Tascam DR-70D

First Thoughts on the Tascam DR-70D Field Recorder

I’ve been trying to come up with a spicy intro for this post, but it seems best to start here: I am definitely going to buy the Tascam DR-70D. I’ve been waiting for a manufacturer to come out with a field recorder with this kind of a design for a long time, and it’s finally here. I wanted something small enough for use with a camera, yet with a form factor that would work in a location audio bag. The DR-70D even has some features that I wouldn’t have anticipated.

The first thing about the DR-70D that I wasn’t expecting is its low price. I always figured if a manufacturer made something like this, the number of people who would want it would be low, so the price would be higher. Not the case here. The DR-70D is priced at $300 (give or take) at launch. The very existence of this product is also a strong indication of the growing size of the audio-for-video market.

Before the DR-70D was announced, the closest recorder to it was Tascam’s own DR-60D. However, the physical shape and size of the DR-60D (including the latest version of this model, the DR-60D MkII) was considerably more boxy than the DR-70D. Those models also only feature two XLR inputs, and they don’t feature built-in microphones. The boxy style of the DR-60D never appealed to me, as it would be bulky on a camera rig, and it would take up too much space in my audio bag.

Tascam DR-70D right side

The DR-70D is equipped with most of the core features I’m looking for: 4 XLR inputs (three on the right side, one on the left), an output dedicated for sending the recorder’s audio to the camera, an input dedicated to monitoring the sound from the camera (I’ll explain why these things are important to me later in this post), and its all-important design and form factor. It has a female 1/4″-20 thread on the bottom to attach it to a tripod, and a removable bracket with a 1/4″-20 screw (to attach it to the base of a camera). If you remove the bracket from the top, it exposes a standard shoe mount, where you can attach a wireless receiver, a shotgun microphone, etc.

Tascam DR-70D on camera

The only things missing from the DR-70D are features that would drive up its price. It would be nice if it was made out of metal and built like a Siberian tank, but that costs money. It would be awesome if it had a reliable timecode generator and ports to sync external gear, but again, that is expensive. It would also be handy it if had an power input, so I could attach to my battery distribution system. There’s a good chance that its micro-USB port can be used to power the unit with an external battery, but, I won’t be able to determine this until I have the thing. This possibility interests me because I prefer to use NP-1 batteries to power my field equipment. These batteries last much longer (so they’re less likely to die in the middle of a take), I can power multiple pieces of gear with one of them, and they’re rechargeable (less waste, less cost).

The display of the DR-70D is angled upward slightly, which will make it a little easier to read when it’s mounted underneath a camera. This is potentially handy when the recorder is in the right location in relation to your eyeballs. The downside of an angled display like this is when your eyeballs are in the wrong spot. If you have the DR-70D mounted to the top of your camera and you raise it up on a tripod, you could lose sight of the display pretty quickly. If you slide this recorder into a location audio bag and strap it to your chest, the display will be angled away from you, which isn’t the end of the world, but it is kind of a drag. I would have preferred a display that wasn’t angled. It would be amazing if it had an articulating display, like the one found on the Panasonic GH4. One can dream.

Tascam DR-70D diagram

To make these connections with the majority of DSLR and mirrorless cameras, you just need short, male-to-male stereo mini-plug cables, like this one from StarTech.

The camera output on the DR-70D enables you to send the audio that you’re recording to the camera. This is useful for many reasons. Because you’re recording a copy of the audio in the DR-70D, and a second copy in the camera, you’ll have two copies. Equipment isn’t perfect. It screws up sometimes. For this reason, it’s always in your best interest to record more than one copy of the audio.


It’s also useful to record the audio directly into the camera in case you want the option to not have to sync the separately recorded audio files in post. Audio purists would never suggest you do this, but, there are occasions where it’s nice not to have to sync. If the work you’re doing isn’t terribly important, I find this to be an acceptable practice. Remember, the quality of the audio that you record with the DR-70D will be much higher quality. You can set the DR-70D to record 24bit 48kHz WAV files—or even as high as 96kHz. Your camera records much lower quality files.

One of the big shortcomings of the DR-60D is that it lacked built-in microphones. I really like that the DR-70D has them. Sure, they’re a little comical looking. Two button-sized microphones staring blankly out of the back of the thing, separated by several inches. It’s not the most sophisticated microphone array to grace a portable digital recorder, but hey, it’s much better than no mics at all. They’re probably far superior to the pinhole microphones you find on DSLR cameras. There’s an old saying that microphones sound how they look. This saying usually proves to be right. Glancing at these babies, I’m not expecting the world. But who knows? They just might sound great.

DR-70D rear microphones

I’m going to echo what I said in the first sentence. Thank you, Tascam. Here, take my money. You did it. Thank you! Expect a hands-on review of this thing from me sometime in the near future. I’ll wrap this up by quoting myself from the review I did of the Zoom H5 a couple of months ago: “At the end of the day, this is a low-budget, entry-level device. This is not a substitute for a Zaxcom or Sound Devices recorder. ” The same applies here. The DR-70D isn’t here to replace the gear that true professionals use to earn their living. It’s here to improve the workflow of people like me. People who have $300 to spend on this stuff, not $3000. It’s a new option, and it’s an exciting one.

UPDATE – Check out my in-depth hands-on review of the Tascam DR-70D post. I explain how its features can be helpful in video production.


Purchase links:

Tascam DR-70D - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Tascam DR-60 Mark II - Amazon USA, B&H PhotoAmazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr

Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

22 thoughts on “First Thoughts on the Tascam DR-70D Field Recorder”

  1. Nice review!

    I am wondering what you think about the DR-70D compared to the Zoom H5. I am going to use a recorder for on-location shooting, with a shotgun and lavaliers. So I have the option to get either the H5 or the DR-70D. The Tascam looks really good, but the Zoom seems to have a longer battery life.

    Thank you!

  2. The DR-70D and Zoom H5 are pretty different. As far battery life is concerned, until I get to use a DR-70D, it’s hard to say. When I tested the Zoom H5, the battery life seemed pretty decent. The jury is still out on the DR-70D, but it does run on four AA batteries (the Zoom H5 runs on two), so it might have decent life. The designs are so different, though, it’s hard to compare.

    If you’re running more than one lavalier mic and a shotgun with the Zoom H5, you are going to need the EXH-6 module. With the EXH-6 attached, you can connect up to four XLR microphones to the H5. The thing is, the EXH-6 is $70. Tack that onto the price of the Zoom H5 and you’re $40 over the price of the DR-70D.

    The Zoom H5 is a nice recorder, for what it is. If you don’t mind adapting a hand-held style device into your video workflow, it’s one of the best options out there. That said, I’m more of a fan of gear that was designed solely with video production in mind, and this is what you have with the Tascam DR-70D. I can see how the DR-70D might be too bulky for some people. For them, the Zoom H5 is the better choice. It all depends on what works for you.

  3. Thanks for the post. The Tascam video on Youtube explicitly says that the unit can be powered via micro USB input. I’m questioning whether the extra $100 is worth it for the 70D over the 60D or the 60DmkII. Thoughts?

  4. Thanks for the writeup. I’m still feeling a little burned on my experience with the Tascam DR60. Within the first week, the XLR cable from my Senn G3 got stuck. Now, the XLR cable I use for my Rode NTG3 got stuck. I essentially have two permanently attached cables to the dang thing. I’ve tried contacting Tascam customer service but so far they have refused to get back to me. One ticket is over 4 months old with no response. They do make nice looking affordable gear, but their customer service is the pits. Buyer beware.

  5. Hi again, Sam!

    I bought the DR-70d and now I am looking to buy my first mic. Here in my country the most popular are Sennheiser and Rode, so I narrowed down to those two brands since it would be easier to sell if this career doesn’t work. I am choosing between the NTG 3, the MKH 416 and the MKH 50. First I decided I would not just get an all arounder microphone, but an especialized one. So I think maybe the 416 is a better option than the NTG 3 due to its narrower pattern. However, here we film mostly indoors, so the MKH 50 seems like the better choice. Also, even though the 50 is a popular mic here, you cannot find it to buy or rent anywhere, so since I have the opportunity to go to the US, I can buy it there. The other two are easy to find. I don’t know how much experience you have with these mics, but do you think the MKH 50 would suffice for outdoors until I buy a shotgun mic? Or maybe the MKH 416 would be enough for indoors if I remove the reverb in post?

    Thanks

  6. Hello again Caio,

    Congrats on your DR-70D purchase. I bought one as well, but I haven’t had time to do anything with it yet.

    All three of those shotgun mics are good choices. Of the three, I think the MKH-50 is the best choice. It has a nice balance of indoor/outdoor performance, it’s a nice length, and it’s just a great sounding mic.

    The downside of the Sennheisers, obviously, is the additional cost, both for the mics themselves, and the necessary additional wind protection you need to buy.

    But, when it comes to mics, it’s always best to spend a little more to get the one that you want.

    The NTG3 is a great bargain, but it’s not built as well as the Sennheisers. The end cap comes loose really easily, and I bent the mic grill on mine on a shoot. I must have bumped it unknowingly. Still, I was pretty surprised when I saw that it had bent.

    I don’t want to sell the NTG3 down the river, though. It’s a nice sounding mic at a great price.

    Basically, you win with any of those, but the MKH 50 would be my pick.

  7. Once again!

    Recently I watched your reviews about the 8060 and the article at BH. So, maybe instead of the MKH 50, I should get the MKH 8060 and afterwards acquire a capsule of the 8050. That would be cheaper than getting a MKH 50 and 60. Would the 8060 wider pattern make it a worst mic for outdoors than the 416 and mkh 60? And do you still think the modular option is less reliable?

    Thanks

  8. hi sam,

    in the next weeks I have to buy a fieldrecorder. I do some interviews, live-music-recording and occasional some videos.

    my choice is between Tascam 100mkII, Tascam 70d and Zoom H5.

    Which one will bring the best sound-quality (pre-amps!) and what do you think in general about this units?

    thanks and regards, gerd

  9. Hi Sam,
    Glad you are writing this, as I consider you to be one of those benchmark people on this kind of gear.
    As soon as this device was announced, I preordered. I had been on track for a Sound Devices 633 or Zaxcom Maxx. My work is Radio broadcasting, but my hobby is field recording, so I have a heap of specialty microphones for different tasks, but the the I use the most are a wired lavalier, a Sennheiser 416 and a Shire VP88. I have previously never been able to use the three together and now I can if I wanted to. I probably won’t be using the unit for that much Camera use, though I will have moments where I will.
    So far In extremely impressed with the preamp, I have never has clearer sound from my 416 despite having basically married it to a dedicated Sound Devices MM-1 which I bought specifically for that microphone.
    On some level, I am a actually kind of shocked at how capable it is as an all-in-one solution.
    As for powering it, I use Energizer Lithium batteries (about every two years I buy a brick of 100 of them on eBay and basically pay a fraction of retail for them), they are light weight and very powerful as in sure you are already aware), I also have a Tekkeon “My Power All” which I use to actually power the unit (and a few other things too), and so far I have had about 20 hours straight with this combination powering both the VP88 & the 416 at the same time. Not bad!
    I have not as yet really tried the inbuilt mics, though I plan to take this unit on my Travels and expect that they will get some use.

    Regards!

  10. Hello Sam!

    Any updates? I’m looking at this recorder to use in between my current Roland R-26 (which is solid but doesn’t have enough channels), and a Sound Devices 633 (which is great, but I can’t afford it yet).

    What other recorders have you worked with? I know pre-amp noise etc is a little subjective, but can you comment on how clean or rich they sound in comparison to other consumer level recorders like the Zoom for example?

    Thanks again!

  11. Hello Sam. How is your experience with the Tascam DR-70d? Great writeup, but waiting to hear your experience. Thanks so much.

  12. Hey Sam! I had just purchased a DR-70D and wanted to make note that this recorder does indeed allow for external power using the USB port, as I run external power to this unit from a Tekkeon MP3450. To borrow your words in review “form factor that would work in a location audio bag” is a perfect way to describe this unit for my use in field recording and having a need for 4 ch.’s

    I happen to run my mic’s directly to a Sound Devices 552 Mixer/Pre eliminating the need for the and from there I run my TA3 Direct Outputs to the Tascam DR-70D. This connection obviously eliminates the need to use the phantom power on the DR-70D.

    The results have been exactly what I had needed, and especially in noting the ergo design allowing this recorder to be field bag friendly. The allowance to run this at 24Bit/96kHz has been a plus. I have an Zoom H6 as to which I had an every now and then use for 6 ch.’s, but it is bulky and non field friendly if you run out of a location bag, such as a Petrol or K-Tex.

    For the price and featured options, I am happy to have made this purchase and addition to my field recorders. How can you go wrong?

  13. Hi Sam,
    can you please tell me any benefit of DR-60dmk2 over Zoom h5??
    i will most using one or 2 XLR mics maximum (1 shotgun ntg-2 other wireless by RodeLink[coming soon]) i usually will do run and gun documentaries and events. Also Short Films in controlled environments. So what should i get Zoom h5 or Tascam DR-60dmk2 ?? my camera is GH4 with SmallRig QuickCage

  14. I just got one all and I was excited put the batteries in it and nothing.
    Tried new batteries nothing.
    Will turn on with usb but who wants a 10,000 foot extension cord.
    I will be returning it hopefully the replacement one works.

  15. I have a DR-70D and it does record very cleanly. I really cannot complain.

    However I really wish some expert out there would publish a critical review of its preamps — headroom, etc. I own a Sound Devices 302 mixer (non-recorder) which I bought used but retails for over $1600 and supposedly has really great preamps. So how do the preamps on the DR-70D compare to, say, the 302? Which records better — the DR70-D or a Sound Devices recorder, and why? I realize the Sound Devices is supposed to be automatically better, but why?

    My biggest gripe with the DR70-D is its terrible monitoring. You can only listen to a mixed output, not individual stereo tracks or individual single tracks. Record two stereo pairs (1/2 and 3/4) and when you play back, you hear all four at once, no other options.

    I want to be able to monitor (during recording and/or playback) either stereo pair or any given channel to make sure it’s okay. I could not really hear what I had recorded until I downloaded the files to my computer in my editing bay. Tascam needs to fix its firmware.

    One other small gripe is the micro-USB external power input. It’s very fragile. I’d like to have a more robust alternate external power input. That said, I can run the DR-70D for hours on a USB power supply like the Anker 10 amp lithium battery that’s about the size of an iPhone. A short coiled USB-A to Micro-USB cable works great.

  16. Hallo

    Thx for your blog about the Tascam DR70. I’am wondering of I cann use the DR70 as a multitrack recorder end make overdubs? The Zoom H5 and Tascam DR do have this function.

  17. Nope. Although that might seem lame, I see it as a strength of the DR70D. This recorder was purpose built for use in video production, and all of the token “music making” features that you’ll find in other recorders aren’t in the DR70D. I think it’s a strength, because it makes the device easier to use. Menus are not cluttered with music making features that video people don’t need or want.

    In your case, it’s a bummer that it doesn’t do multi-track overdubs. For most users, it’s a plus.

  18. I had left a positive reply to the DR-70D earlier, however that has changed after only 5 times being used, the recorder seems to have had an issue when touching the vol. knob to make any adjustments. I was getting an horrid static signal (white noise) showing up on my recordings simply by the lightest touch to the vol. knob. The Tascam was still under warranty, so they had me ship it back for an exchange on a brand new recorder. What I received was a previously used DR-70D in worse shape than the unit I returned! After my complaining, it was agreed that I would get my monies back, of which they honored and sent me my refund. I am now using my Zoom H6 again with absolutely no problems. I actually prefer this recorder from Zoom over the Tascam. My reasons for the Tascam purchase was solely due to the form factor of this fitting into my Audio bag for the ergo factor, That was my mistake!

    I am now waiting for the Zoom F8 to come out in he Fall (fingers crossed) as this recorder will be 8 tracks but with the sizing that will work for the audio needs and production audio field bag I use for recording.

    Bottom line, with the prices dropping on the Tascam, you really are getting a consumer grade product and not something that I feel meets the pro audio-vid level of today.

    I retract my earlier positive rating of this unit!

  19. I’ve been using a Sescom attenuator cable to feed my camera from the “line out” and it removes the hiss/noise.

    BUT, I’m wondering if these new firmware updates will fix it? have yet to test.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.