TASCAM DR-680 by RobAnderson
The DR-680 from Tascam is a great multi-track field recorder for someone on a budget. The amount of features they were able to squeeze into this small footprint and price-point is remarkable. It can be powered with the included DC adapter or via AA batteries, records to SD Flash cards and is extremely light-weight.
The DR-680 has 6 analog mic/line inputs - 4 on XLR/TRS combo jacks and two on TRS only. These can be individually switched between mic (XLR) or line (TRS) levels and there is phantom power available on all of them. There are limiters available on all of the analog inputs, accessed via one of two internal menu's. In addition, there is a SPDIF input for a total of 8 inputs.
If that were not enough, two of these units may be synchronized for 12 (or 14) channel operation.
The monitoring features are extremely well thought-out and implemented. There is an internal mixer with individual controls for record trim, pan and mix level on each channel. Channels can also be easily stereo-ganged. Each channel can be solo'ed pre-fader. There is an M/S monitoring option. The metering for each channel is available at a glance.
One can record the digital input to the internal stereo track, or alternatively it can be routed to tracks 5-6. One can also record the internal stereo mix to the stereo track. Files are easily accessed by connecting the device to a computer via USB.
There are some cons to this box: for a classical recordist, the analog inputs are a bit on the noisy side - be sure to hit them with adequate level; a solo in place monitoring option would be handy sometimes; at this time, there is no way to monitor the 6 analog inputs AND the digital input combined - you must choose to listen to one or the other; navigating the many internal menu's can be less than intuitive; and if it loses power during a record pass, the recorded data may be there, but the files are not written.
Overall, this little field recorder offers an insane feature set for its price. While its sound-quality does not fit in the same club as the far more expensive options (such as the Sound Devices 788), it offers an incredible value to someone who needs the ability to multi-track in the field.