In this post, I compare the actual performance of these two models by testing the quality of their built-in mics, how well they perform with a phantom-powered external mic (a hyper cardioid Audio-Technica 4053b), and also how they sound when connecting directly to a camera using a Sescom attenuation cable (for more information on this technique, check out this post). I compare normal dialog, and how well they handle the sound of an acoustic guitar.
Please note, I connected the Sescom cable to a 10-foot Rode VC1 extension cable during that portion of the test, so I could position the built-in mics on the recorders close to the on-camera subject. Here’s the test:
I checked out a bunch of other people’s tests of theses two recorders before I made my own, and it seems like everyone concludes that the performance of the two recorders is pretty much equal. However, this is not what I experienced. To my ears, the Zoom H4n handily won the shootout.
During the Sescom portion of the test with dialog, I could hear a very faint, high-pitched whine in the audio from the DR-40. I figured perhaps the Tascam had a noisier headphone output, and that it would sound cleaner in the WAV file portion of the test. Unfortunately, the high-pitched whine was present in its WAV files as well.
Keep in mind that this wasn’t a terribly scientific test. I just booted up the recorders, got them into position, set the levels and went for it. I merely used them as a normal person would use them.
In my humble, little test, the Zoom H4n sonically out-performed the Tascam DR-40. You can save $100 by getting the DR-40, but the differences between these two units extends beyond the cheaper, more plastic feeling body of the Tascam. However, you should also keep in mind that the Zoom H4n is not a high-quality piece of gear. At the end of the day, it’s just an affordable consumer-level box that packs a lot of bang for the buck.
Zoom H4n - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Tascam DR-40 - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Audio-Technica 4053B - B&H Photo, Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.fr
Sescom Cable - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk
Sescom Cable (with headphone jack) - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk
Rode VC1 Extension Cable - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr