- 1. Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
- 2. Tascam DR-05 Stereo Portable Digital Audio Recorder
- 3. Sony ICD-PX370 Mono Digital Voice Recorder
- 4. Tascam DR 60DMKII 4 Channel Recorder for DSLR
- 5. TENSAFEE 16GB Activated Sound Audio Recorder
- 6. Zoom ZH1 H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder Black
- 7. Roland High-Resolution Handheld R07 BK
- 8. Tascam DP 006 6 Track Digital Pocketstudio Multi Track
- 9. Aomago Digital Voice Recorder 8GB
- 10. EVISTR Voice Recorder 8GB PCM 1536K
- Portable Audio Recorder Selection Tips
- Types of Portable Audio Recorders
- Top Portable Audio Recorder Brands
- Buying a Portable Audio Recorder: Question and Answer (Q&A)
Portable Audio Recorders prove to be a useful device in a number of varying situations. Music professionals will particularly look for recorders that can record music in a multitude of different settings—music concerts, band rehearsals, solo recordings (of vocals or instruments), choir sessions and more. However, portable digital and audio recorders serve a variety of other functions as well—professional camera-mount onset recordings, recording interviews, lectures, meetings, podcasts and so forth. The list below presents representative models from an entire gamut of audio recorders—right from upscale audio recorders meant for professional, semi-professional uses to more budget-friendly as well as low-cost recorders meant primarily for hobbyists, practicing musicians or for relatively casual recordings situations. The list will help you pick one that is most suited to our budget and present requirements.
Top Portable Audio Recorders
1. Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
When it comes to larger and features-heavy portable audio recorders, the Zoom H4n Handy has long remained a patent favorite with both semi-professional and professional users. And the latter will be even more delighted with this Zoom H4n Pro model (first released in 2016) that, in addition to a few extra features, offers significant upgrades on its already existing and useful technologies. Thus you have remodeled X/Y stereo microphones capable of handling sound pressure levels as high as 140 dB. Then you have their redesigned FX Processor equipped with ultra-realistic limiting, compression, guitar/bass amp emulation, reverb/delay, etc. The natural-sounding preamps of the recorder have also been upgraded and the improved noise floor of the model enables you to capture audio at very low volumes with little noise interference. These low-noise mic preamps are the same as are used in the more expensive and advanced H5n and H6n models. What is more, with the purchase of this model, you'll receive free access to two advanced audio recording software---namely, Steinberg Cubase LE and WaveLab LE.
Pros & Cons
• 4 CH recording (two built-in microphones plus two XLR/TRS mic press) with 24 bit/96kHz high-resolution audio output.
• Super-low noise preamps (-120 dBu EIN)
• Available with RC4 wired remote control.
• Up to 32 GB storage.
• LCD backlit display.
• Can be bought as a bundle with the special accessory kit that includes splitter cable, USB cable, attenuator cable, hairy windscreen, Ad-14 AC adapter and more.
• Up to 4 hrs of battery life.
• At 30 seconds, the boot time is somewhat longer than you would expect from a recorder of this price category.
• Some users have reported facing issues such as inline signal handling.
2. Tascam DR-05 Stereo Portable Digital Audio Recorder
Just like Zoom, TASCAM is a highly reliable name in the audio and voice recorder industry. They have more than a few models that are highly popular with users and the DR-o5 is certainly one of them. DR-05 is a comparatively smaller and budget-friendly model which still offers great audio output (at standard 24 bit/96 kHz resolution). However, keep in mind that the model comes with two built-in omnidirectional microphones (and not the X/Y mics that are particularly suited to capture noise/sound in front of the mics) and as such, will capture the entire surround sound within its range. The model is also fitted with a host of features that include a chromatic tuner, ability to loop/repeat sounds, automatic peak reduction, ability to change pitch, etc. Not all of these features may be necessary at most common audio recording situations, but all the same, it's nice to have them as one or more of these may come handy at times.
However, we will like to single out two features that will come to your aid frequently enough. One of these is the Peak Reduction Function which is nice to have when you are recording loud music, etc. The recorder will automatically detect a peak sound and will continue recording. The other is the Level Align Function that is useful both when you are recording interviews, meetings, etc. or during a band rehearsal with many instruments involved. Since volumes of different people and instruments vary, the playback of the recorded audio can often be noisome and lacking in clarity. However, the level align feature minimizes this disruption by automatically adjusting the sound volume for playback.
Pros & Cons
• Improved stereo condenser microphones able to handle high sound levels (up to 125 dB SPL)
• High-resolution and high-quality sound at a budget-friendly price.
• A host of useful features such as limiting, tuner, low-cut filtering, peak reduction, and more.
• Comes with a nice little tripod stand.
• Not ideal for front/unidirectional recording.
• Comparatively limited storage (up to 4GB).
3. Sony ICD-PX370 Mono Digital Voice Recorder
If you want a tiny and convenient audio recorder at an easy price, this model from Sony is a good choice. The model records audio in Mp3 format at 128 kbps. This is not one of your pro models, but if you're looking for quick and easy audio recording without too much of a fuss, this model is ideal. For example, if you want to record lectures, meetings, interviews, band rehearsal sessions, etc. for future reference, you can easily rely on this audio recorder. The model comes with a built-in USB connector which means you can directly connect it to your laptop or PC and pretty much use it in the manner of a flash drive. Features like Auto Voice Recording and Clear Voice Technology are especially useful when you are recording somebody talking or singing. You also have the option to select from four pre-set 'scenes': dictation, interview, music and meeting.
Pros & cons
• Battery life up to 57 hrs.
• Extended storage up to 32 GB.
• Clear audio output during interviews or 'one-to-one' situations.
• Allows adding track marks.
• If the battery dies during recording, all hitherto recorded audio files will get automatically deleted. So, one must make sure to transport the recorded files regularly.
• The pre-set scene settings do not make too much of a difference in terms of quality and output during actual audio recording.
4. Tascam DR 60DMKII 4 Channel Recorder for DSLR
This dedicated pro model is geared towards someone looking for excellent quality audio recording solutions for DSLR video purposes. You'll also have to have your own mic collection as the model does not come with any in-built mic. You have options to use a 3.5mm stereo camera input and a 3.5mm stereo mic input via the model's two combo TRS/XLR inputs. The audio is primarily meant to be used on set where you want excellent quality smooth gain audio, something that your camera's in-built audio recording cannot quite provide. The model is also equipped with a 3.5mm camera output as well as a 3.5mm headphone output. When monitoring the sound quality, you have the option to switch between live feed from the microphones and the playback from the camera. You can mount the unit on a tripod, on the bottom of the camera and can also wear it with an optional harness.
Pros & cons
• 5 different recording modes: mono, dual mono, stereo, dual stereo, and 4-channel.
• Simultaneously records 4 tracks
• Limiter and low cut filter providing distortion-free audio
• Records BWAV or WAV audio up to 24-bit/96 Jz to SD card
• All mic inputs equipped with phantom power
• High quality HDAA Mic Preamps
• The digital gain can sometimes be a bit too noisy for a high quality output
• At 1.12 lbs, the unit may be too heavy for use with a number of common and popular DSLR models (such as Nikon D3100)
5. TENSAFEE 16GB Activated Sound Audio Recorder
This model is ideal for someone looking for a low budget audio recorder that will still suffice for decent audio capture of podcasts, lectures, meetings, interviews, band rehearsal or choir sessions, etc. or for quick getting down of your own musical ideas. The model includes two built-in mics that will record audio in an Mp3 format at 32kbps. The noise reduction technology of the mics also enables you to capture relatively noise-free audio. Additionally, with its compact size, 16 GB built-in memory, high battery life, LCD screen and easy-to-operate buttons, this model, priced at a mere $33, offers great value for money. The recorder also comes with a powerful speaker which means you can use it both for recording music as well as for playback purposes and may also use it as a separate data storage device.
Pros & Cons
• Equipped with Voice Activate Recording or VOR
• Auto-off after 3 minutes for preserved battery life
• Features like A-B repeat, easy drag-and-drop, time settings
• Multi-functional, compact and convenient audio recorder for all casual audio recording situations
• No replaceable battery
• Not suggested for professional or semi-professional purposes
6. Zoom ZH1 H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder Black
The compact body of Zoom H1 with its protective mic enclosures makes it a great choice to carry around for a number of different audio recording situations---location video shoots, band rehearsals and live concerts, putting down song ideas, recording meetings, lectures, interviews, podcast recordings and more. The two unidirectional built-in X/Y microphones (adjustable to a 90 degree angle to one another) do a great job of catching center line audio with high clarity and definition. In addition, the model offers the option to capture other kinds of audio signals via its 3.5mm selectable stereo line input. There is also an output mic with a powerful speaker that you can connect with your camera or other equipment to live monitor the quality of the audio capture.
Pros & cons
• An onboard limiter that gives a decent quality distortion-free output.
• Built-in sensitive mics can handle sound pressure levels up to 120 dB
• Helpful features such A-B repeat, overdub are useful for playback and editing purposes.
• Other features include self-timer, auto-record and pre-record
• Runs on a single battery
• External line output signal is not strong enough
• Captures audio at a highest of 320 kbps, so not recommended for professional use.
7. Roland High-Resolution Handheld R07 BK
The name Roland, primarily a manufacturer of music equipment, may sound a bit strange to some as appearing on this list. However, the brand has more than one high quality audio recorder in offing. The Roland R-05 is perhaps the most popular with the musicians as the model is primarily geared towards recording music situations. However, with the R-07, they have stepped it further and now we have a lightweight, compact and high resolution smart audio recorder suitable for pretty much all audio recording scenarios. Apart from its hi-res audio that you can record in multiple MP3 and WAV formats, the model incorporates a host of smart features that will be greatly useful, especially for today's smartphone-relying, on-the-go generation! For a starter, you can monitor the model wirelessly via your smartwatch or smartphone. You may also readily listen to your recordings with a wireless headphone using the Qualcomm aptX playback.
Pros & cons
• Enhanced streaming facilities using the latest Bluetooth technology
• One-touch Scene Select function. Once you select a scene, all other factors will automatically adjust to the optimal settings for that particular 'Scene'
• Dual recording mode
• HQ recording in an altogether wireless setting
• Longer boot time
• Those switching from R-05 to this model may experience initial difficulties due to the complicated functions of the model.
8. Tascam DP 006 6 Track Digital Pocketstudio Multi Track
This one is specifically designed for musicians, both professional as well as ones looking to hone their craft. For on-the-spot jotting down of song ideas, you'll hardly find a more convenient and efficient model than this one. This POCKETSTUDIO equipped with two built-in omnidirectional mics and Portastudio functionality allows you to record six audio tracks simultaneously. You can simply place it before your guitar or any other instrument and start recording without any further ado (no additional set up or anything). In addition, the dedicated knobs for each function make the job easier and quicker than if you were to dig through menus for each adjustment.
Pros & cons
• Two mic pres for external inputs including synthesizers, guitars, etc.
• Undo/Redo functions for quick fixing of tracks
• Compact ultra-light design
• CD quality recording
• Screen size is too small
• It gets a bit too complicated when you transfer the tracks to your PC for mixing
9. Aomago Digital Voice Recorder 8GB
Another low budget audio recorder that comes with built-in larger HD mics and that is able to deliver high quality performance even at this low price point. In this Aomago model, you can record audio at 1536 kbps---something unparalleled for recorders at this price range. There are also external input options for extended possibilities. The audio is recorded as WAV or MP3 files and with the use of headjacks, you can listen to the recording at the same time as something is recorded.
Pros & Cons
• Battery life up to 35 hours
• 8 GB storage
• A-B repeat, auto recorder, voice monitor, voice activated recorder and a host of other useful and nifty features
• 6-digit password protection
• Plastic body that may not be too durable
• Some users report extended buzzing during playback
10. EVISTR Voice Recorder 8GB PCM 1536K
This EVISTR model comes with pretty much the same functions as offered by the Aomago model discussed right above. However, this one comes in a sturdy metal body which may also explain the slight difference in price between the two. Both are popular models in this price range and enjoy highly positive user reviews on Amazon. The dynamic noise reduction technology of the present model helps in achieving decent quality audio output and you can record up to 300 hrs of audio with its 8GB storage.
Pros & cons
• 15 hour of battery life
• Records up to 40 feet
• Option to delete files directly on the recorder
• 3 recording settings: PCM (1536 kbps), HQ (128kbps) and long-time record (64 kbps)
• Some features such as A-B repeat may not work properly after some time
Portable Audio Recorder Selection Tips
Below are some things to consider when selecting a portable audio recorder:
Is the recorder capable of using an external microphone? Only a few recorders have useful built-in microphones fit for field reporting. Is there a TRS (Tip-Ring Sleeve) input, an XLR or professional grade input or only a mini jack on the recorder? The one you choose should have the features you need and be the best for the purpose for which it will be used.
When it comes to cost, it is important to choose the audio recorder with the bet features within your budget. It is also essential to take maintenance and repair costs into consideration when buying your device.
Two types of audio files exist: compressed and uncompressed. Inexpensive audio recorders are typically designed to compress all captured audio. Not only does this lower the quality during the process of the capture, but the audio in the finished project is further degraded after it has been edited and re-compressed. For best quality, select a recorder that will enable you to capture uncompressed audio.
Power is among the more overlooked features of audio recorders. There are audio recorders that use rechargeable batteries and there is at least one that uses non-removable rechargeable batteries. This is not ideal as the batteries could die in the field and result in a bad situation. Choose a recorder that has batteries that can be easily obtained and can last for hours, while keeping up with the power demands of the device.
Many audio recorders are made from light-weight plastic and some have metal casings; there are several benefits of metal casings. For example, they are typically slightly more resistant to breakage and falls. Choose carefully because some recorders are as costly as a digital SLR camera and the cost of repairing them are also on par with high-end electronics.
Types of Portable Audio Recorders
The audio needs of hobbyists and professionals range between simple and intricate. As such, a large number of portable audio recorders have been created. They have enormously different sets of features and some make more sense for particular applications than others.
There are audio recorders that have built-in microphones, some of which can directly record to internal flash memory. There are also others that can be tracked to external SD cards. They type you choose should be suited to what you are recording. Find out if built-in microphones, external microphone inputs or both are required. Below are different two types of portable audio recorders:
• Multi-Input and Camera Mountable Device
For those who shoot DSLR video, it is highly likely you will want a device that can be mounted on the camera with one or two built-in microphones, on which an external microphone can be incorporated. A shotgun or lavalier would be ideal in this scenario.
• Grab-and-Go Portables
Not every user and application needs multiple input and menu options. Sometimes, something a bit smaller is needed to just grab and get to an assignment quickly. The “grab-and-go” portables are ideal for these types of situations.
Top Portable Audio Recorder Brands
The top brands include:
TASCAM is headquartered in Montebello, California and is essentially the professional audio division of the TEAC Corporation. The division produces the most comprehensive lines of mixers, audio recorders and other related equipment in the professional audio industry. They have been an innovator in home recording and post-production and many professionals and home users across the globe rely on their products.
As a leading global manufacturer of audio and video technology, Olympus produces voice recording devices, digital cameras and much more to satisfy your recording needs.
For more than 20 years, Trustin has been a professional in the sounding product manufacturing industry. Their aim has always been to provide quality sounding goods at a reasonable price.
Based in Tokyo, Japan and founded in 1983, the Zoom Corporation has been furnishing creators across the globe with innovative, yet reasonably-priced, audio equipment. Whether you are classically-trained pianist, a world-class filmmaker in the making or anything in between, they have a wide range of recording devices, effects pedals, multi-effects processors, samplers and drum machines that are sure to satisfy your needs, while staying within your budget.
Yamaha is a manufacturer of high-quality products and they accomplish this by blending advanced digital technology with traditional craftsmanship to continue creating exceptional recording devices. The top-quality sound produced by a Yamaha audio recorder reflects the skilled craftsmanship and many years of amassed technical expertise of the company.
Audio Recorder Pricing
The cost of digital audio recorders could range in price from under $10 to several thousand dollars. A number of factors affect the cost of audio recorders and they include brand and additional features like battery life and sound quality.
Buying a Portable Audio Recorder: Question and Answer (Q&A)
What is a digital voice recorder?
A digital voice recorder uses digital technology to transform sound into digital data that can be stored in electronic devices. The data can be easily distributed or transferred to other electronic devices. Typically, the transfer is done through compatible accessories like a USB cable.
How do digital audio recorders work?
Most digital voice recorders are available in two forms: as a dedicated recorder or a built-in smartphone primarily designed to capture audio. The audio is stored as a series of numbers that represents the air pressure at a specific time. A microphone is then used to generate the numbers, which will eventually be converted back to audio.
What is a digital audio input?
Digital audio inputs allow you to connect the audio outputs of various electronic devices for computer audio like MP3. Some also have inputs for many newer DSS satellite receivers or digital cable set-top boxes.
What is the best audio recording device?
As they should be, handheld recorders are as popular as ever; they are very convenient and efficient. According to numerous reviews, the Zoom H6 is a favorite and deemed the best among a large number of users. It is basically a 6-track recording device that is tremendously versatile and will deliver on remarkable audio quality. It is available in a portable size and its solid construction is designed to last.
What is the best digital recorder for musicians?
A personal recording studio is not a reality for everyone. There are a many people who cannot afford a high-end computer, recording software, a nice microphone and everything else required to record high-quality songs; these items can be extremely expensive. If the only reason you are recording instruments or songs is for personal use, songwriting or sharing with loved ones, a portable recorder can do the job effectively. The sound quality is far superior to directly recording on your mobile phone or computer.
The best digital recorder for musicians must have very good to excellent sound quality and be adequately powerful to pick up the sound and deliver decent recorded quality. Additionally, the size should be adequately small to fit inside your pocket or bag and easily carried around.
A powerful built-in microphone is also a great feature for a digital recorder for musicians. The same is true for its storage capacity. If you can get one with the capacity to use a memory card to expand the existing memory capabilities, you should go for it.
The best digital recorder should also be easily compatible with both Windows and Mac computers and other electronic devices. In addition, battery life is extremely important. The one you choose should have a battery life that will last for many hours and have an indicator that alerts you to when power is running out.
The Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder is among the best digital recorder for musicians currently on the market.
Which voice recorder app is the best?
The best voice recording app will also support easy editing, sharing and managing audio files. The RecForge II is the best recorder app, based on a larger number of reviews. It is filled with loads of functions users truly enjoy and it is much more than an everyday voice recorder. I addition, this app takes on the roles of file manager and audio editor. This means you will be able to rename, copy, delete, sort, move and convert recordings into many different formats.
This RecForge II app also features time stretching with playing rate and pitch adjustment as well as various options. These include archive recordings, skip silence, cloud storage and scheduled recordings. The pro version does not have any recording limitations and has much more features and functionalities that the free version.
How long can a voice recorder record?
The simple answer to this question is as long as it has space and power. There are apps that do not have a limit on recording time, which means you will be able to record an unlimited time; as long as there is space in your memory.
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.