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Hello.

I'm looking around for a solid state unit to do my location recordings with. Eventually I want to take it with me around travelling as a solid device to do all my recordings with.

I don't have the budget for a Sound Device unit, so the £700-ish mark is the most I could get together for something like this. I've even looked into a PortaBrace bags, and they do one for this unit.

http://tascam.com/product/dr-680/

My main aim now is to build up my own sound effects library. For my own use and for others to use. I'm curious that the preamps are clean and detailed on this unit, ready for all sorts of microphones to be plugged into it.

Would this be a good quality, flexible, solid device to do professional location sound recording with?

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I am also intersted in this machine - particularily concerning build quality and battery life. (as well as sound of course) –  RedSonic01 Oct 20 '10 at 10:08
    
is there anywhere a comparison between the original dr680 and the modded one? Thanks –  user3074 Oct 22 '11 at 20:02
    
"This modification provides much better detail and natural sound than the stock unit. All of the njm4580 op amps are changed out for high speed, extremly low noise op amps. The input capacitors are changed out for better values that allow for great bass response with an open sound and smooth high end that has excellent detail. This modification lowers the noise floor in the high gain setting by over -8db. The modifications will work very well in a huge variety of applications including nature recording, film, and music. I offer new units with all 6 channels modified for $1100." busmanaudio.com –  zenandtheart Oct 22 '11 at 21:25
    
Hello Andreas Usenbenz What "external battery adapter with sony camcorder batteries" are you using, and where can I get one? Thanks!!!! Anthony –  user4379 Oct 23 '12 at 15:42
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7 Answers

I've owned the Tascam for a few weeks now. It's my first proper field recorder, and I bought it for similar reasons as why you're interested in it - financially it's a very attractive proposition.

I did a lot of research before I bought it, and found some data sheets that indicated that the preamps are very quiet, pretty close to Sound Devices 722 in fact. Have a look here and here. I also read comments from people on the Yahoo Nature Recordists group, and most were positive. Some people did encounter some issues, mainly with SD cards behaving strangely. I personally did not have this problem so far.

My personal experiences with it are very positive so far. I like the unit a lot. The sound quality of the preamps seems good to my ears. The operation is straightforward, a few quirks, but nothing that bothers me. I do have a few things that I need to figure out though - I have a clicking noise on preamps 5&6 (at about -60dB) when they're switched to the mic level. I need to work out if this is can be fixed by installing the latest firmware update - stupidly enough I haven't done this yet. Otherwise I may have a faulty unit, it seems - but it's not a fault that stops me from using it, although I will exchange it for a new unit if the problem persists.

Another thing I've found is that it may be fairly sensitive to interference, perhaps the shielding of the preamps isn't as good as what a Sound Devices might be, but I am not entirely sure of this yet either - need to do more tests, etc.

All in all, a great device. I can record 6 analogue channels simultaneously in the field and it cost me £700 only (found a good deal). With the 2 additional digital inputs I could do 8 track recordings even... The self noise of the preamps is very low, so I can use it with the quietest microphones available. The metering is a bit iffy, but so far this hasn't been an issue for me. The headphone amp is pretty loud, but noisy. As long as you remind yourself that all that noise doesn't print to the recording, you can live with it. It's small, very portable. Light-weight also.

Build-quality - well, it's a bit plasticky perhaps, but if you keep it in a good bag/case then that's fine. All in all, this is of course a very, very cheap unit for the amount of inputs you get and the quality of the preamps. So yes, the slightly plastic feel of the unit is one of the trade-offs. Also, the built in limiter and lo cut are useless (not that I want to use either of those in the field anyway) - they're useless cause they're in the digital domain, so yeah pretty pointless really.

Battery life - get good batteries and a proper charger, and you'll be OK. A friend of mine owns the Tascam as well and he used it last weekends for several hours in a row without the batteries failing him, I think he was using 2 or 3 inputs with phantom power. I haven't done very hardcore tests for the battery life yet, so far I haven't encountered any issues. Swapping the batteries goes easily as well anyway, but yeah that's not necessarily what you want to hear of course...

I considered the Fostex FR-2LE and Marantz PMD661 as well, because they also have great preamps. However these are stereo units. I figured I rather spend a few hundred pounds more and be able to record 6 channel or more. Clearly, if you want to do more than stereo channel recordings, the only option out there is this Tascam, or big shitloads of money for a Sound Devices, a Deva, and whatnot...

Good luck! Feel free to fire me any questions if you want know more. If it wasn't clear, I'd definitely recommend this device :)

-- Update: It now also has a M/S matrix, since the latest firmware update.

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Cheers for the feedback... All very useful. The battery life is a concern, I'll need to research this more. I'm confident that with it in a PortaBrace bag, it'll last a long time. At this point in time where I want a decent, mobile, recording unit (that isn't a laptop) it does seem a great option - shy of getting a Sound Device. Interesting... –  littlejim84 Oct 22 '10 at 8:27
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FWIF: I recently emailed Chris From Busman Audio to get his take on the 680 with his mod installed, as compared to the Roland R-44 modded by the Oade brothers.

"Yes I am modding the Tascam DR-680. I think it will be great for film/etc. use.

I feel the Tascam sounds a lot better than the R-44 to begin with because the converters are much better than the edirol unit. With the mods it is so natural and real sounding with a soundstage that is very 3D.

I don’t feel it is difficult to use in the field at all. It takes a little to get used to just like any new piece of gear but not hard at all. I like the input recording options along with being able to accept digital input while using analog inputs as well.

My mod improves the overall sound quality including opening up the soundstage and lowering the noise floor while giving better transient detail without harsh high end smear.

I have never really liked the sound of the R-44 much modded or unmodded. I felt the R4 and R4pro with mods had the R-44 beat hands down. I feel they were too busy trying to make a small sized unit instead of great sound quality."

Hope that helps you out.

-Kevin

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I'll look into mods too... So is there any modding places that are in the UK at all? I'm going to contact Busman too, thanks for the name drop. I'm glad someone has said this about it compared to the Edirol, as that was my other option. It seems the Tascam is a great choice for someone like me. –  littlejim84 Oct 22 '10 at 8:26
    
Update: I've been using the busman audio modded dr-680 and I'm in love. The unit sounds Amazing! I'm going to be putting up a video review of it with audio samples on my blog very soon. www.ktcsound.com but over all i feel that money is well spent on this unit especially one modded by busman. –  zenandtheart Dec 2 '10 at 22:33
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I own the DR-680 for a couple of months now. I'm using it for film work - i use SD 442 mixer with it's direct outs going into the tascam, and i'm very satisfied. I didnt test the preamps standalone, but heard a lot that they are very clean and adequate quality (better than R-44). It accepts a very hot signal with line in, and that was my priority so you get full headroom with external +4 mixers. The built in mixer is very nice and ergonomic too - in the last firmware update you can gang channels together for trimming input gain, panning and mixing levels. There's one knob only, yes, but i find it sufficient as i record iso tracks all the time for post. It even works pretty nice in the bag - i was worried that play stop buttons are on the top, but you can do most of the things without touching the top - for example you can stop recording by hitting pause twice. The only fault i find in this unit that bothers me (except maybe -10dbV line outputs, but i have mixer for that) is software based - you cannot easily change the take number - the unit just counts forward even when you change the filename. Easily solved via software update, i guess. Please tascam :-) If you have any more questions feel free to ask!

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I'm using this nice little device now since half a year and i'm really pleased with the quality. I did also a lot of research and i found a comparision between the sd preamps and the ones from the dr680 and there seems not to be the big difference. I mainly use it with rode mics (ntg3 and nt4) for sound fx and ambience Recording. I run it with an external battery adapter with sony camcorder batteries and they work a full day without any issues. The only thing, what is disturbing is the metering section of this device. You can't get propper visualisations because there are No numbers and only a -12 db Line, which is shown. I miss a better metering visualisation. If that would be done, i think there wouldn't be a reason to switch to a sd recorder or something similar.

Go and get it. I don't thinks, there's something better on the market fot that price.

Check out my soundblog with a lots of recordings made with the tascam dr680 Www.klang-manufaktur.de/aktuelles

Also check out my sound fx library at www.thesoundcatcher.com It was all recorded with the Tascam dr680

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pretty decent and solid piece comparing to the price. Has it´s own character though and I do not like the buttons on the top, two second delay on the solo tracks, inaccurate metering and far too big headroom and the distortion on the headphone channel. I would rate it 7/10 because it has so many channels comparing to the price.

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@samuel There no really Temp issues. It´s getting warm, but i used it in my Kortwich Bag in the Summer heat and this device never let me alone. It´s rolling all the time. Great choice. go for it !

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@Anthony. I still use the Np1 Adapter from Kortwich

I get a massive amount of recording time. I run/record with my Dr 680 more than 8 hours with a single battery. The only ,thing, that doesn´t work if you use the Adapter is the Battery Led. So you have to have an eye on your watch !

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