Top 10 Best Portable Audio Recorders To Buy in 2021 (With Buying Guide)

Are you tired of the sub-par quality of the audio recorded on your smartphone and camera? Are you looking to invest in a professional setup for your podcast? Or are you looking for a device to record lectures and interviews for social media?

We get it – you need the premium output quality, your sounds must be clear, crisp and near representation of the original, but most of the recorders you hunted so far don’t fulfill this promise. You may be already using an audio recorder, but it doesn’t support newer audio formats or, even worse, doesn’t come with enough storage space. While choosing a portable audio recorder looks simple at the first glance, it gets daunting once you actually start comparing and dissecting the features of multiple models.

That is where we can help you. We’ve done extensive research and talked to dozens of podcasters and music producers to get a clear idea of what they use and the mistakes they made on the go. We also researched the market, the price range and features you must opt for to invest in a long-term, future-proof device.

We start with the detailed product reviews of 10 worthy devices and then discuss the factors you must consider while choosing the best portable audio recorder for yourself:

Best Portable Audio Recorders

Best Portable Audio Recorders Summary:

Best For Professionals
Zoom H6 All Black (2020 Version) 6-Track Portable Recorder, Stereo Microphones, 4 XLR/TRS Inputs, SD Card, USB Audio Interface, Battery Powered
Best Overall
Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder and USB Audio Interface, Black
Best for Traveling
Roland R-07 High-Resolution Handheld Audio Recorder, Black
Zoom H6 All Black
Tascam DR-40X
Roland R-07
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Pro-features
  • Storage is good
  • XLR Inputs are well balanced
  • Advanced features like dub and mix
  • Can be used as an audio interface
  • Support of 24/96 resolution
  • Bluetooth support
  • Ultra pocket-sized
$349.99
$195.00
$199.00
Best For Professionals
Zoom H6 All Black (2020 Version) 6-Track Portable Recorder, Stereo Microphones, 4 XLR/TRS Inputs, SD Card, USB Audio Interface, Battery Powered
Zoom H6 All Black
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Pro-features
  • Storage is good
$349.99
Best Overall
Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder and USB Audio Interface, Black
Tascam DR-40X
  • XLR Inputs are well balanced
  • Advanced features like dub and mix
  • Can be used as an audio interface
$195.00
Best for Traveling
Roland R-07 High-Resolution Handheld Audio Recorder, Black
Roland R-07
  • Support of 24/96 resolution
  • Bluetooth support
  • Ultra pocket-sized
$199.00

Top 10 Best Portable Audio Recorders in 2021 Reviews

1. Zoom H6 All Black – Best For Professionals

This is one of the most advanced and well-developed audio recording devices. If you are a professional from any of the creative industries or someone who needs clarity in sound, then the best choice for you is Zoom H6. H6 because it records 6 tracks!

Comes with two microphones, expandable up to 4!

The microphones here are removable and high quality and have four XLR/TRS inputs, making them extremely versatile. Professional audio recorders would rejoice at the diversity offered.

The two microphones it comes with are an XY microphone along with a mid-side microphone. Both are embedded with features to auto-sync with videos. The gain on Zoom H6’s microphones is user-friendly as they help track levels and EQ settings making it good for beginners as well.

Storage space is unlimited here

For professionals, musicians and other creative content creators, small storage of 4-8GB is seldom enough. Their audio files are large and need a lot more space. The SD cards on this are expandable to 128 GB.

It also has professional add-on features in auto-record, prerecord and backup-record modes. The battery requirements of this are the 4x AAA batteries. This portable audio recorder also allows for Cubase LE and Wavelab LE software download. 

The only drawback is that it is so loaded with features that it is not easy for beginners to understand. However, this is not just a recorder; this is a complete recording studio in hand. It is a must-buy for someone professional and not on a budget.

Pros
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Pro-features
  • Storage is good
Cons
  • Relatively expensive

2. Tascam DR-40X – Best Overall

Tascam DR range of recorders is as iconic as some of the most famous composers out there. They have been around for decades and have delivered some of the most striking audio devices. The DR-40 X is like carrying a portable recording studio around with you. This four-track recorder even has a USB interface to record onto the computer.

Carry your recording studio with you

If you are a professional who needs to create audio content on the go, then this has two condenser microphones that are used as A/B patterns giving a more ambient sound. It can also have an XY pattern which leads to a tight stereo recording sound. This model is also known for the XLR/TRS combination inputs. It results in additional sound sources. That is, a bass guitar or guitar can also be plugged in. The professionals can also have overdubs or overwriting.

Features don’t end here

Audio interface compatible with all operating systems, a built-in dictation mode, high-pressure sound design that records sound up to 125dB SPL along with sound Limiter or Audio Controller. The sound that is recorded is exceptionally clear and noise-free. It records four tracks at the same time and plays them back too. For musicians, it has a chromatic tuner. A 0.3 speaker is inbuilt for limited playback. The 4CH Mode can record two stereo feeds simultaneously. 

Phew

Yes, even we feel tired after looking at its list of features. For any intermediate or amateur wanting to become a professional, it is an excellent buy at a great price.

Pros
  • XLR Inputs are well balanced
  • Advanced features like dub and mix
  • Can be used as an audio interface
Cons
  • None 

3. Roland R-07 – Best for Traveling

In recent times, Roland, the professional audio recorder company, has introduced their casual and amateur users recorders. While these are not completely basic, they are not as complicated as professional recorders. If you are looking for a top-quality portable audio recorder that fits into your pocket, is small and sleek, then Rolan R-07 fits your brief. It is a high-resolution recorder with professional features.

Modern features and good sound

The R-07 has two omnidirectional mics, which are set to AB pattern. Those requiring an enhanced directional studio pattern could be connected to an additional external microphone unit. The advantage of the additional input is that it could also perform as a stereo AUX feed needed in performance for line-level gear.

The Bluetooth connectivity is also extended to wireless headphones. The streaming from R-07 is enhanced by the use of Qualcomm aptX. The memory here is 8 GB which is enough for amateurs. This records in only two standard formats of MP3 and WAV. 

One of the easiest to use

It has a rehearsal button that allows you to set levels automatically. Once set, it is ready to use. One of the other user-friendly functions is the ten parameters preset ‘Scenes.’ This helps choose the audio recorder for functions like Loud Practice, Vocal, Field, etc. It also has a dual-track recording feature that records a backup track at lower levels. It also has Bluetooth recording, which helps control the distance one can keep. 

Pros
  • Support of 24/96 resolution
  • Bluetooth support
  • Ultra pocket-sized
Cons
  • No X/Y mic
  • Supports only 2 audio formats

4. EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder – Best with Noise Cancellation

An audio recorder from one of the recent brands, EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder, is the best portable audio recorder for recording lectures, speeches, interviews, podcasts, songs, amongst others. The USP of this is the noise cancellation feature.

Small and lightweight

This audio recording device comes with an extremely sensitive microphone that has been dedicated to gain control and also towards audio processing units. It has a noise cancellation feature that cancels out any ambient noises. The microphones are designed in a manner to decrease the gain. The functions are easy and basic with just click start, stop and record to start recording and functioning. 

Commanded by Voice

This is an AVR voice-activated recorder, which means that it starts recording when it detects sound in a given decibel. This is done to save the storage space by preventing air trigger recording. It doubles up as an MP# player and can be used to replay the sounds. It is one with an essential feature like the T-Mark add note for recordings. This assists the user in splitting, cut, insert, append recordings when they need to playback.

It has an 800 mAh battery that records up to 15 hours of speech; it can also record from 40 feet away. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is one of the most user-friendly, lightweight and pocket-friendly recording devices on the list.

Pros
  • Simple recording device
  • Clear audio clarity
  • Voice triggered
Cons
  • Cannot be connected to a phone

5. iZotope SP111- Best for Software Backup

iZotope Spire Studio is the first hardware audio system by the audio software giant. Since it comes from the stables of a software giant, the features in this portable audio recorder are a healthy balance with the hardware capabilities. SP111 is great for those who have equipment like a microphone, cables and other instruments as it has only one internal omnidirectional mic. 

Deceptively simple-looking design

The top of the panel is a dial of LED. When the audio recorder is powered on, the buttons convert to display touchpads. There is no dedicated volume button but a volume control activator. The microphone is protected by a metallic silver grill.

An omnidirectional mic does the job

An omnidirectional mic means it records audio in a circular direction, recording every sound heard. The rear houses two XLR/TS inputs for 48 volts of phantom power. These inputs can also double as jacks for recording from guitar, piano and other devices. What we found a bit problematic was that either the inputs or the internal mic could be used together. Both couldn’t. The recording by iZotope SP111 is done at 24-bit/48kHz. 

New performance parameters

There is no traditional mixer or dial etc. However, there is a matrix that controls the fader/mixer/ controller. You can mix, fade, mute and do everything else much easier. The internal mic is not very nuanced, but if you have an external microphone that you can pair this with, the software in this hardware makes this a ballpark device to have.

Pros
  • Audio software is embedded
  • Can be paired with XLR mics
  • Futuristic design
Cons
  • Underwhelming internal mic

6. Zoom H4n Pro – Best Under $250

Zoom H6 was a piece of professional equipment; however, it may seem unreachable for some. For them, there is another high-performing equipment from Zoom, the H4n Pro. The audio quality is at par with the H6. It is trimmed by its Avant grand features and kept simple. Designed for amateur content creators and professionals, this has a voice activation command and four channels mode.

It has an everything, leave out nothing approach in features

H4n Pro has a unidirectional XY Microphone, a built-in stereo microphone and a ¼ inch microphone jack. Between these three, Zoom H4n records all possible music formats like WAV, MP3 amongst others. The built-in stereo mics are rotatable from the piece of aluminum they are placed on and thus capture sounds from 90 to 120-degree recording patterns.

They have a phantom mic input on the bottom. This recording device has three primary preset recording modes in four channels, multitrack recording and stereo. It also has a mic stand mount, foam windscreen, Cubase recording software, 1GB SD card, along with a power adapter. It also has SDHC memory card compatibility for space, a low-cut filter for frequency selection, and two AA batteries.

Flexibility is the key to this recorder.

The recording resolution is 48Kbps MP3 to 24-bit/96kHz. It is also capable of covering every resolution in between the lower and upper range. A rocker switch helps adjust the microphone gains. The navigation bar is so easy to operate. 

Some recorders are troubled by overloading and to offset that; this has multiple compressors, auto-level adjustment, and limiter settings. The four-channel mode enables this to record from four sound outlets together. This is a dynamo in the price range it is being offered. It has outstanding results and clarity.

Pros
  • Phantom-powered inputs
  • High-quality stereo microphones
  • Four-channel recording
Cons
  • Mixer settings are a little awkward to use

7. EVISTR L53 Digital Voice Recorder – Value for Money

As discussed earlier, the brand EVISTR is renowned for its value for money products. It is apt for students, reporters or interviews and those who need to record crystal clear voices. 

EVISTR has the magic of PCM Audio

PCM audio is Pulse code modulation audio. This is a technique used in sending pulse code transmissions that get converted to digital form. Here, the analog signal recorded doesn’t get compressed like it is in other recorders. The signals are represented in digital form, making them as close to the original as possible. They record at 24-bit/48kHz and 16-bit/48kHz linear PCM format and save in lossless formats like WAV, MP3, APE, FLAC.

Interesting recording functions

The EVISTR L53 has three recording functions: VOR (voice-activated recording), Sectional Recording, and Track On. The sectional recording is a unique feature whereby the L53 is pre-programmed to automate the recording, save it, and then restart a new recording. Track on is whereby the recording is triggered only when a sound is heard. It ends recording if the sound isn’t heard 5 seconds after the start. VOR pauses when it doesn’t hear the sound.

Can record in stereo as well

This model has a stereo microphone jack through which the included mic can be connected and audio recorded in stereo mode. It also powers the condenser dynamo microphones via their DC powering. L53 stores audio before the battery runs out and that is one of their best features. It can record telephone conversations, work as a driver-free flash hard disk, and has an SSD 8GB memory.

With 15 hours of battery life and twin mics that record up to 40 ft in height, EVISTR L53 has our heart.

Pros
  • Voice clarity
  • 800 mAh rechargeable battery
  • Sturdy
Cons
  • Basic

8. Olympus VN-7200 – Best Under $200

Olympus is renowned for its audio technology. The Olympus VN-7200 is one of the best analog voice recorders, which marries fabulous audio technology. One of the few models that capture 1151 hours of recording on 2GB memory. It is easy to use with the touch of a button. 

Unique Variable Control Voice Actuator (VCVA) function

VCVA is a command that gets activated only if the microphone detects a sound in conjunction with the pre-set level. It stops recording “when the sound drops below the threshold level.” The advantage of VCVA is that it eliminates “dead air” recordings or recordings triggered by the sound of air.

The Noise Cancel Playback function is capable of eliminating background noises during playback. It is also voice command activated. It even has index marking, along with three different recording modes. Index marks allow for playback or retrieval from a specific point in the recording.

You can drown out surrounding noise

The Olympus 7200 has a 3.5 mm microphone jack where you can plug microphones for uni-directional recording. It prevents ambient sounds from being recorded in high-noise environments. The A-B repeat feature is also exclusive. It is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a memory of 2GB. They even have 2 playback modes for speeding up the playback. 

This is one of the most fuss-free and streamlined audio recorders for voice recording.

Pros
  • VCVA
  • Can be automated
  • Huge running hours at 1151 hours
Cons
  • None

9. Tascam DP-006 – Best for Tripod Mount

The DP-006 is one of the most reliable devices for audio recording. It has been designed for musicians and spontaneous content creators. It is tripod mountable and therefore, a good choice for amateur gigs.

This audio recording device has high-quality omnidirectional condenser mics. The mics have good input quality and can record vocals and music with good clarity. Tascam has a well-developed and professional series called the DR range. They have modeled the mics in DP-006 in a similar fashion.

Not one but two inputs

Jacks. With the help of two inputs with quarter-inch jacks, any external instrument can be connected quickly and comfortably. There is an external cable output. It has 16GB memory which is compatible with memory cards of format SDHC- SD cards. The two-track recording is done and played simultaneously. They can also play back up to six tracks. 

Like a chromatic tuner and metronome, it has a bounce function that allows recording more than six tracks. It can import and export files in .wav format.

Pros
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Has 6 track recorders
  • 2 built-in microphones
Cons
  • No dynamics for mixing

10. Zoom H5 – Best For Studio

We have talked at length about the popularity and experience of the Zoom brand. It is one of the most prestigious portable audio recorders brands. Zoom H5 is another professional-grade audio recorder that makes you think you are carrying a recording studio in your pocket. 

Large inputs for professionals

The input units for Zoom H5 are designed for professional and large microphones. It has two XLR inputs alongside a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack. The stereo jack is designed to accept TS or TRS plugs. TS plugs are for mono recording, while TRS is for stereo. It also has an X/Y microphone capsule. The front of the recorder has gain dials for recording. 

The features list here are packed

It has LED lights that show the active status. These lights also blink in a warning. This audio recorder records WAV files, from 44.1kHz 16bit to 48kHz 24 bit. It allows for recording in multitrack as well as a stereo mode.  The additional features include Compression, a Lo-Cut filter and Phantom Power.

This model uses power from two AA batteries and runs for 15 hours. It records four tracks simultaneously and is one of the most precise and crisp recording audio channels. It has a memory card of 32GB. Hence, from the stable of Zoom, this is one brilliant and powerful audio recorder.

Pros
  • Records in WAV files
  • Simultaneously records 4 tracks
  • 32GB internal memory
Cons
  • Expensive

Buying Guide for Best Portable Audio Recorders

best portable audio recorder buying guide

It is essential to decide what type of portable audio recorder you are looking for. They can be widely divided into three broad categories: voice-activated recorders (VAR), miniature and stereo recorders.

VAR records when they are triggered by a voice. Most of them are designed to minimize air recording and can only record when they hear sound up to a specific decibel. Miniatures are primarily used to record interviews or lectures. A stereo is a more advanced and complex recorder that can record almost every kind of sound.

What should you consider before investing in a portable audio recorder?

Sound Quality – 

Voice recorders differ based on their sound quality and can be broadly classified as amateurs and professionals-centric. Amateurs need clarity in mono sounds as they mostly record lectures, interviews, scribes, etc.

While professionals require more complex features like multi-track recording, ambient noise reduction, amongst others.

Size –

Most portable audio recorders are lightweight and fuss-free. They are easier to carry and keep in the pocket. Some complex ones are heavy and are connected to an external recording device.

Is computer compatibility required?

If yes, there are some new-age models of audio recorders like Zoom H6 and Zoom H5, among others, compatible with ios, LINUX, and Windows. They allow for seamless audio transfer.

Versatility –

Some portable audio recorders also double up as MP3 players, flash drives or even as telephone recorders. You need to decide the need for your device.

Recording type – 

Whether you require a mono recording or a stereo recording? Mono has one microphone, while stereo has 2. Some models of audio recorders also record up to 4 microphones.

Storage – 

Some recording devices have ample storage because of the high quality of their recording, some have smaller ones. You need to know how much space you would require.

Conclusion

Finding the best portable audio recorder that fits your brief, fits your budget and is a good performer is no longer a difficult task. In this review, we have tried reviewing the best brands and models that we know. While some models like Zoom and TASCAM are mini recording studios, brands like EVISTR and Olympus are fabulous for recording mono audio.

It is important to note that all smartphones can now record audio. Still, the clarity of sound, the features required to mix and match sounds and the benefits of a multitrack recorder can only be felt using a professional audio recorder. So do not doubt your decision of investing in a device that amplifies the overall post-production quality.

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