The 10 Best Digital Audio Recorders

Updated June 15, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Digital Audio Recorders
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. We've lined up the best digital audio recorders out there today and ranked them by sonic clarity, storage capacity, battery life and durability in the field, so you can capture any type of audio any time, anywhere. Most models also offer the convenience of easy file transfer to a computer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best digital audio recorder on Amazon.

10. Olympus DP-201

The Olympus DP-201 offers over 200 hours of recording time, an 80-hour battery life, and a convenient LCD screen that is easy to read and makes tracking the amount of recording time used and remaining quite simple. Unfortunately, the quality of the recordings isn't great.
  • calendar search function
  • large control buttons
  • cannot connect to computers
Brand Olympus
Model DP-201
Weight 9.3 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Sangean DAR-101

The Sangean DAR-101 is hardly pocket-sized, like many units on our list, but it is feature-rich, with multiple recording modes. It offers timer-based recording functionality, great for capturing audio from events or programs, and adjustable backlighting on the LCD.
  • rapid charge feature
  • 3 recording speeds
  • recordings don't start immediately
Brand Sangean
Model DAR-101
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. TASCAM DR-40

With dual recording capabilities that capture a safety track to reduce the possibility of corrupted tracks, the TASCAM DR-40 is a fine option for any serious audiophile. This unit is equally as suitable for use in the field as in the studio.
  • movable microphone positioning
  • 4 channel recording
  • doesn't last long on battery power
Brand Tascam
Model DR-40
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Zoom H4N PRO

The Zoom H4N PRO has the capability to record using both built-in and external microphones, giving it a versatility few others match. Its large LCD screen allows for easy monitoring by its operator, making it great for use while you're on-the-go at a live event.
  • compatible remote control available
  • creates natural sounding recordings
  • inputs have phantom power
Brand Zoom
Model H4NSP
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

6. Sony ICD-PX312

The Sony ICD-PX312 has 2 GB of flash memory built right into the unit, and is capable of recording audio at a quality of 320 kbps. An integrated USB port allows for direct connection to any Mac or Windows computer to upload recordings.
  • reduces ambient noise
  • integrated memory card slot
  • voice-operated recording
Brand Sony
Model ICDPX312
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Roland R-05

With its strong metallic exterior and high quality built-in stereo microphone recording capabilities, the Roland R-05 is perfect for the moment when audio inspiration strikes, be it at a concert, on the campaign trail, or home alone.
  • plays both mp3 and wav files
  • built-in tripod mounting socket
  • numerous editing features
Brand Roland
Model R-05
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Zoom H1

The Zoom H1 boasts a stylish, modern aesthetic, and has been designed to provide maximum recording time from a conveniently handheld device. It records MP3 files in a range of 48 to 320 kbps to maximize the amount of audio you can capture.
  • clearly captures radio broadcasts
  • integrated stereo mic
  • 32gb micro sd card support
Brand Zoom
Model ZH1
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. TASCAM DR-100mkII

The TASCAM DR-100mkII features dual battery systems for hours of recording, and two sets of microphones for recording any type of high quality audio. Users can choose from the cardioid or omnidirectional mic, depending on the audio they want.
  • sturdy aluminum construction
  • soft case is included
  • intuitive design for easy operation
Brand Tascam
Model DR-100mkII
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Sony ICD-UX533BLK

The Sony ICD-UX533BLK is simple to use and has an affordable price that makes it ideal for college students. Despite its low price, it produces clear recordings, even when capturing speakers from far away because of its automatic recording level volume adjustment.
  • bright display backlighting
  • usb port for computer connection
  • multiple recording formats
Brand Sony
Model ICD-UX533
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Olympus LS-14

The Olympus LS-14 has a unique Tresmic three mic system that includes one directional microphone on each side and an omnidirectional microphone sandwiched between them to pick up lower frequency ranges. The result is enhanced sound isolation and high quality recordings.
  • built-in speaker
  • 4gb internal storage
  • impressively long battery life
Brand Olympus
Model LS-14 Linear PCM Record
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Stereo Recording In The Palm Of Your Hand

In 1981, Brian De Palma took a fascinating film by Michelangelo Antonioni and remade it for American audiences. The original 1966 film, Blow Up, was about a shallow fashion photographer inadvertently capturing evidence of a murder in the background of one of his shots. It's the vaguest hint of evidence that only seems to look more vague as he increasingly blows up the image, seeing less as he works to see more.

De Palma's 1981 film, Blow Out, works on the same premise, but it's an audio recorder that captures the evidence instead of a camera, and the guy at the center of the drama is played by John Travolta before he became a caricature of himself.

That character, instead of being a fashion photographer, is a foley artist, a person who creates and recreates natural and unnatural sounds for use in movies. In the film, we get to see Travolta manipulating the latest mobile field recording equipment that 1980 had to offer, and it's amazing to see how far we've come since then.

The digital audio recorders on this list capture unbelievably clear sound, either from built-in stereo microphones, or through XLR and 1/4" inputs for microphones, MIDI outs, and more. They record, most often, to SD cards, so your storage space is only limited by how much you want to spend on it.

What's more, you can track multiple channels at a time–up to eight recording simultaneously with some models–and re-record on top of these to create multiple layers as you go. However many tracks you do record, there are limiter options, dual recording functions, and a variety of other tools to keep your audio from peaking and keep your signal clean and easy to edit.

If Travolta had had one of these puppies back in '81, well, it would have been a much shorter film.

Tracking Counts, So Count Your Tracks

When I was in bands throughout my middle school and high school days, we had 4-track and 8-track recorders that wrote to cassette tapes. They had enough inputs on them that we could cobble together a decent sounding demo tape to book ourselves some shows, and it always surprised club owners to meet the 13 and 14-year-olds they thought were at least around 18 when they listened to the music. Our ages might have gotten us kicked off of those bills, but the music–and the devices we used to track it–got us in the door.

It was important to us that we could track up to eight microphones at once, since a good drum sound requires at least three or four mics, and we had two guitars, a bass, and vocals to add on to that. If you're looking into digital recorders for music tracking, the more inputs you can work at the same time, the better.

Of course, you can get much smaller, more portable interfaces if you don't need as many tracks, still with the full suite of features.

On the features front, it's a good idea to pick your device based on your specific needs. Sound guys on film sets like the Zoom series quite a bit for its size, simplicity, and reliability, but I've had great times on set with Tascam products and their intuitive dual recording feature. With that feature, which easily toggles on and off on the bulk of their units–your audio gets recorded to two tracks, one of which can be set up to 12 dB quieter than the main audio. This way, if one of your actors screams in the middle of a take, you'll have it clean on the quieter channel.

Bigger isn't always better in this world, so ask yourself how many tracks you need, and what you need them to do to help guide you toward your best choice.

Is Anything Analogue Anymore?

Technically, digital audio recording started long before we had a digital medium on which to store the data. The first digital tape recorders of the 1970s took an incoming analogue audio signal and converted it to a digital binary, then recorded the information back onto an analogue tape. It was kind of like how a mama bird feeds a baby bird. So, you might ask, why bother with the conversion at all?

Well, by systematically assigning binary values to specific wavelengths, it would become much easier to scrub out undesirable frequencies and noises. Where tape captured all the intended and unintended sound making its way into a studio microphone, the digital medium could more easily filter out the sound of that passing train in the background, or the electric buzz of a poorly wired light fixture.

It was the compact disc introduced by Sony and Phillips in 1982 that offered recording artists a digital medium on which to print and store their recordings.

Advancements in computing and digital storage led to the smaller, more reliable storage formats we use today, even as the initial interface–the microphone and mixer–has remained more or less the same.



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Last updated on June 15, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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