected by the design.
  • Built in microphones: I am lacking consistent experience in this domain but my guess is that the primary source of information is critical and that a wide range a products exists.
  • Power: This is an other not so critical but very practical aspect of the devices.  One may decide from the very early development stages if the device shall be ULP, LP or simply as good as it can be. Anyone who missed this exceptional picture our sound capture because you were low on battery will understand me !

And ultimately, I had to take my budget into account ! Taking into consideration the fact that the recorder may (and will) require additional accessories in order to be used in various conditions, e.g. wind shield (1/4 of the price of the recorder!), tripod, remote control, etc. I focused my interest in the products lying in the 100 to 200€ range.

I read many posts in various websites, including this detailed, very well documented web site on capturing sounds from animals. Too bad, the price range of the recommended equipment was much, much higher than my top budget. However this blog was very instructive and informative so that I tried to take most of their argument into account and tried to apply them to my own project. Among the serious papers I found was this very informative review from Mike Rivers which was very helpful to me for making a thoughtful decision. Many other comparison can be sound including this one from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

And ultimately, I ordered a Tascam DR-40

Its user manual is available from here 

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