The Best Digital Podcast Recorders on the Market

A digital podcast recorder is essential for flexibility and quality in podcasting. This guide details digital recorders for any budget.

digital recorders

Choosing a Digital Podcast Recorder: At-a-Glance

  • Digital recorders are portable, versatile, and ultra-convenient
  • They're a lot more stable and reliable than computers or phones
  • Different tiers of recorders have different features
  • Find a recorder that suits your budget, as well as your needs: Read on for the full details…

The most basic thing you need for any podcast is a recording device. Pretty simply, to create an audio file, you need to be able to record your voice!

Recording devices take many forms, from really basic dictaphones to full-quality professional audio recorders. At a basic level, your computer can act as a recording device – it’s easily possible to record a regular podcast using no more than a laptop and its inbuilt microphone.

But, when you start looking to improve both your sound and your workflow, a good digital podcast recorder is a vital tool. Here I'm going to 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 right here.

Why Do I Need a Digital Recorder for Podcasting?

Zoom H5 digital podcast recorder in carry case

Anyone that'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 come across a great guest unexpectedly; you never know when an ideal interview subject will fall into your lap.

I use a digital recorder for a whole load of different purposes, including directly in my studio recording. I record from a mixer right into my Zoom H6 as I find it's the most reliable method, by a long shot. My other favoured way of getting content, out and about, is through face to face interviews. You can see in this article how to use a digital recorder to best effect in that context.

How to Choose the Best Podcasting Digital Recorder

It’s worth spending more than the minimum on a podcast recording device – with this type of kit the quality is very dependent on price. Moving above the $50+ mark generally takes you into the range of good quality recorders, and you can spend infinitely more than that it you try.

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To get started, just 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 to 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.

So let's get started walking through the best podcast recorder options on the market then – starting at the sub-$100 level.

Budget Level Digital Podcast Recorders – Under $100

The Zoom H1N

Zoom H1n podcast recorder

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.  

The H1N is easy to operate, with many of its 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 very easy to find without looking. The Zoom H1N is also a great device if you are interested in getting started in stereo field recording for audio dramas on a budget.

Read our full Zoom H1 review

Tascam DR-05

tascam dr-05

Tascam's answer to budget handheld recording. The Tascam DR-05 boasts similar features to the H1N, a compact design, easy to operate, and 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.

Read our full Tascam DR-05 review

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 record higher-quality audio with less noise. As an added bonus, this tier of recorders allows the use of XLR microphones and even phantom power for sweet, silky condenser mics.

Tascam DR-40X

tascam DR-40X podcast recorder

With quiet pre-amps and, great audio quality, and a host of excellent features, the Tascam DR-40X is a fantastic package. 

It's able to 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

Zoom H4n Digital Podcast Recorder

Zoom's entry in this weight class is the ever-popular Zoom H4N.  I own one of these and if it ever kicks it, I will likely buy another. While the DR-40X edges the H4n into 2nd 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 recorders become more customized with features that suit different styles of recording.  Choosing which features are right for your podcast is going to depend heavily on your style of podcasting and the needs of your show.

Zoom H5

zoom h5 digital recorder for podcasting

The Zoom H5 is a great pick for producers looking for versatility in their portable recording. 

With interchangeable capsules to fit X-Y, Vocal and Shotgun microphone setups, and two additional jacks with phantom power to handle any of your external microphones, the H5 steps up in terms of the ultimate configurability.

Read our full Zoom H5 review

Tascam DR-100 MKIII

DR-100 MKIII

What the Tascam DR-100 lacks in configurability, it makes up for in quality. 

With quiet pre-amps and an impressive 192/24 recording capability, this unit is perfect for the podcaster and field recordist who wants pristine, high-sample-rate audio for professional productions and clean sound effects/field recording. 

Top Level Podcast Recorders – Over $300

You'll get excellent sound quality with even the cheapest recorder in this roundup. But if money is no object, or if you're creating an ultimate podcasting wishlist, then here are a couple of podcast recorder options to consider.

Zoom H6

Zoom H6 with 6 mics

The Zoom H6 is the cream of the crop when it comes to portable digital recorders.

At the time of writing, you'll spend $350 to pick one up brand new on Amazon. 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 6 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.

Read our full Zoom H6 review

Rode Rodecaster Pro

Okay so this bit of gear is a little different than the others mentioned in the roundup. The Rodecaster is a sort of hybrid between a mixer and a portable digital recorder.

It needs external mics in order for you to record into it, so it isn't a self-contained kit like everything else on here.

Rode Rodecaster Pro

But 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.

A brand new Rodecaster will set you back about $600, 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!

Read our full Rode Rodecaster Pro review for more details.

The ‘Honorable Mention' Podcast Recorder

Zoom H2N

Zoom H2n

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 concerts.

Read our full Zoom H2N review

You can even interview rabbits with a good digital recorder

Need More Help?

I hope this guide has helped you out if you're in the market for a podcast recorder.

If you're wondering about the best external microphone options for plugging into your recorder, be sure to check out our best podcast microphones roundup too.

And if you're looking more help with choosing the right podcasting equipment, then we'd love to work with you.

Check out The Podcast Host Academy, where you'll get access to our weekly live Q&A sessions, courses, tools, and downloadable resources. You'll find everything you need there to plan and launch a successful podcast!

34 thoughts on “The Best Digital Podcast Recorders on the Market

  1. I have used the H2N. The one I used did have the ability to accept SD cards, and can easily fit into a larger jacket pocket.

    It was easy for me as someone who is slightly technologically challenged to use and gave amazing audio. Combine this with a relatively low price and it is a great tool for the beginning podcaster.

    Paul

    1. Thanks Paul – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Zoom has a tendency to create really easy to use bits of kit, which is probably what’s made them so popular around the Podcast-o-sphere. Hope it’s still treating you well!

  2. I used to use a ZOOM H2 which was a work horse for numerous episodes. I have since switched to the Tascam DR-40 which is not only great for recording episodes but also great for interviews in the field due to its XLR inputs.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Rich – great to get some ‘in the field’ confirmations as to the quality of the Zoom H2N.

      I haven’t used the Tascam, but useful to hear that it’s working well for you. I think it’s a similar feature-set to the H4N – I really value the XLR inputs on the H4N too. It just gives you that flexibility to set up a really good quality outside recording studio very quickly. You don’t need anything more than the recorder, two Shure SM58s and a couple of XLR leads. Bingo, top quality recordings.

      Cheers for the feedback!

  3. I found out the importance of a recorder after recording my show to audacity and having it crash on me. I need to invest in one badly.

  4. Colin – great page – thanks for the info. One question – I already own an Olympus DS-30. Do you know how that compares to the recorders you list here?

    1. Hi Larry, thanks for the question.

      I actually used a DS-30 a long time ago and found it to be a decent little recorder. As far as I remember, the add-on mic that came with it was good enough for outside recording, and you could plug in an external 3.5mm microphone so you can up that quality significantly if needed.

      The recorder’s certainly comparable to the lower-end ones I list above, and is definitely good enough to get going with. If you can get hold of a good external mic for it it’ll perform just as well as the Roland anyway.

      Hope that helps!
      Colin

    2. Hi Larry, thanks for the question. I used a DS-30 a while back and found it to be a nice enough little recorder. The internal mic wasn’t the best in the world, as I remember, but it can take an external microphone so could be a good ‘carry around’ device along with a lapel mic for on-the-hoof recording. I think the biggest downside with it was the capacity (only 256MB I think?) and the fact that it records as WMA’s which is windows’ proprietary format. You can always convert to MP3 on the PC, but it’s a step you wouldn’t need with other recorders.

      Hope that helps you compare, and feel free to correct anything I’ve got wrong up there! Haven’t used one quite a few years.
      Colin

    1. Yea, it’s not the cheapest podcast recorder in the world, I have to admit, but it is great quality. If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, the Zoom H1 is really good – a worthy alternative!

  5. Hi Colin,

    Thanks for writing up this page. It’s most useful.

    I’m interested in starting with the Sony ICD-PX312.
    I’m looking for something to record interviews with a lapel mic, and I have a question: While recording with the mic, can I hook up my headphones and monitor the sound?
    Also, have you tried recording using a splitter and two mics?

    Any comments appreciated.
    Many thanks.

  6. I’m finding digital audio recorders to pick too much surround noise. I’d like to maybe use the audio for audio to text. Someone recommended a goose neck mike to a digital portable audio recorder. Thoughts and suggestions?

      1. Using lav mics (like the ATR3350 https://www.thepodcasthost.com/equipment/atr-3350-lavalier-microphone-podcasting-review/) is ideal for capturing your spoken word audio. If you’re in a very busy/noisy environment it might be better to look at recording with directional mics however. It’s also worth noting that condenser mics perform a lot better when plugged into digital recorders than dynamic mics, which can end up giving you a pretty high noisefloor.

  7. I’m a writer and use an Olympus WS-853 to record my interviews. I want to start “podcasting” my interviews in the sense where readers can either read my interviews or just listen to it. Is there a mic that I can add to this recorder? Nothing too professional; just so that there is decent quality.

  8. This is a great article but one thing about the H4n that I found significant is that it does not play well with mixer boards. The inputs to the H4n are XLR or a “pseudo line-in”. The inputs 1 and 2 on the bottom are a special jack that will take either XLR balanced connection OR 1/4″ TS unbalanced connection. 1/4″ connection however is intended to be used with instruments like a keyboard and therefore is a different input than a normal line level input. A normal line level input will be too hot and will cause distortion in your recordings. It is awful really. The solution to this is to put an attenuator in series on each jack however how much attenuation will depend on your mixer. So this gets really complicated and a pain. Why the H4n does not come with a regular “lin-in” input is crazy. My little H2 does. I like the H4n otherwise but if the majority of your recordings will be using a mixer board as your input to your recorder then this is not the best choice in my opinion.

  9. Question: I want to do a podcast with 3 hosts. Can i purchase a Zoom H4n and just use a XLR splitter in one of the inputs to get 3 mics to work instead of just 2? If not does anyone know of an alternate way less than $200?

    1. An XLR splitter is ideal for this purpose yes – the one downside is that both mics running into it are recording on the same audio track though, so it’ll give you a little less flexibility in the editing process. A Zoom H6 would give you more input options, but obviously that’s adding a fair bit to the price, as you’ve mentioned.

  10. Colin I have the H4N and normally when I go out on interviews I just plug my two cardioid mics in and get to it, but every now and then I have an interview and it would be helpful to use the built-in mic as well as the two cardioids using phantom to interview two people at a time. My main issue though is mixing the three channels without everything sounding terrible. Do you have any advice on using some of the multichannel settings to make recording this way better, or should I just buy a lap mic and forget about it? I hope that makes sense. Thanks!

  11. All solid recommendations. But I’m curious why there is no mention of the Tascam DR-100mkII. I could never get good levels from the Zoom with dynamic mics.

  12. I had been using an app for recording my podcasts, but since switching to a digital voice recorder I’m really noticing the better audio. I would say that they are definitely worth it, and you can find some that are pretty cheap. I actually went for an Olympus model that has been great, I’d definitely recommend it. It was the Olympus WS-853 and I got it from http://www.onedirect.co.uk

    Hope this helps!

  13. Hi.
    I own the Sony ICP PX312. My question is: is the preamps in this recorded good enough to use a mic like a Rode Videomic or do I need to get the Videomic Pro because of the +20. People told me bad preamps require a +20 db to get good audio. Is this the case?

    Thanks.

  14. The aged H4N is stil going and can made great recordings. But I’ve found some limitations. No real criticism that the H4N isn’t good at doing things it was never designed for, but it can be useful to know when choosing.
    1. Mine (like much eqjuipment of that age) is susceptible to cellphone interference. If a nearby cellphone isn’t in use there are just occasional clicks, but if you try to make or receive a call it can be quite a bad buzz. Interviewing someone who has a phone set on silent could be a problem if they receive a call.
    2. The manual is incorrect on the battery-saving stamina mode. It says you can record MP3, but in stamina mode the recording mode menu vanishes, so all you can use is WAV 16 bit 44.1 kHz. So you can have long battery life or very long recordings on the SD card but not both at the same time.
    3. A recording is not properly saved until you press the stop button. So if the battery runs out during a long recording you will lose the lot without warning.
    4. It’s far from ideal for doing interviews using the built-in mics, unless you have another person to operate it. That’s because you can’t see the screen if one of the mics is pointing towards your face. It’s also susceptible to handling noise so it needs to be on a tripod.
    5. One of the ways it shows its age is that it takes a minute and a half to start up. No chance of grabbing a recording of something unexpected if the record’s switched off.
    For a lot of uses, none of these things matter so don’t let me put you off too much; it is still basically a good recorder.

  15. Hi, Just to see if anyone can help me – looking for a good podcast recording device that can help me to record my podcast with my friend. Condition are we both need to be at different location and not in same room, Clear Mic, reduced background noise, Its like we are talking to each on a phone. Please if someone can just paste 3-5 website URL to check would be great

  16. Hi, I am looking for podcast equipment for in studio and on the go. How would two sets of headphones and two microphones go into a digital recorder? Would you need a specific digital recorder or is there a specific adapter?

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