Know any good digital line-in recorders?
December 22, 2008 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a digital audio recorder with good line-in recording capabilities and easy file transfer options - do you know any?

I'm a radio DJ, and I've been trying to record my shows to (eventually) host online. The station where I work has a computer which can record everything, but the computer has other uses, too, which means it's not always available.

I'm not looking for mic-recording capabilities, as we have a nice line-out for recording broadcasts. Ideally, this item should include:

* recording options (bitrate up to 192kbps, if not WAV)
* easy audio copying (USB would be ideal)
* capability for 3+ hours of recording

+ handy play-back (personal music player, with headphone line out)
+ record by mic (built in)
+ compact or small form
+ informative screen (I'm fine with a tiny LCD screen, but bigger could be nice)
+ FM Player
+ FM Recorder

I have an iPod Classic (80gb), so there might be some odd add-on I don't know about. Otherwise, I've seen some personal music players on, but there are never details on recording options beyond "line-in," and I thought MeFites might have first-hand experience here. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Shopping (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I own the Olympus WS-101; and I'm pretty sure it has everything you want.
Here's the amazon link for you to make sure.
posted by willmize at 1:20 PM on December 22, 2008

Response by poster: willmize - thanks, but it seems like it's not geared to high quality audio, or at least not very much of it (my shows run about 175mb for 2 hours at 192kbps CBR MP3). I realize that WMA has a better encoding potential than the old MP3 standard, but with only 64 MB internal flash memory, that's still not enough space.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:25 PM on December 22, 2008

I haven't used it, but I've heard good things about the Zoom H4. It was also discussed in a previous AskMe question.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:28 PM on December 22, 2008

I use the Korg D888, but it is more oriented towards mic-recording. I'd go with a WMA system, then download to a computer and compress from there. The Zoom was a bust with our band, but we are doing live recordings for the most part.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:02 PM on December 22, 2008

What kind of sound quality do you need?

Because there are going to be two categories of responses here:

1. cheap audio players which can record line-in

2. expensive recorders (like the Zoom H4) designed for sound professionals

The difference is in the quality of A/D conversion, which has nothing to do
with your eventual output format's bitrate. You can record 96kHz with an iPod (with some hax), but the sound will be inferior to 96kHz audio produced by something with high quality A/D.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:06 PM on December 22, 2008

I have both the Zoom H2 and the Edirol R-1 (the current model is the Edirol R-09). Both are excellent, high quality digital recorders, that can record in a variety of modes (WAV, mp3/CBR at most settings). The Zoom is slightly easier to use (smaller, less clunky interface, batteries last longer), but I expect that the newer Edirol is comparable. The recording quality is to die for, on both recorders, even using the built-in mic. (which I suspect is irrelevant to you). I have used both for a variety of sources (mainly speech, but including live music). They both deliver really excellent recordings using WAV and high-quality mp3 recordings with no discernible artifacts at all.
The recording limit on the Zoom H2 is 4 hours -- but you can record up to the capacity of the removable media on the Edirol -- same with the new one,, which would give you 13 hours of continuous recording for a 32 kbs mp3 on a 2GB SD card. (I have tested this with my R-1: I can get 8.25 hours continuous recording @ 128 kbs mp3 on of a 256 MB card).
The Zoom has a nicer configuration: the included stand allows you to stand it upright like an old-fashioned mic. It is also cheaper than the Edirol, although as the Edirol is made by Roland, they are a good company for customer service (I have had experience of this - they are very responsive). I occasionally get the odd card seating error on the Zoom, but the Edirol is rock solid.
There is a good review of both the Edirol R-09 and the Zoom H2.
posted by Susurration at 2:09 PM on December 22, 2008

Correction - I meant a 320 kbs recording for 13 hours, not a 32kbs recording!
posted by Susurration at 2:17 PM on December 22, 2008

Consider the Olympus LS-10. Except for the FM radio and player, it meets your requirements. It's gotten good reviews as well. I have one, and really like it.
posted by jaimev at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2008

There are quite a few digital recorders out there:

I haven't used any of these so I can't offer more specific advice.
posted by lalas at 2:37 PM on December 22, 2008

Response by poster: qxntpqbbbqxl - thanks for asking. I'm looking at mid-range quality: better than a cell phone receiver, but nothing that would get used as master-sourcing for some public release (CD/DVD/Vinyl).

By Radio DJ, I mean I play a random selection of music on the radio. I play electronic and gothic/industrial music of a variety of sorts (two separate shows), blending things together as well as I can (no beatmatching skills, but that's beside the point). I really don't know the quality of the connections from the various inputs (CD and record players, studio mic, plus my iPod) through to the line-out cable. Accepting these limitations, I'm very happy with 192kbps MP3 (or comparable other format) recording.

Uncompressed audio would be fun, but that would be if I was to clean up the mix afterwords, raising the levels of the unintentionally quiet spots, snipping out bits of dead air when I flub the mix, things of that sort). The Zoom H2 and Edirol R-09 look swank, and I thank y'all for the suggestions, but I am looking down the quality (and cost) scale. Cheers!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2008

If you've got money to spend on it and want a really nice piece of equipment, I've had great experiences with the Marantz PMD670 for doing speech research. It has a variety of recording/encoding options, and the files are on a CF card which can pretty much just live in the record if you want to transfer everything by usb (as easy as using a thumb drive).

I've only used it for recording straight from a mic, so I don't know how it'd cooperate with your line-in setup.

Note that it's one in a series, so maybe one of the other Marantz products might fit your needs. Another lab I know of has a 671 with great results.
posted by knile at 2:49 PM on December 22, 2008


posted by popcassady at 2:54 PM on December 22, 2008

...and if you do choose a Marantz, make sure you buy the case to go with it.
posted by popcassady at 2:56 PM on December 22, 2008

I have the Zoom H4, and although the internal mic is great, it's line-in recording capabilities aren't as high quality. I'd go for the Sony PCM-D50: Solid build, sounds great.

The thing that I love about it is that it always keeps a second signal recording at the same time at -20db (in a loop, so it doesn't add to your final file size). Then, if your levels spike for some reason, it automatically blends the original signal with the quieter one, so that you never have ugly digital distortion.

There's also the glorious PCM-D1, but it's much more expensive.
posted by umbĂș at 2:58 PM on December 22, 2008

Best answer: M-Audio makes a really nice recorder--the MicroTrack II. Costs about $250.

* recording options
everything from 48kHz 320kbps MP3s to 96kHz raw PCM (WAV)

* easy audio copying
USB, no drivers required

* capability for 3+ hours of recording
4-5 hours, rechargeable from USB or AC adapter

+ handy play-back (personal music player, with headphone line out)
yes, with headphone, line-out, and digital output as well.

+ record by mic (built in)
built-in mic w/48V phantom power, analog line-input limiter, balanced 1/4"... this thing can basically record anything, at extremely good quality.

+ compact or small form
it fits in the palm of your hand like a chunky ipod. here's a brochure with a picture of someone holding one.

+ informative screen (I'm fine with a tiny LCD screen, but bigger could be nice)
Yep. Pretty much just your levels, and it's got that Timex Indigo blue backlighting for recording in the dark (concerts, etc.)

+ FM Player/+ FM Recorder
No radio.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:30 PM on December 22, 2008

Nagra and Marantz are nice gear. Zoom gear is built like crap and falls apart in a year of hard use, which makes it worth what you pay for it.

But TASCAM has just entered this market with a bang. The DR-1 is, for the money, the nicest choice out there by a mile unless you step up to pro quality like the PMD-671 or the Nagra.

In terms of sound quality, the basic electronics are all about the same, presuming you have the sampling rate, bit rate, and file format choices you need (and most of these units produce 24 bit or 16 bit WAV/PCM/AIFF and mp3s at any bitrate). It's all about inputs, preamps, and mics. And construction. The pocket units from Edirol and Zoom are just made to fall apart from regular use, quickly. The DR-1 feels a lot more solid, though it's early to know how it will hold up over time.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:00 PM on December 22, 2008

Best answer: I had similar needs when I bought an mp3 player... I ended up choosing the Iaudio 7. Line in recording, FM and FM recording, plays OGG, MP3, WAV and FLAC files. 8 and 16 GB models, and it's reasonably priced.
posted by acro at 6:52 PM on December 22, 2008

Best answer: They might be hard to come by these days, but if you can get your hands on an iriver H340 it is pretty much perfect for what you want.

It has line in, a pretty solid internal mic, fm radio and radio recording, and if you throw rockbox on there you can record in uncompressed PCM Wave and AIFF, losslessly compressed WavPack, or lossy mp3 (more info about the recording capabilities). plus rockbox is awesome.
posted by christy at 9:52 PM on December 22, 2008

I use an iRiver H320. It has all the features you want and you can find them on eBay for a reasonable price. Mine is decked out in an protective aluminum case from Boxwave and with a external mic plugged in, it makes a rugged little recording device. It uses a generic iPod style lithium polymer rechargeable battery. Those are pretty cheap, easy to find, and relatively easy to install. Oh and the H320 charges via a generic mini-USB cable and the USB port on your computer or other device. The H320 is recognized as a mass storage device, so moving files back and forth is simply a matter or drag and drop. No proprietary software necessary. Both the H320 and H340's are oldies but goodies.
posted by buzzbash at 12:13 AM on December 23, 2008

Zoom H2 ($158 from Amazon)
posted by tom_g at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2008

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