Tascam DR-40X vs Zoom H5 – Portable Recorders Review

Tascam DR-40X and Zoom H5 are not new products, but they are still popular and solid choices for people who wanna buy a portable recorder. If you are planning on buying a handheld recorder and hesitant between the Tascam DR-40X and Zoom H5, we’d like to show you something in this Tascam DR-40X vs Zoom H5 comparison.

Tascam DR-40X vs Zoom H5 – Build & Design


If you’ve narrowed it down to the Tascam DR-40X and the Zoom H5, portableness must be something important for you. Although Zoom H5 and Tascam DR-40X are both handheld audio recorders, they look pretty different from one another.

First off, the recorders differ in the overall size. When comparing the Tascam DR-40X and Zoom H5, you will find the Zoom H5 is apparently taller and larger with the mic capsules. But the Tascam DR-40X is slightly thicker than the Zoom H5. Also, according to the specs, the Zoom H5 is heavier than the Tascam DR40X as well. The whole DR-40X only weighs 8.3 oz and the H5 weighs 6.2 oz + 3.3 oz (recorder + mic). However, the Zoom H5’s mics on top can be removable, and it becomes much more portable than the DR-40X without the mic capsules.

For people who use the built-in mics a lot, the DR-40X is more sturdy and safe to use. Why is that? Although the detachable design of the mics is great, the thing is that you can’t see there are any protectors for the mics. If you drop the mic to the ground, the mics are going to touch the floor directly and they are likely to get damaged, which makes them fragile. Without a protection solution, it is also not secure to store the recorder freely in a backpack with other devices.

However, the Zoom H5 has a big advantage – the removable mic capsule comes with a 3.5mm MIC/LINE input jack, which is a win for using a lavalier microphone or recording directly from devices with a 3.5mm jack.

I Prefer the Level Button of the Zoom H5

You can see that the Zoom H5 has more buttons on the front panel than the Tascam DR-40X. With the “L, R,1,2” buttons, you are able to conveniently activate the recording sources.

Most importantly, the knobs for adjusting levels are more user-friendly than the DR-40X’s volume button. You may record the click sound when you change levels with the Tascam DR-40X as you need to press the input level buttons on the side. While you just need to rotate the level wheels with the Zoom H5, which is totally silent.

But not everything about the Zoom H5 is better, the DR-40X allows you to easily turn on the phantom power function with a physical button. With the Zoom H5 recorder, you need to enter the menu to turn the phantom power on/off.

Mics & Preamps – The Zoom H5 Takes the Lead

The Zoom H5 is better when it comes to sound. The Zoom H5’s XYH-5 mics and the preamps are less noisy than the DR-40X. It’s not a huge difference, but you will notice the noise levels are not the same when you compare their recordings together. And here’s a video of what their recordings sound like. (The video uses multiple types of mics to test the recording performance of the Zoom H5 and the Tascam DR40, which is the original version of the DR-40X)

What is good about the DR-40X is that the recorder has a stronger backup feature, AKA dual recording, which gives you an extra recording track that is at a slightly lower level to prevent the sound from distorting. The reason why we say it is stronger is that you can only have backup files that are 12 dB less than the regular recording using L/R inputs when it comes to the Zoom H5 while you can choose any input sources to use the dual recording feature with the DR-40X.

SD Card

As a newer model, the DR-40X supports SD card, SDHC card, SDXC card up to 128GB while the Zoom H5 does not work with SDXC card, which means the maximum storage for the Zoom H5 is 32GB.

Battery & Recording Time

In terms of their battery life, you can record longer with the Tascam DR40X but you need 3 AA batteries and the Zoom H5 only requires 2 AA batteries. Here are the official specs of their recording time.

Zoom H5:

2ch WAV, 44.1kHz, 16-bit, using Built-in XYH-5 Microphone
approx. 10 hours

Tascam DR-40X:

2ch WAV, 44.1kHz, 16-bit, using Built-in Microphone, JEITA
approx. 18 hours


The Tascam DR-40X is more affordable than the Zoom H5, even though the Zoom H5 is a old product that was launched in 2014.

The Tascam DR-40X is available at the price of $199.99 at their official store tascam.com and platforms such as Amazon and B&H Photo Video.

Zoom H5 is also on sale at $299.99 at B&H Photo Video at Amazon, B&H Photo Video, Best Buy, and more. But what surprises me is that the product sometimes is out of stock on Zoom’s official website.

Conclusion – I prefer the Zoom H5, what about you?

Honestly, both of these portable handy recorders are great, but I am more into the Zoom H5 as I focus more on the audio quality. They both provide four tracks of simultaneous recording that is up to 24-bit/96kHz and offer overdubbing and audio interface features. However, the DR-40X is a new model that costs less, supports SDXC cards, and comes with longer battery life. And it is more suitable for field recording with sturdy XY mics. It will really come down to your personal preferences.

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