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Review: Tascam DR-44WL - EMusician

Review: Tascam DR-44WL

Use your smartphone to control this WIFI-enabled, 4-track recorder
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I cannot count the number of times I’ve been in situations where a portable recorder was set up for a gig or rehearsal but didn’t get switched on. With everything else you need to do when preparing to play, it’s easy to forget to hit the Record button, even with a simple point-and-shoot product.

Fig. 1. The Tascam DR-44WL is a 4-track digital recorder that includes a pair of external mic/line inputs.Fig 2. Using the free DR Control app, you can control nearly every aspect of the recorder wirelessly. That’s where Tascam’s DR-44WL (Figure 1) has you covered.

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Using WiFi and Tascam’s DR Control, a free iOS- or Android-compatible app for your smartphone (Figure 2), you can wirelessly access a majority of the recorder’s functions from the stage. For example, you can select file format and resolution (16- and 24-bit BWF or WAV, or 32-320K MP3), pick the sampling rate (44.1, 48, and 96kHz), set the record mode, engage the mid/side decoder, select which channels you want to record, and set their levels, drop markers, and start, pause, or stop recording.

Best of all, DR Control just works—quickly. It took only five minutes to get up and running, from downloading the app, through setup and WiFi connection, to recording.

In fact, I preferred using DR Control with the DR-44WL rather than the recorder’s own interface. Not because the hardware controls are difficult to navigate: They are very intuitive, and I particularly like the wheel for data entry. It’s just that DR Control makes setup a lot easier. And every time you alter a parameter—in the app or on the recorder, itself—the other device will reflect the changes.

But there is much more to like about the DR-44WL. As a 4-channel recorder, it provides built-in mics on top (fixed in a stereo x/y pattern and protected by a roll bar) and a pair of combo jacks at the base. This allows you to use the internal mics at a distance while using spot mics (24V and 48V phantom power provided) or line-level input to capture specific voices or instruments.

You can track four mono files, two stereo files, or a stereo file and two mono files. Like other Tascam recorders, the DR-44WL lets you engage Dual Record mode, which captures two stereo files from the same mic source, one of which is 6 to 12dB lower than the other—perfect for situations with wide dynamics. The recorder also offers MTR mode for non-destructive sound-on-sound-style recording.

As you would expect, the DR-44WL includes a pre-record buffer, so you don’t miss the beginning of a song, as well as reverb for the internal and/or external inputs, and a lowcut filter. The recorder has a USB 2.0 HighSpeed port for data transfer, a small built-in speaker, a headphone jack that doubles as a stereo line output, and support for SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards up to 128GB. The DR-44WL can be powered by four AA batteries, USB bus power, or the provided USB AC adapter. The package also includes a pouch for the recorder, a windscreen, a hot-shoe adapter, a USB cable, and a stand adapter/handle.

While the DR-44WL is not the smallest or lightest portable recorder, it fits nicely in the hand and easily supports a pair of mic cables when stand mounted. But most importantly, the sound quality is high and the self-noise is very low. Combined with the recorder’s flexibility, this makes the DR-44WL perfect for a variety of pro-level or casual uses, whether you’re tracking concerts, rehearsals, and lessons; collecting sound effects; capturing audio while shooting video; or recording interviews.

STRENGTHS

WiFi connectivity via free iOS and Android app. Records four tracks. Combo inputs with phantom power. MTR and Dual Record modes. MS Decoder.

LIMITATIONS

Some parameters inaccessible from DR Control.

$249 street
tascam.com