Buying a portable digital audio recorder is a major decision. The balance between price, features, and quality is a fine line that has many different options to choose from. There are dozens of different models of portable digital audio recorders, some of which have drastically different sets of features yet sell for roughly the same price. This easy to read head to head comparison chart and guide to many of the more popular portable digital audio recorders is intended to help potential buyers more easily see these differences and make an educated buying decision.
All of the criteria listed below is important to consider when purchasing a portable digital audio recorder. While most people only consider size or inputs when purchasing a recorder it is immensely important to also consider things such as how many recording channels the device provides, whether the recorder can use removable media, and how easy it is to make changes to the settings such as the recording quality and other things.
Some digital audio recorders are able to use removable memory cards, usually in the form of SD cards, to record audio on. All of the recorders listed in the chart below allow the user to connect to a computer to download recorded audio to a PC or Mac, but what happens if the card fills up and the user does not have access to a computer to unload it? This is where removable media is important, and all but one of the recorders in our review provide it.
Being able to carry a single, flexible recording device in a pocket is a great benefit to any musician, but even with the best digital audio recorder it is still important to have options available to use external microphones should the need or desire arise. All of the recorders in our chart allow for external microphones, but only one provides full size XLR microphone jacks built into the body of the unit. In terms of recording channels, The Zoom H4n, Zoom H2, and the Tascam DR07 add the flexibility of having four recording channels available when needed.
While being small is nice, if a device is too small using the navigation buttons and reading the LCD screen becomes problematic. The larger the screen and more numerous the buttons the easier it is to switch recording modes or move and delete unneeded audio files. The readability of the LCD screen is also important, and among the models listed in the chart the Edirol R-09 is the brightest and clearest.
Use the chart below to find the individual audio recorder that you are looking for. Also included in this chart are two desktop style CD burning digital audio recorders that are found on other pages here at MusicEdMagic.
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
Chad,<br /><br />I would also strongly recommend the MicroTrack II from M-Audio. They just dropped the price to $199 (http://store.soundtree.com/maudio-microtrack-ii-mobile-digital-recorder.html). I personally believe that it is the best handheld recorder on the market.<br /><br />Hope you are doing well. Keep up the great work!<br /><br />Jim
This is a crowded and active market. <br /><br />Yamaha just dropped the MAP price of the Pocketrak 2G to $149 and the CX to MAP $249. <br /><br />BTW, the Pocketrak 2G is a little unique as it is the only one of the products you reviewed that has an omni directional microphone. An omni directional microphone means that the mic picks up sound equally in all directions. This is a good choice for recording marching bands on a field and other situations where you can't allows place the recorder exactly where you'd liek for a perfect stereo field recording. <br /><br />All of the products you reviewed are high quality and eay to use. Which ever you portable recrder you choose it will be a real benefit to your teaching activities and ability to collaborate and share recordings with your students. <br /><br />The beauty of all of these is that they record in a format that can be easily copied to your computer, emailed to students and then played back on any computer with a media player like Windows Media Player.
I was interested to read your review of the Zoom H4N. I wish to know if it is sold with Cubase LE from zoom or is that dependent on which stores sell it? I would like to buy it with this included software. Can you help? thanks.<br /><br />clinton williams
HI, Im a direct Sound Tech, I work with tv and advertising, and I was looking for a portable solution for audio back up. and I cant decide yet, does anyone know here how this guys behave with line signal and if the audio file will sync with the video file perfectly ( heard some Zoom products had problems with hat issue)
works great, records in 4 track, phantom power with built in M-S matrix codec.
Can any of these hand held audio recorders be plugged into a stereo system immediately, and have the recording you just made play back on the big speakers...or do you first have to burn a CD? <br /><br />Do other people have experience with the M-Audio MicroTrack II?
Hello, <br /><br />Indeed, buying a portable digital audio recorder is a major decision. I would also recommend the MicroTrack II from M-Audio. It is worth its price.<br /><br />Regards,<br />Derek<br />digital audio recorder
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