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Old March 16th, 2011, 08:54 PM   #1
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A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

I own one and like it a lot. Most reviewers rate it higher than it's rival the Zoom H4n. Having owned the Zoom, I concur with that assessment. However I'll point out a few issues that bother me and prove that no one piece of equipment is the alpha and omega. So here a few sticklers.
1) No one I've heard of ever uses anything other that the "High" position on mic gain on the back.
2) No battery charger included. (though you can use usb)
3) At least on mine, playing back files from the deck doesn't work well. The sound is lousy.
4) Headphone volume not great, for recording and playback.
5) On board mics not that great.

No deal killers, it's a great unit.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 07:52 AM   #2
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

I moved to the DR-100 from the Zoom mainly for ease of use. I find the Tascam friendlier to use if you know what I mean.

I have only one worry - it works only in high gain. I actually thought my unit was defective but I see everyone agrees on this. If you set to anything else audio completely vanishes. In fact mid-gain is only good for a big concert or maybe an airport runway!
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Old March 18th, 2011, 09:40 AM   #3
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

I run it with "mid" gain with my Sennheiser G2's wireless lavs all the time. What are the sound sources are you referring to? Secondly, even if the Zoom H4 and the Dr-100 were exactly the same on all other features, the analog limiter makes the Tascam a step up. It is my understanding that the Zoom H4 has a digital limiter (worthless) but no analog limiter. Let me know if I'm wrong about that.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 10:04 AM   #4
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

This is my understand as well.
Jonathen, I mostly use the Oktava 12 and sometimes a k6me66, the Oktava in particular demand the high setting with the gain dial boosted pretty high.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 10:38 AM   #5
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

The tascam "gain" issue is kinda confusing. I've talked about this with other geeks and read some official reply from tascam on a different forum that seemed to say the "gain" setting on the tascam portable recorders is actually a "pad". Unlike "gain" on a camera that amplifies a noisy signal, the gain input on the tascam at "high" is a direct electrical path and at M and L it is actually a padded reduction to the signal to prevent input overloading.

If that is true, the only time you should ever use anything other than H is if you have a really loud source. L would be for rock concert levels.

I'm just talking it through, but if the gain is pad, that could still make sense with the sennheiser because they have a wide range of output options. If your output gain on the wireless receiver is up high enough, you might need to drop the tascam to M to compensate, but wouldn't gain any noise reduction and could possibly hear the output amp on the sennheiser.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 10:56 AM   #6
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Dean View Post
The tascam "gain" issue is kinda confusing. I've talked about this with other geeks and read some official reply from tascam on a different forum that seemed to say the "gain" setting on the tascam portable recorders is actually a "pad". Unlike "gain" on a camera that amplifies a noisy signal, the gain input on the tascam at "high" is a direct electrical path and at M and L it is actually a padded reduction to the signal to prevent input overloading.

If that is true, the only time you should ever use anything other than H is if you have a really loud source. L would be for rock concert levels.

I'm just talking it through, but if the gain is pad, that could still make sense with the sennheiser because they have a wide range of output options. If your output gain on the wireless receiver is up high enough, you might need to drop the tascam to M to compensate, but wouldn't gain any noise reduction and could possibly hear the output amp on the sennheiser.
Andrew - That's very interesting. I haven't heard that about the gain actually inserting a "pad" in front of the mic pre in the signal chain. Most recording preamps don't work this way so I never thought of my Tascam in that light. If that's the case then I will certainly want to back down my Sennheiser G2's to have the proper gain structure and signal-to-noise ratio.
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Old March 25th, 2011, 12:31 AM   #7
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
I moved to the DR-100 from the Zoom mainly for ease of use. I find the Tascam friendlier to use if you know what I mean.
I recently went for the Zoom H4n over the Tascam DR-100, largely based on my experience with my DR-1. Part of that was the batteries.. the Tascam rechargeables don't see to last very long, cycle-wise... the Zoom let me use my own NiMh AAs or Alkaline/Lithium AAs.. and it doesn't suck that it comes with a power wart.

But the main issues I had were the Tascam's gain issues, which they don't seem to have fixed on the DR-100.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
I have only one worry - it works only in high gain. I actually thought my unit was defective but I see everyone agrees on this. If you set to anything else audio completely vanishes. In fact mid-gain is only good for a big concert or maybe an airport runway!
I've had some success with the DR-1 on mid gain using internal mics. My problem was the external mics.. you really need a preamp to use any decent dynamic mic with the DR-1... you can put it on high and crank the gain, but then there's too much noise from the Tascam itself. And of course, the DR-1 doesn't work with condenser mics without a preamp and/or other means of inserting phantom power.

It seems pretty well established, though, that the DR-100 has a much more efficient phantom power circuit. The Zoom doesn't last a terribly long time on batteries powering a condenser mic, even though the 48V bias itself is usually only a very small level of current. The DR-100 apparently has much better battery life doing this. And there have been some reports of noise from the H4n when on batteries and supplying phantom power, as the power starts to fade... that could be from the step-up oscillator. Not an issue with fresh cells or on wall wart power.

The other thing that convinced me about the H4n is the 4-track recording. It can do four tracks at once, and it also has a 4-track "portastudio" mode, very nice if you're a musician and like to record yourself away from the main home studio. Not an issue if you just want an updated field recorder.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 11:40 PM   #8
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

For another negative, let me add that the DR-100 only records a stereo or a dual-mono WAV file when recording a single channel, doubling the storage size of what a mono track should require. Granted, it's "small potatoes" compared to the video track recorded by my Canon 7D.

As for the high setting on the sensitivity, I find the signal very clean when recording with phantom power, even cranked all the way to "10". The 24-bit files have plenty of headroom in them, and I've been able to add lots of gain them to them in post. The little "pop" from the limiter is acceptable for most recordings.

All in all, it's been a pretty dandy device for me, shooting double-sound for a DSLR.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 12:23 AM   #9
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

If the mic is being doubled anyway when you're recording a single track, can you set different analog levels, as is commonly done with a mono camcorder mic? At that point, you'd have a pretty crazy dynamic range, between the two channels... maybe enough to just set it and forget it (my goal, if I have audio-for-video set up and have to really concentrate on the cameras).
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Old April 9th, 2011, 03:35 PM   #10
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

I'm going to be buying a DR100 sound for documentary interview recording. It should work fine, but since this is a thread about some of the negatives I've heard mentioned pouring through various forums, I thought I'd add the few I didn't see here.

-you have to buy the AC adapter (power supply) separately.
-The line out jack sends really hot audio and can be a bit much for the receiving camera. You may need to purchase a 50 DB pad for this.
-phantom power is an on/off for both xlr inputs. Not just one (Is this one really true?) so now individual controls in that sense.
-the plastic screw on the back doesn't actually work for hot shoe mounting.

Again, I don't own one yet, so that's just the gist of what I've seen mentioned about the negative aspects. A couple people mentioned a few small accessories (like the 50 DB pad, or some kind of preamp) they purchased to make the DR100 work a lot better. Not being an audio guy, I can't comment, but I sure would like to have a list from a DR100 user of the basic accessories needed. A kit if you will.
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Old April 10th, 2011, 09:10 AM   #11
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Hayes View Post
I'm going to be buying a DR100 sound for documentary interview recording. It should work fine, but since this is a thread about some of the negatives I've heard mentioned pouring through various forums... The line out jack sends really hot audio and can be a bit much for the receiving camera. You may need to purchase a 50 DB pad for this....
I don't have a DR100 but the online manual rates the line output at -10dBv nominal. This is a standard consumer level line output, not especially hot. In fact, it's ~12dB LOWER than the normal 'studio' line level of +4dBu that most professional gear uses. If you're going to feed it to a mic level input such as on a DSLR you certainly need a pad but if you are sending it to a consumer recorder (why would you do that anyway since the DR100 is a recorder itself?) or to a prosumer camcorder with consumer level line inputs your levels will be right on the money.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 02:55 AM   #12
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Hayes View Post
-phantom power is an on/off for both xlr inputs. Not just one (Is this one really true?) so now individual controls in that sense.
-the plastic screw on the back doesn't actually work for hot shoe mounting.
.
That's true about phantom power. You do however get separate, mechanical level controls. I think it's the only recorder in its class that has that.

The screwhole on the back? Works fine. It's just a screwhole. I use it to mount on a mini tripod.

I just bought a 2.5 to 3.5 audio cable with a built in 25db pad. I haven't even tested yet, hope I got the right one. Didn't know I needed a 50 db pad.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 07:34 AM   #13
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

I have the DR - 100 and find the High gain setting giving rise to a hiss while using phantom power. I use the MKH 416 with it.

I tried using the juicedLink DT454 with it as a mixer (so the phantom power switch in DR100 is now off). It works better. If I have to record interviews then its ok. Still not good enough for distant nature sound recording. I am open to learn if I am doing something wrong.

I am yet to see how it works with the wireless. If it works well, then I can find some use for recording bird sounds by placing it close.

I don't mind the lack of a dedicated charger. As I am ok charging it with the USB.

Having been actively tracking the Sound Devices products. The good thing about the Tascam DR 100 is the small size. As lugging around so much of gear, paying excess baggage in airports is becoming a pain.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 01:33 PM   #14
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

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Originally Posted by Sabyasachi Patra View Post
I have the DR - 100 and find the High gain setting giving rise to a hiss while using phantom power. I use the MKH 416 with it.

I tried using the juicedLink DT454 with it as a mixer (so the phantom power switch in DR100 is now off). It works better. If I have to record interviews then its ok. Still not good enough for distant nature sound recording. I am open to learn if I am doing something wrong.

.
That'd be a nice combination with the DT454, but at that price point, I'm wondering if one wouldn't be better off with a higher end Tascam like the HD-P2.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 08:06 PM   #15
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Re: A few negatives about the Tascam DR100

Sabyasachi

Distant nature recording is the method most likely to reveal hiss in the signal chain. I'm not surprised you get it. Really you need a modded recorder for recording like that. Something from the Oade Brothers, or Busman audio, where they take consumer recorders and replace the preamps so they are pristine. I had my Tascam DR-680 done by Busman (300.00 for 6 channels), and it is dead silent. I will note that the gain on it is also just a pad, but I leave it on low mostly. Any time you turn up all the gain in everything like you probably did for nature, you will reveal all the hiss. The JuicedLink preamps provide (I believe) 16db of gain, which is good. The SD MixPre(D) provides 60db which is better. Beachtek provides 0db of gain. You can only turn down! So something like a MixPre with a modified recorder would be the way to go, unless the bird is right in front of you. I hear 416s are a bit noisy too...
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