By Request: Recommended Digital Audio Recorders

A reader asks:

My boss thinks the office should be in the market for a digital audio recorder, maybe something we could use for phone conversations that we could turn into podcasts. Any recommendations?

As a general note, for interview or roundtable podcasts, most podcasters these days do the calls over Skype and record the session (either recording each side of hte call and mixing the audio files or using one of many Skype recording software programs). Some conference call services and Webex will also record conference calls and send you the audio files. The laws around the country make me a little nervous about devices that record directly off of regular phones, so I haven’t explored that area much. You generally want to avoid using a cell phone for any podcast.
If you are looking for a digital audio recorder that’s portable, versatile and good for recording podcasts, the ones I hear people recommend most highly for podcasting are:
Edirol R-09 WAVE/MP3 Recorder

Zoom H2 Recorder (also the more expensive H4)

If I were buying for myself today, I’d probably buy the H2.
However, I bought a digital recorder last year and it has really impressed me. It’s the Sony ICD-SX57DR9.

I bought it primarily because you basically get a free copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking with it. I use it to record my presentations live for myself and it does a great job. I also recorded my daughter’s 8th grade graduation from my shirt pocket with it and the sound quality was amazing.
A key consideration is how you expect to use the recorder – stationary or portable.
For my podcasts amd when interviewed for a podcast, I like to use a Yamaha mixer

with an Audix microphone

and record directly into my computer. When I podcast with Tom Mighell, he uses a USB headset mike and we have the call via Skype. We generally record each side of the call separately and mix the tracks together using Audacity. Sound quality on podcasts is a big thing for me, so I think it’s important to start with a good quality recording.
The podcasters who use the Zooms and Edirols tend to do some on-location or portable interviews. They might use the built-in mikes or the might mike temslelves with a lavaliere and use and external hand mike for interviews.
As I said, I’d look hard at the Zoom H2 when going the digital audio recorder route. I like the Sony a lot, but you do have to convert the files from Sony’s format and the Zoom gives you more flexibility for podcasting.
Another interesting option (although it might be hard to sell your boss on buying you an iPod) is the XtremeMac Micromemo:

It fits onto an iPod. I’ve used it to record some of my presentations, especially when traveling (I got it before I purchased the Sony recorder). It does a surprisingly good job. If you do some shopping, you might be able to find the Micromemo for under $50.
For great information about hardware and other technical aspects of podcasting, I highly recommend and the podcasts you’ll find there. Sadly, it’s been a while since the last podcast, but the podcasts you’ll find there are a treasure trove of information on practical and technical issues involved in podcasting, sound recording, and audio equipment.
Great question. I welcome any comments or suggestions.
Note: I like the handy way the Amazon links let me show the items, but I haven’t gotten the display info finetuned enough to suit my taste. Please excuse the catalog-y feel to this post.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Coming in March from ABA Publishing – The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell
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  1. says

    Hi, Dennis. I hope you don’t mind my adding my two cents.
    Dennis did a great job of laying out the landscape. I use the Marantz PMD660 for podcasts I record over the phone. It’s compact, portable, and has all the inputs and outputs a professional would require. It records to Compact Flash in either WAV or MP3 format. I have a very complex set up for phone recordings using a JK Audio Broadcast Host Routed through an Alesis Mixer and then into the Marantz.
    You don’t have to make it that complex. Just get a phone/digital audio interface to connect your phone line to your recorder.
    JK Audio makes the “Quick Tap” that’s pretty straightforward and high quality. You can order it (and the Marantz) from the folks at 800-426-8434. Ask for Phil Stevens. Tell him Toby sent you.
    You’ll also need some software to edit your podcasts. Download Audacity. It’s free. Also download the LAME MP3 encoder for Audacity.
    Another helpful (and free) tool is Levelator. It will equalize the volume of all the voices on your recording. This is especially important if you’re recording from your phone, since not every phone or phone line level is controllable (thus the Broadcast Host above). You can find Levalator at:
    I don’t recommend using Skype or any other of the online products since they give you unpredictable glitches.
    I also have all the participants sign a release before the recording of the podcast to clear any issues with recording over the phone, and using the podcast after the recording. I have a standard release form. Send me an email if you’d like a copy.
    Hope this helps.
    Good luck.

  2. says

    You may also want to consider the Acappella Conference Audio Recorder and Playback Assistant which records in CD quality sound and is integrated with popular digital dictation systems so that when the audio is transcribed, Acappella tells the typist who is actually speaking.