What recorder to purchase?

Devotees often ask me which audio recorder to purchase to record lectures and bhajans.

I use a Marantz PMD660 which is great, but I usually don’t recommend it. Why? It is a bit bulky compared to the competition and it’s MP3 options are limited to “yes/no”. No adjustable bitrate as far as I can tell. That is fine for me. I do a lot of postprocessing anyway and never record in MP3 format anyway.

Most devotees would prefer a simpler approach. Just record, trim the beginning and end, and publish.

The cheapest solution is to use an MP3 player with voice recorder. There are lots to choose from, but I like the iRiver models. The quality is low compared to professional gear, but still usable.

When looking at professional gear, I looked at the following:

  • Zoom H4. This looks like a great recorder. The built-in mics look pretty nice. It has XLR mic inputs which lets you use nice professional microphones with phantom power. The user interface looks pretty bad, and I’ve seen complaints that say it is noisy if you use external mics while on battery power.
  • Zoom H2. This is the “baby brother” tot he H4. This looks very nice, though it does lack the ability to use profesional microphones with phantom power. Instead it uses a 1/8″ jack. If you are ok using built-in microphones, this looks like a great, small recorder.
  • M-Audio Microtrack. Nice and small. I don’t like the user interface and it lacks XLR jacks. You can use 1/4″ TRS jacks, so you can still use pro gear with it. Like the Zooms there is no easy way to view/adjust the levels. They are buried in the menus somewhere.
  • Edirol R-09. This looks like the nicest of the “small” units. Also lacks XLR — uses 1/4″ TRS for external mics.

So, what to use? If you don’t want to use an external mic and want something small, go with the Zoom H2. Otherwise, I’d probably pick up the Edirol R09. I would not get the M-Audio Microtrack because it uses a built-in rechargeable battery rather than AA or AAA. Once it is dead you are done. With the other units, you can swap in some additional batteries and keep going.

Personally, I’m very satisfied with my Marantz recorder, but it isn’t for everyone.