There was a time when Tascam was associated with cheap, solid mobile gear for recording, like the Portastudio. The handheld DR-03 could be a landmark for a more digital age. It’s just US$99 for a microSD recorder with built-in stereo mic in a package Tascam describes as “smaller than an energy bar.” It’s designed to be operated handheld without a lot of noise (we’ll have to test that), and – in what I think may be the killer feature – it includes looping and Variable Speed Audition, so you can use it easily as a practice, music transcription, or interview transcription tool. Just slow down the audio, without impacting the pitch.

Feature set from Tascam:

  • Stereo condenser microphone design
  • Up to 48kHz/24-bit WAV recording or MP3 recording modes
  • Records to microSD media
  • Auto-recording function starts when input exceeds a reference level
  • Limiter, low cut filter and auto gain control for input
  • Variable Speed Audition changes the playback speed without changing the pitch
  • Loop playback mode
  • USB 2.0 connection for file transfer
  • 1/8″ stereo microphone/line input
  • 1/8″ stereo headphone output
  • 96×96 backlit LCD display
  • Powered by two AAA batteries or USB bus power
  • Built-in speaker
  • Built-in desktop stand
  • Includes 2GB microSD card and AAA batteries

Available now.

And yes, there are higher-end options from Tascam if you so choose, though that gets them into competition with Sony, Roland/Edirol, M-Audio, Korg, and Zoom, all of whom make some nice options. I’m guessing the $100 price point and pitch control option could be the winner for a lot of customers. (There are some reasons to look at the full line; the DR-03 has fixed stereo mics; on the DR-08, the stereo mic flips out like cute Mickey Mouse ears for better spatialization. I’d probably chose the -03 as a practice recorder.)

See also the awesome and likewise adorable Zoom H1:
Zoom H1 @ Samson

Big minus for the H1: no pitch control. Big plus for the H1: a shoe mount for attaching to a camera. The H1 is a little larger, so a tripod mount becomes possible. That’s probably your deciding point right there. The Tascam only works as a handheld, as it’s smaller, so you’ll have to prop it up against something or use its desktop kickstand. If transcription is your main application, the Tascam wins. If you want to be able to shoot with a camera or put it somewhere other than your hand or balanced on a ledge, the Zoom is a better choice.

  • Justin

    I wonder how this compares to the $100 Zoom H1?

  • @Justin: good point, just added. The Zoom is much easier to mount – you can put it on a tripod or mount it to a camera. But you lose pitch control. The Tascam seems well-designed as a handheld, and it does have a desktop stand, but no shoe mount. But if you want pitch control, the Tascam wins. I think it depends on your desired application.

  • faber

    Just today my Zoom H-1 arrived! I guess I'll keep it, since tripod mounting possibility is important for me (joby's gorillapod rocks!).
    A lot of handling noise compared to bigger and heavier (and 5.5 times more expensive) Marantz PMD 661 I had for some time.

    If someone knows a cheap windjammer (available in europe), please let me know! Rycote is too expensive IMHO.
    And the fake fur I got loosing hair and beeing too stiff is not good.
    Good source for that also appreciated.

  • Yeah, to be honest, I'm not sure I believe Tascam when they say they've reduced handling noise, unless they've changed the laws of physics. (Well, maybe they *reduced* it.) That makes the Zoom's attachments very appealing, indeed.

  • i was jsut thinking about getting something like this last week.. do want!

  • Anyone know of a portable recorder that only has line-in (no built in mic)? Creative used to include this feature on a $60 Zen V, but dropped it in subsequent releases. I want something small and cheap to record DJ gigs, and I don't need the mics. Although, $99 opposed to $60 is not too painful, the price point on some of these is getting better.

  • There is a new Olympus, the WS-520M. I haven't tried it yet, though I work a at retailer so I plan on A/B testing a few in the downtime..

  • P.S. I am only referring to sound quality in the A/B test, features come second for me at this point.

  • RichardL

    One thing I like about the Zoom H1 design is that all the settings are physical switches — very straightforward. No menu fiddling.

    @faber you might look at

  • looks neat and pretty usable!

  • Are the mics/converters of similar enough quality to dismiss that in doing a comparison? Been wanting a better recorder for practices.

  • Looks like it costs a hefty penny to own…nice specs though…

  • slightlydetuned

    The Zoom H1 has got 96kHz/24-bit recording capabilities and needs one AA battery only, which is good for up to ten hours.

    I don't know the Tascam's sound yet, but the Zoom H1 sounds unbelievably well in relation to its street price…

  • pete

    tekfro: see the m-audio microtrack. no built-in mics. i have the original and it is still kicking butt, even if the battery solutions are a little weak.

  • @tekfro what are you using to DJ with? if you're using traktor or serato you can record on the same laptop you're using to DJ with provided it's got a good processor, ram, hard drive space. Live can record a set as well. when i was just using turntables/vinyl/cd's to mix i recorded my sets to miniDisk line in and that worked great.

  • Had a DR-07 for a while now, solid, dependable, very good quality recordings. This is skirting the edge of "can it be that good at that price" territory, but at least it LOOKS a heck of a lot less cheap and tacky than M-Audio and Zoom's options.

  • strunkdts

    More cheap tech? Bring it on!

  • Syafii

    Cheap alternative to foam or fur windshield for the Zoom H1: stockings! Cut out a small piece, wrap it around the mic enclosure, then hold it in place with a rubber band. Cheap, easy to do, and works really well. Add another layer of stocking for added wind protection.

  • shim

    well in my application the zoom does sound good but suffers from near extreme handling noise, the threadmount is plastic and already dying… 🙁

    the over all build quality is 2-3/10. i'll be checking out the tascam cuz i've been impressed by the build quality of their "cheap" stuff in the past.

    btw: syafii's comment is valid, however i like to build a mini harness (a trimmed up yogurt cup) and then add the nylons. i also paint the cup black and use black nylons cuz i'm vain like that…

  • Jan

    I'd go for the Zoom H2. Ok, it's a bit more expensive, but can also be used as a USB mic. Nice feature.

  • brovski

    would any of these two be capable of doing nice field recordings? i'm looking for a nice and handy audio recorder that is able to record an ambience and nature in good detail. thanks

  • aidan

    hi brovski, i have a zoom h2 for this purpose, and it does an passable job. to do this properly you'll need a decent mic/preamp combo…

  • I'd still go for the Alesis Protrack (iphone/ipod) add on. It allows for 2 phantom powered mics or 2 1/4" mono inputs. It has a mount so you can put on a regular tripod, also 2 decent cardiod mics. Another bonus is that it allows monitoring of incoming audio (I'm sure the new Tascam does as well) Since I already always have my idevice with me, something like this make more sense, even at the $150 price point.

  • synthetic

    Spend a few more bucks for the TASCAM DR-08 or DR-2d if you can. DR-2d sounds AMAZING. 

  • ThirstyFish

    I just purchased a DR-03. I'm happy with it so far. I just thought I would let you guys know that the main windscreen from the WS-DR08 kit for DR-08 fits the DR-03. The body is a perfect fit, and has to be stretched just slightly to cover the protruding microphones.

  • She is really hot. Very sexy legs!!!! Sex on legs, stockings, nylons, , more of this girl please guys!