The best audio recorders for filmmaking enable you to record high-quality sound with the minimum of fuss. And it's worth spending a little extra to get one.
After all, while you can get away with rescuing video footage in post-production if you've over- or underexposed, recovering bad sound is not so easy, and will turn off viewers far more than dodgy visuals.
Getting it right first time, then, couldn't be more vital. To help you out, we've brought together the best digital recorders in the article below. These are all respected, industry-standard models that are small, portable and fit a range of budgets.
Note that these external devices record audio separately, so you will have to pair it together with your video within your video editing software, whether that be Final Cut Pro X (opens in new tab), Adobe Premiere Pro (opens in new tab), DaVinci Resolve (opens in new tab) or iMovie.
You might find it helpful to sync up your audio the old-fashioned way of using a clap to the start of your recording. However, editing software has come a long way and this is now more a habit than a requirement.
Like any sector, there are audio recorder brands that dominate, and in this case it's Tascam and Zoom. However, we've found decent options from other companies too, you should be able to find an audio recorder that fits your needs and, more importantly, your budget in the list below. If you need guidance, though, skip to our section on What to look for in an audio recorder.
Best audio recorders for filmmaking(opens in new tab)
The Zoom H8 is one of the most popular and advanced audio recorders on the market, packed with great features for videographers. It has multiple connections so you can choose to employ the X/Y mics for more ambient sound or add in a handheld or wireless mic via one of the four XLR inputs or two XLR 1/4-inch jacks.
Each separate input can be adjusted and monitored on the 2.4-inch color, LCD screen and three built-in apps optimize recordings for either field recording, podcasting or music. It can also take standard-sized SD cards up to 512GB, so you'll never be short on memory.(opens in new tab)
On a tight budget? The Zoom H1n portable recorder is a great choice, featuring an onboard stereo microphone that lets you easily record two tracks of high-resolution audio in the palm of your hand. Filmmakers will enjoy the H1n's ability to capture clean, distortion-free speech. And like other H-series products by Zoom, you can hold it in your hand, attach it to a mic stand or tripod, and even mount it to a camera via the shoe mount (sold separately). Overall, this is a best value model on our list.
The Tascam DR-40X is more of an entry-level audio recorder when compared to the Zoom H8, but nonetheless, remains a common choice among videographers. It has two XLR inputs complemented by omnidirectional mics that can be switched from an A-B pattern to an interview style shoot or to an X-Y pattern depending on the sort of ambient sound you want to capture.
When filming indoors, there's no need to worry about swapping batteries as the DR-40X can be powered via a mains plug, which you'll have to buy separately but is a great advantage when using it as a main audio source on a set or YouTube studio. Audio is recorded onto an SD card so files can easily be transferred to your laptop, PC or Mac.(opens in new tab)
With the Tascam DR-10X attached directly to your preferred microphone, you can record full-resolution dialog and speech while skipping the trouble of long cable runs and avoiding the confusion of configuring a wireless microphone system. Whether you use a handheld dynamic mic or a battery-powered condenser, the lightweight DR-10X can be discreetly affixed to the mic without weighing it down.
Thanks to its small, low-profile design, the DR-10X is ideal for interviews, weddings, and vlogs where the audio equipment needs to stay out of sight. And with 10-hours of battery life from one AAA battery, this is a perfect solution without the hassle of wireless interfaces.(opens in new tab)
The R07 is a great option for ‘Run & Gun’ videographers looking to capture improved sound for their productions. The small unit includes built-in stereo microphones and a port to plug in a lav mic: perfect when someone's presenting to camera.
There is a useful LCD to show sound levels, plus you can also monitor at a distance using Bluetooth headphones. The R07 can run for 15 hours off two AA batteries, and features programmable Presets, so once you nail the settings for a scene, you won’t have to program them again, making this a great solution for indie filmmakers.
What’s more, a rehearsal mode listens to your audio and adjusts the settings for you for optimal sound quality and recording, so you won't need to spend too much time in the editing suite. A smartphone also app enables remote control too, further enhancing the speedy operation of the R07.(opens in new tab)
This incredibly small and lightweight audio recorder is unlike anything else on the list. It's a clever recording solution for videographers who want to use their smartphone to record footage. You attach the Memory Mic to your subject via a magnetic clip, essentially turning it into a Bluetooth lav mic that records audio internally.
Once you're done recording a scene, you can transfer and sync the audio with your video clips via Bluetooth and a free app for iOS or Android. It can record up to four hours of audio on a single charge and takes just two hours to charge back up to full power.(opens in new tab)
The DR-10 SG is an incredibly compact unit that is well suited to vloggers who want to shoot handheld but with improved audio. Essentially, the DR-10 SG is a hotshoe mic, with a built-in audio record that stores files on a Micro SD card. The device tips the scales at just 110 g (including batteries) and a supercardioid shotgun microphone captures sound in front of the lens.
With four selectable EQ modes and audio pass-through to the camera, users can fine-tune the audio and the unit benefits from a shockmount, to reduce introducing unwanted audio when the camera is moved or knocked. A single AAA battery gives over eight hours of operation – impressive.(opens in new tab)
This is the perfect two-track audio recorder for simply popping on your belt and presenting to camera at distance, because no connection to the camera is needed. The F1-LP records audio via a lav mic and is a good option for those videographers using non-DSLR cameras such as GoPro (opens in new tab)s, smartphones or cameras like the DJI Osmo Pocket (opens in new tab), as you can use the F1-LP to capture high-quality sound that you can merge with your footage in post-processing.
If you'd prefer not to use the lav mic, more ambient sound can be captured by adding one of Zoom’s mic accessories to the 10-pin jack (such as a Zoom’s hotshot module or XLR capsule). This versatility is even more impressive considering the F1-LP’s mid-level price-tag and the unit benefits further from an LCD to show information, a tally light to show when the unit is recording and a headphone port so audio can be monitored in real time.(opens in new tab)
The DR-60D MkII may not look like a typical audio recorder, but the unit is perfect for videographers looking to take audio within their footage to the next level. This time around, the camera sits on top of the audio recorder, screwing into place where your tripod plate would go.
With two XLR/TRS inputs, videographers can choose to add in audio from these sources with audio straight from your DSLR or mirrorless camera, which is recorded to a full-size SD card slot. A USB port enables remote powering of the unit and at the front you will find an LCD to display sound levels along with buttons to quickly playback clips you’ve recorded via your headphone. Phantom power sends a 48v signal to mics that need extra power and a mixer affords a high level of control on how the balance of sound will be recorded.(opens in new tab)
Like the H8, the Zoom H6 is a popular audio recorders amongst filmmakers and is packed with great features. It has multiple connections so you can choose to employ the X/Y mics for more ambient sound or add in a handheld mic via one of the four XLR inputs.
Each separate input can be adjusted and monitored on the 2-inch color LCD screen and it takes standard-sized SD up 128GB to cards you'll never be short on memory whilst out in the field. The H6 packs an impressive array of features into a rugged, rubberized body that's more than ready to meet the varied demands of professional cinematographers looking to take their films to the next level.
What to look for in an audio recorder
- Recording formats: Can the recorder capture audio in different file formats such as WAV and MP3 files? This gives versatility to your work flow and allows high quality audio to be added to your footage.
- Different inputs: Look out for multiple inputs as this will allow you to mix up the microphones you use; from lav mics when presenting to XLR inputs for boom mics and shotgun mics to record ambient sound.
- Internal memory: Most audio recorders enable users to record sound to a SD or MicroSD card (opens in new tab). However, some also offer internal storage – useful if you filled up cards or have forgotten them.
- LCD screen: Does the audio recorder offer an LCD? These are useful for not only adjust settings, but also for monitoring sound levels to make sure the audio isn’t too loud/quiet.
- Bluetooth technology: Some audio recorders offer Bluetooth, which enable benefits such as remote control via a smartphone app, or the ability to monitor sound remotely via cable-free Bluetooth headphones.
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