Top Recorders – Guide & Comparison
If you are in the market for the best field recorder, but you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, it’s a good thing that you are reading this guide, as it offers the answers you need. After extensive research conducted by our team, we’ve concluded that when it comes to recorders, your first option should be Zoom’s H4N Pro. This model features advanced X/Y microphones, recording and playback resolutions that go up to 24-bit/96 kHz, as well as an improved noise floor that helps the user capture sounds at low volumes. In case this model is not available for sale, the next best option is Zoom’s F4 Multitrack.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
If you’ve already gone through numerous field recorder reviews but you are still not sure which one is the right alternative for you, take a look at our selection below which includes the most critically acclaimed models. You’ll surely find the one that will help you make those high-quality recordings you need.
Zoom H4N Pro
Zoom is known for constantly developing new ideas that improve performance and function. For this reason, if you are in the market for a good field recorder, the H4N PRO Digital Multitrack model, which is actually an upgraded version of the H4N version, might be exactly what you need.
The device features advanced X/Y microphones that render incredibly natural-sounding preamps, as well as a super-low noise floor. With its help, you can record almost everything, all the way to the fluttering of a hummingbird, maintaining the realism that makes it extraordinary.
The recording and playback resolutions go up to 24-bit/96 kHz, while the improved noise floor helps the user capture sounds at low volumes with less noise and fewer artifacts. The improved microphones are capable of handling up to 140 dB SPL, and you use a good set of monitor speakers to play your recordings without any trouble.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($219.99)
Zoom F4 Multitrack
Surely not one of the cheap field recorders available on the market, the Zoom F4 provides multiple benefits that make it an excellent choice if you need to record Hollywood-quality sound that can be used even for film. The device features 6 discrete inputs that include 4 locking Neutrik XLR/TRS combo connectors and a stereo 3.5mm input.
The Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator (TCXO) technology is the feature that makes this model stand apart, as it generates time code, making precise audio/video syncing much easier, which is a key feature when it comes to creating high-quality edits. The time code is generated at 0.2 ppm accuracy.
Moreover, the lightweight and compact metal chassis construction ensures the necessary durability when it comes to such a device, as without batteries it weighs only 2.27 lbs. An additional protection against unexpected interruption such as power loss is ensured, as the device periodically saves files while recording.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($449.99)
Since there are many options in this category, finding the best handheld recorder for field recording is not always such an easy task. However, when it comes to the H2n model from Zoom, there are many features that make it a preferred alternative by many users and experts. The file formats supported are MAV and MP3.
This portable device comes with five built-in microphones, as well as with four different recording modes, namely X/Y, Mid-Side, 2-channel surround, and 4-channel surround. It’s safe to say that it can handle almost anything, from live concerts and rehearsal recording to location videography.
With its help, you can also create lasting audio documents of the important events in your life, such as meetings, lectures, parties, weddings, and much more. The Line In jack included can accept two channels of the mic and a stereo headphone jack with a dedicated volume control.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($169.99)
The Tascam DR05 Stereo is a portable device that brings high-quality stereo recording to an easy-to-use powerhouse, which anyone can handle and learn to operate in no time. The file formats supported are MP3 or WAV, while the audio resolution goes up to 96kHz/24-bit. Also, the built-in microphones are omnidirectional, recording everything you need.
The stereo mini headphone jack included in this device can be used for external stereo microphones as well, since it provides plug-in power, while the sound’s tempo can be adjusted through the VSA function from 0.5 to 1.5 times, in 0.1 increments.
The proven high-sound pressure design is perfect for loud recordings such as bands or passing trains, but the device can be used for recording quiet sound sources as well, such as lectures. Plus, the peak reduction function automatically lowers the level when a peak sound is detected and continues recording.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($79.99)
We know that it is difficult to find the best digital voice recorder for field work that will suit your every need, so we set out to learn more about what every device has to offer. The F1-LP is yet another model from Zoom that caught our attention, since it comes with many features that make it one choice you should keep in mind.
The low profile design neatly attaches to belts and waistbands, or can be slipped into a pocket to easily hide the recorder. For this reason, it works well for interviews and many other situations where you are on the go.
The package includes all of the Zoom accessories, including the F1 2-channel field audio recorder, lavalier microphone, mic clip, and 2x AAA batteries. Moreover, the device features the Movo WS10 5 Pack of Deadcat Windscreens that can be slipped over the existing foam windscreen for added protection and an improved sound.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($219.99)
An ideal choice for filmmakers on the go who need to capture audio for video at a professional quality, the F1-SP comes with many additional accessories supplied by the manufacturer, such as the F1 2-channel field audio recorder, shotgun microphone, shock mount, foam windscreen, a 3.5mm connector cable, and 2x AAA batteries.
What makes this model really useful is the fact that, while recording directly into the camera, it can also record to a microSD card. This means that a stereo file is ready for post-production editing. Plus, the device also features one-touch controls, an easy-to-read display, an on-board limiter, and auto-level controls.
The file formats supported are WAV and MP3, their high-quality enhanced by the well-made lavalier, and it can record for up to 6.5 hours, on 2 AAA batteries. The high-quality materials used ensure its durability, while the handy design makes it highly portable, with a very nice feel during use.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($274.99)
Another model worth taking a look at, TASCAM’s DR-40 comes with an accessory kit that includes everything you need. The four-track recording mode offers several options that are indicated by the LEDs placed in front of the unit, and it can be used to record up to four channels of 96kHz/24-bit audio.
Since we’re talking about the 4-channel recording modes, it’s a good moment to mention that these include dual, 4CH and overdub. The dual one records a stereo signal with a copy of that signal at a lower level, ensuring a safety track that you can use in case the original one is distorted.
When it comes to the other two, with the 4CH you can record with the built-in microphone along with a pair of external mics, while with the overdub, you can play another recording to create a full production or a song demo, which makes it better than most home studio mic alternatives.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($189.99)
The DR-100MKIII is the manufacturer’s top-of-the-line Handheld Digital Recorder, as it boasts a signal-to-noise ratio that exceeds 100dB and delivers an exceptional audio performance. Designed to meet the needs of expert audio designers and engineers, this device combines robust reliability with studio-quality sonic performance.
The updated user interface makes things easier when it comes to operating the device, while the high-definition recordings can be supported at both 96kHz/24bit and 192kHz/24, meaning that remote recordings achieve the same sonic fidelity as their studio-born counterparts, but while you are on the go.
Moreover, both the omnidirectional and stereo directional mics included ensure that the optimal sound level is recorded from any direction, according to your needs, while the studio-quality built-in limiter offers an incredible flexibility during recording. You can use a pair of good studio headphones to play the sounds and enjoy their quality once you are back home or at work.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($399)
Yearly Guide & Report
We know that finding the right device for your needs is not as easy as choosing a nice blues harmonica, especially if you are looking for a more specialized model or if you need to use the best audio field recorder for film productions.
Since there are multiple aspects you need to think about before making your choice, it’s important to know what these are and how they actually influence the quality of your recordings and the end result.
For this reason we’ve decided to put together this guide that will help you understand what exactly you are going to use on a constant basis and which features are more in the nice-to-have category.
A good place to start from is thinking whether you are going to need built-in mics, inputs for external mics, or maybe both. If you are using a DSLR to shoot your video, you will most probably need a model that is camera mountable and that features a built-in mic, but one that is also capable of incorporating an external one such as a lavalier.
If you are constantly on the move and you need to not miss important moments, then you might want to avoid more complex models and go for something that is somewhat smaller and ready to use right away.
No matter how you intend to use the recorder, if you are going to be in the field for longer time spans, then you should choose a model that is lightweight and rather compact. This way, you’ll be ready to start recording in no time and it will not be a burden to carry around.
Most models store the recorded data on SD or microSD cards, as these economical and widely available cards do offer an impressive amount of recording time while taking up very little space. Of course, the total recording time they can accommodate depends on the format and quality level.
When it comes to uncompressed CD-quality recordings, a 4GB card can store up to over five hours of stereo audio. Moreover, these units also allow the user to record in MP3, and if the most economical settings are used, one 4GB card can record as many as 63 hours of audio material.
The fact that they are easy to use and ready to go right away is another element that makes them the alternative preferred by the vast majority of experienced users.
Most of the models available on the market feature built-in stereo microphones. They make the task of recording something an easy one and provide excellent results. You can also use external microphones if you like that better.
Different input types are available on most models, such as XLR, mini jack, and others. If you need to, you can also plug a guitar, keyboard, bass, or other line-level sources into the line inputs. The great thing about these devices is that it’s easier than ever before to record a rehearsal, a gig, or an important event you are part of.
If you liked this article, you might want to check out some of our other ones, as they cover a variety of topics, ranging from finding the right karaoke system for home or the set of headphones for music production that you need, to knowing how to choose a good digital piano.