The affordability of the latest generation of basic recorders like the Tascam DR-05 and Zoom H1 make them tough to resist. Let’s face it. Most people don’t pick up a portable recorder, thinking they’ll make a hit record or feature film with it (unless hopelessly deluded). It is a thought of as an audio sketch pad that can quickly pick up anything from on-location interviews, song ideas, music rehearsals or voice-overs on the fly. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to opt for the fanciest model when your needs are so modest.
I hate wrestling with technology, especially when I feel the desire to start a creative project. Any recorder worth its weight in gold needs an intuitive interface. My mind needs to be focused on the content about to be created, so operation needs to be close to idiot-proof. This is where the DR-5 shines. The button layout isn’t much different than a remote control. You have a play button dead-center, with jogging controls to the left and right; these alternatively control microphone sensitivity. Plus and minus buttons set the volume output. Four menu controls are embedded among the main navigation buttons which is pretty brilliant design-wise. Record and stop buttons are placed out of the way to avoid being pressed accidently.
Onboard mics are placed in an X/Y pattern for maximum stereo separation. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the application. It’s good for recording bands, interviews or capturing all the sounds in a room, but less than ideal for solo podcasters or people looking to do voice overs. It would be nice if you could adjust the angle of the microphones.
The DR-05 was bigger than expected. Placed next to the similarly priced Zoom H1, it is notably wider and bulkier. Tascam offers a thin compact model called the DR-08 that costs an extra $35. The plus side of the DR-05’s size is that it feels more substantial in your hands than the H1.
Included in the box is a USB cable for connecting the device to your computer, a pair of AA batteries, manual, and a 2GB micro SD card.
To cut costs Tascam doesn’t include an AC adapter. This wouldn’t be so annoying if the mythical PS-P515U adapter it requires wasn’t so hard to track down. Luckily you can use USB bus power if you don’t have batteries. Although this is a cool feature, you’ll probably be limited to using AA batteries when you don’t have a computer nearby. I have a good amount of rechargeable AA batteries around the house so I like how the DR-05 uses AA batteries and not AAA batteries like other slim models.
The Tascam DR-05 is a solidly made portable recorder with limited applications. To sum it up, it’s better suited for musicians and interviewers than people that want to capture solo dialog.
The interface is wonderfully designed, making the DR-05 a simple recorder to use.
There isn’t much competition in this super low price range. For this reason it’s hard to find fault with a device offering so much value. Only the Zoom H1 comes close.