Portable audio recorders review
You are a DJ or a live performer and you want to record on the fly your set.
Okay, but no recorder device in the booth, or this antique and dust-full tape recorder : better than nothing but of course you don't have tape.
So you really need your own and very portable digital recorder.

Best of all is a .wav recorder with analog and digital input, there are not many devices that can do that. Most of cheaper portable recorders on the market use flash memory and Mp3 compression.
Also a lot of flash and HD Mp3 players can Record in Mp3 format.

Gemini i-key ($150) :

No internal memory so you need to plug in an external USB hard drive or thumb drive, and it’ll take a line signal, convert it to MP3 or WAV and transfer it to your storage device.
Not expensive but not very usefull...

Zoom PS-04 ($200) :

Only Mp3 recording on flash memory, but built in effects processor and drum computer.
Can record 2 tracks simultaneously, built-in condenser mic.
Very versatile and cheap micro studio.

Edirol R-1 ($430) :

Let's start serious thing :
Internal Microphone (stereo).
Stereo Line Input.
Recording data format WAV and MP3.
Uses CompactFlash card Up to 2 GB capacity.
Signal Processing AD/DA conversion 24 bit / 44.1 kHz.
Internal Effects, Metronome, & Tuner.
Professional features for affordable price but you must buy a storage media too...

M-audio Microtrack ($400) :

Records WAV and MP3 files to CompactFlash or microdrives.
Balanced line inputs.
S/PDIF digital input.
Built-in high-fidelity microphone preamps with phantom power.
Lithium-ion battery, and the unit can recharge via the computer’s USB connection.
My favorite one.

Edirol r-4 ($1600) :

40GB hard disk drive.
Record up to four channels at once.
Edit waveforms on the recorder itself.
Superior 24-bit/96-kHz Linear recording as WAV filesl.
Digital Input/Output.
Expensive but with hard disk and pro features recording device.

Iriver ihp-140 ($400) :

Dicontinued device, but The Killer !!!
For a low budget you get :
Uncompressed Wav (16/44,1) and Mp3 recording.
40Gb HD.
Analog and Digital input /output.
Built in microphone.
Li-ion battery powered (16 hours of use)
Check the Bay !!!

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Blogger Tristan said...

Hey, nice round up of these devices. I have the Zoom PS-04. I think it's a great deal, especially for those looking to do some multitrack recording. With the built in effects (guitar, mic, reverb, send, etc.), drum machine, built in mic, and tuner and stuff, it's a nice little pocket studio. The quality isn't as good as some other recorders, but it's decent.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Stanley Meyerson said...

Hi Tristan,
thank you for you comment.
If anyone else wants to share his experience about his portable recorders...
I own myself a Iriver Ihp-140 : As I already said : a killer.
But the big lack : no visual control of input level....

3:46 AM  
Anonymous silvawhale said...

i recommend the archos mp3-players. i've recorded dozens of live shows with the old gmini 120. 20gig hard drive, usb2 transfer, 16bit/44.1kHz wav recording (also mp3-recording 48-190kbs). up to 20hours of battery (this one has old skool b/w lcd screen) and spdif.
only bummer is the stupid adapter needed to plug in the recording plug (3.5mm).

7:35 PM  
Blogger Stanley Meyerson said...

I'm confused to have forgoten the Archos players in my round up.
I will post an update.
Any one else?

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

The Core Sound PDAudio should also be considered by anyone looking for professional, portable recording. It can record at 24bit / 192Khz and the device likely already works with the iPaq/Axim/etc. you've got in your pocket.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm using a Neuros II (40Gb) with a portable mic preamp to record to wav. Not the world's best, but in most cases good enough. I got it for about $250. Unfortunately I think they've discontinued it as well... :(

If you have a harddisk recorder, be sure to insulate that sucker from vibarations if you're in a really loud situation.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Sam Supa said...

Iriver ihp-140 had one got rid of it to get the color one. Now I regret it but regardless the Irivers are the best.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Hautegear said...

I'm using the Archos Gmini 400 and it is rock solid. The only problem is the built in mic which picks up a lot of internal noise from the hard drive.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The iriver H1x0 series is a serious contender. I use it all the time for both on-the-fly live recordings and more studio type setups with heavy equipment. Wait a little while and through a third party firmware (rockbox.org) you will have your level meters.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the Marantz PMD 660 Portable Recorder with CF, 16 bit .wav, phantom power, and the biggie: 2 xlr inputs along with usb? On another note, I'm looking for one of these guys, possibly the Marantz, Edirol R-1 or Microtrack (or any other good ones), to use for recording sound/dialogue on location, that I can sync up with my HDV camera for some video projects that I'll be working on. Right now I have a Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun Mic with XLR out that I was hoping to plug into a portable recorder, either directly or with a converter. If I need a larger recorder, that's ok I suppose, but I would prefer the smaller ones. I'm just beginning to research this stuff and am worried about the possible loss of quality with non-digital XLR being converted to digital, and the question of syncing sound. Any help would be appreciated.
schear at mac dot com

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "review" is not a review but just a lame roundup. As the previous post stated you don't even mention the Marantz 660 which my friend has been using on a feature film. Your quick price and specs of each device are also useless and you can find better info on createdigitalmusic.com or the manufacturers websites. If you really get your hands on these things and do tests with each then maybe you can give a real review.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did maybe miss the best alternative... Sony MZ-NH910 is a HiMD recorder that can record uncompressed on low prize 1GB discs OR almost 8 hours (of higher quality than MP3 320kbps) with the HiMD SP setting... It has also a big 5 line display, up to 34 hours battery life, very elegant 141cm3 body (80x21x84mm) very happy owner and naturally mic in, at less than 180usd.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Impulse Response said...

Thanks for the round-up. I have an older Archos with an internal mic that picks up hard drive noise. Is that a problem with any of the other internal mic machines?

9:36 PM  
Blogger Stanley Meyerson said...

Yes, I don't speak about the Marantz PMD 660 because I think it sucks!!!
Expensive - Limited memory - No digital in (M-audio and I-river as one)- only 16/44,1 (or 48)in .wav and 128 kbit/s in Mp3 - 4 hours recording with battery (portable : LOL) - You get Phantom power : You get only 1 hour recording on battery - XLR inputs : yes but M-audio has balanced input too (TRS 1/4" input) - You pay for the name on it, not for the specs...
But if you think I'm wrong, feel free to post a comment :)

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I waited many weeks for the Edirol R-1 but it was worth it. I work in post production and SFX with a nonprofit radio drama group on a local public radio station. The built in stereo mics let the R-1 go everywhere I need it to, capturing sound effects, live music, whatever.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine linked me to this page and the contest certainly isn't over. I've been going nuts researching this stuff and as of just last Thursday the 15th of Sep some MicroTracks have made it into the hands of the public. So far the battery life is about 3 hours w/o phantom power on... so it may very well be in the area of the 660. At THIS price point I think the MicroTrack is probably an easy winner... but it's just not clear yet if anyone can call this a professional recorder... even though M-Audio already is. There will be issues a plenty until the first firmware update.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still like my sony md recorder for on the go recordings small phantom power & good power life

roll on

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Kris said...

I have an older Archos Jukebox Recorder 15 - and other than the size, its been great. I've upgraded the HD to 30 gigs (just a normal 2.5" laptop HD), changed the batteries to 2400 mA rechargables (AA), and changed the firmware to Rockbox (www.rockbox.org). End result - more space, doubled the running time (approx. 18 hours), and vastly improved the OS, control, recording settings, etc. You have visual input settings, can record *.wav, *.mp3, and in the end its all drag 'n drop via USB 2, recognized just as another HD. The internal mic sucks, though, so I got a Sound Professionals mic (www.soundprofessionals.com). With these older Archos (not sure about the new ones), you need a preamplified mic. Served me well for the better part of 4 years.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't consider PDAudio to be professional. Professional => reliable. Anything with as many hanging wires and devices chained together as PDAudio will always suffer reliability problems. Reliability can only happen when everything is in one package and tested together long-term.

I have the Sound Devices 722. It may last the rest of my life. It's hand built in the USA, is amazingly small, and has far better preamps built in than anything but Lunatec I could add as an external preamp. It's also amazingly well designed for usability. It's a record-priority device which means if I am caught by surprise I can always go into record with one button and with up to 10 seconds of rollback (it's always got - user-selectable - up to 10 seconds of audio in its cache that is added to the beginning when you hit the record button). I could go on and on.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just used my gmini 400 to record a live show (from my pocket). Is there a way to adjust the levels on this devise?

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can turn some iPOD's into a recording device with very high quality recordings (96kHz)thanks to the ipodlinux replacement firmware. You can also record in stereo thanks to this howto .

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought a Creative Jukebox 3 for recording my band rehearsals -

20 Gig HD
Optical / Line in
Wav / MP3 recording
Decent battery life
under £100 on eBay

(watch out for batteries, they don't usually come with the players and have to be bought separately)

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the PMD660 and it has its limitations but it doesn't suck. Recording time is about 8 hours with 2500 mAH NiMH cells (I haven't tried phantom power though). Cost is not much different from the Edirol R1 and M-Audio Microtrack that you like so much. The big issue for me is battery runtime since I like to record very long sets. The R1 uses two AA's and can record for only, hmm, 2 hours or something? More importantly the R1 (according to its manual) corrupts files if the batteries run out while the thing is recording. I've done that with my 660 lots of times with no corruption. The Microtrack uses a non-removable lithium ion battery like an Ipod. I'm sorry but any device like that is just not serious. I want to record events that go on for several days with no power outlets which means I -have- to be able to change batteries. If they made the Microtrack use some standard, removable, cell phone or digicam battery or (better yet) AA's, they'd really have something, especially if the batteries were hot swappable. But so far, every one of these devices is screwed up in one way or another. I won't say the PMD660 is the best of them but each has its own good and bad points. If I were doing it again I'd look into using a Microtrack on an external battery pack but I don't know what I'd conclude (the R1 was the only alternative when I bought the PMD660). I've even considered making a homemade unit.

My PMD660 review

12:31 PM  
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Sampling Frequency is only 31.25kHz...

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