The Best Field Recorders for Capturing Sounds

Build up your sample collection, conduct interviews, and capture all your notes on the go with these top 5 handheld audio recorders.
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PRODUCT
PRODUCT DETAILS
Our #1 Rated

Even up close to a speaker, the recordings didn’t pick up any major interference or detectable distortion

One of the best in terms of battery life, and you can capture thousands of high-quality sounds with the included 4GB memory card.

The on-site interface is fantastic and enables you to capture high-quality sounds thanks to the built-in mics with phantom power.

Transferring the files to our PC was super quick which meant we could build up a big library of quality sounds easily.

It’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed when it came to the exceptional brightness and color clarity that this model offers.

For any aspiring music producer, having your own collection of unique samples is pretty much essential if you want to make your own signature tracks. Anyone can pick up a load of sample packs and throw a bunch of sounds together. And if you mess around with the original audio enough you can create something which is yours anyway, but you’re still quite limited if the sound has already been processed.

Therefore, we’re going to review some of the best mobile field recorders which you can take and use anywhere with you to instantly record any interesting sounds or crazy noises you might hear. Pretty soon you’ll have a huge bank of samples which are entirely yours, and yours alone.

In this article, we’re going to review the following Recorders for capturing sounds​:

Jump to our in-depth reviews

How Should You Choose

Luckily there’s not too many features on a field recorder which is enough to set them apart from each other drastically, however, regardless of whether you’ll be using it to capture samples, or use in interviews, you’ll definitely want to make sure it is:

  • Lightweight – You don’t want to carry a brick around everywhere with you. Make sure it’s small and light so it will easily fit in your pocket and not weigh you down too much.
  • Durable- It’s also best to go for something quite rugged with a thick outer casing incase you drop it on the floor every once in a while. Trust us, it happens!
  • Affordable – Know how we just said you might drop it occasionally? Well this is why we don’t tend to recommend going for something too expensive. It’s unnecessary… plus as long as it records in 24-bit and has a minimum frequency of 48kHz, you’ll get an optimum quality.

Our Recommendation:

Smart Choice

Roland are a manufacturer famous for its expertise in audio gear. The R-05 is a compact audio device capable of producing 24-bit stereo WAV and MP3 recordings in 96kHz. It features a unique auto record start function, as well as auto song split, auto level adjust and a pre record ability eliminating the need to manually hit REC. It also includes a built-in tripod mount and windscreen protector.

Quality
5/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend: We’re big Roland fans, and there’s rarely been an occasion where we’ve been disappointed with the products. We tested the R-05 out with different onboard gear, and mics in particular sounded dreamy. Even up close to a speaker, the recordings didn’t pick up any major interference or detectable distortion. It’s so easy to use, and we loved the fact it comes with an intuitive power saving feature.

Budget

Sony brings you the ICDU560 digital voice recorder complete with a high-sensitivity S-Mic and both ‘focus’ and ‘wide’ modes to capture the best quality audio in conferences and meetings. It records in MP3/LPCM and comes with 4GB of storage space, with MicroSD card socket for additional memory. There is a built-in FM radio with stunning LCD display, and the device is charged via USB.

Quality
4/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend: The ICDU560 is a compact and easy-to-use audio recorder which has one of the best in terms of battery life, and you can capture thousands of high-quality sounds with the included 4GB memory card. The built-in radio is a nice touch, and the only issues we experienced were with the USB port after the casing slid off a few times. Albeit, this is probably due to the budget material, and we were still able to transfer all our files quickly and easily. Overall, a handy and affordable device which delivers a solid performance.

Beginners

Tascam’s DR-05X is a refreshed revamp of the DR-05, and is a handheld digital recorder with its own 2in/2out USB audio interface. There are built-in omnidirectional dual condenser mics for optimal recording and vocal quality, with a detectable auto record function. The DR-05X is powered via AAA batteries, and comes with a 128GB microSD to give up to 192 hours of recordings.

Quality
5/5
Price
4.5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend: This handheld device makes the ideal recording tool for musicians, vocalists and journalists alike. The battery life and storage capacity in this thing is second-to-none and it still ran at full power after 6 hours. The on-site interface provides a lot to marvel too; enabling you to capture high-quality sounds thanks to the built-in mics with phantom power. We did have to adjust the original recording settings to get the best volume at first, but once set, anything we recorded was clean and solid.

Yamaha may make some of the best instruments and sound systems out there, and when it comes to their pocket recorders they continue to uphold their reputation. The PR7 is a high-quality portable recorder with Mic/Line-in inputs, HPF Dynamics Control, built-in metronome, marker editing, and overdubbing meaning you can make instant edits on the move. It also comes with a 2GB memory and micro SD card.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend: The overall recording and playback quality in the PR7 is highly clear and pristine even in the busiest of environments. Transferring the files to our PC was super quick which meant we could build up a big library of quality sounds easily. We agree with some users that the material feels a bit cheap, but this is the reason why it’s so light. And that’s something we value a lot more when it comes to portability.

Japanese manufacturer ZOOM came up with the original model for this a few years back. This is one of the most basic, yet most popular in the range. It features 4-channel 24-bit recording capabilities up to 96kHz. It also sports 2 XLR ports, plus a slot for an SD/SDHC card. The monaural speaker has a power of 400mW and 8 Ohms. There is also a Line-in/phone output plus port for USB 2.0. Works with Mac and PC.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: We like this model because it’s so small and nifty. You can literally record anything with the multi-track recording function and the ports for XLR mean you can capture outboard mics, guitars and hook up an audio interface to get the best and most professional playback quality. The battery life isn’t the best, so it’s best to pair it with an external adaptor, however once you’ve got that as a backup, you’ll get many hours of fantastically clean audio recordings from this beauty.

Conclusion

There are other handheld recorders on the market which are equally as good as the ones above, if not better. Saying that, it’s important to realize you don’t need to spend much on these recorders unless you want to pay for a bunch of useless functions you’ll probably never use. If you want something suitable for interviews and capturing notes in lectures – Sony’s ICDUX560 will easily cover your needs, whereas, if you’re looking for something with editing features and more professional looking, Roland’s R-05 could be a more suitable pick.

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