Choosing a Digital Voice Recorder: at-a-Glance:
- Digital recorders are portable, versatile, and ultra-convenient
- They’re a lot more stable and reliable than computers or phones
- Some audio recorders can act as USB microphones or USB interfaces for your computer
- There are voice recorders for all budgets, the price often scaling with how many external mics you can plug in
Find full details and our recommended recorders right here!
The most essential thing you need for any podcast is a recording device. To create an audio file, you must be able to record your voice!
Our ‘Best Digital Recorders’ guide was initially written in 2016. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in technology, our recommendations, and because we’re always learning new things.
PS – looking for software rather than hardware? Check out our Best Podcast Recording Software roundup. Or, take a look at our How to Record a Podcast guide if you’d like to start with the very basics.
Physical audio recording devices take many forms, from basic dictaphones to full-quality professional handheld audio recorders. Even your computer can act as a digital recorder. It’s possible to record a regular podcast using no more than a laptop and its built-in mic.
But, when you start looking to improve your sound and workflow, a good standalone digital voice recorder (sometimes called a handheld recorder or a field recorder) is a vital tool. Here I will take you through the digital recorder options, from entry-level to pro kit. Whatever your podcasting needs and budget, you’ll find something that suits you right here.
Anyone who’s into broadcasting will tell you it’s vital to have at least a simple mobile recording device in your arsenal. Without a recorder that you can carry around, you’ll be stuck at your computer desk for all your podcast creation. This can be quite limiting.
Thinking beyond planned recording sessions, many podcasters will keep a little dictaphone handy when they’re out and about. This is just in case they unexpectedly come across a great guest; you never know when an ideal interview subject will fall into your lap.
How to Choose the Best Digital Recorder for Voice or Podcasting
It’s worth spending more than the minimum on a podcast recording device – with this type of kit, the quality depends on price. Moving above the $80+ mark generally takes you into the range of good-quality digital voice recorders, and you can spend infinitely more than that if you try.
To get started, buy what you can afford or use the equipment you already have available. Better to get started with basic kit than not at all.
But over time, you might look to save up for something that’ll give you tonnes of recording options and can really help you take your podcast sound to the next level.
A quick heads up that the links here we use are affiliates, but rest assured, we never recommend anything that we wouldn’t use ourselves. Affiliates help support all the free content we put out and never cost you a penny more, should you choose to buy through them.
Alright, let’s take a tour through the best podcast recorder options on the market – starting at the sub-$100 level.
The Zoom H1n
For the budget-conscious podcast producer, have no fear. The sub-$100 Zoom H1n records high-quality audio in stereo or mono using its onboard X-Y mics. They are extremely high-end for the price and capture details very well. You can’t plug in any XLR mics, but you can connect a lavalier mic or two.
The H1n is easy to operate, with many functions easily selectable via buttons on the recorder rather than cycling through endless menus.
The unit is about the size of a handheld microphone. Recording is quick with a tactile record button that is easy to find without looking. The Zoom H1n is also a great device to get started in stereo field recording for audio dramas on a budget.
The Tascam DR-05X boasts similar features to the Zoom H1n. It has a lovely compact design, is easy to operate, and offers great audio quality for the price.
I have used the DR-05 and the H1N interchangeably. The only con to the Tascam is that the record button is more difficult to find by touch.
The DR-05X model is an updated and improved version of the initial Tascam DR-05.
What About the Sony ICD-PX470?
The Sony ICD-PX470 gets mentioned a lot in digital voice recorder roundups (could that be due to its catchy name?). This is a sub $50 option, so it might appeal to folks on a very tight budget. However, having used one of these a few years ago, it must be said that the sound quality isn’t brilliant. If you can afford to spend a little more, get a Zoom H1n. And if you can’t stretch to that, you’d likely get better quality audio by recording on your phone.
High-Quality Digital Podcast Recorders – Under $200
In the $100-$200 range, the features of the digital audio recorder get much more flexible. Typically, these recorders capture higher-quality audio with less noise. As an added bonus, this tier of recorder typically allows the use of XLR microphones and even phantom power for sweet, silky condenser mics.
Sometimes, it is difficult to classify recorders, as they differ from other recorders in their price range in terms of overall functionality. The Zoom H2n is one such recorder, and I’d be remiss not to mention it as a highly compact, all-in-one recorder perfectly suited to podcasting.
The H2n doesn’t allow external XLR microphones like its cousins in the under $200 range. Instead, it is fitted with multiple microphones, making it a perfect grab-and-go recorder to record in several different mono, stereo, multichannel, and even surround sound formats.
The H2n is my go-to recorder when attending conferences and other events where there might be recording opportunities.
With quiet pre-amps, great audio quality, and a host of excellent features, the Tascam DR-40X is a fantastic package.
It can record four tracks simultaneously, using its onboard mics in tandem with two external microphones. This makes it perfect for group or ’roundtable’ recordings. The DR-40X’s small form factor allows the recorder to fit easily in a small bag or purse.
It records up to pro-quality 96/24 – more than enough to handle everything from interviews to recording sound effects as they happen.
Zoom H4n Pro
Zoom’s entry in this weight class is the ever-popular Zoom H4n. I own one of these, and if it ever kicks the bucket, I will likely buy another. While the DR-40X has the edge over the H4n with quieter preamps, the difference, to most ears, is unnoticeable.
Both devices can act as a USB Audio Interface, record at 96/24 and produce great-quality sound in easy-to-operate packages.
Pro-Level Digital Podcast Recorders – Under $300
In the $300 range, handheld digital recorders become more customized with features that suit different recording styles. Choosing which features are suitable for your podcast will depend heavily on your style of podcasting and the needs of your show.
The Zoom H5 is a great pick for producers looking for versatility in their digital voice recorder.
It’s a brilliant handheld device for on-the-go recording, with its top quality and interchangeable onboard mic. But, it also performs brilliantly as an in-studio device, for recording from a mixer or acting as a USB microphone or interface for your computer.
With interchangeable capsules to fit X-Y, Vocal and Shotgun microphone setups, not to mention two additional jacks with phantom power to handle any of your external condenser mics, the H5 steps up in terms of the ultimate configurability.
The Zoom H6 is one of the best portable digital recorders on the market these days. However, their price has dropped by a good $100 in recent years. These recorders are everything the Zoom H5 is, with a few bells and whistles.
The Zoom H6’s USP is in its ability to record six individual audio tracks simultaneously. This makes it an excellent choice for folks who do larger group recordings. This could be anything from a roundtable discussion to a troupe of audio drama actors.
Top Level Digital Voice Recorder – Over $300
You’ll get excellent sound quality with even the cheapest recommended digital voice recorders in this roundup. But if money is no object, or if you’re creating an ultimate podcasting wishlist, then is there a top-shelf podcast recorder option to consider?
Tascam Portacapture X8
The brilliant Tascam DR-100 might’ve been discontinued, but the Tascam Portacapture X8 easily steps into its shoes.
This high-end recorder has a touchscreen interface and allows you to record up to eight audio tracks simultaneously. You can record at an impressive 192kHz, and with 32-bit floating. Put simply, this means there’s almost no risk of you peaking or clipping your audio, even if you’ve set your gain a little too high.
The Portacapture X8 is perfect for the podcaster and field recordist who wants pristine, high-sample-rate audio for professional productions and clean sound effects/field recording.
Dedicated Podcast Recorders ($150 – $800+)
Okay, so this type of gear is a little different from the others mentioned in the roundup. These podcast recorders can’t be used ‘dictaphone-style’ because you need to plug an XLR mic into them to record. However, they’re packed with podcast-specific features that can streamline your workflow and make your life easier.
Zoom PodTrak P4
The $150 solution is the fantastic Zoom PodTrak P4. It looks and feels similar to the other digital recorders in the Zoom range, but with a few added features.
There are four XLR inputs on the recorder, and you can record each person on their own individual track. You can also connect your computer, tablet, or smartphone to record remote calls, too. There are sound pads so you can play music, sound effects, and other pre-recorded content during your episodes, and the independent headphone volume control is a nice extra touch.
Rode Rodecaster Pro II
It’s a superb basis for building a studio around. With multitrack recording features, to online and phone call recording capabilities, the Rodecaster is often referred to as ‘the ultimate podcast recorder’.
It doesn’t need a computer to function and is still portable enough for you to use in different locations, too.
But a brand new Rodecaster II will set you back about $700, and that’s before you pick at least one mic to plug into it. So definitely not one for the “on a tight budget” podcaster!
Mackie DLZ Creator
The Mackie DLZ Creator looks and works similar to the Rodecaster Pro II, but it’ll cost you even more to buy.
You do get more (literally) with the Mackie DLZ because it’s a bigger bit of kit. You might see this as a pro or a con because it’ll take up more room, but its increased screen size will appeal to many. There are also a number of features that make it easier for the complete beginner to record pro-sounding audio. That said, if you are a complete beginner, do you need to be spending over $800 on one single audio device? Only you will know for sure!
Ready to Record Your Podcast?
I hope this roundup has helped you if you’re in the market for a podcast recorder.
Remember, you can also plug external mics into most digital recorders, so check out our best microphone guide if you’re interested in going down that road.
And finally, why not pop into the IndiePod Community? It’s the ultimate place for podcasters of all stages to meet, collaborate, and mix. There, you can get (or offer) help, advice, or feedback on all things podcasting, from digital recorder choices to topics like growth and monetisation. We’d love to see you in there!