The Best Portable Audio Recorder [2020 Guide & Reviews]
Most of the musicians nowadays are always on the go. Now the million-dollar question is, how to record when you are always on the move? How to keep your ideas and the tunes you figure on the go alive? Because we all know, good ideas and good tunes don’t knock before they come. The solution to all these problems is the one and only best portable audio recorder.
You don’t have to go an extra mile to record tunes, band rehearsals, choir sessions on the go. These portable audio recorders bring high-quality audio recording in small packages. Apart from their services in the music world, these portable audio recorders also serve as the sole recorder in interviews, meetings, lectures, podcast, etc.
Even though, the portable audio recorders are not manufactured for top scale audio recordings they still prove to be pretty beneficial for informal recordings in case of music. True musicians know the importance of carrying a portable audio recorder with them.
Since the market is loaded with different types of portable audio recorders including top-notch recorders from high-end companies as well as low-end low-tech recorders from emerging companies. Unfortunately, this only makes your task of finding the best recorder for yourself harder. Nevertheless, we are here with an extensive buying guide and review article for the best audio recorder for musicians.
What is a portable audio recorder?
A portable audio recorder is a small handheld device that records any kind of audio. It may include; music, sound effects to rehearsals or interviews, and podcasts. As opposed to full-sized recorders, these portable audio recorders don’t provide a very high-quality sound. However, when compared to the traditional recorders it provides better audio quality.
Most of the portable audio recorders nowadays come with advanced microphones, memory card support, durable build and many other features making them perfect for professional use. In most cases, new musicians who cannot invest in proper and bulkier audio recorders and audio recording studios use these portable recorders and get pretty professional results.
We will review the top eight portable audio recorders available in the market. We took under consideration, sound quality, memory capacity, durability, interface, user reviews, and of course price tag. For more details on what to consider before buying an audio recorder, check at the end of the article.
If you want to record straight into your computer or laptop, take a look at the best free audio recording softwares.
The Best Portable Audio Recorder in 2020 – Reviews
For your convenience and ease, we have come up with a list of best eight portable audio recorders currently available on the market.
1. Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
This digital audio recorder was only released in 2016. That means it is relatively new and comes with modern technology and protocols. Along with the latest audio recording qualities, it comes with an advanced microphone system, which ensures distortion-free, good quality audio recording. Thanks to the microphone, the user can record stereo and four-channel audios. The built-in stereo microphones enable the recording up to 140 dB sound pressure level. This high sound pressure level allows the user to capture accurate and a wide range of sounds. Mostly, portable audio recorders don’t come with sound pressure level recording.
This portable recorder is one of the best-selling recorders on the market currently. It features a 1.9 inches LCD screen which makes navigation and controls a whole lot easier. Moreover, the sound quality is pretty reasonable as well. It comes with a standard 24-bit/96kHz rate. At a single charge, you will get more than four hours of battery life. It is not the best considering we see portable audio recorders with 11 hours plus battery life. Nonetheless, this works considering the price range. You can always carry extra batteries with you in case you want more battery life. One of the downsides to this audio recorder is that it supports a 32 GB SD card but does not come with one.
2. Tascam DR-05X Stereo Handheld Digital Audio Recorder
Tascam is one of the zoom’s biggest competitors and among the lot, this particular audio recorder always steals the show. It comes with a modern and innovative design. Aesthetically, it does not look as chic and dandy as the zoom audio recorders. Nonetheless, the interface provides better controls. This Tascam recorder comes with 4 GB SD card in its package, but if the user pleases, the memory can be expanded up to 64 GB via an external memory card.
Since the sound quality that Tascam provides is top-notch, the recording time has been considerably decreased. Usually, portable audio recorders with 4 GB of memory card can record up to 1000 hours of audios while this audio recorder can only record 150 hours of audio.
This Tascam handheld digital audio recorder comes with support for MP3 and WAV formats with a number of options like 320 kbps and audio lossless wave files. As far as the mic configuration is concerned, the device comes with an omnidirectional microphone. The microphone is completely opposite to what we usually see in zoom audio recorders. It can gather an entire sound surround. Other features included are a loop and repeat sounds, EQ setting dubbed as a chromatic tuner and speed playback without having to change the pitch ability.
3. Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder
Another one of Tascam audio recorders that made it to the list is this DR-40X whose main key selling feature is the 4-track recorder. If you want a multi-track recording then this audio recorder is ideal for you. However, if you don’t think that is your thing, you can still use this audio recorder as a solid, high-end recording device.
The best part about this audio recorder is the mics and line inputs with balanced XLR and TRS. That gives the user phantom power to work with. If you look at the features, this digital audio recorder can be easily termed as an audio interface. The microphone can be switched between X/Y and A/B positions as well.
As far as the LCD is concerned, it helps you have more control over your navigations. Furthermore, it helps you check the levels of the audio you are recording. With AA batteries, the product has a little less than 15 hours of battery life, ideal for people who go on longer trips. This Tascam portable audio recorder is an all-rounder and is a master of all tricks. With two inputs and two output functions, this audio recorder works well with Mac and window PCs.
4. Zoom H1n Handy Recorder (2018 Model)
This dandy looking and easy to carry audio recorder looks very different from the typical audio recorder. Thee chic and dandy design helps it stand out among the lot. It has a miniature yet stylish microphone and a red LED screen. Initially, the audio recorder comes 2 GB of memory but if the user pleases, he/she can expand it to 32 GB via an external memory card. The device has no onboard storage, rather it directly stored the recorded audio on an SD card which makes transferring data easier and convenient as well. The device supports both MP3 and WAV recordings with stereo sounds and level controls.
Its cheap price and high-end recording quality are what makes it a consumer favorite. With this particular audio, recorder zoom has outdone itself. It also has an X/Y mic configuration and has been praised for the audio quality more times than we can recall. If you want fancy features offered by high-end audio recorders, you might want to look for something else. However, if you want something basic at a price that will not dent your wallet, you have a winner. This basic and low-priced audio recorder comes with some super aesthetics as well.
5. Tascam DR-07X Stereo Handheld Digital Audio Recorder
We are not getting done with Tascam anytime soon since the features it provides with the reasonable price is unmatched. This is another audio recorder that made it to the top thanks to the high sound quality it records and the convenience it brings to your table. This audio recorder features multiple fail-safe functions topped with switchable microphone configuration. These two features have a huge hand behind the high-end audio recording done via this device. It boasts a unidirectional microphone with variable A/B capability and X/Y perfect for different tasks including recording instruments music, sound effects, ensembles, etc.
With variable storage media options i.e. microSD card support from 64MB to 3GB, microSDHC card support 4GB to 32GB and microSDXC card support up to 128GB. It also features an overwrite function that provides the ability for Punch-In recording with one level of Undo. We see two input and 2 output USB Interfaces with compatibility for Mac and Windows recording. Even though it does not have the high-end transcription ability but does have support for transcription gigs like a jump back, variable speed and preset equalizers for the human voice. Moreover, apart from being a top-notch recording device, it is also an ideal musical instrument practice tool.
6. Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
This microphone like stylish, elegant and chic portable audio recorder comes with some serious specifications. Zoom has been on the top when it comes to the audio recording. As it always finds the perfect balance between aesthetics and specifications. Every Zoom audio recorder comes with a unique design and top of the line features. This audio recorder looks very much like a microphone which is why it has a lower number of buttons that makes the operation a little complicated. However, the amazing audio quality makes up for the slight inconvenience.
Like most audio recorders it comes with a 2 GB memory card but has the support for 32 GB SD Card as well. For an overall superior audio recording, the device comes with five built-in microphones, but that is not all, it also has numerous recording modes including 2 channel stereo recordings and 4 channel stereo recordings. We wouldn’t say the controls are very efficient and convenient because they are not, but the audio quality is unmatched. It can be easily used for professional recordings as well. Its features like Auto Gain and Data Recovery make things better by giving it an edge over other models.
7. Tascam Portable Handheld – DR-22WL – Audio Recorder with WiFi
This portable audio recorder can be easily termed as the best TASCAM audio recorder listed down in this article. Even though it is slightly heavy on the pocket, the top-notch and premium features make it worth it. The Tascam DR-22WL Portable Handheld Audio Recorder is the very first portable audio recorder with Wi-Fi for transport control.
It also offers audio streaming and file transfer option to your smartphone or PC. This innovative feature kept the product in headlines for a long time for some individuals. The Wi-Fi connectivity makes things a lot easier since connecting the audio recorder via lead or via SD Card every time is no less than a hassle. You can even share your audios online, thanks to this feature.
Moving on, specification wise, the device comes with Cardioid Condenser Mics in an X-Y Pattern and these condenser capsules (Cardioid) are mounted in housings that are acoustically tuned. The audio recorder can handle and record audios with a higher sound pressure level leading to 120 dB. Apart from this, the device is also equipped with a high-quality microphone preamp and an A/D converter that helps in providing great audio performance and low power use for longer battery life.
8. Sony ICDUX560BLK Digital Voice Recorder
Apart from Zoom and Tascam, the only audio recorder from some other manufacturer in this list is this tiny yet bomb Sony digital voice recorder. That was basically for recording meetings, lectures, and radio broadcasts. However, over the years has received great recognition among musicians. Mainly because of its small size and high audio recording abilities. Since it comes with optimizable settings, it can have various applications. The interface is super easy to work with and provides immense control to the user. The interface can be used to search for your recordings, search for music files to play, and monitor the recording levels.
It has expandable memory storage with support for MicroSD cards including SDHC and SDXC. The best part, it also has a quick charge option which is hardly found in any of the audio recorders. It can record audios in MP3 and LPCM via its highly sensitive microphone. The wide focus and sensitivity of the microphone installed to ensure that there are no missing audio parts and no distortions.
These were our top picks for the best portable audio recorder in the market.
If you are looking for a home studio recorder, check out the best multitrack recorders of 2020!
Whether you want to record on the road or prepare your musical ideas to use later in your home recording studio, the above audio recorders will serve you well. You won’t break your budget, even if you require sound quality, features and build quality.
Things to consider while buying a portable audio recorder:
There are a number of things that you need to keep in mind while getting the right portable recorder for yourself. The most important factors the need to be considered while investing in a portable audio recorder are:
- Recording quality:
The recording quality of a portable recorder highly depends on the bitrate level. The higher the bitrate level, the better will be the sound quality. However, you need to keep in mind, the microphone quality also greatly affects the recording quality of your recorder. Moreover, with higher recording quality comes the requirement for higher memory. The type of recording quality you need also depends on your intended use. Since the topic of discussion here is related to music, getting a recorder with higher bitrate levels is your best chance at the maximum recording quality.
- Memory capacity:
Even though this is a pretty straightforward, choosing the wrong memory option for your needs might be the biggest mistake of your life. Every recorder comes with support for a different memory option, some support SD Card while other support SDHC. The memory capacity of your portable recorder determines the length of audios you can record. Also, the number of audios you can keep in your device and how long you have before you have to transfer or delete your audios. If you have a higher audio recording quality requirement you might want to go for higher memory capacity.
- OS compatibility:
A voice recorder is not meant to store your recordings for a lifetime. To make more space and to safely keep your recordings, you need to transfer them to your personal computers every now and then. Now to be able to transfer the recordings in a proper format without losing the recording quality. Mostly the transfers are done via USB ports. Most recorders are compatible with windows and apple operating systems. However, if you are using some other operating system like Ubuntu, you might need to look into the recorder compatibilities.
If you haven’t find the proper PC for your recording software, check the best computer for music production in 2020.
It gets pretty frustrating when you don’t have an interface on your recorder. Since every time you need to transfer or delete audios, you have to do it via laptop or personal computer. The goodness of a voice recorders interface can be judged by the ease of its use and the advancement of its controls. If it is easy to use and gives you better overall control over the device and your recordings, then the audio recorder will work pretty well for you. Usually, more expensive models come with all the fancy buttons and options, the cheaper ones usually have the basic play, pause, stop, rewind and forward options.
This can be easily called a luxury feature and is available only in high-end recorders, that too, at a certain accuracy percentage. In case you are looking to record audios for podcasts, interviews, meetings, etc. You might benefit greatly from this feature. While transferring your files to the computer, this feature helps in converting the audio into text. Most musicians don’t require this feature since they already have the lyrics jotted down.
Transfer your recordings to your computer. Find and download one of the best music production software, and start composing.
Tascam and Zoom have been in this tug of war when it comes to the best portable audio recorder manufacturer. There are a huge number of audio recording device manufacturers in the market. We see new models every few months, thus looking for the right device can be daunting.
In this post, we have unbiasedly reviewed the best audio recorders so that you can find the best one for yourself.