What are some digital recorders

Mobile digital recorder up to 400 euros

Compact and lightweight, mobile digital recorders suitable for a wide variety of recording situations: recording interviews, recording nature noises (aka field recording), recording concerts and more. Here you will find six candidates from 100 to 400 euros. Even with the smallest and inexpensive models, the technology is so advanced today that you hardly have to compromise on the recording quality.

Hot Stuff: Mobile digital recorders for recordings on the go

From Felix Baarß

From 100 - 400 euros: mobile digital recorder

At least the four small models around the 100 euro mark are close together in terms of quality and equipment. But there are also some common features when we include the higher-end audio recorders. The features that are common to all test subjects are listed here:

Mobile digital recorders of this type have at least ...

  • 2 integrated condenser microphones for stereo recordings
  • At least one input for external microphones or other sound sources
  • A slot for SD cards to store the recordings
  • A headphone jack
  • A loudspeaker

When it comes to amateur recordings, our mobile recorders hardly differ, you are well equipped with all of them. But if you want a little more and the highest quality is required, only two mobile digital recorders in our list come into question - the most expensive models from ZOOM and TASCAM.

ZOOM H1n

Dimensions: 50 × 138 × 32 mm | Weight: 82 g (with batteries) | 89 €

One of the cheapest and lightest candidates for mobile digital recorders is characterized by very simple operation. The manufacturer relies on a plastic housing - the flyweight makes long interviews with an outstretched arm and comparable recording situations child's play.

Auto-leveling for automatic leveling is worth mentioning among the extended functions. Or use as a USB microphone and playback device on PC, Mac and iPhone or iPad. In contrast to its predecessor (without an »n« in the product name), the following is now offered: a higher sample rate (96 kHz), overdubbing, a limiter, regulation of the input level using the rotary knob, output of a level tone and iOS compatibility.

A successful device that can still be operated very straightforwardly even after the expansion for everyone who likes to travel a lot to make stereo recordings in good to excellent quality.

Last but not least, the tailor-made accessory package, which is available for an inexpensive € 25, should be highlighted: With a windshield, tripod, tripod adapter, bag and USB power supply unit and cable.

TASCAM DR-05X

Dimensions: 61 × 141 × 26 mm | Weight: 165 g (with batteries) | € 125

The revised version of the popular small device enables good recordings with two omnidirectional microphones in AB orientation - detailed, balanced and low-noise. The battery life is extraordinary with around 17.5 hours in a row with CD quality.

But this mobile digital recorder scores with a wealth of features that are otherwise only offered by large, expensive models. There would be, for example, the early recording (at least two seconds), a level-controlled start of the recording, a dictation mode with EQ for more speech intelligibility, overdubbing, punch-in recording and much more. The USB connection serves either as a mere power supplier, for use as an audio interface (an ASIO driver for Windows is available) or for reading out the microSD card.

All of this cannot be taken for granted for 125 euros. The lid of the battery compartment could be a little tighter, but otherwise no real weaknesses can be identified.

»You can find more in the TASCAM DR-05X test

TASCAM DR-22WL

Dimensions: 52 × 155 × 37 mm | Weight: 170 g (with batteries) | 129 €

This candidate is bigger and significantly heavier, but also wrapped in a more solid dress than the little one from ZOOM. One of the most prominent features is the WLAN capability, which enables files to be exchanged wirelessly under Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS. Much more interesting: For smartphones and tablets with the above-mentioned Google and Apple operating systems there are apps for remote control and monitoring of the device - for starting and stopping recordings from a distance, level displays, etc.

In addition, there is a whole range of functions for demanding professional use: the possibility of recording in BWF format (including with integrated time code), microSDXC support (max. 128 GB), simultaneous recording in WAV and MP3, a reverb effect and much more. The surcharge compared to the H1 is therefore justified without the slightest doubt.

»You can find more in the TASCAM DR-22WL test

TASCAM DR-07X

Dimensions: 68 × 158 × 26 mm | Weight: 171 g (with batteries) | € 149

Apart from one aspect, this portable recorder offers the same features as the DR-05X described above. The difference: the TASCAM DR-07X has integrated swiveling microphones with cardioid characteristics.

This means that you a) get a certain directional effect (stronger suppression of background noises) and b) you can vary the width of the stereo panorama. The XY alignment is more classic, a bit tighter, but also potentially cleaner with less phase cancellation. AB, on the other hand, is very broad.

The surcharge is more than justified for this gain in flexibility - if you want more sound freedom, but are still looking for a very light and handy recorder, you can choose the 7 model.

Olympus LS-P4

Dimensions: 40 × 109 × 14 mm | Weight: 86 g (with batteries) | 159 €

It's amazing how compact this portable digital recorder is. Meanwhile, the weight is hardly any higher than the ZOOM H1n. The display is big enough and shows much more than just the most important information.

The model is, on the other hand, the best in terms of the internal memory of 8 GB - in the absence of an SD card, it can be used for long sessions with lossless recordings. In addition to WAV, the FLAC format is also supported.

There are more specialties. A third microphone is located in the center in the front, which captures the sound with an omnidirectional characteristic. It makes the sound bass stronger, fuller - this is usually recommended, since the X / Y mics alone sound quite thin. Also a real treat: an integrated USB plug (type A) can be pushed out of this recorder!

TASCAM DR-40X

Dimensions: 70 × 155 × 35 mm | Weight: 282 g (with batteries) | 199 €

If you are looking for a strong representative from the "upper middle class mobile digital recorder" department, you cannot ignore the TASCAM DR-40X. In addition to its two swiveling cardioid microphones (the same as in the DR-07X illuminated above), this 4-track recorder offers two combo sockets (XLR / 6.3 mm) for mic and line signals.

Among the extended features, the dual recording is particularly commendable. Two parallel recordings of the same source are always made - one with the normal, manually set or automatically regulated input level and the second with a level that is 6 to 12 dB lower than that. This safety recording should eliminate all unexpected level peaks and clipping.

Otherwise, compared to the smaller models of the X series, there is an even longer battery life, additional dedicated buttons for more direct operation and a slightly larger display.

ZOOM H4n Pro

Dimensions: 73 × 157 × 37 mm | Weight: 294 g (with batteries) | 199 €

The tried and tested H4n - now known as the H4nSP - is still number 1 among many music retailers in the “Mobile Digital Recorder” category. The combination of 4-track recording and numerous advanced functions for currently around 185 euros is extremely attractive. Now there is a successor with the ZOOM H4n Pro, which goes one better in many respects and fully justifies the additional costs.

In terms of sound, a leap forward has been made. The background noise is lower (practically nonexistent in practice) and now at the latest the large headroom ensures that record-breaking loud concert recordings can be made. The microphone preamplifiers come from the company's own H6 and H5.

Furthermore, a rubberized housing is now available, which offers significantly more grip (even with sweaty hands) and still allows one-handed operation. It is also worth mentioning the possibility of using it as a USB audio interface on PC & Mac, for example for podcasts. With its guitar effects from the in-house multi-effects device G5n and the tuner, the youngest offspring of the Japanese is also very interesting for string lovers.

Overall, this mobile digital recorder convinces with an excellent price-performance ratio.

»You can find more in the ZOOM H4n Pro review

TASCAM DR-100MKIII

Dimensions: 80 × 156 × 35 mm | Weight: 425 g (with batteries) | € 328

The manufacturer's top model is the best-equipped mobile digital recorder in our compilation - and in various sound-relevant specifications it stands alone at the top. If you want to make flawless stereo recordings in the recorder category with two XLR / jack inputs, this is probably the best place for you. The other possible sound sources also include a digital S / PDIF source - this is unique in this device class.

The basis for the posh sound in 44.1 to 192 (!) KHz is created by the signal-to-noise ratio of 109 dB when the two integrated analog-digital converters are used in combination. The microphone preamplifiers are also used in the manufacturer's current audio interfaces.

Outdoor audio fans will also be delighted with the marathon qualities of the TASCAM DR-100MKIII. With the integrated microphones and the lithium-ion battery, you can record up to twelve hours if you are content with "only" 16 bit & 44.1 kHz. But that's not all: You can insert two AA batteries during operation, so that you can continue recording seamlessly when the integrated rechargeable battery is running low. And then there is the option of power supply via USB port ...

»You can find more in the TASCAM DR-100 MK3 test

Use mobile digital recorders correctly

In our Field Recording Tutorial you will learn the most important tricks for recording in nature - whether for fine video sound, atmospheres for music production or other things.