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This article was originally published in issue #31
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Tascam has a long history in portable audio recording; heck, it invented the legendary “Portastudio” name way back in the last century, and the company has been innovating ever since. The DR-44WL is a hand-held 4-track recorder with a pair of XY shock mounted condenser microphones on one end and two locking Neutrik combi sockets (line/mic - no instrument sadly) at the other. It supports uncompressed multi-track recording up to 96kHz/24 bit and/or MP3, sound on sound recording, and has built-in limiter and automatic recording level reduction, dual stereo recording (saves a -12dB safety copy) reverb, low cut filter and a mid-side decoder.
In real world use this type of device stands or falls on its ease of use, and I found that after a few minutes of working through the menu to get it set up the way I want it, it’s pretty simple to fire up. A couple of times I forgot where I was, and said a quiet “thank you” to the designer who put a “Home” button top-left on the control panel. To record, press the Record button followed by the Track/Input buttons for the tracks you want to record and then hit record again - and you’re doing it. Need phantom power to the external sockets? There’s a switch on the side for that. Line level inputs - switch on the side. Adjust input level - there’s a switch and a dial to do that. It’s not quite as simple as having an always-on dial for each channel, but it’s quick and compact once you get your head around it, and anyway, there’s a rather neat alternative.
On the left hand side of the case is a Wi-Fi button, and when you press this you can connect to a wireless device for file transfer, or for wireless control from an Android or iOS device. Yup, you can use the high tech wizzy interface or your ‘phone or tablet to remote control the recorder using the free DR Control app (unless you’ve got a Windows ‘phone like I have. Ah well, dig out the Android tablet and let’s give it a go). Connecting the DR-44WL to the device is dead simple, a flashing blue indicator turns solid and an image of the recorder display with a number of options appears on the screen. I know that tablet control isn’t exactly new, but this is so useful; I can place the recorder on a stand where I want it to be for the built-in mics and control it from where I need to be for the other 20 things I need to be doing at any particular time. Note that the app originally had very (very) poor ratings online – it appears to have been pretty well unusable in its earliest releases. But I have version 1.1.5 and it seems to work and be stable on my Nexus 7 running Android 5.0.
Sound quality is rarely an issue with modern hand-held recorders, certainly placement is far more significant than the quality differences between most of the units I’ve tried. I’d have expected Tascam to have properly sorted pres and converters and so far as I can tell, they have. The wireless control makes it easier to position the recorder for sound rather than convenience, and that’s why I’m so pleased to have it.
Just a few other things to mention; the unit ships with a 4 GB micro SD card and a set of batteries, as well as a USB cable, multi-national power supply, hot shoe adaptor for camera mounting, mic stand adapter, foam windshield and a soft case for the unit. Excellent work Tascam!
So long as the inputs match your needs the DR-44WL could be just about everything you need; a well thought out portable recorder with added flexibility of wireless data transfer and remote control, with a good set of accessories in the box.