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Tascam DR680 - opinions and alternatives. Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 9th December 2013
  #1
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Tascam DR680 - opinions and alternatives.

I am a current owner of the tascam DR-100, which has been alright. it sure sounds fine but I want to get a bit more seriously into location sound recording and i would like to have (potentially more I/O) and a unit that is bag-able, with a top front panel for quick recording access and level adjustment.

This is what I would want out of a new recorder:
Reliablity, Ease of Use, Top panel transport and level access, Decent enough sound quality, preamps with enough gain to handle Rode NTG-.

Im not sure about Time-Code fucntionality - Is this absolutely essential? I understand how it could be useful but this feature alone will increase price by about $400 it seems.

The TASCAM DR-680 seems to fit the bill perfectly. im satisfied with preamps if they the same as the DR100.
A few things: Im worried slightly about errors with SD card. I got a couple of file error warnings on my DR-100 and i heard that ppl may have experienced the same thing?? any user feedback on this!?
Reliability is my number 1 concern, coming in way ahead of sound quality.
You can not blame your equipment on set - it is YOUR fault!

How does the Tascam compare to the Fostex FR2LE? it seems to be the only alternative in that price range. Less I/O which is a neg but if it is a bette sounding and more reliable unit then It is a option.

Also...

Currently I own a Metric Halo ULN-2. what about intergrating this into my location sound setup?

Regards
David
Old 9th December 2013
  #2
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About your DR-100. It shouldn't be generating errors. I've used two of them for years, and they haven't been treated particularly kindly. Are you using decent cards? I just use SanDisk Ultras (not particularly fast) and they do 6 channels 96/24 w/o problems in the 680 and they are no problems in the DR-100.
Old 9th December 2013
  #3
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jnorman's Avatar
if 2 channels is adequate, also consider the marantz 661 - perhaps the best of the 2 channel portables anywhere near your price range.

if you require more than 2 channels, the DR680 is a good chocie, but also consider a clean used edirol (roland) r44.

if you want to haul around the ULN2, you can consider a unit that does not have XLR inputs, such as the sony D50 or even the M10 - both are great.
Old 9th December 2013
  #4
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DR680 user here....

Used the unit for a dozen location gigs... all went fine. Sound is decent but not the best like Sound Devices or Nagra (duh)..... still, it's not the cleanest thing ever.
I don't like the digital control of the headphone volume.
I use Sansdisk Extreme cards and have never had a problem.
HATE how quickly it burns batteries.
Works well in a bag and controls are easy enough to use in the field.
Not having TC hasn't been a problem but can be a requirement for higher paying gigs.

Over-all I'm really happy considering what I paid. A good money maker. Not the greatest kit.
Old 9th December 2013
  #5
Here for the gear
Do not overlook my review written on the DR-680 with respect to phantom power noise. Unless modified, the DR-680 is not sufficient with some kind of condensers. Otherwise it is a very good joice.
Old 9th December 2013
  #6
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From what I read, the file errors can be avoided by using a compatible card (Tascam has a list) and by formatting the card in the unit. There are differences in quality among cards.

If you have to sync to video and working other people are using time code for their part of the work, seems like you would be setting yourself up for exclusion if you don't use time code so your recording easily syncs with what they are doing.

If everyone you work with doesn't use time code and you're all doing short stuff that doesn't drift much in a short time, then maybe time code isn't essential to your situation.
Old 9th December 2013
  #7
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by JEGG View Post
I wrote a very lengthy reply and then deleted it, because there are so many posts elsewhere about the questions you raise, and there is little use in going through the whole thing here.

About your DR-100. It shouldn't be generating errors. I've used two of them for years, and they haven't been treated particularly kindly. Are you using decent cards? I just use SanDisk Ultras (not particularly fast) and they do 6 channels 96/24 w/o problems in the 680 and they are no problems in the DR-100.

The card was formatted in the unit, and I believe it was a kingston flash? cant remember now.

Thanks I will search the Gearslut archives for that info. if you have a link handy please share!
Old 9th December 2013
  #8
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Thread Starter
How long does the onboard battery last? ja i read elsewhere that its a bit of a bitch on battery consumption..

So far it seems like a decent piece of kit and a good choice for my needs.
Old 9th December 2013
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
DR680 user here....

Used the unit for a dozen location gigs... all went fine. Sound is decent but not the best like Sound Devices or Nagra (duh)..... still, it's not the cleanest thing ever.
I don't like the digital control of the headphone volume.
I use Sansdisk Extreme cards and have never had a problem.
HATE how quickly it burns batteries.
Works well in a bag and controls are easy enough to use in the field.
Not having TC hasn't been a problem but can be a requirement for higher paying gigs.

Over-all I'm really happy considering what I paid. A good money maker. Not the greatest kit.
I'd agree with all of this.

As for battery life, I usually use mine with outboard stuff, so with phantom on 6 channels I can't say, but as a bit bucket the batteries last for hours (and I used regular AA's).

Could also matter what type of batteries you use - for high-amperage stuff you'll find that lithium AA's far outlast regular AA's.
Old 10th December 2013
  #10
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PoxyMusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedEyeJedi View Post
How long does the onboard battery last? ja i read elsewhere that its a bit of a bitch on battery consumption..

So far it seems like a decent piece of kit and a good choice for my needs.
I'm perfectly happy with mine, after being outfitted with the Busman Mic pres and a Tekkeon battery. My unit burned up the AAs in about 30 minutes, (5 channels of 48v phantom) which is basically useless unless used as an emergency backup.

I use mine to record field SFX, no timecode necessary.

It's a great value, just don't take it to Antarctica or anything!
Old 10th December 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedEyeJedi View Post
The card was formatted in the unit, and I believe it was a kingston flash? cant remember now.

Thanks I will search the Gearslut archives for that info. if you have a link handy please share!

1. Save your grief and just stay with SanDisk cards. Really.

2. With the 680, and rechargeable Energizer 2000-2500 mAh rated NiMH AA's (like you get at Sam's Discount or most any other place, 8 cells for around $20) that will test to 1900 mAh, you can expect around 4 hours continuous with 6 phantom powered mic's that draw medium amounts of current. I run mine at 96/24, though that seems not to make a difference on battery life. Key: Don't skimp on the battery charger (and a something like a Maha analyzer lets you know what's going on), and understand the basics of NiMH charging and performance.

3. Some 680's are great and some are not. Mine is great and dead silent on all 6 channels. Others are not, so buy it from a place that will take it back. I returned my first one. Personally, I wouldn't buy a product in need of an intervention or modification, but I understand why others would make different choices.

4. A good one produces great results.

5. The headphone amp and/or control is wacked on all of them, but once you know how it behaves-then you know how to use it.
Old 10th December 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoxyMusic View Post

It's a great value, just don't take it to Antarctica or anything!
Best summary of product!
Old 10th December 2013
  #13
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This is a link to the Tascam Pdf for cards that work with the DR-680. There's a "NG" remark for the Kingston card that was tested. http://tascam.com/content/downloads/...5_20130411.pdf

It may be worthwhile to repeat here that some users have posted that their 680 was damaged by the use of external battery packs and others have posted that they have used them successfully. Not all external batteries are equal. Be careful before going this route.
Old 10th December 2013
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
thanks 2Manyrocks, nice share.
Old 10th December 2013
  #15
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Thread Starter
Now, sorry without intending to steer this thread in a different direction, I have been hearing quite a bit about PluralEyes lately... i dont know enough about it, so will do the research on my own.. but Am I right in assuming that it is technology that will help sync audio really quick and easily, even if recordings do not have Time-Code stamp in them?
Old 10th December 2013
  #16
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spiderman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedEyeJedi View Post
Now, sorry without intending to steer this thread in a different direction, I have been hearing quite a bit about PluralEyes lately... i dont know enough about it, so will do the research on my own.. but Am I right in assuming that it is technology that will help sync audio really quick and easily, even if recordings do not have Time-Code stamp in them?
This is true.... a few of my clients use this. It works best if Pluraleyes has a slate (clap slate works) and reference track already in sync.
Old 10th December 2013
  #17
krs
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Hi I just purchased a Busman modified DR-680. I do not know if the Busman mod improves the AD as well mic pres. It would be great if some one who is more knowledgable about it can clarify that.

This is a test of the AD only. One sample recorded into the line input of the DR-680, and the other into the line input of an Apogee Trak2.

All the best
Attached Files

DR680.wav (5.72 MB, 1849 views)

Apogee.wav (5.72 MB, 2001 views)

Old 11th December 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
If battery life is important and 2 tracks is enough, the FR2LE is a winner. With 7.2v battery inside the recorder, I can record 8-10h with 2 mics 48v.
Never had any recording problem.
Old 11th December 2013
  #19
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Notsosane's Avatar
 

I have both

All that has been said here is good advice.
I have both the 680 and fr2le.

The 680 is fine if you're careful: good quality card-reformat at each use, use internal batteries as backup with external 12v supply. If it's not powered down properly, you will lose data. Mine has never let me down, but other users have had problems. Seems to fry if you're not careful about external battery power. I always run backup recorders with this one. Pres are good and it's loaded with features. (Methinks, drop it once and it's done.)

The fr2le is rock solid. It's very quiet; it's my nature recorder. I use it as one backup to the 680 too. Cards must be formatted to the sample rate you plan to use (but I reformat every use anyway). RC battery is the way to go with this one. Downside for me is no digital input, but a very reliable unit.

Dave
Old 11th December 2013
  #20
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PoxyMusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by krs View Post
This is a test of the AD only. One sample recorded into the line input of the DR-680, and the other into the line input of an Apogee Trak2.

All the best
Thanks for posting that! Listening with one recording out of phase was quite revealing.
Old 11th December 2013
  #21
krs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoxyMusic View Post
Thanks for posting that! Listening with one recording out of phase was quite revealing.
I forgot to mention there is a flaw in the test that the DR-680 file has been through an extra sample rate conversion from 96 to 88.2 (680 does not record at 88.2). I should redo the test properly but I don't have time - it was just intended for my own ballpark reference.
Old 13th December 2013
  #22
Here for the gear
I own 2 680 s, both modified according to my own specs. My opinion is as follows:

1. To make sure that the DR-680 works optimum with all kind of condensers, the modification in the phantom power supply is a must. The Busman modification does not improve the phantom power supply and is probably useless without this modification as well. Phantom power modification can bring up to 12 dB lower noise in the input.

2. Recording qualitiy is superb and barely distinguishable from a SD 788. This does not hold for the comfort as many features of the SD 788 are not found in the DR-680: No HD / 6 mic ch vs. 8 / no symmetric outputs / no built in battery charger and battery and many SW features. Also the SD 788 is far more robust - but finally you get what you pay for.

3. The DR-680 seem to be very different in battery management. One of my devices collapses within 30 .. 60 min. with 6 mics. on supply, the other lasts 60.... 90 minutes in the same condition - same rechargeable types (2700 mAh) used. The 4 hours operation is well outside of my experience and rather an exception. In both cases the batteries are not used up, but the DR-680 switches off very early. There seems to be a bad battery surveillance circuit which does not adequately respond to the setting of battery type. I advice not to use batteries for serious work.

4. I never had a problem with SF cards as long as types of class 4 or higher are used and formatted before use. This holds up to 24 / 96 and 8 channel recording.

5. Sync of 2 devices is tedious, since only pulse clock is synchronized. The time shift between the 2 devices is not defined and can only be reconstructed using the same signal on one channel of both recorders simutaneously.

I like the DR-680 but it needs careful setup and use.
Old 13th December 2013
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert37 View Post
I own 2 680 s, both modified according to my own specs. My opinion is as follows:

1. To make sure that the DR-680 works optimum with all kind of condensers, the modification in the phantom power supply is a must. The Busman modification does not improve the phantom power supply and is probably useless without this modification as well. Phantom power modification can bring up to 12 dB lower noise in the input.
So using an external phantom power box would also solve the noise problem?
Old 13th December 2013
  #24
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spiderman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert37 View Post
I own 2 680 s, both modified according to my own specs. My opinion is as follows:

1. To make sure that the DR-680 works optimum with all kind of condensers, the modification in the phantom power supply is a must. The Busman modification does not improve the phantom power supply and is probably useless without this modification as well. Phantom power modification can bring up to 12 dB lower noise in the input.
Please be more specific.... what phantom power mod? Link? Details?
Old 14th December 2013
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Please be more specific.... what phantom power mod? Link? Details?
Looks like this is what they're referring to:

BUSMAN AUDIO - modifications
Old 14th December 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken K View Post
Looks like this is what they're referring to:

BUSMAN AUDIO - modifications
Nope.... he specifically says that "the Busman modification does not improve the phantom power supply and is probably useless without this modification as well."
Old 14th December 2013
  #27
krs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert37 View Post
I own 2 680 s, both modified according to my own specs. My opinion is as follows:

1. To make sure that the DR-680 works optimum with all kind of condensers, the modification in the phantom power supply is a must. The Busman modification does not improve the phantom power supply and is probably useless without this modification as well. Phantom power modification can bring up to 12 dB lower noise in the input.
What issues were you having with the phantom? Mine (w/Busman mod) delivers 46V on inputs 1-4 and 47V on 5/6.

Perhaps you had a defective unit?
Old 14th December 2013
  #28
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glenn_jr's Avatar
 

Phantom power mod...please do tell.
Old 14th December 2013
  #29
Here for the gear
Quote:
What issues were you having with the phantom? Mine (w/Busman mod) delivers 46V on inputs 1-4 and 47V on 5/6.

Perhaps you had a defective unit?
No - all DR-680 have a filtering capacitor of 0.5 uf (2x1uF in series) to filter the phantom power just at the node before the feeding resistors of 2x3.3 kOhms. That is much too low to eliminate the audio noise generated by the internal 48 V converter. This error has been verified by the European main distributor and 2 devices have been modified for check upon my intervention. I have done a lot of careful measurements to prove that and to convince the people. However, the outcome has been kept silent in the sense of "don't weak up a sleeping dog". Most people seem to be content with the 12 dB surplus noise - so why care ?

The problem may be solved using a well designed external phantom power supply or to increase the capacitors mentioned to 47 uF. A description may be found at AudioMasters - Index [ AudioMasters Forums - The Home of the Original Cool Edit and Adobe Audition Community ] "An interesting finding on the TASCAM DR-680" launched by myself.

The Busman modification only replaces the input OP amps with lower noise types. However, since the noise produced by the original phantom power circuit is much higher, the busman modification makes sense only when microphones need no internal phantom power supply. I should add that some older types of condenser microphones (with output transformers) are less sensitive to this error in the phantom supply.
Old 14th December 2013
  #30
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