A real musician understands the need to have a good audio recorder nearby at all times. For most creative musicians, having a portable audio recorder is more important than having their wallet with them. Being able to record sounds as they come to you is one of the cool ways to take advantage of your creative nature. A portable audio recorder for musicians is also an economical alternative to visiting the studio at all times. Being able to record voice and instrumental sounds on a digital audio recorder at all times will limit your studio time to only when you are ready for the final product.
It is true that most smartphones offer the same functionalities audio recorders offer but there is no comparison when it comes to the quality of the end product you can obtain. Portable audio recorders offer best quality sound recording, which is every musician’s dream. It will ensure that you do not compromise on the quality of your recordings even though you don’t have to break a bank to have them.
We’ve researched extensively to put together the best portable audio recorders that you can buy today. Check our comprehensive list below.
Top 14 Best Portable Audio Recorders
1. Zoom H6
This is a top quality audio recorder that comes with lots of impressive features that can be of immense use to any musician. It is regarded as one of the most advanced portable recorders ever made; with a 2.0-inch full color LCD. The quality of sound delivered by this device is rare among recorders of its size. This is understandable when you think of the features it has. With six tracks of simultaneous recording and four mic/line inputs, this is basically a monster.
The Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder utilizes a system of interchangeable input capsules. Each input has gain nobs, pads, and phantom power. It is ideal for live performance as well as for studio-quality music production. The newly designed preamp with an ultra-low noise floor help to improve the sound quality. For recording memory, this device allows for direct recording to SD cards up to 128GB. The device is powered by 4 AA batteries which are included in the package. Other items you will get include XYZ-6 X/Y capsule, MSH-6 MS capsule, USB cable, windscreen, Cubase LE software, and a case. Through its multichannel and stereo USB audio interface, this products is compatible with so many devices including PC, Mac, and iPad.
2. Sony ICD PX333
From one of the most reputable names in the industry, this product is a top quality audio recorder that will be helpful to a musician in so many ways. It is a perfectly built recorder, measuring 0.8 x 1.5 x 4.5 inches. It weighs just 2.56 ounces, meaning it can easily fit into your pocket.
The Sony ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder has all the features a musician will need in a voice recorder. Such features as the intelligent Noise Cut and A-B Repeat Function helps to ensure that the sound quality that can be obtained from this recorder is always top-notch. In terms of memory, the products comes with 4GB internal flash memory. Musicians in need of extra recording space have the option of expanding the memory through the available Micro SD expansion slot. For battery, the recorder requires 2 AAA batteries and they can offer several hours of continuous recording. This recorder is compatible with Windows and Mac computers. It works perfectly with Windows XP (SP3), Vista (SP2), 7 and 8, as well as with Mac OS 10.3.9 to 10.8. This product also comes with a USB cable that can be used for transferring files easily.
3. Tascam DR-40
This is another top quality audio recorder that can be very helpful to musicians. It is a well-built, measuring 12 x 10.3 x 6.5 inches and weighing just 6 pounds. With adjustable mics and four-track recording, this portable recorder offers the flexibility required by most musicians. It also has professional-level features that makes it ideal for live recording as well as for studio-quality recording. It can record high-quality WAV/BWF or MP3 files and share easily.
For recording memory, the Tascam DR-40 4-Track recorder comes with 32GB SDHC Memory card, and musicians can record directly to them. It is powered by 4 AA rechargeable batteries that can deliver several hours of audio recording.
This product comes in form of a package. In addition to the powerful portable audio recorder, you will get other things in the bundle including Microphone, Shockmount, Dedicated Windscreen, Table Tripod, Transcend 32GB SDHC memory card, Headphone, Fibertique cleaning cloth, the rechargeable batteries and charger, as well as auxiliary wire.
4. Olympus WS-853
A truly portable audio recorder, this device measures 4.4 x 1.5 x 0.71 inches and weighs just 7.2 ounces. It is a standard digital voice recorder that has received so many positive reviews from users. Manufactured by Olympus, you can trust that this is definitely one of the best in the market. The compact recorder has some impressive features including large backlit LCD screen, Voice activation, and scene select.
The Olympus WS-853 digital Voice Recorder is equipped with 8GB internal memory. It also has a Micro SD card slot for musicians/users that require extra storage space for their recordings. It supports MP3, WMA and PCM recording formats. This device is powered by a single AAA battery which is included in the package. It also has battery charge function. With a USB direct design, the recorder can be easily connected to your PC/Mac, and it is compatible with different versions of windows and Mac OS.
5. Marantz Professional PMD661 MKII
While this is a recorder that is used by all sorts of professionals in broadcasting, journalism, law enforcement, DSLR video, Sound Effects capture and several others, it can be particularly helpful to musicians. Measuring 6.5 x 3.7 x 1.4 inches and weighing just 2.95 pounds, this is a true portable device. This award-winning portable audio recorder has everything you need for quality-sound recording. There are lots of incredible features that has endeared many users to this device. Such features as pitch control, skip back, and the included DMP Mark Editor software makes its use a lot more interesting.
For memory, the Marantz Professional PMD661 MKII Recorder comes with an SD flash card. It also supports SDHC media card up to 32GB. The device has a power supply connection for use with the included 5V, 1.5A pin-positive auto-switching power supply. It can also be powered by 4 AA batteries that offers up to 5 hours continuous recording. The device is also compatible with many computers and you can connect it via the included mini-USB to USB-B cable.
6. Sony PCM-M10
Another wonderful product from Sony, this is definitely among the recorder every musician should add to his/her collections. A truly portable recorder, it measures 7.9 x 5.5 x 3 inches and weighs just 1 pound. It has a solid construction and you will know it is meant to be durable by simply looking at it. In addition to the way it was designed, the recorder also comes with enough features to make recorder fun for the musician. It allows for native recording including WAV and MP3 format.
The Sony PCM-M10 comes with electret condenser microphones. Some other features you may find interesting include built-in speaker, cross-memory recording, digital pitch and key control, digital limiter, and low-cut filter, track mark function, and A-B repeat capability. For storage, it offers 4GB of internal flash memory and a micro SD slot for expansion. The device is powered by 2 AA batteries which are included in the package. It is also compatible with PC and Mac computers, allowing users to share and transfer files through high-speed USB cable.
7. Tascam DR-05X
Tascam have several good products in the market and this is one of their bests. It is an audio recorder that can serve perfectly for a number of professional purposes but can be particularly useful to musicians. Measuring 2.4 x 5.55 x 1.02 inches, the device weighs about 116g, making it a lightweight but powerful audio recorder. It can record WAV and MP3 files efficiently. Though there is a reliable integrated microphone, musicians also have the option of connecting external mics and sound sources through 3.5mm stereo mic/line input.
With the Tascam DR-05x Portable recorder, you can record very large files without bothering about storage space. It supports upto 32GB Micro SDHC memory. It is powered by 2 AA batteries that can deliver several hours of continuous recording.
8. Sony ICD-UX533BLK
Yet another quality product from Sony, this is a well-designed portable audio recorder that can make life a lot easier for a recording musician. Measuring 0.6 x 1.4 x 4 inches, it is one of the smallest quality recorders in the market. It is also super-lightweight, weighing just 2.08 ounces. This portable solution is extremely easy to use and offers superior recording and audio playback capability. Through the 2-elemeny stereo microphone array, you will be able to capture quality sound with great clarity. You will be able to record in MP3, AAC, WMA, and WAV formats.
For storage space, the Sony ICD-UX533 comes with a 4GB internal flash memory as well as a built-in memory card slot for expansion. It requires 2AAA batteries (included in the package) to power it, and they can deliver several hours of recording.
9. Yamaha PR7
Yamaha is known for their several lines of top-quality musical instruments and it is no surprise that they have one of the best portable audio recorders for musicians. A true pocket-size device, this recorder measures 5.7 x 2 x 6.8 inches and weighs 12 ounces. With a newly developed crossed XY Stereo Microphone, you will get top quality recording. Other features that help to deliver top level sound recording include easy overdubbing, HPF and dynamics control, tuner and metronome, record preset, pre-recording function and more.
For recording memory this portable recorder comes with 2GB built-in memory and there is a slot for micro SD/SDHC memory card. The device can be powered by a single AAA batteries that can offer as much as 29.5 hours of recording at PCM 16-bit/44.1 kHz.
10. Zoom H5
A very powerful portable recorder, this device has all you need to capture top-quality audio always. Measuring 9.1 x 3.4 x 6.6 inches, the device weighs just 1.8 pounds. It comes with a detachable stereo X/Y microphone and makes use of interchangeable input capsules, meaning you can choose the perfect mic for any occasion. Musicians can use this portable recorder for rehearsal recording, live performance, as well as audio recording for video. There is even a dedicated Line Out for direct connection to camera when you want to use it for video. Four-track simultaneous recording is supported.
For storage space, a maximum SD card of 32GB can be used on the portable recorder. For battery life, two standard AA alkaline batteries can offer over 15 hours of recording. The device can also NiMH rechargeable batteries.
11. Roland R-07
This is a highly rated product from Roland, a company that is equally respected in the industry. It is a true pocket audio recorder, measuring 2.43 x 1.06 x 4.06 inches and weighing just 0.33 pounds. Though it is really small, the R-07 has advanced features that guarantees high-quality stereo recording of WAV and MP3 Format. Built-in stereo mic and external input can be used for recording. The device is also affordable and very easy to use.
The R-07 can be used for uncompromised stereo recording directly to microSD/SDHC cards. It requires 2 AA batteries to power this portable device and they can be used for 16 hours continuous recording and over 30 hours continuous playback. The device also comes with a built-in tripod mounting socket and windscreen.
12. Zoom H2n
This is a unique audio recorder that musicians will find very helpful on different occasions. It is a very small device, measuring 2.7 x 1.7 x 4.5 inches and weighing just 4.6 ounces. There are so many interesting things about this portable recorder. It comes with five built-in microphones and four different recording modes. It has musicians covered on such occasions as rehearsals, live concerts, and location videography. It records in WAV and MP3 formats. Other important features that may appeal to you include auto-gain, auto-record, pre-record, compression/limiting and low-cut filtering, as well as chromatic tuner and metronome.
For storage, the Zoom H2n portable audio recorder can record directly to an SD and SDHC cards up to 32GB. This device can be powered by a strong NiMH rechargeable battery that comes with the package or by 2 AA alkaline batteries. It offers up to 20 hours of battery life. It also uses a 2/2 USB audio interface in/out for sharing and transferring files with compatible computers.
13. Olympus LS-P2
Another dependable product from Olympus, this audio recorder can be meaningfully helpful to musicians. Measuring just 4.3 x 1.6 x 0.6 inches and weighing just 2.72 ounces, it is a true portable audio recorder. It also has all the features musicians need for top-quality sound recording. A three microphone system including directional and omnidirectional microphones works excellently. It even has file editing features in-built.
The Olympus LS-P2 linear recorder has an 8GB built-in memory that can contain 250 hours of recorded files. It also has a Micro SD slot. It can be powered by 1 AAA battery which can serve for hours. In terms of connectivity and compatibility, you don’t get it better anywhere. This is reputed as the first digital recorder with Bluetooth capability. It also features a Direct USB Connector so you have different options of connecting it to a number of PCs and other compatible devices.
14. Sony ICDUX560BLK
When it is from Sony, you can always expect it to be a great device. The ICDUX560BLK measures 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches and weighs just 1.6 ounces making it one of the lightest audio recorders around. It is also a very affordable option. With a 2-element internal microphone system and three recording options, it delivers the sort of sound recording any musician will cherish. It also records in Linear PCM (WAV) and MP3 Formats. The easy to use interface is another thing that will appeal to users.
This portable audio recorder comes with an internal 4GB Memory and micro SD expansion card slot to give you adequate storage space. There is a built-in rechargeable batteries that offers several hours of continuous recording and playback (3-minte quick charge can give you 1 hour recording).
What Is A Portable Audio Recorder?
It is likely that you know exactly what you were looking for before coming to this page but for the benefit of doubt, we are going to seriously consider what a portable audio recorder is. In a simple term, a portable audio recorder is a small device that is specifically meant to record high quality sounds on the go. This is not the same as a traditional voice recorder. There are specific characteristics that define and separate it from other devices that can serve the same purpose and they are included in the definition.
Being a small device means that portable audio recorder can be conveniently carried about to record sounds on the go. Another important thing to consider is that these devices are specifically meant to record sounds: this implies that their primary function is audio recording unlike other devices like smartphones that offer recording as secondary function. Another important factor to consider from the definition is the quality of sound they record. This is one key area portable audio recorders differ from ordinary voice recorders. The quality of the sounds you can get with a portable audio recorder is better than you can get with other similar devices and this is basically one of the reasons musicians love them.
The Benefits of Portable Audio Recorders to Musicians
In the introductory part, we briefly mentioned how portable audio recorders can be useful to musicians, it is important to stress about that a little more here. Due to the top sound quality that can be captured by the audio recorder, a musician can benefit so much from using it. A good recorder can serve the purpose of a good mic, a recording software, and a top-quality computer, as needed in a studio. This means the little device can be used for song and instrument recording. When recording for personal use, for sharing, and for songwriting, a portable audio recorder will serve the purpose.
Portable audio recorder also offers better sound quality for video purposes. It is no secret that most video cameras in the market cannot offer the quality of sound you can get with an audio recorder so using one of these devices will help you to capture better sound quality for videos. This can help musicians while making short videos for promotional uses. Being portable also means musicians can have these device with them often, given them the chance to record during rehearsal, performances, or capture sounds they may love to sample in the future.
It is important to state at this point that portable audio recorder is not exclusively meant for musicians. There are other people that have use for it and often buy them too. Journalists, for instance make use of portable sound recorders for reporting. The device can also be used by any individual for interviews, meetings, lectures, taking personal notes, audio journals and lots more. It may be more popular among musicians but it is an impressive device used by many across different industries.
Portable Audio Recorder Buyer’s Guide
Like every hot digital product, portable audio recorders come in different types. Many manufacturers have different models and it can be tough to choose from the available options in the market. For musicians and other users that are searching for the right gadget, there is often not enough time to embark on the sort of study that will give them all they need to make informed decision. To make the process easier, this section will guide you on how to make informed decision when shopping for a portable audio recorder.
Factors to Consider While Shopping For Portable Audio Recorders
As mentioned above, there are so many portable audio recorder on the market and finding the right deal means you need to consider their features. Actually, we have considered some of the best products on the market and will review them soon but you still need to know the most important features to look out for so that you can narrow down your choices.
Your Specific Need
Even for musicians, there may be different reasons for investing in a portable audio recorder. For some, the device may just be needed to record sounds that come to their head on the go but others may want it in order to be able to record their performances live or to record studio-quality materials. Audio recorders can also be used for podcasting or for shooting videos or even to capture raw instrumentals that will help during songwriting. Consider your specific purpose and buy a device that will meet that purpose without costing you so much.
As a musician, you obviously understand the importance of sound quality. This is one of the major reasons you will consider portable audio recorder ahead of the other available devices that can be used for voice and sound recording. It is important to note that even among audio recorders, there is significant difference in the quality of sound you can get from different gadgets. It is important to look out for how sound quality is rated in any device before buying.
Since we are talking about portable audio recorders here, size should matter to you. In addition to the physical dimension of the device, the weight should matter to you too. A large or heavy audio recorder is not what you want if you need something you can take along with you while going anywhere. It is better to have really small and light recorders that can even fit into your pocket so that you can get it out and use whenever the need arises. For creative musicians, being able to bring out your audio recorder like a cellphone will let you record any sound that inspires you irrespective of where you are at any moment.
Most portable audio recorders have built-in microphones. This is why they are so convenient to use. There are some that allows you to attach an external microphone and this can be helpful when you want to tweak the sound input. The ability to configure the mic is something you may need if you want the device for serious recording. If you have no intention to use external mic, you can focus on portable audio recorders without this feature. In any case, it is important that you buy a device with a powerful built-in microphone.
Unless you don’t want to keep your recorded files in the device, it is important to buy portable audio recorders that have sufficient storage capacity. If you also intend to record sounds for an extended period, storage capacity also matters a lot. Most recorders come with large built-in memory and some allows you to expand the memory with memory cards. Based on how you want to use your device, ensure that the gadget you buy have enough storage space to record and keep the audio files you want it to keep.
You don’t want your portable audio recorder to flash the low battery caution and die off while you are in the middle of an important recording session. To eliminate the possibility of this you need to consider the battery life before buying. When it comes to batteries for these devices, there are a number of options. While some come with rechargeable battery that can offer hours of continuous recording, others work with the traditional AA or AAA batteries. Each have their advantages. While rechargeable batteries means you don’t have to buy new batteries always, AA and AAA batteries can be easily replaced without waste of time finding power outlet to charge. In any case, ensure that the device has battery capacity that can last you for hours before needing recharging or replacement. The device should also have a battery life indicator to keep you informed about the battery condition at all times.
Compatibility and Connectivity
Having an audio recorder that is not compatible with other devices you own and use can be frustrating. It is important that you ensure that whatever audio recorder you are buying is compatible with Mac or Windows computers you use. For connectivity options, it is also important that you buy a device that can easily be connected to your computer for file transfer. USB transfer is always a fast and efficient way to transfer files and it is best when it is supported by your audio recorder.
Other Helpful Features
There are a number of features you may find interesting in an audio recorder. While some of them may not have direct consequence on the quality of sound you will get, they will certainly affect the entire experience you will get using the device. Look out for such features as filters, effects, and LCD screens.
You also have to buy a product from a reputable manufacturer. This doesn’t mean there are no good audio recorders from brands you are not conversant with, but it is always better to deal with brands you know offer top quality electronic gadgets.
There are certainly multitudes of portable audio recorders on the market. Musicians are always in the lookout for the best of these devices and it can be tough to find out the best ones. Here, however, we have reviewed the very best options on the market at the moment. There is also a part of the article that will guide you on how to make the right decision about which one will serve you best. Links are also provided for you to get them directly. Consider the reviewed products carefully and order with the confidence, knowing they are among the best on the market.