Using a Portable Digital Recorder for Mobile Podcasting

One way to record while in the field is by using a Portable Digital Recorder. This is a digital recorder, unlike the tape players of old. The device is pretty small and can record a one-on-one conversation, or a room for a presentation.

The portable digital recorder has advanced to the point it can have XLR mics attached, can be attached to certain video cameras to enhance the audio, or run just from the unit itself. Some have a db filter – which means it will try to compress the outer noise to try and catch the speaker’s voice.

There are a few digital recorders that can fit your need. We’ll look at a few different models.

Can I just use my iPhone, iPad for Audio Recording?

Yes, you can. However, the audio recording on a smartphone or tablet will be lower quality. If you want a high quality sound, you definitely want to get a recorder that can do more than 16 bit audio. The audio on a lot of those devices does not include filters or attenuators (unless you buy a quality microphone like the Sony UWP series), therefore, your audio might succumb to the noisy environment. Not to mention if you are recording audio from your iPhone, and you phone goes off, or some push notification on your iPad, you might get those sounds in your recordings.

Tascam DR-07

Tascam DR-07 digital recorder

Tascam DR-07 Portable Digital Audio Recorder

If you are getting into podcasting, this digital recorder will flip the bill. The Tascam DR-07 is extremely compact, and records in 24-bit to .wav or .mp3 formats. It is ideal for interviews, lectures, on the road podcasts, and more. Using Micro SDHC cards, you could record hours of material.

The DR-07 has 2 built-in adjustable condenser microphones, so you can record in the right situation. Flip the microphones outward if you need to capture a larger area, then flip inward if you are doing a more direct recording (such as an interview). There is also a 3.5 inch microphone jack to record using an external mic, and a headphone jack to listen to the levels. The limiter and switchable low cut filter reduce peaks and rumble for cleaner recordings. The Tascan DR-07 runs on AA batteries, or through the plug (sold separately).

The Tascam DR-07 costs around $100-150, and is a great device to have in a pinch, due to it’s compactness.

Roland R-05

Roland R-05 handheld audio recorder

Roland R-05 Portable Audio Recorder

If you really want to get serious with your audio recordings to turn into a podcast, the Roland R-05 recorder is for you. Not only does it record in 24-bit, but it also allows you to connect an external microphone. That way, you can keep the recorder at your side while you get a sound-byte or interview. There is also an on-board editing feature that allows you to mix down your audio on the fly.

You can record in wave or MP3 formats, and send the audio to Mac or PC via the USB cable. The recorder can also be affixed to a stand or tri-pod to reduce hand or table noise (when people are tapping on the table, the device might just pick that up).

Should I use Mic or Line-In?

The Roland R-05 has both mic and line-in inputs. So which one should you use? You use a Line-in when you are recording from an instrument, or a mixing board. The microphone input is a little more sensitive in picking up sound. If you plugged the mic into the line-in, you might risk getting a lower volume on your recordings – some to the point where it’s unusable. On the same token, sometimes switching to the other could help control the sound. It all depends on what external hardware you are using.

This recorder is around the $200 price range

Edirol Roland 4 channel

Edirol Roland 4 channel mixing console

Edirol / Roland R-4 Pro 4 Channel Portable Field Recorder w/ SMPTE Time Code

Going pro can mean a device like the Edirol 4 channel field recorder. This becomes a greatly versatile machine, because it can connect up to 4 audio channels (with phantom power). It can send to line-out, a channel on a mixer, or USB. There is an option to set up time-code so you can sync your audio and video together. It records as a .wav file through the internal 80 GB storage, or USB out to external storage.

This recorder is a little more expensive at the $2,300 range. If you are recording more than one voice, this can be a great addition.

Zoom H2N

Zoom H2N Surround Digital Recorder

Zoom H2N Surround Digital Recorder

If you record a room – maybe bands or roundtable discussions, the Zoom H2N might be your best choice. This digital recorder has 5 microphones inside, so you can catch all directions of a room. The Zoom can record up to 24-bit wav, or 320 kbps MP3. You can connect a microphone through the 3.5 inch jack on the side. You can also plug in the headphones to control the audio levels. The Zoom has a 1.8″ backlit display to help you set the controls on your microphone.

The Zoom H2N is around $150. It’s very versatile for whatever need you have.

What is the best Distance to Hold a digital recorder?

The best situation is to place the microphone on a tripod in-between you and the person you are interviewing. Even using a monopod can reduce fidget noise, and give you a stable point to not only hold the microphone (from the monopod), but also move it around from your voice, to theirs.

Try to hold any microphone appx. 6-12 inches from their mouths. If you have attenuation set, this is even more important, for you might risk losing their audio.

Alesis Videotrack

Alesis Videotrack records audio and video

Alesis VideoTrack Handheld

This is for those of you who want to record video or audio. The Alesis VideoTrack can also triple as a still photograph camera. It only takes 640×480 video, but if you are only recording for your personal use, this digital video/audio device is pretty good. The audio records through the microphones on the top. You can listen in on the headphone jack, and transfer files through the USB connection.

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