tascam logo


Which Recorder Should You Buy? A Consumer's Guide to Choosing the Right Portable Recording Device

Regardless of why you need a compact recording device, it's easy to be overwhelmed with how many options are available. Portable recorders generally offer a lot of functionality that will definitely help you during the recording process, but can also make it difficult to focus on what you really need in a recording device. Let's make things simple and start with what identifying what you really need in a recorder for your specific goals, and from there we can zero-in on the most important features to look for in a recorder.

Table of Contents:
Understanding Your Recording Needs
Choosing a Recorder — Key Features to Consider
Portacapture X6 — The Best Recorder for Content Creators and Field Recording
DR-10L Pro — The Best Stealthy On-Person Recorder for Videographers
Portacapture X8 — The Best Recorder for Musicians
Choose the Right Recording Device the First Time



Understanding Your Recording Needs
Aspiring musicians, videographers, and content creators have very different recording needs, so it's important to take stock of what features and functions you really need in a recording device.

Recording Musicians

Recording Musicians — with the right recording device you'll have a recording studio that fits in your pocket. You'll want a recorder with inputs for instruments as well as studio microphones, and you'll want built-in mics for convenience too. And of course, you definitely need a recorder with high-quality audio to capture the most detailed sound possible.


Videographers — you have enough to worry about with cameras and lighting: you need simple, high-quality personal audio solutions that ensure everything you capture is useable in post-production. You'll want stealthy on-person recording devices, as well as camera-mountable solutions for run-and-gun situations. And you should definitely look for a 32-bit recorder: 32-bit recording eliminates the need to set input levels, and you'll never need to scrap audio in post due to the level being too low or too high.


Content Creators — whether you're recording your podcast or live streaming, audio quality is even more important than your video. And you need flexibility, from recording small gigs and capturing song ideas when they occur, to recording videos for YouTube and TikTok. The best recorder for content creators will offer multiple microphone inputs, and will have the onboard processing needed to consistently achieve pro-quality sound. Depending on your content creation style, you may benefit from a portable recorder that also serves as a USB audio interface.

Field Recordists — you push the concept of a portable recorder to the limits: you need a field recorder with top audio quality, built-in mics with ultra-low noise, and connectivity for your preferred external field recording microphones. And you need to manage all this with a simple interface that allows you to stay nimble in the field.



Choosing a Recorder — Key Features to Consider
There are a lot of different portable recorders available — figuring out which portable recorder is right for you can be a considerable challenge. Let's de-mystify things by focusing on some of the most important features of a portable recorder for any user.

Recording Inputs

Recording Inputs
Most portable recorders feature built-in microphones, but not all recorders offer more than that. If you want to record a guitar or bass directly, you'll need a recorder with a 1/4-inch instrument input. If you want to connect external microphones, you'll need a recorder with XLR microphone inputs. And if you want to record from line-level audio sources like keyboards and drum machines, you'll need a recorder with line-level audio inputs.


Recording Quality: How Many Bits?
Understanding a little bit about audio formats will help you create better-sounding recordings for any application. Without getting deep into the technical side of things, a recording device's recording quality is described in "bits" and "kHz", for example 24-bit/48kHz. The important thing to know is that 24-bit recording produces much higher quality than 16-bit recording. And if you choose a recorder with 32-bit recording, you can do nearly-magical things with your audio in post-production.

Recording Presets: Achieve Better Sound, Consistently

Recording Presets: Achieve Better Sound, Consistently
Many recording devices feature built-in processing to enhance your recordings, and some will even offer application-specific presets to optimize your recordings for field recording, narration, music recording, and so on. Choosing a recorder with application-specific presets can save you a lot of time in the long run, and your recordings will sound much more consistent than if you had to tweak all those settings every time.

Portable Recorders as Audio Interfaces

Portable Recorders as Audio Interfaces
Many portable recorders can also serve as a USB audio interface for your computer or smartphone. However, don't assume a recorder will act as an audio interface just because you see it has a USB port — many recorders feature a USB port to transfer recordings to your desktop, but won't allow you to record to your computer in real time. If you want the flexibility to use your recorder as an audio interface too, you'll definitely want to confirm it has the capability (and if you want to use it for live streaming online, make sure it has "loopback" capability).

Remote Control and Video Sync

Remote Control and Video Sync
In some situations, it's much more convenient to control your recording device remotely with your smartphone. And if you're a videographer, having the ability to sync your audio recorders with your video is a huge benefit. If these things are important to you, prioritize this functionality first and then narrow down your options from there.



The Best Recorder for Content Creators and Field Recording — Portacapture X6

Portacapture X6

The Portacapture X6 has become an extremely popular portable recorder for content creators because it packs a lot of functionality into an easy-to-use format. In other words, it has the recording quality and advanced processing capabilities a pro audio engineer would appreciate, and you can access everything using an app-like interface that anyone can use.

The Portacapture X6 is a great choice for field recording too. Its built-in microphones sound great, with very low self-noise, and you have the inputs to connect external microphones like shotgun mics too. And application-specific presets such as Music, Field Recording, ASMR and more will make it easy for anyone to achieve consistently high-quality recordings.

Portacapture X6 Top Features:
・Record up to 32-bit/96kHz for truly professional sound quality
・Record up to 6 tracks simultaneously
・Records to removable SD card media for practically endless recording capability
・Works as a 6-in/2-out USB audio interface (with loopback functionality)
・Can be shoe-mounted to your camera if desired



The Best Stealthy On-Person Recorder for Videographers — DR-10L Pro

DR-10L Pro

Videographers and filmmakers love how stealthy the DR-10L Pro lav mic/recorder combo is on camera. Just clip the include mic to your clothing, hit record on the DR-10L Pro, slip it in your pocket, and you're capturing top-quality audio everywhere you go. And because the DR-10L Pro supports 32-bit recording, you'll never need to scrap a recording due to poor levels — 32-bit recording eliminates the issues when something is recorded too-loudly or too-quietly.

For more advanced applications, the DR-10L Pro supports wireless timecode sync with Atomos products, as well as remote control from your smartphone (both uses require the optional AK-BT1 Bluetooth adapter). You can actually operate up to five units wirelessly with the app, making the DR-10L Pro a very convenient solution for small-format filmmaking and video shoots.

DR-10L Pro Top Features:
・Record up to 32-bit/48-bit audio quality for pro-quality recordings
・32-bit recording means you'll never lose a take due to improper audio levels
・Automatic File Save system means your recording is auto-saved every 20 seconds
・Compact and stealthy on-person recorder is perfect for on-camera applications
・Included lavalier microphone captures natural, detailed sound with extremely low noise



The Best Recorder for Musicians — Portacapture X8

Portacapture X8

While many musicians and content creators will have all their needs met with the Portacapture X6 mentioned above, those who need a couple more mic inputs will appreciate the Portacapture X8. It offers the same simple interface and functionality as the X6, with two additional XLR microphone inputs — you could multi-mic a drum kit with just the Portacapture X8 and a handful of external mics. Take a moment to reflect on what your recording needs will be in the future: if think you'll ever be feeling "input pressure" with just six inputs, get the Portacapture X8 to give yourself some extra flexibility.

Portacapture X8 Top Features:
・Same core functionality as the Portacapture X6, with two extra XLR microphone inputs
・Larger touchscreen compared the Portacapture X6 (3.5-inches vs. 2.4-inches)
・Works as an 8-in/2-out USB audio interface
・Enough inputs to multi-mic a drum kit
・Ideal for content creators and podcasters to have the option for more inputs when needed



Choose the Right Recording Device the First Time
When you're looking for the best recorder for your needs, you don't want to invest in something and then find it isn't a great solution. Getting the right recorder from the start is easy if you focus on the key features we've listed above. If you make sure a recorder has the number (and type) of inputs you need, the form factor you need, and the sound quality you need (at least 24-bit, and preferably 32-bit), most everything else is just icing on the cake. There have never been as many personal recording options as there are today — and if you keep the tips from this article in mind, you can be sure the next recorder you get will be the right one.


Related Products:
Portacapture X8
Portacapture X6
DR-10L Pro