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With the sophistication of modern smart phones, audio recording can be as simple as an app. But given the often difficult “can you hear me now?” nature of basic mobile phone microphones, you should really be using a digital audio recorder if you want to capture clearer, purer audio.
The best digital audio recorders work for a variety of audio missions. From recording an interview, to more advanced on-the-go music making, the latest digital audio recorders are incredibly feature-forward yet easy to use. In addition to recording conversations, they also let you capture audio separately from video, and even help you dive into the world of podcasting.
When looking for the best digital audio recorders, there are a handful of things to pay attention to: size of the unit, battery life, recording quality capability, storage, and sharing. The biggest differentiating factor between recorders will be microphone quality; this is where the application of the recorder will be most important. The more detailed the use of the audio, the more important the power of the microphone setup. If you’re capturing audio from one on one interviews to be used as a framework for a transcript, then a basic recorder could be fine. However, if you’re podcasting or capturing audio from a conference, concert, or other large venue with amplified sound, then a microphone with greater sound capabilities will be better suited.
Battery life and storage will also play a factor if you’re constantly on the go. You want enough juice to last you through the event you’re recording, and enough space to store large — or multiple — files. USB connectivity mean you can then transfer these files directly to your computer afterwards for easy playback and mixing.
We’ve rounded up some compact, highly-capable portable digital audio recorders that work for almost any application. They’ll get you plenty of power and reliable microphones with clear, well-defined sound.
1. Zoom H4N PRO
Zoom crafts digital audio equipment for those that are super sonic serious. The H4N Pro is built to handle high decibel environments, with the ability to record multiple tracks at once (say, in a musical setting). It also comes equipped with multiple audio effects, making it an all-in-one, on-the-go sound machine. Record a track, mix it, edit it, add effects, and share it with the world all from a single, handheld device.
With X/Y microphones it will be hard to say something in a room containing the H4N Pro that isn’t captured on this device.
PROS: Super powerful, heavily loaded with functions, there isn’t much that can’t be done with this device.
CONS: Leans heavily toward professionals, the laundry list of features will take a more technologically-inclined user to coax.
2. Sony ICD-PX470 Digital Voice Recorder
The Sony ICD-PX470 is a must-have for those who record every day, giving you plenty of power without frills. The ICD-PX470 has limited (read: optimized) functionality. The “Focus” feature allows for the field of audio to be narrowed to really hone in on one person. The feature can be set to “wide” to allow for a broader audio area to be picked up, say, in a board room-type setting.
With direct USB connectivity, the ICD-PX470 easily connects to most any computer for quick and efficient uploads. The recorder’s small but mighty stature comes equipped with 4GB of memory but is expandable to 32GB. That equates to more than 500 hours of audio recording capacity.
PROS: Pocket-sized power, perfect for regular conversations and normal acoustic settings.
CONS: Works well in nearly all low volume settings, but for bigger, more detailed audio, a different recorder may be better.
3. EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder
EVISTR has crafted a very capable audio recorder that suits the needs of those looking to upgrade from a basic voice recorder, but are not ready for the heavy-duty professional grade quite yet. With an enhanced microphone processor, the EVISTR easily picks up clean and clear audio from a wide spectrum of acoustic settings. With dedicated gain control, the EVISTR allows for extreme precision in recording.
PROS: Sturdy construction, advanced features without being overcomplicated.
CONS: Some users have remarked that the menu takes a bit of getting used to.