Strother Bullins on Tascam Dr-100MKIII Linear PCM Recorder

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TASCAM’s latest incarnation of their DR-100 Linear PCM Recorder—the mkIII handheld—is a rugged and uniquely-equipped location recorder that is notably featured in its versatility, I/O options and intuitiveness, not to mention its fail-proof power supply redundancy scheme. In all, it’s a whole lot of bang for the buck, making it arguably the best overall handheld digital stereo recorder on the market today, available for $399 street.

Capable of recording up to the 192 kHz/24-bit highest-common resolution standard, key features of the DR-100mkIII include a 109 dB signal-to-noise ratio, dual-mono AKM “Velvet Sound” converters, dual battery structure (using a built-in Li-ion type, rechargeable via Type A Micro B USB port, and 2 standard AA types), and an impressive offering of I/O. The DR-100mkIII can record up to 128 GB of audio to a SDXC card (not included).

Whether using its built-in dual stereo mics, configurable in either AB and omnidirectional patterns or recording dual inputs via its two Amphenol XLR/combo jacks with switchable phantom power, the DR-100mkIII provides what most pro-level field recordists would need in a stereo digital recorder. And yes, the built-in microphones sounds superb, rivaling great standalone small-diaphragm condensers; the dual inputs open up endless possibilities for audio capture since basically any two sound sources, mic or line, can be input to the DR-100mkIII.

Operationally, the unit benefits by an Enter/Mark and Jog Wheel located centrally atop the unit for easy navigation of its comprehensive menu options via large LCD screen with easy-to-read graphics. In use, the DR-100mkIII’s dedicated, easily adjustable input level knob was a boon, allowing me to actively “ride” the levels during some dynamic live performances I captured during my time with the unit.

A most important requirement of field recording is making sure that nary a note is missed in capture. Usefully, the DR-100mkIII features TASCAM’s exclusive Dual Recording Mode, which simultaneously captures a lower level safety track, just in case you are often like me, recording sources as the hottest levels I can muster; as such, the feature protects the material from unexpected source level spikes. Also helpful is its built-in mono speaker for quick in-the-field “I’ve got it!” references.

I’ve reviewed many handheld digital recorders over the years. And while the DR-100mkIII will surely lose any “smallest recorder” award, it is perfectly sized to be comfortably held in an adult’s hand, and feels most sturdy and rigid in its construction; not only do its buttons, knobs and various moving parts feel solid, it is all enclosed within a rugged black aluminum chassis that should be built to last. I wholeheartedly recommend this unit to anyone looking for a well-designed, great-sounding digital handheld recorder made of premium materials at an easily justifiable price.

Strother Bullins is Technology Editor for NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. sbullins@nbmedia.com

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