Shipping Off – Tascam’s DR-10X


Q I’m trying to save space and weight with my location audio recording gear. I’m considering buying a small handheld digital recorder like the Zoom H4n. This will be for a documentary project where I’ll have to record a lot of ambient sound, but will also need to record lots of on-camera interviews. Because of security constraints where I’m shooting, I’m not permitted to use any wireless microphones; it mostly will be in the confines of ships and a few interviews inside a submarine. Any suggestions for some way to record a boom mic that can double as a handheld mic/recording system that I can use to gather ambient sound, as well? I don’t have much of a budget and already have a full pro audio package, but can’t bring most of my gear because of space and weight considerations. Any suggestions for a way to slim down a basic mic/recorder while still maintaining some quality?
Tom M.
Via email

A I’ve done some production on boats and ships, so I have at least a slight idea of some of the challenges you’re facing. Assuming you have either a battery-powered condenser microphone or a handheld dynamic microphone or, better yet, both, Tascam has recently introduced an interesting recorder that may appeal to you for this project.

I have a lot of experience with both the Zoom H4n and Tascam’s competing, pretty similar product, the DR-40. I own and record with both units on a regular basis. While neither recorder will record as high-quality sound as a dedicated pro-level sound recorder, the results from the Zoom H4n and the Tascam DR-40 are surprisingly usable for the price, but not nearly as rugged as a pro recorder, either.

Tascam’s DR-10X is a small, lightweight digital recorder that’s essentially one channel of the DR-40, which is a small 4-channel recorder, similar in size and weight to the Zoom H4n. What makes the DR-10X unique is that a female XLR connector with a tightening collar protrudes from the top of the lightweight plastic case, allowing the user to affix the DR-10X directly to the microphone. The DR-10X weighs a mere 2.4 ounces and is only 2.04×3.71×1.1 inches (WxHxD). I tested the unit mounted to my Sennheiser ME 66 microphone mounted to the end of my Gitzo 10-foot-long carbon-fiber boom pole. The extra weight was negligible, and the sound of the recording was very clean and clear, with good dynamic range. The unit records to microSD/SDHC cards with capabilities up to 32 GB for days of recording time.

The DR-10X uses a single AAA battery as its power source and features a small, white LED display panel that makes navigating the recorder’s menus and options a breeze. Battery life is rated at 10 hours, and I was able to shoot an entire day without a battery change. Eliminating XLR cables between the microphone and the recorder saves considerable weight and clutter. The DR-10X does feature a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can monitor sound as you record. The recorder features a Micro-B-type 4-pin USB 2.0 connection for transferring files over from the unit to your computer.

The Tascam DR-10X records 24-bit audio at 48 kHz, so this should be fine for your needs. The suggested retail price is $199.99, so the unit is fairly inexpensive for its sound quality. The only real drawback I can see with the recorder is that it doesn’t feature phantom power, which means that most high-end pro mics won’t be usable with the recorder. But several lower-end condenser microphones like the discontinued, but popular Sennheiser ME series and others that contain their own onboard battery will be usable with the DR-10X, as will handheld dynamic microphones.

For your requirements, I’d suggest taking a look and listen to the Tascam DR-10X. Tascam has taken the recording capabilities of the DR-40 recorder and already put it into the DSLR-aimed DR-60, and now for the user who needs to travel as lightweight as possible, the DR-10X presents some interesting options.