Tascam DR-40 vs Zoom H4n

Tascam-DR-40-ReviewScreen shot 2011-09-15 at 9.10.51 AM

When it comes to portable recorders with DSLR video, there's two names that are sure to come up - Tascam and Samson (a.k.a Zoom). Here's an interesting new product pointed out to me [Thanks Anthony] that could shake things up for Samson's Zoom H4n product line. The H4n has been a long mainstay when it comes to an affordable 4 track portable recorder with XLR inputs, but Tascam has got something new (and cheaper).

Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 9.10.00 AM

The new Tascam DR-40 is playing in the same recording space offering just about as much features as the Zoom H4n, but the kicker is that it's coming in at about $100 dollars cheaper than the Zoom H4n (found here). Yeah that's quite a bit of savings. No reviews I could pull down just yet since it's a new product. Says it's available for Pre-order via B&H, but there are just a few sellers carrying this new product via eBay (click here).

Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 9.10.18 AM  Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 9.10.24 AM
find-price-button Tascam DR-40 4 Track Portable Recorder XLR

[Update] Now available via Amazon below

Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 9.10.24 AM
find-price-button TASCAM DR-40 4 Channel Portable Digital Recorder

44 thoughts on “Tascam DR-40 vs Zoom H4n

  1. The Tascam DR-40 preamps are clean, as long as you use a good mic with phantom power. If you use a cheap mic that uses a battery, the pre-amp noise you are hearing is in the mic, not the HR-40. That mike battery operates a pre-amp in the mike, and if it has a battery, it's likely a cheap pre-amp. I had the DR-100, and the DR-40 preamp is actually slightly better using a good Senheiser shotgun mike (with no battery) powered by phantom power.

  2. Joel K.

    To answer my own question:

    1) Click Rec Mode
    2) Scroll to Dual Mode
    3) Set DUAL LVL to -12DB (IMHO)

    You're trying to protect peaks so I don't see why a louder DB helps you.

    For $150 this thing seems amazing.

  3. Joel K.

    I just picked up one of these and my preliminary results with a dynamic XLR microphone and a Sennheiser 416 using 48v Phantom power is that the preamps are very low noise.

    The HEADPHONES onboard sound horrifyingly noisy. I even hear were noise pulses.

    But the actual track when brought into a audio application where you can see the waveform shows and plays no noise.

    You can't judge these things with the headphone jack. It does indicate that using the headphone as a line out to another device will probably be a FAIL.

    I currently can not figure out is how to record one mono input to two different tracks at different gain levels. I upgraded to v1.10. If anyone has a step by step on that it would help. Thanks!

  4. Gleb G

    Hello! I am looking into that Tascam machine and as I heard preamp are not so cool, especially using external mics.
    How do you compare Zoom H4n and Tascam dr 40 preamps? Very interested in usage of NTG-2 with one of them.

    And how about using this thing?

    Rode D-PowerPlug
    not sure if its still on sale. read somewhere that this guy solved the problem of unwanted noise for H4n user

    Or would you recommend any other inexpansive preams to use with Tascam or Zoom to get clear neat soung out of NTG-2?
    I just think this is a good deal to spend 150$ on tascam and invest some into preamps
    What do you think?
    Sorry for bad english, foreigner
    Thanks for help!

  5. Nate Q


    The pre-amp noise, will its noise pattern pick up the same at all levels? What if you recorded your levels at -12db and then boosted the audio to 0db peak in post? Would it give out the same pre-amp noise as if you recorded at 0 db initially?


  6. Anthony M


    I updated my firmware (thanks to you guys or I wouldn't have known about it !!)

    And It's great!! Way more versatile.

    The "Line" setting now isn't tainted by any preamp noise.

    But the preamps for the external mics are still obviously noisy.

    Sad, this would be a perfect unit if it had better preamps :-(

    For studio work I'll have to use a mixer or preamp... kinda defeats convenience and portability.

    Hey, does anyone know of a hack or upgrade to replace the preamps?

  7. Anthony M

    September 15th, 2011 at 10:32 am

    As long as the preamps are on par with the dr100, it will be a killer in the budget crowd."

    I just purchased a DR-40 recently and have been running some pretty extensive tests.

    Unfortunately the preamps are not the greatest.

    For the internal mics, its passable especially if you are recording bands or noisy environments, but studio type work (VO, ADR) the preamp is loud enough to be a spoiler for demanding work (not that you would use this unit for that, but hey if you invest in a portable unit, it should preform well under any condition).

    The external mike preamps are useless in my opinion. Again if you're doing bands or loud environment work... I guess it is passable, but I would just use the internal mics then. I mean you can put the unit on any mounting device you can put a mic on, so why not.

    The only way that I can feasibly use the DR-40 with a shotgun mic or wireless lav is to run the mics through a mixer with a good preamp (or preamp) and turn the DR-40's gain all the way down, then it's usable for studio/interior work.

    I LOVE the features and would have gladly spent more $$ for high quality preamps!

    Although I haven't tested it myself, my partner is a pro audio guy (TV & Features) and he told me that his H4N's preamps are pin drop quiet.

    September 15th, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I wouldn’t put this in the same league as the H4n mostly because you NEED a mixer in order to record 2 sources with different levels. "

    Not true Jive, you can mix levels using the mixer, although it isn't as convinient as the exterior rocker switch used to adjust the Internal & Ext pairs.

    Dual Mode automatically creates 2 files, one at the level you choose and one at a lower level... you have no control over that.

    But, you can set the ext and int mics at different levels (in pairs) using external switches and buttons.

    You Can set channel levels individually using the mixer section.

  8. doug kerswell

    @Emm - I only noticed your own firmware update post after I had added my comment. Apologies to you.

    At least readers of this thread also get the good news :-)

  9. antonio pantoja

    @Randy Hanson
    Where did you find it for $120? Please send us a link! I will definitely get one!!

    Thank you!!

  10. Randy Hanson

    Just got the DR-40 and IMO it blows Zoom out of the water,built in mics are great.For 120 bucks on sale the steal of this young year.

    Zoom has its work cut out for them now!

  11. Adam


    Yes you can do that. You set the record mode to DUAL and then set your source to EXT IN 1/2.

    To address other people's questions about input level control:

    Just like the Zoom, all it has is the two external inputs and the built-in X/Y stereo mics, but on the DR-40 you can move them to be A/B as well. Yeah, they're on a slightly different axis as opposed to the Zoom's true X/Y, so yes there is some phase shift, but I don't mind it and like a wider stereo field anyway. Personal preference thing.

    It is also possible to control all 4 inputs separately on the fly while recording using the mixer feature.

    You first need to set a unity level for the pairs of tracks (1/2 & 3/4) and then go into the mixer and turn them down. The mixer defaults to the track level being at 100%. This way, you can still use the input level up/down on the side of the unit, but each stereo pair will be linked.

    Another way to do it is to go the mixer first, put the levels all in the center, set your unity on 1/2 and 3/4, and then you can move the levels up and down independently on each track using only the mixer.

  12. Bobby

    Is it possible to record two XLR inputs in dual stereo mode? IE. Two external XLR inputs + the -12db backup tracks for each one? I'm guessing spread out on 4 channels? Or is dual stereo mode only for one input source?

  13. Hi All, We just bought one of these (DR-40) and I reckon you can adjust levels independently... well... kind of. When you record in DUAL STEREO you record a safety track at a lower level (up to 12dB me thinks). If you can work out the difference in levels required before hand and set the backup to record the higher of the two then you are... hey presto... recording two different levels!

  14. Emm

    Post author

    @Steve - Hang tight. There's some good information over at Oliviatech.com as she does a video around sound and microphones.

  15. Steve

    Emm- I purchased a Zoom H2n......can you tell me what audio setting you reccomend I go with. Which .wav im referring to..... I am using it to record the audio at a wedding im shooting tomorrow on my 60D. If you need to know I will be using Final Cut Express in post production for editing. Thanks so much. Steve

  16. Emm

    Post author

    @Wouter - If you're recording two tracks, you can make adjustments to the levels, but it will affect both tracks simultaneously. You can't make the left channel louder than the right channel so even though claim to be a 4 track recorder, it's not like a Zoom H4n where you can adjust the levels separately on different inputs. Basically, if you need a 4 track recorder, go with the Zoom H4n.

  17. Emm

    Post author

    @Wouter - I've tested the DR-40. It does not allow you to adjust levels independently, but does allow you to record from two sources. They expect you to adjust levels in post by splitting the stereo channel (left/right).

  18. Wouter


    Dear Jive,

    "I wouldn’t put this in the same league as the H4n mostly because you NEED a mixer in order to record 2 sources with different levels."

    What you wrote (quoted above) is not correct according to this video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibtDYRS0M-8 go to 2:38 and 3:50.

    Best regards,


  19. Richard

    Jan how did the batteries do if you were running the condenser mic on phantom power off of the DR 40? Thanks. Trying to figure out how often I would need to change batteries. Thanks.

  20. I can confirm that the DR-40 does not time drift. (well maybe a little bit just as the DR-100, but so little that it is unnoticeable, over a period of 12 minutes you can hear a slight echo at the end if you have the reference audio from a 5D running turned up on the timeline. Just remove this reference track, and it sounds/looks flawless)

    I however had an issue with my G3 Wireless system. A repettive slight tapping sound occurred, but this was cured by turning up the output volume of the G3 receiver.

    I have not experienced the tapping noice with a hardwired condenser mic. However, it can be present on an empty track if you record in stereo mode and only use one of the xlr ports. Set the device into mono mode, and this is again cured, or actually use both xlr ports when in stereo mode.

    I very much like the option of true mono, as i mostly record one shotgun or lav. at the time.

  21. Dylan

    Hey guys,

    Is it confirmed that the Tascam DR-40 won't time drift. I'm moments away from buying the H4n for the multiple input controls, but if there are no time drift issues with the DR-40, that might be a dealbreaker..

  22. Remember Tascam's audio recorders do not time drift as Zooms H4N.

    We used to have the Zoome H4N with our 5D, but switched to the Tascam DR-100, because it does not time drift - no more issues with audio sync. It also has a lot better audio quality, probably a result of the more steady time clock.

  23. Guy great review and demo of the recorder.
    Covered a lot of aspects and must say it sounded impressive for the money. I was hanging out for the new Roland r-26 as my old R-09 was stolen recently but...the r-26 is a bit of an overkill (Nice though:-)

    So yep for $199.00 I went and purchased this new Tascam. Looks great and impressed for the price for sure, now just have to wait for its arrival here in Australia via post.

  24. I had a chance to get an early release model and ran a few tests with a shotgun, lav, large diaphragm condenser, a dynamic, and even through the Line level input. It's a rather impressive unit with the dual record mode allowing for a "safety" recording at a lower level. Take a listen http://vimeo.com/29206731

  25. Emm

    Post author

    @Rich R - Technically the H4n can only record 3 external. One input is stereo to left and right which takes up two channels.

  26. Rich R

    I think the only way this records 4 channels is combining the built in mic with external..i.e. can't do 4 external like the H4N can.

  27. Rob

    Pre's will definitely be the deciding factor. But I wouldn't say that any Samson product has vastly greater pre's. Tascam has actually been around for a long time. They invested the affordable category of sound equipment.

  28. I personally prefer the Tascam Brand and products. they are way more robust them the Zoom line.

    We have the DR-05 and we just love it. Not XLR inputs but with a good adapter you are ready to go with levels controls and the sound quality is deep and clear.

  29. HD-tography

    @J Hanna

    Jive hit the nail on the head when he said “it looks like the only thing it gets from the DR-100 is the XLR inputs. Other than that, it’s a DR-07.”

    Will it be as good as an H4n if using a single mic input, such as from a boom? Well the answer all lies in the pre-amps, and whether they are like the DR-100 (slightly better than the H4n) or the DR-07 (which has awful noisy pre-amps and you'd be better off with ANY zoom recorder!)?

    Why do the pre-amps matter?

    Two Words: Noise Floor (the measure of the signal created from the sum of all the noise sources and unwanted signals within a measurement system)

    In other words the amount of (unwanted) noise you have in the recording when it's quite, such as pauses in dialogue or worse yet, UNDERNEATH dialogue.

    My recommendation: Best to wait for the reviews to come out from all the audiophiles testing this gear upon release, could be the next best thing, or a complete flop! Do you like Lemonade? Do you want a Lemon?

  30. J Hanna

    okay. if I'm gunna attach this to a boom pole and connect one mic input into this thing...
    is this better or just as good as h4n?
    I don't want to mix 2 or 3 different mic inputs...just a straight mic into recorder.
    I have the h1 but I can't adjust levels well and the micro sd kind of annoys me.

  31. this may be just what i was looking for- I was thinking about the DR-07MKII, but it's kind of bulky considering there are no XLR inputs. Add $70 and get this instead? Seems like a no-brainer.

    Just checked the specs and size-wise the DR-40 is the same height/width as the DR-07, just .38" thicker.

  32. Jive

    I wouldn't put this in the same league as the H4n mostly because you NEED a mixer in order to record 2 sources with different levels. The DR-40 is like the lower end Tascam units (DR-05/DR-07) in that level adjustment affects both channels simultaneously. Even though a mixer may be better in the long run, at least the H4n (like the DR-100) lets you adjust the levels for each channel separately.

    It really looks like the only thing it gets from the DR-100 is the XLR inputs. Other than that, it's a DR-07.

  33. Rob

    @J Hanna You should just buy new cords. XLR is going to be way more stable of a connection than mini.

    I'm totally into this. I've always kind of preferred Tascam over Zoom anyways. This is definitely the cheapest sub $200 recorder I've seen with XLR.

  34. As long as the preamps are on par with the dr100, it will be a killer in the budget crowd. Even so this is cheap enough to pair with a decent mixer to get pro level sound. Now let's see what Zoom fires back with.

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