The Tascam DR70D in the Field

This is March 24 as I start to write this , but over a Month ago from Jan31 to Feb 5 , of 2015 , I was in the Ishinomaki – Sanriku area of Japan in quite COLD temperatures , and was running Sound for an NHK Documentary . I needed to be Light on my Feet for this , and very Agile as that the Sound was to go direct to Camera , that means “Tethered “. Most of the Time we were in a tight enough formation that Tethering was no problem . TBP in action Like This shot above. Notice the PortaBrace bag(MX-302 Mini) on my Side …We will get to that in a moment . Indoors you don’t really worry about your sound gear ( unless there happens to be a Major Bar Fight going on around you ) But when you get out in the extreme COLD then you worry , you worry about Power Loss , Drop Outs , Equipment Failure all kinds of issues . I was Using the Tascam DR70 D , Housed in the Portabrace bag you see there in the picture above . Like this PortaBraceBag It Just happens to Fit Perfectly in the Porta Brace MX-302 Mini Mixer bag , In the Front Pocket , I had the Wireless Receiver for the Lapel mic . and a PQI USB Lithium Battery Pack that was 13,400 ma’s . A Short USB cable going to the DR70D thru the side slots in the Mic Channels , And the Receiver going to Channel 3 input . Many Times we were in VERY COLD environments , Like out on the Wakame boat at 6 am , in Open Ocean water .( This is Wintertime in Northern Japan we are talking about here) COLD I Had a Waist Pouch I modified to hold a Stereo DI Box , to Take the Unbalance output of the DR70D , and Convert it to Balanced outs to match the Camera inputs .  Notice the Stereo Mic on the Camera with Furry , That was Also going thru the DR70D into Channels 1/2 Panned Hard Left / Right . The Cable from the DI Box was made up of 2 Cables TO the Camera inputs , 2 Cables FROM the Stereo Mic to the DR70D so 4 Cables taped together into a 2.5 meter long bundle . I did NOT have a Lot of room to move . Me and the Camera had to move as One unit . You see me Pulling off my Glove there to make an Adjustment in the sound . I did a LOT of that throughout the day .It was a pretty efficient system. But when we finally got to take it all off and take a break ……….spaghetti ! Spaghetti So to the Meat of the Discussion . Yes the TASCAM DR70D , How did it fair or Hold up thru the Rigours of an ENTIRE WEEK in the Field ALL day Every Day . Well Short Version is, that the Documentary was a success in no uncertain terms , Some Very nice things have been said by the NHK staff about this Program .

The TASCM DR70D gave me Fairly Clean sound the whole time . as I was ALSO recording everything as a Backup while live Mixing levels to the Camera .  I only Really had ONE thing I was wishing for Over and Over the whole time , The Internal Gain settings for each Channel are LOW and HIGH and HIGH PLUS ( Don’t go there ) I needed a MID gain setting . Needed it Badly as the RODE NTG3 has a Hot enough output that at High Gain I had to Back Way away from the Target with my Mic and have the control knob almost all the way down and was still pegging the meters . But the NTG3 gain was still LOW enough that at LOW gain setting I had to Get the mic Right ON the target to get a decent level with the control knob turned ALL THE WAY UP …. All The Way . Do you see the Dilemma ?

I needed better control over my Boom mic with the DR70D in a Really Dynamic environment , a Controlled area not so bad , but any Really lively areas where there are Changes , I had no room to adjust my mic in real time . That made My Job Difficult , Quite to say the least . I still delivered a Good sound But I wanted more control.

Now,. that rant is out of the Way and on to  the Good stuff . It Did its job Faithfully .

With proper SD Cards in it , I had no Dropouts , and I got pretty good levels even pushing the Limiter on more than a few occasions . And the Limiter although not STUDIO grade  actually did a pretty good job keeping the Audio in Check as long as you Balanced your levels against the threshold of the limiting so as not to Crunch your Peaks . The Mic preamps were clean , Quite clean actually , and Especially with my Stereo mic on the Camera and the Boom ( NTG3)

The Wireless though I did notice a slight bit of white noise creeping in but that may just be and Impedance issue between the Receiver and the Inputs on the DR70D . I can honestly say , that in ANY Nominal environment where there aren’t Temperature Extremes , I would Use it without hesitation . And If I magically GET that MID gain level I want I would be Slap Happy with it as that….

#1  The DR70D weight practically NOTHING ( Field Mixers of more than 4 Channels and the accompanying Battery packs can get HEAVY and carrying that weight around all day Isn’t as fun as you may think it is )

#2 It PERFECTLY fits the 302 Bag with the Mic inputs in the RIGHT places to route the cables thru the Bag ends !!!!! ( I REALLY DO mean Perfect )  Porta Brace has since made a Bag for the DR70D the ADR70D but I prefer the 302

#3  It Sounds Good , I mean the Lapel mic could have been Fatter ?  Yes it could have but no Insert EQ effects to make that Happen , That Would be Cool , to EQ an Input for a Troublesome Mic to make it sound more like the other mics in use .

#4 It is Small enough to not get in the Way and you can be much more manoeuvrable with the camera man .

#5 The Display points UP at you when it is Bagged . I can see my Meters . ( Would like a Big Meter View like the Roland R44 has when you cycle thru the display button)

#6 The Line Output although on an 1/8″ Unbalanced formed enough drive to push my DI box and the Camera levels well enough

#7 ,..Did I Mention that I LOVE the fact that it is Bag-able , And the Rec Button is in the right place . The POWER button is NOT in the right place , but there is one thing for sure when Bagged in the 302 Bag you will NOT turn it off or ON by accident , that Is guaranteed .

I could want for a Little WARMER sound out of it . For live direct to camera it would really help . In POST you can always add some EQ or Compression to Fatten something up . But Live to the Camera you get what is there and that is it . as the Video Editors aren’t going to spend any time on the Audio . Not their job .

The Headphone Driver is a little weak for my taste, Could use some more punch to hear the mix better when out in the field .

For a 2 man Crew , the Tascam DR70D can be a Formidable addition to the final result when working on a Budget ….. No it isn’t the Sound Devices 302 mixer , or the Kamesan 4 Channel Mixer ( SO FAT ) But it also doesn’t cost 3 or 4 thousand dollars like the Kamesan mixer does either ! For the price , the Tascam DR70D is pretty powerful if you know what your doing . The Output Monitoring section is buried in the menu , But you can set the output Mix to be Panned and Levelled as you wish to whatever Camera your using . That takes a little time to setup , but it works and is pretty cool . Plus you get to Record MONO tracks while doing that . and Your Track Audio stays separated so you can fix any problems later if you have to . It Did a Pretty good job of Helping me Do MY Job .  I am The SOundguy ….Yeah I know what all the Knobs Do .



50 thoughts on “The Tascam DR70D in the Field

  1. i was going to order Zoo h5 Right now, after watching this i’m confused now should i get zoom h5 or Tascam DR70D??
    my camera setup is Panasonic GH4 + Rode NTG-2 also Sennheiser ME64/K6 COMBO,
    i will use it to shoot Short films and documentaries and TVCs with small or no crew (run and gun).

    • Good question , It really depends on your needs , Ie: After Film are you gathering Sounds Only ? ( Zoom H5 with X/Y mics, gives you Handheld and Quick access)
      DR70d actually used NE5532 IC chips which are the same chips I use when I build a Mic pre , ( Go Figure )
      The DR70 attaches to the Bottom of the Camera quite effectively leaving room for the Shoe mount on top of the Camera for a Stereo Mic . Then you can bag a Wireless receiver on your belt and run the cable up to the DR70 without it getting in the way of the Camera functions like Zoom , Focus Pulls etc . The ZOOM H5 ends up on TOP of the camera unless you have a Cage to mount everything . . …….
      The Battery Life of the DR70D on its own is short , 3 hours and you have to change , and I wouldn’t really risk that much .
      So I use a USB Lithium Battery pack PQI 13,500 ma regulated 5volts output , and I have all day power . Literally !!!

      I also have the Zoom H6 so I can compare as that the H6 and H5 have the same preamps in them .
      But for me , Camera + DR70D makes the better rig . It just works .

      • Thank you so much for all of this info. I am using the 70D currently and am very happy with it thus far; can you tell me what model battery pack you are using?

      • How you use the USB pack is more important than what you use , The Cable must be short and needs to be Bagged in such a way the the USB Cable gets NOT Tension , or Movement ,
        As an example , I am on a Movie shoot now , Where I am using the DR70d bagged in a PortaBrace , MX302 bag , in the Front pocket is a 9000 ma , USB Sanyo Battery , with an On /Off switch , Short cable goes thru the hidden Pouch opening that connects the two pockets , The Cable is Like 6 inches long max , I Mean Short Cables . That way they do not Catch on anything and get puled or twisted , or moved in any way . THAT is the most important thing .
        Remember the DR70 isn’t a Tank , It isn’t built for Strain or Stress , that a Pro kit would be built like , It Sounds Great , but there are Caveats for real world usage .
        Take care of your gear .

    • Well with the Senny 64/K6 combo and an NTG2 , I would say DR70d , and bag it , It does mount under camera as well , and the meters are then right there in front of you . But Bagged I like the DR70d , Verdict is still out on the DR701 , as I am hearing about Time Code issues with it . Not good

  2. Thanks for the review. Nice to read one from a pro sound guy. I have a question… When you change batts, do you lose all your settings? I do and it sucks. Is there a workaround or am I missing something like being able to save profiles on the SD or something…. Thanks

    • With a lot of Gear that used to be and has still been a problem as the Rom isn’t stored as an image , but is kept in volatile memory allocation spots . One of the nice things about the Micro USB port is when you connect ANYTHING to it you get a Popup in the Screen asking if you want to use USB as Bus Power or Data …. ( I like choices ) But a USB Battery pack connected and powering it when you change batteries will save you a lot of trouble , and I prefer just running off the USB Pack instead of the internal batts .
      The difference between Volatile and Non Volatile memory systems is something the Consumer level Audio products often times forget , Pro Gear , like Sound Devices , etc have Non Volatile memory systems Just for that very reason , so you don’t lose your settings .

  3. Interesting. So, I could choose DATA on the screen and save the settings on an external memory stick? Although, come to think of it… I guess the memory stick could only have a MicroUSB interface…
    After reading that you had updated your firmware to v1.02, I tried to as well, but, only a ZIP file was available. Not much good for a MAC. Did you update using a PC?
    Thanks again for the info
    Much appreciated.

    • No You can’t use a USB stick to save settings . I am on a Mac .
      Did you follow the instructions for the firmware update ?
      What I said was , You can select USB BUS POWER , so you can have a Lithium USB Battery pack powering the DR70 while you change batteries
      There aren’t any Memory sticks with micro USB as of yet as far as I know , but the Tascam won’t use that anyway .
      When you connect the Tascam to your Computer you choose DATA , and it becomes an External Hard Disk , on your Mac , The Firmware Zip , you downloaded if you unzip it has a set of instructions in it , and a File that you put on the SD Card Root directory then follow the instructions to get the system to update

      If your on a Mac , Just double click the Zip file , the built in Unarchiver in Mac utilities should open it right up

      • Too bad. You can now buy microUSB sticks FYI. Cheap from BestBuy. Too bad you can’t use them to store settings, though. Maybe the next firmware update will include the ability to save settings. Thanks for the step by step for Mac.

    • I’ve checked the specs for voltage input on the usb on the spec sheet and can only surmise its 5W. Is that what you are inputting through your external batt?

  4. If you read the blog carefully , you would see that I mention the PQI 13,600 ma USB Battery pack . It has two outputs 1 USB 5 volts 1 Amp out ( That is the one I use) and a 2.1 amp output , (Don’t need that much for the DR70d )
    So Basically any 1 amp 5 volt USB pack will work , at the 13,600ma range I had All day Power , even into the evening time starting from 4 am leaving out powering on at 5 am and just letting it run , Phantom power on 1 mic but using all 4 channels to record . If using only 1 or 2 channels , I imagine a smaller pack would suffice . I even have a small folding solar panel that works with the DR70D . So if I am stationary and have good Sun , I just pop out the Panel and run off of it .

  5. How it is with the Noise? When you gathering some movie effects, is it noisy? I heard, that DR-680 MK1 and MK2 have serious problems with noise in the preamps. I have Zoom H4N and It is noisy as hell for the sound gathering, so I would like to make some upgrade, but SoundDevices is too expensive, so I am looking for some reliable recorder with some usable noise level for sound gathering and field recording.

    • It Really depends on the Mic your using . The H4n I also had , I have the H6 now and am pretty happy with it for the price. The DR70D is my Bag rig , for Boom mic , and Stereo Camera top mic , and Wireless input so I use all 4 channels when I am doing film . When I use a Rode NTG3 with the DR70D , Kinda hard to control the High gain setting on input as I have to turn almost all the way down to keep a good level . On Low gain I have to turn all the way up . That is my one Caveat with this machine . If I get any noise that actually bothers me I have SoundSoap3 and other tools to use. But rarely need it .
      The 680, Mk1 or2 . as with any machine will depend on the Mics you use . Low grade mics , Low output and Impedance mismatches , and you get Noise . Always start with the Mic . First link in the Chain of connections .
      I Agree about Sound Devices , Great stuff and I have used it on some shoots , I have Used Kamesan mixers as well , and I LOVE the sound I get from them , PHAT , huge sound because they are transformer inputs and really good circuitry. A Little Noise , but not enough to detract from the PHAT .
      Again My DR70D is the Bag unit , My Zoom H6 is Freesound gathering .

    • Morton your a little late on that , I am the guy Who got you that Firmware as I have direct connections to Tascam/Teac in Japan , The Review here was for Tascam as well as all the DSLR shooters , and I submitted a Separate detailed Spec request after the NHK Shoot , the Engineers have worked really hard to get this out , So Thank them .
      I Updated my machine at 4 am this morning and tested the 1.10 and YAY , Rode NTG3 is now a Happy camper .

  6. Hi, thanks for the input. I wanted to ask, as I am fairly new to the sound issue. I have a sony a7s and I searched for the most part adecuador sound of my videos. I’m interested in Rode stereo mic x as video camera and am among the TASCAM DR H6 70d and zoom. Could you give me any advice?
    Got information about the Rode stereo mic X video, audio inevitably use a lot of camera and would need to be as optimal posile without the need for a boom.
    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Not quite clear about your statement
      Your saying you OWN , the Zoom H6 , Tascam DR70 both ?
      Or are you saying Your interested in those two units ?

      You will only have STEREO , not MONO with the RODE VideoMicX
      The Difference in that is mainly with Speech and Interview type Video
      The Speaking person should have more focus and that really needs the ability of MONO recording , either a Boom Mic or Clip On mic ( Lapel or Lavaliere ) .
      A Stereo Mic is your LEFT and RIGHT sounds , so you don’t get Balance control or Different levels from using multiple mics .
      The VideoMicX Sounds great for what it is , I have the RODE NT5 Matched set , which is the same mic capsules in the Rode VideoMicX so I know what it sounds like .
      But It really depends on what your doing . If the Video your going to do Needs a proper Boom mic and Lavalier mic setup to sound correct and deliver what your client wants , then you need to invest in those things , If your just doing video for Yourself as an Amateur and not trying to work in the Commercial element the RODE is great .
      Any Commercial or Pro setup , will have Multichannel Recording available.

      • I do not speak English, this translated by google. for that reason difficult to understand me.
        Question 1: I am interested in buying a good recorder where you can record on various channels. I’m interested in the Tascam Zoom 70d and h6. I have to decide which. I’m interested in the recorder and microphones.

        Question 2: If I buy a Tascam dr Zoom h6 70d or buy the necessary rode? Or is waste of money? Mic brings, is higher than the zoom h6 or Tascam 70d mounted camera?

        Question 3: Today on my camera have a directional rode Videomic and its price is $ 100. Worth change the stereo rode Videomic x. Its price is $ 800

        I am grateful for your answers. They help me a lot.

      • Muchas Gracias senior , yo hablamos poquito español But not enough .
        If you Buy Tascam DR70d , It mounts Under the Camera Easy to handle better position
        If you buy Zoom H6 , Mounts ABOVE camera , Not easy to handle , Awkward position .
        If You buy Recorder you also need to Buy Microphone (ZoomH6 Has Mics )
        Tascam DR70D 300$ , + Rode NTG2 200$ =500$
        ZoomH6 Stereo or Mono ability Kit has 2 mics and expandable = 400$
        RODE VideoMicX =800$ Too Much Money

  7. Pingback: The Tascam DR-70 Field Audio Recorder | documentary & oral history studio

  8. The latest DR70 D firmware update (free from their websit!e) includes mid level gain!!!! Problem solved. … I didn’t find out till recently either and struggled on many sets adjusting the gain back and forth.

    One of my biggest gripes with the system was easily fixed in the latest DR70D firmware update.

    • Paul , ( I fixed your comment ) ….. Your quite late to the Table sir , but very glad you got the Update , There will be new goodies coming from Tascam Soon , Late November you should see something interesting .

    • I happen to have a Matched pair of The REAL MK012’s with full capsule set that were brought to me Directly from Russia as that I recorded a brilliant Russian guitarist in my Studio last year . He got these mics direct from the factory as he has friends there . The DR70d’s preamps are clean enough , And at the proper distances for these mics I think you be be happy enough . I love mine .

  9. Thanks TinyBird, i highly appreciated.
    Actually i will buy a dr60d to use with my oktava mk012.

    I would like to know which battery pack you would suggest :



    Thanks in advance

    • Make sure you get the Mark2 of the DR60 not the first one , The Mark 2 was upgraded mic preamps and other stuff .
      as for Battery Packs , Any USB Battery with enough Amperage to last the time period you need it for will work .
      I have several brands , and sizes , On BIG honker that clocks in at 18,000 Milliamps and has 2 USB ports , 1 amps and 2.1 , I use the 1 amp for the Tascam .

  10. yes i just bought the mk2

    For the oktava, i will try which settings will sound the best, mid gain or low gain. I guess high gain is not the best in terms of audio quality.

    Thanks for all your comments.I appreciate it.

    • I usually use the Oktava in the studio ,( I have a Small Recording Studio) but for portable work I use either a Rode NTG2 or NTG3 for out in the field , But in an Interview or Musician setting like Acoustic Guitar I set the Oktava about 1 meter away from the Guitarist and High gain , if I bring it any closer I have to use Mid Gain or I blow the meters . Just play with it for what your trying to do , Instruments are best with the Oktava , but for Dialogue invest in a Shotgun Mic and proper Wind Protection

  11. Hi
    Great post … Thanks
    How often did you record on the 70 D as well as feeding the camera?
    On those occasions did you have a slate for sync?
    How did you handle syncing in post … did you log the recordings or anything?

    • Hello Lee, Those are the Pertinent questions aren’t they , glad you asked.
      I record at 24bit48K almost exclusively with the DR70d , as that for Video Sound that is what you want to do for editing headroom in post . On a couple of shoot we had a Gaffer with Slate /Clapper Board , and called Scene /Take into the Mic , But in Documentary stuff , there isn’t that Safeguard . So I make sure Cameras and Audio gear get set to the same Time Clock by syncing the Date Time functions of the machines in the morning before shooting , Then you have 2 choices in post . The DR70d doesnt have Time Code ( SMPTE ) but it does Time stamp the files , so You can use Time/Date created , to sync in post or , If you run Camera Audio as well by having a mic on the cameras you can use Audio Sync in FCPX which works really well , I have used that a lot in Multicam Mode in FCP , and if the clips are managed in 1 take batches of sync , I never have an issue . Longer lines or trying to sync multiple takes doesnt work so well.
      Running Audio Straight to Camera is a different ballgame for me as I do not use the Camera Level Out from the DR70d , I use the Line out setting , and run thru a Stereo DI Box , to give me a Balanced connection to the Camera in question when I run Tethered . Then Audio is already on the video ( But I record as well for backup ) .
      Though , Checking Levels and getting a Balance signal to the Camera usually results in good enough Audio that I don’t get a call asking me to fix anything .
      I can recommend that if possible , and the Camera has the Inputs , Running that way , Stereo DI , to the Cam , and Recording simultaneously on the DR70d , It works great , and is just a matter of Good SD Cards , and Good Power via USB Battery pack , But Make Sure to Secure the USB Connector to the #4 XLR Plug with a Zip Tie , Trust me on that one .

    • Yapari ? Nihongo wakaru ? Yappari da ne !

      Tascam DR70d also fits Under the camera if your doing DSLR , The difference is Level controls for all 4 channels and slightly better preamps , Plus I can Bag the DR70d , in an MX-302 Audio Bag , but I cannot bag the 60 mk2 ,
      So If I were to choose as a sound guy , I go with the DR70d , or the New DR701d ( Much more expensive )

  12. I wanted a recorder that would fulfil two very different uses: for gathering radio interviews and for multi-mic video shoots. I also wanted a recorder that could be slung like a bag (just like the old Uher tape machines etc) leaving the hands free to hold an external microphone AND still be able to see a display. What’s more I wanted to be sure there was low noise from the amps.

    I read you report, saw the pictures and thought, yes, it is made for film/video makers it looks very good…but it looks just right for me too. I bought one. Fantastic. Audio quality excellent. I used a Rode rifle mic for some interviews. No hassle whatsoever.

    Once you get used to the set up procedures they are really quite quick and easy.

    I wanted a Portabrace bag like yours but couldn’t find one and ended up getting the K-Tech bag specially made for it. I would have preferred something with a little more space to put things. The K-Tech is virtually just a heavy duty skin with holes each side, though well made. If anyone has an old Portbrace and wants to swop for a new K-Tech let me know!!

    I have just two criticisms of the Tascam. One is the that I would have preferred an on/off switch on the control panel. Once you get it wrapped up in the bag it is a little difficult reaching the control. I am also a little worried that over time the spring loaded switch might wear out and not function properly.
    The other concern – which really only affects you if you want to use it in the bag – is the display, which ends up angled the wrong way. They should have just left it flat instead of angling it to suit all markets.

    All in all, I think the device is excellent value for such good audio quality and facilities. My advice would be to get a bag of some kind as I am quite sure you can’t throw it around like the Uhers I mentioned earlier! Now they were built like tanks and felt like it too. Many decades ago I once had to jump from a small craft onto a rope ladder slung out of a high sided navy vessel in quite a sea swell then climb up carrying one plus gear. If only I had had one of these!

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