Part One: How to Find an Audio Recorder That’s Right for You.

Marantz PMD 620

Marantz PMD 620

It’s time for me to upgrade my audio recorder and I’ve been doing some research on what’s out there. I thought you might find what I’ve discovered of some value  if you’re planning on getting a new recorder.  This week I’m concentrating  on solid state field recorders which range in price from about $600 US to $300 US.  Next week I’ll tell you what I found in the under $300 price range.

Solid state recorders contain no moving parts and record audio directly to memory cards. The advantage of these machines is that there are no moving parts to wear out or jam. The recorders I’ve listed here all produce high quality sound, ideally suited for creating legacy quality audio memoirs. I’ve used one of my favorite sites, to do my research. You can find out more information by clicking on each recoder listed.  Next week I’ll tell you what machine is right for me.

Marantz PMD 661 : About $600 US. “There are new, smaller, less-expensive recorders from Zoom and Tascam that feature XLR inputs and phantom power, but the sound quality and ergonomics of the 661 set a high bar to leap over. If the size is not a problem, and the approximately $600 pricetag is affordable, the PMD 661 is worth considering.”

Sony PCM-D50 : About$500 US. “Overall, the Sony PCM-D50 is a very well-built recorder, … The internal mics sound great, and most impressively, external mics do as well. It comes with 4 gigs of built-in memory, which will provide a lot of record time, even without buying any removable Memory Sticks… among all the small handheld flash recorders, the Sony D50 certainly is near the front of the pack. It does most things right, with only a few minor problems, and no tragic flaws.”

Marantz PMD 620 : About $400 US. “With its small size, easy operation, and relatively clean sound with popular reporters’ microphones, the PMD 620 is almost an ideal choice.”

Olympus LS-10 : About $400 US. ” For simplicity, size, and ease of use, the Olympus LS10 is near the head of the pack of recent flash media recorders. Its small size, quiet mic preamps, compatibility with external mics and long battery life make it very attractive to reporters and field recordists.”

Zoom H4 Digital Recorder : About $300 US. “The Zoom H4 is an extremely versatile machine, perhaps a little over-complicated, but if left in stereo recording mode, can be easily operated without too much menu navigation. The excellent built-in mics and combo XLR/1/4″ jacks for external inputs make it able to work in many circumstances.”

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4 Responses to Part One: How to Find an Audio Recorder That’s Right for You.

  1. Dan,

    Thanks for this great information. This is on my very slow to-do list in getting started. I was wondering though, why not use a computer? I have a MacBook Pro with Garage Band, would that do the same?

    Thanks again for all the help and ideas.


  2. @Darren. The answer to your question is yes. What you’d have to consider is whether the audio quality was suitable for your purposes. The other factor is size and weight. Most solid state recorders can fit in your hand so that their portability is a big selling point for me.

    A quick web check also indicates that you can’t plug a microphone directly into MacBook. Here’s what I found: “Apple decided to leave out the cheap preamp and opted for a high-quality “line-level” input instead. Because of this, you’ll need to plug your microphone into a mixer, which has a decent preamp (miles better than the cheap on in a PC), and connect the line-level output from the mixer to your Mac. You could also use an Audio Interface like the Presonus Inspire, Firebox, or the Yamaha Audiogram and hook them up via USB to your computer (see for these devices).”

    Hope this is of some help.

    Cheers, Dan

  3. Dan,

    Thanks for the education. It is quite helpful. I will have to get on this. I had figured I would have the macbook there for taking notes anyhow and use that system instead of carrying other pieces of equipments. Good to know this.

    Again, thanks.


  4. @Darren. Happy to be of some help. Something to keep in mind is that some of the digital recorders can fit into your shirt pocket. So it may not add up to much more equipment than what you’d have to add on to your Mac to turn it into a recording device.

    This week I’ll be running Part Two of my audio recorder research These will be recorders under $300.

    Let me know what you finally decide.

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