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First test

PRICE: £409


This new-generation audio recorder is easy to use and delivers pro-level performance at an affordable price Tascam Portacapture X8

THE LATEST BUZZWORD in audio is 32-bit float recording, which has reached attainable levels for content creators and vloggers. In short, think of 32-bit float as super-wide dynamic range for audio. Instead of having to mess around with setting accurate audio levels on every single take, then worrying in case the talent speaks too loudly or a sudden noise sets meters bouncing into the red, 32-bit float tech takes all of that worry away. In theory, its range is so wide that it can capture everything from a pin drop to a Formula One car, with no distortion or clipping. Then, just bring the levels up or down in post for incredible, clear, distortion-free sound. In fact, some 32-bit float recorders don’t even let you adjust the gain because there isn’t any point. Simply plug and play. If you think that sounds too good to be true, you’re partially right. The reality is that recorders can handle the massive range of audio levels, but most microphones can’t. However, for the vast majority of recordings at

what would be considered ‘normal’ levels – whisper-quiet to a rock gig – then most decent, modern mics are good enough, especially on a recorder where you can set a basic level. That’s the case with the Tascam Portacapture X8. When launched a couple of months ago, it was the cheapest 32-bit float recorder on the market. However, it was soon undercut by the more compact Zoom F3. But as this is only a two-channel, two-track recorder and the Tascam offers eight channels and six separate inputs, they are not really the same. The X8 captures up to six audio inputs, with two being stereo, so eight tracks in total. It comes with two detachable condenser mics on the top, which can be removed, allowing you to use standard 3.5mm inputs. Each side has a pair of XLRs that can support phantom power – and, in turn, these have 1/4in input jacks in the centre. Additionally, there is a separate 3.5mm EXT IN down the side. The device also has a 3.5mm camera output, to send the mixed signal out to record in your camera. Plus, there’s a headphone socket for monitoring and a built-in small speaker. A USB-C socket allows you to power it that way, or plug the unit into a computer to use as a USB mic – ideal for vloggers and podcasters. The 32-bit float function is only available in WAV at up to 192kHz, but the recorder can also be set as a standard 16- or 24-bit recorder in WAV or MP3 formats. Record a WAV 24-bit file and 32-bit float file simultaneously, with the dual- recording function. A colour touchscreen is both easy to read and use. The launcher has quick settings for recording things like music, podcasts, and even ASMR for very quiet sources. For filmmaking purposes, I would recommend selecting manual and taking full control. From there, you can change all the technical settings, programme which audio inputs go

LOOK, NO WIRES Add the Bluetooth AK-BT1 adapter and your smartphone becomes a fully featured remote to which tracks – and change levels, too. You can either do this via the touchscreen or the big red dial at the bottom, which offers a more precise feel. Mix different levels on different inputs, which is – of course – more important if you are not recording in 32-bit float. The dual condenser mics on the top don’t feel that well-made, but work fine. They don’t articulate, though, so to change from an X/Y to A/B pattern, you have to take them off and turn them around. Take them off and there are 3.5mm line inputs that provide power to other mics. Problems were minor, but we had issues plugging in some lav mics and wireless receivers via 3.5mm jacks. Some worked on the top inputs or the 3.5mm EXT IN input. But a Sony UWP system only functioned with its XLR adapter. Tascam says any mono lav mic will work in the top mini-jacks as they will provide power – and any wireless receiver that can output line level may be connected to EXT IN. But if it’s a stereo input, you need to use an adapter plug. Just test your kit before venturing out on a job. The only other negligible disappointments were that the X8 doesn’t come with a case, windshield, memory card or Bluetooth module. These are all extra, with the plug-in Bluetooth AK-BT1 costing £27. This fits into a socket at the bottom, but sticks out a bit and doesn’t lock in that effectively. However, it does work well and turns your smartphone into a fully featured remote. WC

SPECS ›  Price £409

›  In the box Portacapture X8, 1x pair mics (left/right pair), 4x AA alkaline batteries, manual ›  Input/output 8x channels, 6x inputs plus stereo mix. 2x 3.5mm TRS, 4x combo XLR/1/4in, 3.5mm camera input, camera/line output, headphone, USB-C ›  Max sample rate/resolution 192kHz/32-bit, WAV and MP3 ›  Bit rates 128-320Kbps ›  Signal processing Auto gain, compressor, limiter, low-cut filter, reverb ›  Mics Interchangeable cardioid condenser pair, A/B or X/Y configuration. Mic preamps ›  Built-in speaker 0.4W mono ›  Display 8.9cm/3.5in colour LCD touchscreen ›  Memory card MicroSD up to 512GB ›  Features Metronome, remote control via Bluetooth, tuner ›  Power 4x AA batteries or USB-C ›  Dimensions (wxhxd) 77x40x206mm ›  Weight 472g with batteries ›  Contact

Verdict The Tascam Portacapture X8 still offers amazing value for such a high-spec bit of kit. It will not only improve the quality of your audio, but make it far easier to capture – and could save those moments when loud noises would ruin a standard recording. PROS A full-spec, multi-channel 32-bit float recorder for low cost, interface options, easy to use CONS Bluetooth module, case and memory card cost extra

CENTREPIECE The Portacapture X8 has a host of connection options

74 Photography News | Issue 100

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