Small Handheld Recorder

I’ve gotten some great recommendations for podcasting equipment for when I’m at home, but because I spend so little time at home that’s not practical for 95% of the time when I’d want to be podcasting. Once I was interviewed by NPR and the lady had this awesome pocket thing with a fuzzy mic on the end, the sound quality was great on it. Does anyone have recommendation for something I could carry in my pocket that sounds better than what I use now?

40 thoughts on “Small Handheld Recorder

  1. Cell Phone? Seriously I know mine can record files and the quality isn’t too bad. Depending on the phone mind you, the quality might work. Otherwise I’d suggest looking into dictation/”memo” recording tools. I know Shure made a couple mics for that industry… not sure if they embedded a digital recording into them.

  2. Hey Matt, I worked in radio for 15 years and did remote interviews often. Try A mini digital voice recorder is what your looking for. You can tranfser your voice file to your computer for editing and upload in a snap.

    As for the microphone, pretty cool huh? I did a search for “mini microphone direct plug”. Something like this.

    The “fuzzy thing” is called a wind sock or (mic condom) helps block the wind. These little mics work great and pick up EVERYTHING. Try a unidirectional. Omnidirectional picks up way too much for a podcast. Hope this helps.

  3. I have, love, and recommend the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96. That’s probably what the NPR person was using. It’s about the size of an iPod, records to CF (which is cheap) in either WAV or MP3 at really high quality – up to 96KHz, 24-bit sample size. I usually record at 44.1KHz, 16-bit. It comes with a little fuzzy stereo condenser mic that doesn’t look like much, but it sounds great. It also has just about every input and output you can think of short of XLR. It charges via mini-USB, and mounts like standard removeable drive, so it works with any platform.

    You can find it for $399 or less – check or the usual suspects. You won’t be disappointed! 🙂

  4. I use the Sony VN960PC. It records up to 5 hours at high quality and easily transfers over to a PC in a .WAV format. I use mine for recording lectures at the college I attend.

  5. I have used the following digital voice recorder for every Yap Sheep podcast and Chicago church sermon on our website and it works great.
    Sanyo Digital Voice Recorder ICR-S240RM
    I think I paid 114 dollars for it.

  6. The pros use the M-audio about 400 bucks.
    Best bang for the buck is an iriver 799 or equivalent with a $14 Griffin stereo mike.
    There is also a mike attachment for the Video Ipod.

  7. I am guessing that you have an iPod, If you do you will want to check out the Micromemo by XtremeMac, it was reviewed along with some others on NPR a few weeks back and received the highest rating. Ours works great, its easy to set up, and all you need to record is your iPod and the Micromemo mic. They have them for the Nano’s and the Video’s.
    -Hope this helps.
    Ethan Neuenswander

  8. There’s a dandy add-on for the iPod that’s about $50 and gives you broadcast quality recordings. Might be for only the Nano, but I think it does does the Nano and and the “traditional” one – it uses the port in the bottom of the unit and is made by Belkin. There’s a description in the iPod shop on Apple’s site.

  9. Are you thinking small, handheld camera like with MiniDV tape? Or written directly to a DVD or t osolid state media liek a memory card? If you can let me know I can advise, I d video casts with work and am a amateur Digital Video geek 🙂

  10. I don’t know what you’re using now, nor do I know what your budget is, but ….

    The Marantz PMD660 get’s good reviews, if you’ve got about $600 available.

    For considerably less, you can get a Dell Axim X51V PDA. The headphone jack is actually a 4-conductor jack. The second “ring” is the input, and you can connect a powered mic, like the Sony ECM-MS907. You’ll need some adapter cables and connectors. A good starting point is the “A/V” cable from a video iPod. Connected to the X51V, the red and white are left/right audio out, and the yellow is mono audio in.

    All that said, the built-in mic on the X51v does very, very well. There’s a short clip of George Lepp on my site (link to post: ) that was made from about 1/2 way back in the room, and he was talking through a really poor house PA with a blown speaker right above my head. It does considerably better when speaking in a normal voice from about three feet away.

  11. For podcasting, I use a Marantz PMD660, which is a great little machine. It records both MP3 and WAV to CF cards. It also has XLR connectors so you can use professional microphones. I like the Shure SM57, which is rugged and doesn’t pick up too much background noise.

    One important point. I’d only buy this from one place, Oade Bros. ( This is because they will modify the PMD660 to improve the quality of the mic preamps, which have an annoying hiss when you get the PMD660 right from the factory.

    All you need is the Basic MOD — and this becomes an amazing digital recorder. I even use it in my office/studio by plugging it into my mixer and using it as a deck.

  12. Actually, the above is too big for a pocket — might fit in a jacket pocket, however — but you could easily put it in a backpack, briefcase, etc. 🙂

  13. Matt: If you can justify $350 for a recorder and whatever you want to spend on Compact Flash for it, there’s nothing better for field recording than an M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96. [Bonus: you can bootleg concerts with it at taper-friendly shows.] The included microphone does a decent job with stuff that’s not too loud or too soft. I’ve recorded 30+ concerts with mine at this point and am really happy with it. It’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

  14. I recently purchased something that would suit your purposes perfectly for a friend of mine who’s studying to be an opera singer. It’s the M-Audio Mircotrack Compact Flash Recorder.

    I did my research, and this device is apparently the best you can get for the money. It comes with a small mic, but it’s designed to be used with almost any studio-quality mic to allow you to capture audiophile-quality recordings on the road. I’d look into it.

    If you want to know more from me, email me.

  15. Hey Matt,

    2 tin cans and a string would sound better…;-)

    I use an iRiver 799 for on the go bits for my podcast. You can use any of the 700 or 800 series iRivers since they allow you to use an external mic which would great reduce any handling noise picked up by the built in microphone. You can probably pick up one on eBay for about $50.00.

    If you have an ipod with video, there are a couple of really good recorders available to allow you to record directly on to an iPod. Belkin, Griffen and Xtreme Mac offer recorders. They run anywhere from 40-80 bucks.

    If you have a bigger budget, for a device about the size of 2 iPods (a little bigger than you indicated you wanted) there is the Zoom H4 from Samson. It’s about $400 buck but the sound quality is outstanding.

    Just a couple of suggestions for you. I think you need to get something new fast…;-)

    Actually…it’s not that bad as long as you don’t speak too loud and too close to the recorder. Also, if you can record in as quiet a place as you can, you’ll get better results.

    Good luck on your podcast. I’m very interested in what you have to say and I proudly use WordPress for about 10 different blog sites (6 podcasting & 4 others).

    Have fun!

    Andy Bilodeau

  16. What do you use now?

    Nothing’s going to beat a good condenser microphone, but they’re a pain to lug around. M-Audio has a good one, although pricey ($500)

    The mike it comes with is decent, but it has stereo 1/4″ inputs if you want to attach a “pro” mike.

    Here is a good source with more options:

    I won’t repeat (too much — PodPress) what others are saying (feed please), but a feed would be great 🙂

  17. NewEgg has reconditioned iRiver’s (model ifp-890) for 29.99 right now. With a good external stereo mike you can get 4 hours of really high quality sound or up to 17 hours of mono lower quality.

  18. I do a short daily podcast on etymology. I use an m-audio microtrack 24/96 with good results. Only two complaints. If it runs out of batteries while recording then it loses the recording. Not a problem for your short pieces. Also it isn’t as sutable for desktop recording since it makes the process two step (boot in recorder mode then record, reboot in HD mode then transfer file). But the sound quality is spectacular even with the included sterio mic. It takes high quality mic inputs if you want to carry them around. It can playback to headphones on the spot, though the user interface is a little rough. It uses removable memory so recording time can be pretty limitless. Please give me a listen at

  19. I just bought the Edirol R-09 a week ago and I love it so far. You can probably find a deal somewhere. It’s accompanying me to SXSW this year so I can also record some awesome music.

  20. Well, it looks like this topic’s been pretty well covered, but as a radio producer and podcaster, here’s my two cents:

    The M-Audio Microtrack is a nice littler recorder, but it’s got at least three major problems.

    1. It has a built in rechargeable battery. This might seem like a good thing if you don’t want to keep buying new batteries. But the first time you run out of juice in the field and realize that there’s absolutely no way to put in a spare battery or pop in a couple of AAs, it’ll already be too late.

    2. It takes a long time to start up. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll miss the first 15 seconds of any impromptu recording you’re trying to make. You know how those first few seconds it takes to turn on a digital camera feel like an eternity? Multiply it by ten and that’s how long it takes to start a Microtrack.

    3. You have to go through a complex set of menus to switch from mic to line-in recording.

    I’ve been using a Zoom H-4 for a little while now, and it addresses most of these problems. It boots faster, it runs for 4 hours on 2 AA batteries, and the menus.. well, they’re still a bit awkward.

    But it’s got built-in stereo microphones which are surprisingly good, XLR/quarter inch inputs in case you want to plug in an external mic or other device, and best of all, you can pick one up for $250 to $300. While that’s a lot more than an iRiver IFP-790 on eBay, the sound quality is far far better when recording from a microphone.

    That said, I tend to use an iRiver as a backup recorder. Whenever I make a recording on the Zoom or another device, I run a cable from the line-out of my main recorder to my IFP-795’s line-in so I can run two recordings at once (in case one of my devices dies).

  21. I also use the Zoom H4 and I’m very happy with the quality. The user interface is awkward but with practice I got past that problem “feature.”

    I like that it runs on long-lasting AA batteries. One button push to record. Comes with a windsock and a cradle to attach the recorder on a tripod. Currently about $260 on Amazon. I paid a bit more 2 months ago.

    Hope that helps.