Updated: November 2017

Portable Recorder Reviews:

Why would you need a portable digital recorder? Why bother when your smartphone, your laptop, or your mp3 player may offer voice recording capabilities? This may be perfectly fine, but what if you want to preserve something and play it back with the best possible quality? What if you want to record your child's first word to send to his relatives? Do you need to record something for work? Do you want to record the call of a rare bird to prove you saw it? Whatever the reason you need great quality, there are a host of different portable audio recorders that can give it to you. This guide will look at the best portable recorders on the market, their features, and their prices to help you make your decision.
portable recorders

Choosing Your Portable Digital Recorder - Price is going to be a big factor in your decision - isn't it always? You can spend several hundred dollars or you could spend under $100. The difference is the features that you'll get as you pay more. Here are some things that will drive the price up buy may be indispensible to you:

*Sound quality is probably your second biggest factor. If you want playback that is great for personal use - capturing those first words, sending voice messages, etc. - a sampling rate of 44kHz is sufficient. If you want broadcast quality recordings, you need a higher sampling rate like 96kHz. Look also for compatibility with external microphones for even better quality.
*Look at the portability of the portable digital recorder. Obviously any model will be portable, but if you don't want to look like you're lugging around a cell phone circa 1980, you'll want a slimmer, more sleek, light model. Look for battery life. This is important if you plan on recording lectures, concerts, or other events.
*If you just want to use your portable digital recorder for personal use, you probably won't need to think too much about memory. There's plenty on any standard recorder for your needs. If you want to make high quality recordings, choose a model with either a larger memory or with a memory card slot.
*Compatibility with your computer is key. All will work with Windows, most with Vista, and some with Mac. Some also allow you to listen to your files on any media player. Look at this carefully before you buy, especially if you have a Mac.
*Editing features are also nice to look for. Again, you may not be too concerned with that for your personal use, but high quality recordings can be edited on the recorder. One key feature is that you can bookmark certain passages in the audio recording or use a keyword search for a particular word or phrase. This is helpful for lectures or meetings, when you need to hear certain information again without listening to the whole audio. Some, like the Sony ICD-MX20, even have transcription and dictation options.

You can browse the best selling portable recorders here.

Best Portable Recorders:

The Best Budget Portable Digital Recorders - When you're looking for a portable digital recorder and you're on a budget, Olympus offers a few excellent solutions. The first is the WS400S, which was given a TestFreak score of 9.5. (TestFreak is a site which aggregates information from consumer reviews, expert reviews, blogs, prices, forums, news, manuals, videos and more to give you the most thorough information possible.) The Olympus WS-400 offers 272 hours of recording and 21 hours of AAA battery life. In addition, the portable digital recorder features voice activation, built-in stereo microphone, and USB connectivity (no cable, simply plug recorder into computer). Amazon reviewers say it is superior to the comparable Sony model, especially at its low price. You can find the WS400S for $56. This is not a professional grade recorder, but it will serve you very well for recording lectures, meetings, messages, and more. Olympus makes a few other budget models for you to consider: the WS-210S was named ConsumerSearch's Best Budget Digital Voice Recorder, and the WS321M, which was a ConsumerSearch runner-up. The VN6200PC Digital Voice Recorder was BestCovery's top pick for Best Voice Recorder under $100. These are a little more expensive than the WS210S, but still considered to be in the "budget" category.

Digital Voice Recorders with AM/FM and MP3 - We expect our tools to be multifunctional, and those who want to consolidate gadgets will like the convenience of having voice recording and AM/FM or MP3 combined in one tool. BestCovery named the CC Witness 2GB Digital Recorder/MP3 players with AM/FM as the Best Portable Digital Recorder with AM/FM. There's a lot going on here: you have USB interface, built-in calendar, voice recording in MP3 format, alarm clock, FM antenna, stereo earbuds, 2GB memory for up to 140 hours of recording. The CC Witness portable digital recorder is $180. Another BestCovery choice was the Sony ICD-UX70 for about $100.

Professional Quality Portable Digital Recorders - If you need the highest quality, there are several, if expensive, choices. The first stop is the H2 Handy Recorder from Zoom, one of the most popular digital voice recorders on the market. A Sweetwater reviewer (expert musician site) said that while the digital audio recorder was perfect for parents and students, it always ended up in the hands of a musician. What does the H2 offer? How about W-XY mic patterns with 4 mic capsules and signal processing allows Front 90 cardioid, Rear 120 cardioid and 360 polar patterns. What does this mean? It means that with 4 mics, the H2 can offer the best in stereo sound, which is recorded at 96kHz. In addition, you can record in 2ch or 4ch data simultaneously, connect to your computer via USB, and record in MP3. The H2 features time stamp, included 512MB SD card, Auto Gain Control for the best recordings and clarity, auto start function, low-cut filter, and on-board chromatic guitar/bass tuner. This is fully stocked with a reasonable price of $145. Another great choice, and winner of ConsumerSearch's Best Professional Grade Digital Recorder, is the Roland Edirol R-09HR. This is a top-of-the-line model that offers professional sound quality, a memory slot for SD or SDHC, built-in preview speaker, wireless remote, high-grade stereo condenser microphones, 24 bit/96kHz linear PCM high-resolution, and low noise. This is a great digital audio recorder, with a price to match. It costs about $270. Reviewers note that this model is quite bulky, but it is built well. Whether for casual use or professional use, you can get the quality you need and stay within your budget.