The Best Handheld Field Recorders in 2023

Clear field recordings are vital for film, music, and gaming. Good handheld recorders capture immersive outdoor sounds. Check top microphones available.

Ensuring you have a good-quality handheld recorder can be a great tool in your audio arsenal. Field recordings are essential in filmmaking, TV, music, and gaming. There are numerous field recorders on the market, but here is a list of top-rated field recording microphones.

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 H6 – $349.99

The Zoom H6 is a step up from the H4n Pro, priced $100 higher at $349.99. However, it is worth the price considering its features. This handy piece of equipment has two additional XLR inputs, providing four extra inputs. In total, you can record six simultaneous tracks! This is a useful tool for adding multiple microphones to achieve a more immersive sound recording, and each input has its own gain control knob.

Best Field Recorders - Zoom H6

This is a great choice for any filmmaker due to the extra input/output, and it can still be used with just the two XY capsules for simple field recording. Furthermore, the XY capsules are swappable, allowing you to purchase different capsules based on the type of recordings you’re conducting. The only hindrance to the H6 is the tilted screen design, which some may see as a flaw as it can make monitoring difficult depending on the recorder’s positioning. However, overall, it is a very versatile piece of audio gear.

Quick Specs:

  • Live/Location Recording & Podcasting
  • Swappable X/Y Stereo Mic Capsule
  • 4 x XLR-1/4″ Mic/Line Inputs with Pads
  • Fast, User-Friendly Operability
  • Records in WAV up to 96 kHz
  • 3.5mm Line & Headphone Outputs
  • Onboard Compressor & Low-Cut Filter
  • Powered via Batteries, AC, or USB
  • Supports SDXC Cards up to 128GB
  • Stereo Safety Track Recording

Purchase here.

Sony PCM D100 – Varies in After-Market Price.

While Tascam and Zoom are the primary field recorder brands that most audiophiles gravitate towards, Sony created the PCM D100, a well-built audio recorder. Although discontinued, many audiophiles have praised this device’s fantastic and high-quality recording capabilities. If you’re willing to pay the price, you can still get your hands on one. The PCM D100 is considered a game-changer in the field of recording.

Best Field Recorders - Sony PCM D1000

The main features of this recorder stem from its sturdiness and portability. It is designed to capture the best recordings with quiet preamps and can record up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, ensuring high fidelity from a wide range of audio sources. It has two built-in stereo microphones and two XLR/TRS combo inputs for external microphones. Additionally, it offers onboard editing tools, including a three-band equalizer, low-cut filter, and limiter. However, as a professional recording device, one drawback is the lack of an additional XLR input. Nevertheless, it remains an overall high-standard recorder.

Quick Specs:

  • Records PCM, DSD, MP3 Formats
  • Up to 192kHz/24-Bit PCM, 2.8224MHz DSD
  • 32GB Internal Memory & SDXC Card Slot
  • Stereo Mics with Multiple Positions
  • Aluminum Construction
  • 32-Bit D/A Converters
  • Includes Remote & Furry Windscreen
  • Includes Batteries & Carry Case
  • Includes Sound Forge Studio LE Software

Choosing a field recorder depends heavily on your unique needs, budget, and preference. As we’ve explored, there is no one-size-fits-all device; each recorder shines in its specific areas: affordability, versatility, audio quality, or user-friendly design. Considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and select a field recorder that best suits your audio recording needs.

For more on audio gear, check out these articles:

XLR vs. Jack: What Are The Differences Between The Two Cables?

What Are The Functions of a Microphone Preamp?

What is ASMR and How Can You Make It?

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