Help me find a portable digital recorder. It's for art.
May 17, 2006 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions on a portable digital recorder, with compactness, data portability and price as the key features

I did search and read some other threads and bits of threads, but I couldn't find this exact issue covered. I'm shopping for a portable digital recorder. There are too many choices and I'm frustrated by a lot of what I'm finding not answering key questions about functionality. I have honestly read a lot of product reviews, I'm hoping for some personal experience with specific units.

Here are the fundamentals of what I'm looking for:

- Small (easily pocket-sized) with a built in mic.
- Records files to a standard format. MP3s or WAV/AIFF etc. Prefer MP3s since capacity trumps quality.
- I must be able to transfer files from the device to my iMac (via USB I presume)
- Quality: if speech is comprehensible and the recording not egregiously noisy it will do. This will be me vocalizing directly into the mic, not ambient recording of lectures or anything like that, so sensitivity would not be critical.
- Price: if I can't get this for under $200 I'll wait until I can find something better. I'd prefer around $100 but I think this might be overly optimistic.
posted by nanojath to Technology (15 answers total)
 
A couple of years ago I bought the Olympus DS-330, and I use it a lot. It has the features you're looking for. It's really, really small. It doesn't actually record in .WAV, but in Olympus's proprietary format; the included software package converts it to .WAV almost instantly.

The DS-330 is discontinued, but I'm sure there's a similar (probably superior) model offered by Olympus now.

The only problem was the way the software interacts with the recorder. I would dock the thing, and sometimes the computer would have trouble recognizing the recorder as being attached. But it's been an overall good buy.
posted by jayder at 9:13 PM on May 17, 2006


(This meets few "fundamentals", so I'll try not to waste too much of your time.) But Sony makes (made) some pretty nice mini disc players that are small, cheap - now probably around fifty clams for the recorder/player and a few discs - and have great (for your presumed purposes) sound quality. I have one and used to bootleg shows all the time. The mic wasn't built in on mine, but I think it might be built in on some models. I use headphones to record lo-fi junk, and also so I don't have to carry a microphone around (a lot of people don't realize that all headphones are two-way). It does not record in MP3 format, but transferring the music to your computer and creating MP3s is quite painless; I use an iMic (because I don't have audio-in) and WireTap Pro to process. I have the Sony MZ-R900 and give it my recommendation.

PS: Buy Sony used, because Sony sucks.
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 9:49 PM on May 17, 2006


I'd reccommend a Sony Hi-MD Minidisc recorder. It records into a proprietary format, but the software converts it to WAV when you import the recordings on the computer. Some of the models have built-in microphones. I myself have a MZ-NH900 model from Sony, and I use it regularly with a small external microphone for studio-quality recordings... And it's small enough to fit in my shirt pocket!
posted by fvox13 at 9:52 PM on May 17, 2006


deep sea... are you sure converting to mp3 is painless? I have a Sony MD recorder and I've never been able to get my Mac to read the files. Regardless, I love the thing. The software that came with mine was Windows only.
posted by dobbs at 9:54 PM on May 17, 2006


I take it in real-time direct so there's no format or files, just the audio from the cable. Mine actually came with a USB plug thing to use, but that was rubbish so it's deep in a landfill now.
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 10:00 PM on May 17, 2006


Your cellphone may already be able to act as a personal recorder - read the manual.
posted by richg at 10:05 PM on May 17, 2006


For everyone with questions about Minidisc -

There is a new Sony HiMD Minidisc recorder called the RH1. This recorder has both Macintosh compatibility and also backwards compatibility. You will be able to take any Minidisc- old, new, any format, and upload it to both your Mac or PC.

At the moment, with *any* HiMD recorder, and the newest version of SonicStage, you can upload .WAV files to the Mac.

For me, it's the perfect solution. Works on PC's and Macs... has that amazing MiniDisc sound (which none of the flash recorders can touch) and looks beautiful. It will cost around 250 bones when it comes out.

For your purposes, though, an MP3 player like the MuVo TX might be a better idea. Cheaper, simpler, and the mic is built in. Sound quality can't compare to MD- but it's simple, cheap and cheerful. I recommend you pick one up and play with it. If you hate the sound quality enough, get an RH1.
posted by fake at 10:15 PM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


At the moment, with *any* HiMD recorder, and the newest version of SonicStage, you can upload .WAV files to the Mac.

I don't know how that came out that way as it is wrong. With an RH1 or an M100 you can do that. And with mac software available from Sony. Not Sonicstage. But replace Mac with PC and it's correct.
posted by fake at 12:15 AM on May 18, 2006


Korg PXR4
posted by sourwookie at 12:36 AM on May 18, 2006


I have this Olympus DM-10. It works great for what I bought it for (recording lectures in a small conference room). The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have a CF/SD card slot. Then it would be great.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:51 AM on May 18, 2006


My Creative MuVo N200 has come in very handy as a digital voice recorder on several occasions. The thing is tiny and the internal mic is good enough to record a small meeting for later transcription. It's not 100% plug-and-play on a Mac (and I haven't tried it), but it looks like MuVo helper will do the trick.
posted by teleskiving at 6:36 AM on May 18, 2006


Thanks for all the advice. Right now the Olympus DS2 seems like the closest match.

I should have mentioned that I've tried MiniDisc, and for various reasons it wasn't what I wanted. I'm specifically looking for something new. The Korg is certainly a step up but coming in around $300 steeper than I want to go right now.
posted by nanojath at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2006


I'd find an old iRiver iHP-120 or iHP-140 being sold on eBay or similar. Has both analog and optical digital line in and out. Mic input is powered so you don't actually require a mic pre-amp unless you want to get really fancy. The Hxxx series are around the same size as 4G iPods. Using the Rockbox OS replacement it will play back pretty much every format you want. Records to uncompressed WAVs for best quality, later revisions will add lossy codec recording.

For myself, my preferred compact recorder is an old Archos Ondio. Around the same size as iPod Shuffle (slightly fatter). Runs on replacable AAA batteries. Also uses Rockbox for easy customizability. Line and Mic input (unpowered) and also enables recording from built-in FM. Voice triggered recording. Easy-access MMC slot to load or replace cards - makes it easy to switch between different libraries (I use lots of different 1GB cards). Large LCD screen displays recording levels, peaks, clipping, etc. Way ahead of its time, the Ondio was released in 2002 and discontinued soon after and so is quite hard to find these days, especially with blind people snapping it up because of its talking menu feature.
posted by meehawl at 8:42 AM on May 18, 2006


This completely misses your price point--which I think is too low for a good machine--but I just bought an M-Audio Microtrack and it has been just FANTASTIC. So easy to use, such great capabilities, and I found it online for about $340.

(I've already used it to record rehearsals of my ensembles, interviews, and conversations at a party, and all are great--WAV or mp3 as file format, you can choose up to 24 bit/96kHz resolution, great machine.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:27 AM on May 18, 2006


You're correct about the price point, LooseFilter. But that's the quality spectrum I'm looking for now. Thanks for the link on the Microtrack though, it's interesting. Maybe later.
posted by nanojath at 7:29 PM on May 18, 2006


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