Portable recorders - or field recorders - offer a convenient, mobile way to record and store audio. A lot of professional audio is recorded in studio settings, with large mixing consoles and sensitive gear. But when sound engineers have to record on location - film sets, public events, impromptu jam sessions - they rely on the mobility of field recorders. These durable recorders can be hand-held, and larger units weigh up to a few pounds. Compact, clutter-free, and ruggedly built portable recorders are invaluable for musicians, journalists, filmmakers, professors, and more.
A typical field recorder is battery-powered, so you can use it anywhere. Many models feature a pair of built-in microphones that record to SD cards, flash cards, or built-in memory. Most field recorders also have multiple inputs, meaning you can plug in additional mics or line-level signals. More advanced models even have timecode, and some option for onboard mixing, with low-cut filters, EQ's, limiters, etc. Don't be fooled by their small size: today's machines are extremely sophisticated, and capable of superb audio quality.
Today's Variety: A Few Notable Models
Sweetwater carries a broad selection of portable recorders; we've got something for every project and any budget. The Zoom H1 Handy Recorder is one example; this hand-held model can record in XY stereo for up to 10 hours. Weighing only 2 ounces, it's perfect for recording lectures, interviews, music demos, etc. Tascam's DR-40 is another hand-held model, with 15-hour AA battery life and up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. The DR-40 comes with 2 built-in condenser mics; 2 additional XLR jacks allow for simultaneous 4-track recording. The Zoom H6 Handy Recorder goes even further - with 2 built-in condensers, 4 XLR jacks, 20 hour battery life, and a small LCD screen. A built-in USB port allows for fast data transfer, and USB bus power offers an alternative to battery power.
Not all field recorders can fit in your pocket; Roland's R-44-E is a larger model perfect for film sets, public events, or recording a live set. The R-44 has 2 built-in condensers, 4 combo input jacks, built-in speakers, and an LED display. But what really sets the R-44 apart is its variety of onboard effects: 3-band EQ, low-cut filter, a DeEsser, limiter, etc. The Sound Devices 688 is a powerful recorder built with film production in mind; at less than five pounds, it boasts 12 inputs and 16-channel recording. The 688 also features timecode, metadata, and PowerSafe - a circuitry system that protects against sudden losses in power. The Zoom F8 is another popular choice, with 8 XLR inputs, timecode, and built-in Bluetooth.