Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Comparison of upcoming digital audio recorders

With Tascam, Yamaha, and Olympus all coming out with some intriguing new digital audio recorders, I decided to put together a little chart showing how they stack up against one another. During the process I learned two things:
  1. These recorders are all tiny compared with the current generation
  2. It takes a long time to put together a chart if you're not used to it.
If the image above is hard to read, you can click through the image to download a PDF with the specs for the Yamaha Pocketrak 2G, the Olympus LS-10 and the Tascam DR-1. There's no such thing as a one size fits all recorder, so I'm not going to say that any one of these recorders stands head and shoulders above the rest -- especially since we haven't actually heard any audio samples yet.

But as you can see, the Tascam DR-1 is the cheapest of the bunch, and also the only one to sport a 1/4th inch mic input. The Yamaha Pocketrak 2G is the smallest and lightest, but has no memory expansion option. And the Olympus LS-10 includes internal memory, an SD/SDHC expansion slot, and ships with a wind screen which is a nice bonus.

What new recorder are you most looking forward to?


adsr.hu said...


Just a small mistake in the comparison table: the Olympus has "DR-10" below the image instead of LS-10.

Brad Linder said...

Thanks for catching that. I fixed it, which took a lot less time than creating the chart in the first place. :)

Simon Kirby said...

Actually, I'm looking forward to June when we should see Belkin's Podcast studio adapter for the iPod.

Maybe you could add it to the table?

BTW have been really enjoying your recorder reviews.lpv

Brad Linder said...

I kind of feel like the podcast studio is in a different category, since it requires an iPod to work. But I'll think about making a more general chart soon. I've also been meaning to write up the new Edirol R-44, which is also in a completely different league from these recorders. No pricing has been announced yet, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't closer to $1000 than $500.

Benjamin said...

Looking at the manual for the DR-1 it looks like the 1/4" input has some limitations: "The level control and filter functions cannot be used on the input signal from this jack."

I just got my Sony PCM D-50 and am very happy. I started with a Microtrack II paired with an EV N/D767a. The Microtrack just didn't have the gain to record a strong signal from the EV mic. I had to turn it all the way up and then it was noticeably noisy.

The D50 is another story. It has plenty of gain to record a strong signal from the EV mic. Even when I cranked the gain all the way up the noise was tolerable.

Thanks for the great reviews Brad.

Peet said...

Not looking forward to any one of them. Okay the Taskam, perhaps.

Some how all of these guys found room to add build in mics, but not large rugged and more than one microphone input. I never use the build in mics because I like my own mics better. A waste of space ... Although the Olympus is quite impressive.
BTW: isn't the Marantz PMD 620 also around this size?

Brad Linder said...

Yeah, looking back over the list, I'd say the Tascam might be a bit larger than the other two, and about the same size as the Marantz PMD620, M-Audio Microtrack, Zoom H2,or Edirol R-09.

Maybe when I have some free time I'll expand the chart to include all the sub-$500 digital audio recorders oon the market and the ones coming soon. In the meantime, you can check out the excellent list of current recorders that Transom has put together.


Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about the Dynasonic PDR-1? See http://www.djdeals.com/dynasonicPDR1.htm

If the claims are close to true, the price is a breakthrough.

VSB said...

All I want is two XLR inputs (three in an ideal world), phantom power, high quality preamps, mono recording. SPDIF in would be a bonus but isn't essential. I would guess that nearly all musicians would like the same.

So why isn't anyone making such a thing? Why is everyone bringing out such similar products?

VSB said...

Addendum: AA batteries.

onglipo said...

Olympus LS-10 looks like what I need to buy after my H2 (3 months old) died after a cheap chinese battery leaked! Although the H2 price is great, I was not too happy with the buttons and user interface. L10 looks like a simple cassette recorder interface.

Hope you can have a hands-on review soon. It is annoying to see that the AC power supply is an option and not part of the package. Seems you can charge the LS-10 thru USB. Do you think standard USB chargers will work with L-10?

Actually, L10 seems to have everything except a rechargeable battery option and XLR inputs that was part of my wishlist.

Brad Linder said...

I've been using plain old rechargeable AA batteries you can pick up at a drug store or electronics store in my recorders for years. It'd be nice to be able to charge the batteries while they're in the recorder, but it's really not too hard to keep a couple of batteries charged up and ready to go when I need them.

Anonymous said...


I record nature sounds and live music. I owned the PMD-660 and I liked it for nature sounds (pre's were a bit noisy), but not good for recording a live rehearsal.

What is the best all around stock unit in the $500 or less range? By all around stock I mean no external mics. light wind will be a factor at times.


Brad Linder said...

It's hard to say what the "best" recorder will be in any circumstances, but I'd look at the Sony PCM-D50, the Marantz PMD620, and the Zoom H2. The D50 has excellent preamps for plugging in an external mic, but while the internal mics sound pretty good, they're extremely sensitive to wind, so you'd probably want to get the optional $50 wind screen, making this the most expensive option.

The Zoom H2 and H4 have pretty good internal mics, but sound pretty bad if you plug in an external mic. If you honestly never expect to plug in an external mic, the H2 might be your best bet.

I haven't tried the PMD620 myself, but it gets pretty good reviews from many other field recordists.

Josh said...

Thanks for the info. I was leaning towards the Marantz, even though I wasn't totally happy with the PMD-660. The Sony was the other unit on my radar.

Do you know the difference between the the 620's and the 660's mics and preamps?


Brad Linder said...

Can't say that I do. On the one hand, the PMD620 is newer, so I'd hope they company will have learned from their mistakes. On the other hand, it's a cheaper unit than the PMD660 and it's really aimed at a less pro market.

Googoogaagaa said...


There's a mistake in the chart: the Tascam DR-1 goes up to 48kHz, not 96.

Anonymous said...

I just got an LS-10 and while it is a very good and versatile recorder, it does not offer mono recording. Does anyone know if Olympus plans to update its software to enable mono recording?

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. The lack of a simple way to make a high quality mono recording is a key missing element with this otherwise impressive looking recorder. For radio interviews all I often want is quality mono - that way there will be more memory space available. I hope Olympus fixes this issue with a simple software upgrade.

Anonymous said...

is the LS 10 a good recorder to record meetings?

i am looking for one good recorder that has good pick up in a round table

Anonymous said...

I have both an Olympus LS-10 and DS-5000. I've used both to record meetings but the DS-5000 is far superior to the LS-10, particularly because of the conference setting. It's a bit pricey though. Really, anything in the DS series are ideal for meetings. I would recommend the DS-40, 61 or 71

Googoogaagaa said...


There's a mistake in the chart: the Tascam DR-1 goes up to 48kHz, not 96.

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