Home Equipment The Best Portable Sound Recorder in 2021

The Best Portable Sound Recorder in 2021

If you're looking for the best portable sound recorder, then you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll provide you with a list of our top ten products, as well as give you all the essential information you might need about this handy little product.

So, what exactly is a portable audio recorder? Well, it's a device that does exactly what the name suggests it does. It allows you to record a human voice in crystal clear quality. You might be wondering why this product is relevant in the age of the smartphone. If your phone has an excellent microphone then why would you need another device to record with? In truth, the sound quality is far superior when using an audio recorder. This device also has lots of useful extras that your phone can't give you. We'll tell you all about these special features in our reviews and buyer's guide.

Now it's time to move onto our top ten list, where you'll find lots of excellent products to suit a wide range of budgets and requirements. After the reviews, you'll find our buyer's guide, where all of your questions about this device will be answered. Let's begin!


Our Highest Rated Portable Digital Audio Recorders for Interviews:

Input Needs - While it can be difficult to determine your exact use case for these versatile devices, try to envision what you plan on using your portable audio recorder for. If you plan on recording people or specific subjects, look for a recorder that has a built in XLR or mini XLR input for needed capturing flexibility.

Kate Brunotts

Kate Brunotts FOR MUSIC CRITIC

1. TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder (V2)

TASCAM

TASCAM is a company that audio professionals have been relying on for more than thirty years. It offers a huge range of products, which are always professional-level quality. You can find TASCAM products anywhere from a recording studio to a rehearsal room. The reason why TASCAM is so popular is that it constantly strives to innovate, yet it always offers products that are user-friendly at the same time.

This product is perfect for audio and voice recording. It provides you with top-level stereo sound quality, in a compact unit, and all for an affordable price tag.

You just need to insert a microSD or microSDHC card, and then you're ready to record 96kHz/24-bit high-resolution audio in MP3 or WAV format. It includes a pair of all-new microphones that can handle up to 125dB. These mics are perfect for capturing every detail in stunning clarity.

Despite being loaded with lots of handy features, this product is a breeze to use. A simple tap of a button can start or stop a recording. It's also easy to delete bad takes or adjust levels too, as there are buttons for these jobs too. There's little to fault this compact, reasonably-priced product from one of the most reliable brands around!

Pros:
+ Enhanced playback functions.
+ Easy operation.
+ Stereo condenser microphones for high-quality recording.

Why We Liked It - With easy operation, high-quality sound recording and seamless gain control, this recorder was an easy choice for the top of our list. The affordable price is another plus.

2. TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder

TASCAM DR 40

Next up is another exceptional product from TASCAM. Just like our last one, this product delivers TASCAM's professional level of quality, as well as its famous value-for-money guarantee. The DR series is one of the best around in the budget price range, making this product a superb choice for anyone who wants a reliable audio recorder without shelling out too many bucks.

Four-track recording, a long-lasting battery, and adjustable mics are just three of the useful features that this product offers you. The microphones are all condensers, which means you get crystal clear quality every time. You can adjust the mics from the X-Y position to the A-B position with great ease, and this provides you with more versatility when it comes to recording.

Another great feature of this product - and one that's perfect for students - is its high sound pressure design. This means that you can record in noisy environments - like a lecture hall - without losing coherence. You could even use it for recording a concert because of its innovative design.

You can also plug extra microphones into this recorder. There is an XLR and TRS port so that you can add another condenser mic, if you need it, which you might for interviews. You can also supply phantom power to it. It's got it all!

Pros:
+ Peak reduction function automatically adjusts the levels during peaks.
+ Record in both A-B and X-Y positions through the unidirectional condenser microphones.
+ XLR/TRS inputs for adding external condenser microphones.

Why We Liked It - The DR-40 by TASCAM is loaded with features that makes it stand out from the crowd. With four track recording, an extended battery life, and unidirectional condenser microphones, this sound recorder is a superb, affordable choice.

3. Aketek 650HR Digital Audio Voice Recorder

Aketek Rechargeable

Aketek is an innovative company that spends a lot of money and time on research and development. This translates into cutting-edge, technological products that Music Critic rates very highly. Another excellent aspect of this company is its desire to sell its products at affordable prices, something we also love.

The 650HR by Aketek is a rechargeable, digital, voice recorder that features an easy-to-use interface. It allows you to capture recordings with a press of a button. You don't need to be a tech whizz to be able to alter the settings with this product either. If English isn't your first language, then you'll likely appreciate the twenty-four languages that the interface can be changed to.

You can just as easily record lectures, classes, or music performances, due to this product's ability to record in MP3 and WAV formats. With 8 GB of storage space, you also don't need to worry about constantly deleting recordings to free up space for new files.

Pros:
+ Up to 24 languages for the user interface.
+ A-B repeat function.
+ Easy-to-use interface and compact design.

Why We Liked It - This little voice recorder packs a big punch despite its small size. It's got 8GB of storage space, voice activated modes, and you can use it for MP£ playback. It's a bargain!

Test Recording - Before recording your source, make sure that you do a quick test recording to make sure that your levels are properly calibrated. In addition, it may be helpful to clap at the start of a recording to help you synchronize audio if you're recording with more than one device at the same time.

Kate Brunotts

Kate Brunotts FOR MUSIC CRITIC

4. Olympus VN-7200 Digital Voice Recorder

Olympus VN 7200

Olympus is a leading brand around the world when it comes to sound and video products. From digital cameras to sound recording devices, this company does it all. And, more importantly, it does it all well!

The VN-7200 is a digital recorder that offers a whopping 2GB of internal storage. This means that you can record hundreds of hours of audio without needing a separate SD card.

This product is loaded with lots of great features, such as voice-activated recording, index marking, and three different recording modes.

It also has a mic input port so that you can connect external microphones to it, which is very handy for reporters when interviewing. There's a high-grade, integrated microphone for easy and instant playback. If you want to listen to your recordings without others hearing, then you can plug in headphones to the output port.

To make your life easier, the storage is divided into four folders, and each folder can contain up to 200 files. You can title the files and then access previous recordings with great speed. It's a modern, user-friendly device that our team can highly recommend.

Pros:
+ Voice-activated recording.
+ Fast and slow playback modes.
+ Microphone and headphone ports, as well as an in-built speaker.

Why We Liked It - This is a professional product that can be relied on for important recordings. With indexing marking, a voice-activated mode, and up to 1,511 hours of recording time, the VN-7200 is one of the best on the market.

5. Trustin Professional Digital Audio Voice Recorder

Trustin Professional Digital Audio Voice Recorder

'Have trust in your voice' is the motto at Trustin. For more than 20 years, consumers have put their trust in this company and its impressive products. Not only does Trustin offer your advanced, cutting-edge devices, but it does so at affordable prices.

Whether you're a student who wants to record lectures or you're a musician who likes recording your gigs and then uploading them to SoundCloud, then this device will have you covered.

The most notable feature of this professional, digital recorder is its ability to capture crystal-clear audio from a distance of 50ft. You'll be shocked by how clear a person's voice sounds even from this distance. You just need to ensure that you've got the microphone directed at the speaker.

There's no need to worry about the battery with this product too. If the rechargeable batteries that are included with the recorder happen to die, then you can replace them with AAA batteries. You can find AAAs in just about any store that sells batteries, from supermarkets to convenience stores.

In terms of storage, this product ticks the right boxes too. You get 8GB integrated into the device, which means there's no need to purchase an external SD card.

Are you new to recording digital audio? If so, then you should click here to see a study on how it works.

 

Pros:
+ PC transfer function allows you to back up files to your personal computer.
+ One key recording and saving makes it easy to use.
+ Variable speed adjustment.

Why We Liked It - Trustin is a company that wants to be associated with reliability. And with features like super maximal endurance, a dual protection function, and professional ADC active noise reduction, this is certainly a device that can be relied on.

6. EVISTR L53 Digital Voice Recorder

EVISTR L53

EVISTR is a relatively new company that's earned a stellar reputation in the short time it has been in business. It's known for a wide range of products, which even includes fidget spinners. Another thing that EVISTR is known for is value-for-money.

This affordable, little recording device offers clear voice capturing. We can recommend it to reporters or students who want to get a good product for a low price.

It's packed full of useful features. One of the most impressive of these features is the 'record monitoring' mode that allows you to monitor your recording in real-time. It also has a voice-activated mode that will be triggered when a certain volume is picked up. This helps to get rid of long silences too, such as when your professor is taking a break before continuing with a lecture.

The battery life is up there with the longest around. It offers a whopping 15 hours of playtime from a single charge. There's no need to keep spare batteries or a charger in your pocket with this product.

Another key feature of this product is its microphones. There are two HD mic that are fitted with dynamic noise reduction technology so that you capture crystal clear voice recordings. They are effective up to 40ft too! This device also offers you ample storage space. You get 8GB of space that translates into 300 hours of recordings. There's no need for an SD card.

Pros:
+ Sturdy metal body.
+ 800mAh rechargeable batteries.
+ New PCM linearity recording technology.

Why We Liked It - The L53 is an affordable, effective product with lots of storage space. We were very impressed by the advanced features, as well as the crystal-clear audio that its capable of capturing.

7. TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder

Tascam DR-05

Next up, we have another high-quality product from TASCAM. It's a pocket-sized recorder that includes a lot of advanced features in its tiny body.

You just need to add a microSD or microSDHC card to start recording in 96kHz/24-bit high-resolution quality. You can either record in MP3 or WAV formats. You can capture this high-grade audio thanks to the omnidirectional, condenser microphones that are integrated into it.

A very impressive element of this device is its 'level align function'. This technology ensures that the level of volume is balanced during playback. If, for example, one voice is much louder than another during recording, then instead of having to constantly lower and raise the volume to hear each voice equally, the device will do it for you.

Pros:
+ High sound pressure design.
+ Stereo condenser microphones.
+ Peak reduction function.

Why We Liked It - This product has lots of great features, including a high sound pressure design for recording quiet audio sources. It's also got excellent condenser microphones and a level align feature to prevent uneven volume levels during playback.

8. Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder

Zoom H1

The H1 by Zoom is certainly proof that good things come in small packages. It's a handy, user-friendly sound recorder that can be stored in your pocket. Despite its tiny size, it captures sound loud and clear. It's ideal for lectures, meetings, and interviews, in our opinion.

It captures high-quality audio thanks to the in-built X-Y unidirectional mics that are integrated into it. Each mic is set at a 90-degree angle to the other one. This is known as an X-Y design, and it helps to record a wider area with clarity and definition. It works much the same as a mic preamp (read our top 10 list here).

You can even increase your recording capabilities by plugging in an external mic or line-level signal to the mic/line input jack. There are so many options with this versatile, small device.

Pros:
+ Line/Headphone output for connecting headphones or a DSLR.
+ High-quality audio recordings thanks to X-Y mics.
+ USB port for connecting H1 to a computer.

Why We Liked It - It's quite simply a premium recorder that is loaded with useful features. Some of our favorites include the X-Y microphone configuration, the USB 2.0 port, and the Mic/Line input port.

9. Tascam DR-05 (V2) Digital Audio Recorder

Tascam DR-05 Version 2

Now it's time for another superb Tascam product. The DR-05 is a portable device that's available for a very reasonable price. Once again, it delivers that reliable, Tascam quality that you expect from this leading manufacturer of sound recorders.

This product has features that will appeal to anyone who wants to get more out of their recordings. For example, you can add reverb to make a voice sound more natural. You can also overdub recordings. There are lots of effects to experiment with, which makes this one of the most technically advanced products on our list.

The package contains a professional lavalier microphone and this can be used to record sound at a distance. This is a professional product that is well worth paying for, in our opinion.

Pros:
+ Stereo condenser microphones for high-quality recording.
+ Professional lavalier mic included in the package.
+ Self-timer recording function.

Why We Liked It - It's got a quick menu for easy usability, a level align feature for preventing uneven volume levels during playback, and you can add reverd or overdub recordings. Quite simply, this is an advanced device that delivers typical Tascam quality.

10. Zoom H2n Handy Recorder

Zoom H2n Handy

Last on our list is this handy recorder by Zoom. It includes five in-built microphones and offers you four different recording modes. It can be used for capturing a live concert or for recording a lecture in crystal-clear quality.

There are lots of options when it comes to connectivity. There's a line-in jack that can accept two channels of mic or line signals. You also get a stereo line out for plugging in your headphones so you can listen back to recordings privately.

To transfer your files to a computer, you can simply connect the two devices by a USB cable, as this recorder has the relevant port. It's also possible to edit your recordings through WaveLab LE software, which comes free with the audio recorder.

Pros:
+ Support up to 32GB of SD or SDHC card.
+ Four recording modes.
+ Five built-in microphones.

Why We Liked It - This product from Zoom is one of the bestselling on the market. It's easy to see why. It's got lots of top features, like four recording modes, five built-in microphones, and a variety of input/output ports.

Portability - Field recording is unlike any other in that you're constantly on the go in a variety of different sonic environments. That being said, you'll want to choose a portable audio recorder that's fairly durable in the event that it is dropped. Also, be sure to have extra SD cards available in case you run out of space along with extra batteries.

Kate Brunotts

Kate Brunotts FOR MUSIC CRITIC

Portable Audio Recorder Buyer's Guide

A sound recorder is a useful device that has many purposes. Most commonly, this product is used for recording lectures, interviews, and music concerts (click here for the how-to guide). Of course, when you want to be able to hear a person's every word, then it's crucial to pick a recorder that captures high-quality audio.

In this guide, we'll answer all the important questions you might have about this device, as well as provide you with tips for buying the best product.

Before we move onto the guide, it's important to refer to the question of smartphones. In the modern age, phones are loaded with advanced technologies that can cause some people to think a sound recorder would be obsolete.

Why would you buy a device to record audio when your phone can do the same job?

The answer is that the quality gulf between the two is enormous. Yes, if you want to record a person speaking directly into a mouthpiece, then a phone will be fine. But for recording lectures or interviews, you'll need a recorder - click here for the study.

Now, let's move on to the all-important buyer's guide. Once you're done, you'll be in a great position to make an informed purchase.

Is a travel sound recorder for you?

If you're wanting to record a lecture, class, interview, or concert, then the answer is a resounding, yes!

This portable device is easy to use, can be stored in your pocket, and captures high-quality audio. You can use it to play your recordings back, either through headphones or an in-built speaker. Some of the best products will allow you to index recordings and easily transfer them to your computer or smartphone.

It can surprise some just how good the audio is. As we have just suggested, if you use your smartphone for recording, then you're not capturing the best quality. There's no need to strain to hear words or for your recording to be ruined by someone coughing or other background noise.

For capturing a voice - or multiple voices - then a sound recorder is the only option, in our opinion. If you're wanting to record music, then this device can also be very useful. It's just important that you select a product that's designed for recording music.

What sample rate should I choose?

To make it as simple as possible, you want the highest sample rate possible. That's because the higher the sample rate, the better the audio recording will be.

It's important to keep in mind that the sample rate tends to be less important once it has reached the 44.1kHz level. Anything below this, and you will notice lower quality. If the sample rate is above this number, then the recording will - of course - be better quality, but you might not notice the difference.

We can recommend any sample rate that is 44.1kHz and above.

Recording time?   

The amount of recording time you choose will depend on what you need the device for. If you plan to record several lectures during a day with each an hour or two long, then you'll need longer recording time.

This means that the battery life has to be sufficient for hours' worth of recording. A typical recorder has built-in rechargeable batteries that can offer somewhere between ten and fifteen hours.

If you don't think that this will be enough time, then it's worth investing in a recorder that has dual power options. This means that when your rechargeable batteries run out, you can replace them with AAA or other similar batteries that can be bought cheaply.

You also need to ensure that the device has enough storage space. Some products will just offer their in-built storage capabilities. The amount that it offers can vary widely from 2Gb to 8GB.

Another option is to purchase a recorder that allows you to plug in an SD card. This will increase the amount of storage space. You can also have a spare SD card that you can replace the first one with once it is full.

Built-in microphones or more options?     

For most people, the in-built mic in a portable recorder will be sufficient for your needs.

If you want to have more options, however, then you'll want to select a product that has an XLR input so you can plug in an external mic. Some high-end models also offer phantom power for condenser microphones. Another option for a lower-quality mic is a device with a mini-jack input.

Of course, you need to take into account your budget. Having extra ports will cause the cost of the product to rise. So, if you don't think you'll need to plug in extra mics, then don't pay extra for something you won't need.

Support for a USB connection

To be able to easily transfer your files to your computer, then having USB connectivity is a must. It's a feature that you'll find on lots of the most recent portable recorders. Look for a USB port while buying a new recorder as a single connection will help you to transfer files more efficiently.

Don't worry, though. If a device doesn't have a USB connection but it does have an SD card, then you're fine. You can simply remove the SD card from the device and plug it directly into your laptop. If your computer doesn't have the relevant slot, then you'll need to get an SD card reader.

The budget talks

At the end of the day, it all depends upon your budget. You can only spend what you can afford, after all. And as with all technological products, the more you pay for it, the better the quality. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some excellent low-price or mid-range options.

One way of keeping the cost down is to select a product that offers you the essential features you require without any unnecessary extras. It's great having a voice-activation mode or hundreds of hours of storage space. But if you're not going to use these features, then why pay more for them?

Each of the products on our list guarantees quality. Yes, if you buy a budget product, then you won't get premium performance. But the products on our list each represent the best quality in each price range.

Now, we're going to tell you what our ultimate top picks are in each important category and why. Let's get on with it!

1- Top pick

TASCAM DR-05

Our Top Pick offers a huge amount of quality for a very reasonable price tag. It's no surprise to anyone who has read our reviews that a Tascam product has won this award.

For more than 30 years Tascam has been delivering exceptional audio products to consumers. From speakers to handheld recorders Tascam does it all. And, more importantly, it always does it well.  

DR-05 version 2 is an easy-to-use, compact product that records high-quality stereo audio for a very affordable price.

The high-quality sound recording is achieved by a pair of integrated microphones that withstands up to 125dB SPL. Furthermore, one can record sound from 200 feet away without losing any detail. If you want to boost your recording capabilities, then simply add a microphone through the ⅛” stereo input.

The DR-05 is equipped with omnidirectional stereo condenser microphones. These mics record ambient audio from all directions including sound coming directly in front of them. The versatility of the mics makes this recorder effective for a wide range of applications.

The DR-05 can be easily operated with just your thumb. Recording, adjusting levels, and deleting all require a simple press of a button.

It's got lots of great extra features too, such as peak reduction. This mode automatically adjusts the levels so that the recording is more balanced.

You can also add reverb to the recording to make it sound more natural. This effect is useful when recording music or singing too. You also can overdub your recordings easily with a few clicks of a button. That's a great feature if you want to record a backing track then record vocals over the top during playback.

To make recordings more seamless, there is a voice-activation mode. This helps to eliminate long silences, such as during a class or lecture. You just need to set the minimum level for when recordings should start and stop. This can also be done with great ease.

With condenser microphones, a peak reduction mode, and a level-align feature, this is a deserved choice as Music Critic's Top Pick.

2- Premium Choice

TASCAM DR-40 4-TrackWe've selected another Tascam product as our Premium Choice. If money is of no concern, then this is the sound recorder for you to go for. It might cost a pretty penny but it offers you so many advanced features that it's worth paying the big bucks for.

The DR-40 by Tascam can take your recordings to a new level. Adjustable microphones, an extended battery life, and four-track recording are just some of the features that it offers.

This recorder is equipped with adjustable unidirectional microphones that can be positioned in both the A-B and X-Y positions. Advanced control over the direction of the mics allows for a wide and clear stereo sound, which translates into professional-quality recordings.

This product is equally as adept at recording loud audio as it is at capturing quiet sound sources. That's because it features a high-sound pressure design. It's a very effective piece of technology that's perfectly suited to a live music venue or lecture hall.

Nobody likes peaks where the audio is distorted and unlistenable. That's why Tascam has integrated its effective peak reduction mode into this product. Once the signals are peaking too high, then they will be detected and reduced so that you get balanced audio. You can even choose what level you want the peaks to be.

What if you need an external microphone to cover a wider zone? The XLR/TRS stereo inputs in this recorder make it possible to connect a condenser microphone and a PA console line-level output. XLR/TRS ports are made by Neutrik which are highly reliable and trusted by professional audio engineers.

If you're recording multiple voices, such as during a meeting, then you'll enjoy the align feature that's built into this product. It allows for more balanced playback where each voice will be the same volume.

The DR-40 includes a lot of features that other audio recorders don't offer. With unidirectional condenser microphones, a four-channel mode, and reverb effects, this is a premium product that our team can highly recommend.

3- Great Value

Aketek Multifunctional Rechargeable 650HRThis is our Budget Choice, which exemplifies just how much quality you can get for a low price.

From fidget spinners to audio recorders, Aketek manufactures it all. Aketek aims to provide consumer electronics at a price that the masses can afford.

Now let's have a look at this outstanding product and the features that it offers.

The 650HR, multi-functional rechargeable audio recorder by Aketek is an affordable choice that will appeal to everyone from students to journalists.

It's an easy-to-use product that features a user-friendly interface that you don't need to be a tech whizz to master. Just hit the record button and you are ready to go!

In terms of battery life, this product is one of the best. You get twenty hours of continuous recording from a single charge. There's no need to worry about needing to carry spare batteries with you. It also offers you a whopping 7,000 minutes of storage space. You don't need an SD card for this one. There's a USB port for you to easily transfer your files to your PC too.

This product is a crowd-pleaser that will appeal to a wide range of users. With 24 languages available for the user interface, A-B repeat function, and voice-operated/activated modes, this recorder is an absolute bargain.

FAQ’s

1 - What is a portable audio recorder?

A portable audio recorder is a device used for capturing sound. It is primarily used to record the human voice. It contains either one or more microphones that will either work unidirectionally or omnidirectionally. The best recorders will include lots of handy features, such as voice-activation modes.

This device can also be used to record music. Some include an XLR input so that you can record vocals for a song. In other cases, you can plug in an instrument.

2 - How do you use a travel audio recorder?

Just tap the “record” button to start recording. 

Press the “stop” button to pause or end the recording.

For transferring files to a PC, simply connect one end of a USB cable to the recorder and the other to the USB port in your computer. Drag and drop files to successfully transfer the files.

Advanced features require different processes depending on the recorder. As with all devices of this type, you'll want to read the instruction booklet carefully so that you know how to operate it correctly.

Be sure to sufficiently charge the recorder before starting the recording.

3 - Does the price of the product affect the quality of the recorded audio? 

In short, yes. The more expensive a recorder is, the better the microphones will be that are integrated into it.

If you pick a recorder that has a condenser mic, for example, then the resulting audio will be of professional quality. Budget models won't include mics that can capture such high-level audio.

More expensive recorders will also include features that can be used to ensure the audio recording is balanced. You can even add effects - such as reverb - with pricier models.

It's important to note, however, that manufacturers are still able to offer excellent quality for less. So, if you buy a budget recorder, such as you'll find on our list, then the audio will still be listenable, clear, and balanced. It just won't be as good as if you purchase a premium model.

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