The Best Handheld Field Recorders in 2024

February 11, 2024
6 mins read

Last year, our handheld field recorder guide was a smash hit. So, we’re back with another, with an updated list to reflect the changes within the 2024 market. That Sony PCM D100 we initially recommended has become quite difficult to find! Likewise, Zoom has just announced the essential line with new H1, H4, and H6 models, so maybe they will find their way onto our list later this year when they are released.

Ensuring you have a good-quality handheld recorder is pivotal for your audio arsenal. Field recordings are essential in filmmaking, TV, music, and gaming. If you solely rely on your mirrorless camera to capture good audio, even with a microphone, you may find yourself in deep water when precise audio adjustment is needed. If you’re not quite familiar with what a field recorder is, or perhaps what the difference is between a field recorder and a field mixer, then don’t worry, as I’ve produced a tutorial on this matter for Videvo.

If you know exactly what a field recorder is and you’re here to find out which one you need, then let’s dive straight into the list.

Tascam DR-40X – $199

Tascam is widely known to be a reliable and affordable brand for handheld field recorders. The Tascam DR-40X is a great choice for beginners in the field. Retailing at $199, it includes balanced XLR inputs with phantom power, records in WAV format for high-quality audio, and features an auto-level limiter and low-cut filter to capture the best sounds.

Best Field Recorders - Tascam DR-40X

It has built-in condenser microphones that can be positioned in XY and AB positions. AB positioning can capture a wider sonic space for context, while XY focuses on smaller, tighter audio spaces. Additionally, it has two extra inputs at the bottom: XLR/TRS inputs. Apart from recording in stereo mode and dual recording mode, you can also record in 4CH Mode, recording two different stereo fields simultaneously.

Quick Specs:

  • Podcast, Sound Effects & Music Recording
  • Adjustable Unidirectional Mics
  • Dual XLR-1/4″ Inputs with Phantom Power
  • Stereo Safety Track Record Mode
  • Records in WAV up to 96 kHz
  • 3.5mm Line/Headphone Output
  • Auto Record and Pre-Record Functions
  • Internal Battery Operates for up to 18 Hours
  • Supports SD Cards up to 128GB
  • Auto-Level, Limiter, and Low-Cut Filter

Purchase here.

Tascam DR-05X $89 and DR-07X $134.95

These other two Tascam models are also great options for field recordings. The DR-05X is priced at $89 and has a handy feature that enables scheduled recordings. You can set specific times for the recorder to start and stop. This option is also more affordable than the DR-40X if you don’t want to break the bank. However, one downside to this recorder is that it is prone to radio frequency interference.

Best Field Recorders - Tascam DR-05X

The DR-07X falls in the middle of the price range at $134.95 but is also another good choice. The primary feature of this recorder is that it is best suited for louder signals. This is a great recorder for those working in busy environments or even in dialogue.

Best Field Recorders - Tascam DR-07X

Quick Specs (DR-05X and DR-07X):

  • Speech, Effects, and Music Recording
  • Onboard Omni Mics, Built-In Speaker
  • 3.5mm Mic/Line Input with Plug-In Power
  • Built-in tuner, EQ, and Reverb
  • Records in WAV Format up to 96 kHz
  • 3.5mm Line/Headphone Output
  • Auto Recording & Pre-Recording Functions
  • Battery Life up to 17.5 Hours
  • Supports microSDXC Cards up to 128GB
  • Auto Level, Limiter, and Low-Cut Filters

Purchase the DR-05X here and the DR-07X here.

Zoom H1N – $74.99

Zoom is another top brand for field recorders and a competitor of Tascam. They offer various versatile, affordable, and durable audio recorders. One of their popular field recorders is the Zoom H1N.

Best Field Recorders - Zoom H1N

Priced at $74.99, this is a great recorder for beginners with a straightforward interface. It’s highly affordable and a compact device that’s easy to carry around. It has a fixed XY configuration, allowing for good sonic performance. Additionally, it features a low-cut filter to prevent wind noise, making it suitable for outdoor recordings. However, one downside to this recorder is that it isn’t sufficient for effectively eliminating loud background noise.

Quick Specs:

  • Speech, Sound Effects & Music Recording
  • Onboard Stereo Mic, Built-In Speaker
  • 3.5mm Mic/Line Input with Plug-In Power
  • Simple Layout of Common Controls
  • Records in WAV up to 96 kHz
  • 3.5mm Line/Headphone Output
  • Auto-Record & Pre-Record Functions
  • Battery Life up to 10 Hours
  • Supports microSDHC Cards up to 32GB
  • Auto-Level, Limiter & Low-Cut Filter

Purchase here.

Zoom H4N Pro – $249.99

For those looking for something a bit more high-end, as well as higher-quality recordings, the H4n Pro is an excellent choice. Priced at $249.99, it includes great features and delivers high-standard performance.

Best Field Recorders - Zoom H4N Pro

It has built-in stereo capsules in an XY configuration that can be positioned between 90 and 120 degrees. This field recorder’s optimized noise floor makes it great, improving low-volume recordings. This is especially useful when recording outdoor nature sounds in quieter environments. However, if you need a device that can store a large number of files, please note that this recorder can only accommodate SD cards up to 32 GB.

Quick Specs:

  • Sleek Black Finish and Red Accent
  • Onboard Stereo Mic and Built-In Speaker
  • Dual XLR-1/4″ Mic/Line/Instrument Inputs
  • Overdubbing and 4-Channel Recording
  • Records in WAV up to 96 kHz
  • 3.5mm Line/Headphone Output
  • Built-In FX for Mixing Tracks
  • Battery Life up to 10 Hours
  • Supports SDHC Cards up to 32GB
  • Metronome and Tuner Functions

Purchase here.

Zoom H8 Handy Recorder $339.99

This boisterous-looking handheld recorder is a ground-breaking device that packs a lot of useful features for any type of creator. With a total of 8 inputs and 12 tracks, it keeps all bases covered and is unlikely to run short of inputs. If the situation arises, the top microphone capsule can be replaced with an expander capsule with an extra four XLR inputs (EXH-8 Capsule).

This can also act as a powerful multi-channel USB audio interface that you can connect to your PC, Mac, or iPad. The Zoom H8 is equipped with professional recording elements and can record up to 24-bit/96kHz. It can use a BWF-compliant WAV format, ideal for television broadcasting or motion pictures, or other MP3 formats for less storage. Furthermore, the Zoom H8 has a large, high-resolution touchscreen, which is super handy for monitoring levels and is a breeze for interacting with the user interface.

Zoom accompanies the recorder with an iOS app that allows you to monitor levels on your iPhone. However, you will need to purchase the adapter (BTA-1) separately to use this feature.

Quick Specs:

  • Customized applications for field recording, music, and podcasting
  • 3 distinct interfaces for field recording, music, and podcasting
  • Interchangeable input capsules
  • 12-track simultaneous recording
  • Four XLR mic inputs and two XLR/TRS combo connectors
  • Gain control knobs and -20dB pads for each input
  • Supplied XYH-6 X/Y capsule provides secondary input via a stereo ⅛” Mic/Line In mini phone jack
  • Phantom power for all six XLR mic inputs: +24/+48V
  • Large color LCD touchscreen display
  • Records directly to SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards up to 512GB
  • Up to 24-bit /96kHz audio in BWF-compliant WAV or a variety of MP3 formats
  • Auto-record, Pre-record, and Backup-record functions mean that you’ll never miss that perfect take
  • Built-in effects, including low-cut filtering, compression, and limiting
  • Multichannel and stereo USB audio interface for PC/Mac/iPad
  • Accepts standard AA alkaline or NiMH rechargeable batteries
  • Over 10 hours of operation with 4 AA alkaline batteries

Purchase here.

Roland R-07 $138.00

Need a small, compact audio recorder for everyday use? The Roland R-07 is the perfect choice for those who are frequently on the go and love to capture those audio memories. It’s one of the smaller-sized recorders on this list but packs a punch with its set of features.

This stylish portable recorder employs Bluetooth technology with the ability to remotely control your R-07 from your tablet, smartphone, or Apple Watch. With its standout feature of “Scene” presets, it can fine-tune the recorder for the optimal configuration to set scenarios such as Loud Practice, Field, and more. Furthermore, it has a backup track system, which is recorded at a lower level to avoid distortion and provides more headroom. It has you covered!

The downside to its market competitors is that it doesn’t have extra XLR ports for additional microphones, as well as an XY microphone capsule. If you want something pocketable, cute, and easy to use, this is a great choice.

Purchase here.

Quick Specs

  • WAV support: 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz, 16/24-bit
  • MP3 support: 64/96/128/160/192/224/320 kbps
  • Hybrid Limiter and Dual Recording
  • Bluetooth remote control up to four units with smartphone and Apple Watch
  • Wireless headphone and speaker playback
  • One-touch Scene function for instant setup in any recording scenario
  • Tuner and metronome for musical applications
  • Rehearsal function for perfect input levels with a single touch
  • 128 x 64 graphic LCD with white backlight for easy visibility
  • Supports microSD cards (SD, SDHC)
  • Mic/aux Input and headphone output
  • Runs on batteries (AA x 2) or USB bus power
  • Built-in speaker for convenient playback anywhere
  • Stylish, compact design available in black, red, or white
  • Simultaneous WAV and MP3 recording

As much as I hate to say it, a few hundred dollars, pounds, or euros is not a lot of money when it comes to filmmaking and audio gear. Often, when shopping within this price bracket, the gear from different manufacturers tends to have similar functionalities, but the design is different.

Then, preference often comes down to the look of the tool. However, with field recorders, you can often find a slight difference between different manufacturers, even if they are both priced at $200. So, be sure to comb through each of the specifications briefly to find your perfect field recorder

For more on audio gear, check out these articles:

Lewis McGregor

Lewis McGregor is a filmmaker, photographer and online content creator from Wales.