Sound WaveIt's been well over a year since I last did a real round up of the current crop of digital audio recorders and there have been a lot of changes. One of the recorders that many of my collegues swore by (The M-Audio MicroTrak 2) got discontinued, and the company got out of the portable digital audio recording business completely. At the same time Olympus, a long time maker of digital voice recorders has come out with a model that (at least in my tests) seemed to do very well as a music/field recording device. The old list was kind of long and complicated so this year I am scaling back to focus on the best of the best in the world of portable digital audio recorders.  Read on to find out who made the cut.

 

The digital audio recorders on this list were chosen because:

  1. The digital audio recorder has to be able to record at up to 96kHz/24bit resolution and provide the ability to save the files as WAV files to provide the best possible recording. 
  2. The recorder has to be appropriate for use in a musical performance environment. Recorders intended solely for voice recording are not included. 
  3. The recorder must be available via Amazon.com. This is used primarily to provide up to date, accurate pricing information for the recorders but also to provide additional sources of review and comment.  All of these recorders hold at least 4 or 5 star ratings with dozens of reviews.

Feature List of the Best Portable Digital Audio Recorders of 2012:

Details and Links To Reviews:

 

Sony PCM-M10/B

Used widely by professional news journalists and media creators the Sony PCM-M10/B provides almost uncanny audio reproduction and is a favorite of many podcasters as well.  

Pros:  

  • Audio recording quality equal to or surpassing Zoom H4n
  • Long battery life
  • External microphone support

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No multi-track recording (overdubbing)

 

Zoom H4n

Read our Review of the Zoom H4n 

 Still holding at the top of the list of the most popular digital audio recorders the larger than average Zoom H4n provides the best features of larger professional recording devices combined with the convenience of handheld design.

Pros:

  • Full size XLR External inputs
  • 4 channel recording
  • Adjustable microphone pickup patterns

Cons:

  •  Bulky-  doesn't fit in your pocket

Olympus LS-11

Read our Review of the Olympus LS-11

Pros:

  • 8 gigs of built in memory plus additional on SD card
  • Provides ability to record direct to WMA format as well as WAV and MP3
  • Assignable function button 

Cons:

  • Automatic gain setting is a bit touchy

Tascam DR40

View video and text reviews of the Tascam DR40 on Amazon

Priced under $200 the Tascam makes a good alternative that still provides higher end features like 4 channel recording and multiple inputs.  

Pros:  

  • Built in XLR inputs for external microphones
  • Long battery life
  • Record on four channels at once

Cons:

  • Small buttons and difficult menu adjustments

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