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TASCAM DR-08 Is a Stealth-Mode News Tool

Tom Vernon gives it a heft

TASCAM has a knack for introducing innovative technology with a great value, and the DR-08 linear PCM recorder is no exception. In a package slightly smaller than a TV remote control, you’ll find tools useful to someone doing field recording, be it radio ENG or live music, though there are some caveats.

Retail price is $299 though you’ll find it at various dealers for significantly less, maybe even below half of list price.

Through a friendly menu interface, the user can select audio quality ranging from 24-bit/96 kHz linear through MP3 recording at 32 kbps mono. The DR-08 uses microSD and microSDHC cards for a maximum memory capacity of 32 GB. A list of brand-name cards that have been tested in the unit is available on the TASCAM website.

Its built-in electret condenser microphones have three positions. The closed position is optimized for a narrow field such as when doing interviews. When the mics are open they are optimized for stereo recording. When open and turned up, they are directional, useful when you want to record meetings.

A 1/8-inch external input jack is available for your own mic/line inputs. Analog output is via a 1/8-inch jack, and an internal speaker is provided.

The real versatility of the DR-08 comes when you connect to a PC via the microUSB-to-standard USB cable. Alternately, you can transfer files by removing the microSD card and inserting it into your PC’s card reader. The unit is compatible with both Mac and Windows.

A backlit display allows you to set levels and record in the dark. One annoyance is that it can only be accessed through the menu. This is one instance where a simple momentary pushbutton switch might trump menu-driven firmware. A cool illumination option is the “stealth” mode, which defeats the record LED and backlight. Presumably this would be useful for times when you want to record in the dark without being detected.

A field recording of choral music using the built-in mics revealed a slight hiss during the quiet passages, which I did not find surprising on such an inexpensive device. Otherwise, the sound was transparent and rich in detail.

The DR-08 features auto level control and a low-cut filter for clear recordings, as well as loop and variable speed on playback, allowing you to slow the playback speed without changing the pitch to learn new music. There’s also noise canceling and EQ functions for improved playback timbre.

This device has great potential as a radio ENG device, although care needs to be taken. As with other miniaturized devices, condensation can form on the circuit board when going from cold to warm environments, rendering it temporarily unusable. Keep it in an inside pocket during winter weather.

While it has an aluminum front panel, and construction is more robust than that of a TV remote control, the DR-08 probably is not “broadcast quality.” Dropping, dunking or hard use of the 1/8-inch input/output jacks may shorten or end its useful life. A padded carrying case would be a useful accessory, although none is available from TASCAM.

With moderate care, the DR-08 should survive in the broadcast environment. Given its price, a loss or demise would be sad, but not the end of the world.

For information, contact TASCAM in California at (323) 726-0303 or visit