The best field recorders to buy in 2023

Aug 7, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The best field recorders to buy in 2023

Aug 7, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Having a good audio recorder in the field is invaluable for any filmmaker. (a.k.a. a field recorder or a portable recorder). Audio makes up half of the audio-visual experience. If it’s not as good as possible, people will tune out of the whole thing. Sometimes, we need to record our own sounds. Often, it’s dialogue, and sometimes, it’s background noise and sound effects. But whatever we need to record, a field recorder is often the best way to do it.

Here, we look at some of our favorites from companies like Tascam, Zoom, Sony, and Sound Devices. These are field recorders that we’ve checked out or even owned in recent years and suggest you take a look at, too. We’ve split this up into three sections. With a couple of high-tier, a few medium-tier, and some entry-level options.

What type of field recorder do you need?

Field recorders come in all shapes and sizes with wildly varying capabilities. Sometimes, we might need to record half a dozen microphones simultaneously, all covering different subjects and angles. Maybe we just want to create single-mic voiceovers. Or maybe you are in a studio. You might want to record in areas that present a very high dynamic range and things like 32-bit float become essential for recording both the quietest pin drop and the loudest heavy metal concerts in the same clip.

It might be that you want it to double up as a USB audio interface. This way, when you’re not out recording with it in the field, you can record straight into your computer. All you need is a DAW or audio recording software like Adobe Audition. You can even do it within video editors like DaVinci Resolve.

Whatever your needs, the selections below are some of our best picks available at the moment. Between them, they’ll cover the needs of 99% of people. You just need to figure out which best suits your own needs.

Higher End Units – better audio quality

There aren’t many companies in this space, which leaves relatively few devices at the top end of the mainstream field recorder spectrum. The two devices here share a number of features in common. They both record 32-Bit float audio files and they both have plenty of phantom-powered XLR inputs.

Generally, if you’re looking at this section, you’ve probably already had something from the mid-tier and are looking for something with more inputs and more capability. If you’re not quite at the mid-tier yet, see these as future goals.

Zoom F8n Pro

Zoom F8n Pro - Field Recorders

The Zoom F8n Pro is an 8-input, 10-channel field recorder. It records up to 32-Bit float, allowing you to either lock your levels in during the recording or adjust them in post with little drawback. 32-Bit records are very handy when you’re singlehandedly recording a bunch of different sources and don’t want to worry about any of them clipping or dropping too low. But even better, it uses physical buttons and dials, and has a fairly large display, so handling all those channels is relatively easy.

It includes advanced filmmaking tools, like a built-in timecode generator and synchronization features. The Zoom F8n Pro also allows you to connect it to your computer as a USB audio interface, giving you eight inputs and four outputs with 32-Bit float resolution.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 8 inputs, 10 tracks
  • Multiple power options
  • Large colour front display
  • Works as USB audio interface
  • Supports Ambisonic recording for VR/360


  • Built-in Slate, Tone and Timecode generators
  • Lots of inputs
  • Smartphone App control


  • A large device for small productions
  • Not beginner-friendly
  • 32-Bit workflow is still quite painful

Sound Devices MixPre-6 II

Sound Devices MixPre-6 II - Field Recorders

Like the Zoom F8n Pro above, the MixPre-6 II is also a 32-bit field recorder. It features a couple of fewer inputs than the Zoom F8n Pro, but six is still plenty for the needs of many. If it’s not quite enough, the company also makes a 10-input version. The MixPre II series recorders are held in quite a high regard and should be able to handle whatever you can throw at them on location – audibly speaking.

The MixPre-6 II provides app control through its built-in Bluetooth module. Now, you can’t use this for Bluetooth audio, so there’s no wirelessly streaming its output to your AirPods. You do get remote monitoring of your levels and the ability to tweak settings from an iPad, iPhone or Android devices, though.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 6 inputs, 8 tracks
  • Bluetooth App Control
  • Simple user interface
  • Built-in Timecode generator
  • Supports Ambisonic recording for VR/360


  • Simple interface for run & gun
  • Records backups to USB
  • Record, Mix and Stream simultaneously


  • Only records WAV in standard mode
  • Very hungry on batteries
  • Only a 3.5mm socket for headphones

Medium-tier field recorders

“Medium tier” feels like I’m doing this level an injustice. The truth is, you can get very professional results with all of these. They just sacrifice some of the versatility and features of the larger units in order to fit down into a certain size and price bracket.

TASCAM Portacapture X8

TASCAM Portacapture X8 - Field Recorders

The Tascam Portacapture X8 is the company’s most recent advanced handheld recorder. It features 32-Bit recording and four XLR inputs. This recorder effectively replaces Tascam’s older DR100 series recorders, which still perform well today. But the Portacapture X8 brings that quality up to the latest technology.

32-Bit float recording means you’ll be able to use these in much more chaotic run & gun style situations without having to worry about levels. If you suddenly switch from a loud subject to a quiet subject, you’ll always be able to adjust the gain in post to bring it back without clipping.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 6 inputs, 8 tracks
  • Records WAV or MP3
  • Built-in compressor, limiter, LCF, reverb
  • Built-in timecode support
  • Line output passthrough + headphones out


  • Large easy to see display
  • Can be powered over USB
  • MP3 recording option


  • Build quality could feel better
  • Confusing user interface
  • A bit too large for some hands

Zoom H8

Zoom H8 - Field Recorders

The Zoom H8 is the first recorder on this list that isn’t 32-Bit float. While 32-Bit float definitely has its advantages, it’s rarely essential. Sometimes (perhaps even often), you’re able to tightly monitor and control those levels while you record, and you just don’t need that much latitude.

This one here, though, is for those people who need to record a lot of inputs simultaneously. The Zoom H8, as the name suggests, is an 8-input recorder. Six XLR and two on a detachable appendage on the top. You can upgrade this via one particular appendage that adds another four XLR sockets, bringing you to a total of ten XLR inputs that you can supply with phantom power and record simultaneously.

I just purchased one of these myself recently when my old Tascam DR-100 finally died after a decade or so of good use. I’ve yet to find circumstances where it can’t give me what I need.

Main Features

  • 8 inputs, 12 tracks
  • Wide array of accessories available
  • Field Recording, Music and Podcast presets
  • App-driven touchscreen interface
  • Supports a wide range of Zoom mic capsules
  • Supports full-size SD cards up to 512GB.


  • Record lots of sources simultaneously
  • Easy to see interface
  • Analogue gain dials


  • Uses micro USB for power, not USB-C
  • No timecode support
  • Bluetooth costs extra

Zoom F3

Zoom F3 - Field Recorders

Yes, it’s another Zoom. I told you there weren’t many brands in this industry! And no other brand in this industry is making a compact 32-Bit float field recorder with just a couple of XLR inputs besides Zoom. The Zoom F3 has just a pair of XLR inputs and only those XLR inputs. There’s no built-in mics, no 3.5mm sockets, nothing.

This two-input, two-channel recorder is geared towards minimalist run & gun shooting when you just need one microphone. Its 32-Bit float capabilities mean that if you can’t continually monitor it, you don’t need to worry about subjects being too loud or quiet. Its small size also keeps it well hidden on camera rigs.

They’re also extremely handy for recording sound effects with just a microphone on a boom. A nice lightweight setup while out on location. One of these is still on my own shopping list for some situations, despite already owning the Zoom H8. If you’re just starting out and don’t mind spending a little money, this is probably the one I’d go for at the start. It’s limited but forgiving and should keep you going long enough to figure out your more specific needs.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 2 inputs, 2 tracks
  • Supports microSD up to 1TB
  • 3.5mm Line out & Headphone out sockets
  • Powers from 2xAA batteries or USB-C
  • Compact and high quality form factor


  • Very compact for run & gun
  • Wide dynamic range thanks to 32-Bit float
  • Works as audio interface on computer


  • Only two inputs, not expandable
  • Fairly limited user interface
  • Bluetooth reported to be temperamental

Tascam DR-10L Pro

Tascam DR-10L Pro - Field Recorders

The Tascam DR-10L Pro might take a slight departed from the style of the above field recorders, but this is an excellent option for certain use cases. This recorder has no XLR sockets and lacks some of the fancy features of the above, but if you need to discretely record a lav mic without cables or a wireless system, this is a good way to go.

Like similar recorders of its style, it accepts a 3.5mm TRS microphone input only and is designed to be worn on the microphone user’s belt. But where the Tascam DR-10L Pro rises above the competition is with its 32-bit float recording capabilities. This essentially makes it an unclippable recorder. You can just put it on your subject, hit record and walk away (in theory).

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 1 3.5mm TRS microphone input
  • Supports microSD up to 512GB
  • 3.5mm Headphone socket
  • Powers from 2xAAA batteries for 24.5 hours
  • Extremely compact form factor


  • 32-Bit float recording
  • Simple interface
  • Easily hidden on your subject


  • No way to remotely monitor
  • Uses AAA batteries
  • Not useful for all situations

Entry-Level field recorders

If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go super expensive or advanced with your audio recorder. Yes, a fancy and more expensive recorder will offer you more capabilities but if you’re just dipping your toe in the water to see how you like it or you’re shopping on a budget, these are well worth a look at.

Saramonic SR-R1 Belt Pack Recorder

Saramonic SR-R1 Belt Pack Recorder - Field Recorders

This is a similar style of recorder to the Tascam DR-10L Pro listed above. However, this one’s in the low-budget section because it costs about half the price. Of course, it lacks some of the features of the DR-10L Pro, such as 32-Bit recording and not as much battery longevity.

But for half the cost, it will certainly provide you with more options than not having a recorder at all. It comes supplied with a lavalier microphone and records up to 24-bit 44.1kHz (CD quality). Sure, it doesn’t do 48kHz (DVD quality) audio recording, and there’s no 32-Bit, but it’ll get you started.

Main Features

  • Up to 24-Bit 44.1kHz recording
  • 1 3.5mm TRS input
  • Supports microSD up to 128GB
  • 3.5mm Headphone socket
  • Powers from 1xAAA batteries for 5 hours
  • Extremely compact form factor


  • Locking 3.5mm input
  • Can record mic or line-level inputs
  • Provides plug-in-power


  • No 48kHz Audio (44.1kHz only)
  • No 32-Bit float recording
  • Low battery life

Zoom H1n

Zoom H1n - Field Recorders

The Zoom H1n is the entry point into the world of audio recorders for many people. Even people who have more advanced recorders often still keep an H1n in their gear bag for certain duties. It’s small enough that you can stick it anywhere and easily transport it in your pocket. Its built-in microphones let you quickly whip it out, hit record and capture what’s in front of you.

It contains no XLR sockets, although it does contain a 3.5mm TRS socket. This lets you take in either a line-level or a mic-level signal, still letting you record a wide range of potential sources. It’s also great to throw on-camera to record instead of the internal mic for a sync track. If this is to be your first recorder, it’s not a bad choice. If you absolutely need XLR inputs, check out the Tascam DR-40X as an alternative.

Main Features

  • Up to 24-Bit 44.1/48/96kHz recording
  • 1 3.5mm TRS input
  • Supports microSD up to 32GB
  • 3.5mm Headphone socket
  • Powers from 2xAAA batteries for 10 hours
  • Compact form fact


  • Built-in stsreo X/Y microphones
  • Can record mic or line-level inputs
  • Provides plug-in-power


  • Low microSD capacity limit
  • Not great battery life
  • Handling noise can be an issue

Saramonic SmartRig+

Saramonic SmartRig+ - Field Recorders

The Saramonic SmartRig+ is an unusual item. It’s not actually a recorder. Instead, it’s an interface that allows you to plug XLR microphones into either your camera or your smartphone. When using the latter, your mobile device becomes your field recorder.

It’s an interesting device that provides two XLR inputs with independent gain levels. You also get 48v phantom power, but it appears to be on or off for both channels simultaneously. So, you couldn’t mix a condenser mic with a dynamic mic. But, for interviews or narrative scenes where you want to boom mics over two subjects, this could be a great solution.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 2x XLR Combi-Jacks & 2x 3.5mm Inputs
  • Supports microSD up to 1TB
  • 3.5mm Headphone socket
  • Powers from 9v PP3 battery


  • XLR Combi-Jacks and 3.5mm line or mic level
  • Headphone monitoring output
  • Gives your camera or phone XLR inputs


  • Not actually a recorder (uses your phone)
  • USB-C and Lightning versions cost more
  • Designed in the 1980s (looks like it, anyway)

Special Mention

When it comes to recording in the field, you don’t always have the luxury of having all of your gear with you all of the time. Fortunately, there are some things we often carry with us – at least, I do – when going out on a shoot and can be extremely useful in a pinch.

Rode Wireless GO II

Rode Wireless GO II - Field Recorders

Some of you might be thinking “wait, what?”, but hear me out. As of April 2021, the Rode Wireless GO II has been capable of recording internally on the transmitters independently of the receiver. You don’t even need to turn your camera or receiver on. Just turn on the transmitter and it records – this is behaviour you need to configure.

This functionality has enhanced over recent firmware updates to provide direct wav access without having to go through the Rode App. The Wireless GO II Tx only has a 3.5mm TRS input, but you’re able to plug other microphones into this, as you can with the Tascam DR-10L Pro above. Alternativevly, you can connect it to on-camera microphones like the Rode VideoMic NTG (buy here) or Sennheiser MKE 400 G2 (buy here).

This level of versatility is very handy. And while they are just wireless microphones at their heart, the Rode Wireless GO II transmitters are fairly capable field recorders in their own right. If you know you’re going to need both a wireless microphone system and a field recorder, this is an excellent option.

If you do go this route and have a 3D printer (or know somebody who does), be sure to print out Caleb Pike’s MicBack, which lets you mount the Wireless GO II Tx directly onto one of several Rode and Diety on-camera microphones. They also works with the Tascam DR-10L Pro mentioned above.

Main Features

  • 32-Bit float recording
  • 6 inputs, 8 tracks
  • Records WAV or MP3
  • Wireless Frequency: Digital 2.4GHz
  • Max range: 200 metres
  • Connectivity: 3.5mm TRS/TRRS or USB


  • Excellent sound quality
  • Built-in recording capability
  • Digital USB audio connectivity


  • Lavalier microphones not included
  • Flimsy pouch as protective “case”
  • They’re a little expensive for beginners

What to think about when buying a portable audio recorder

When you are buying an audio recorder, no matter what it’s for, you are going to have certain requirements. (Those requirements vary between journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and so on). You might not even know you have these requirements until you’re forced to ask yourself if you need to pay for this feature or that capability. But, spending a lot of money doesn’t necessarily get you the right recorder for your needs. So, here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy.

FAQ for selecting a field recorder

Do you need XLR inputs on your filed recorder?

This is probably the first question you should ask yourself. The reason for this is that regardless of the answer, it’s immediately going to discount a whole bunch of recorders from the running, especially if budget is a concern. If you’re only using external microphones with 3.5mm outputs, or only taking 1/4″ jack line feeds from a mixer, you don’t really need XLR. This can potentially cut costs a lot.

Do you need to record multiple microphones simultaneously?

If you do, then personal recorders like the Tascam DR-10L Pro will mean that you need to buy multiple units. There are many field recorders out there, however, that provide a pair of inputs, allowing you to record two separate microphones, or a stereo feed simultaneously.

Do you need a field recorder with more than two inputs?

While two-input recorders are common, they can get quite expensive as you add more. The Zoom H8 is a great compromise, offering six inputs for a good price. Higher end recorders with more inputs, however, can get very expensive.

Does it have a headphone monitoring port?

Unless you’re using a 32-Bit recorder (and even if you are), it’s a good idea to be monitoring your audio when recording to ensure nothing is clipping and there are no funny background noises or echo being picked up.

Do you travel and shoot for long periods at a time?

Some recorders, thankfully only a few of them, feature internal storage. This storage is usually quite small, around 8GB or so. While this can still hold a lot of audio, if you’re planning to go away for a week or two shooting on location, this can fill up very quickly. So, consider microSD cards and the maximum capacity the recorder can hold. And don’t forget to back up regularly!

Do you want an expandable system?

Some devices have interchangeable modules that allow you to expand the capabilities of the recorder. The Zoom H8, for example, has one module that adds four more XLR sockets, for a total of 10 inputs. Others offer different microphone configurations. These are optional extras, but they may be a consideration for you.

Will you ever want to record at the computer?

You can, of course, record into your field recorder while sitting at the computer, then copy the files over when you’re done and sync them up with whatever. But, it’s a lot easier if you can just plug the recorder straight into your computer and then record your audio in something like Adobe Audition or Reaper. You can even preview effects, such as compression and EQ this way. So, USB Audio Interface capability will be important if this is something you need.

Are you going to be mostly using it at the computer?

If you find that you’re using your field recorder at the computer more often than not, it might be wise to start looking to other desktop audio solutions. Field recorders can do the job, but you often find that a dedicated USB audio interface is going to offer an easier recording time. You may find you have a better overall solution to buy a USB audio interface and a cheaper recorder.

Is it for casual use or regular work use?

If you’re only picking something up for casual use, most field recorders will work just fine, lasting a decade or more. So, you can pick from pretty much anything. If you’re careful with it, it’ll last. If, on the other hand, you’re going to be using it on location every week or more, you might want to go with a higher end unit with more solid construction and higher durability (and often a better warranty).

Are you often shooting in environments with mixed volumes?

While microphone type and proximity can overcome different environment noise levels to a degree when trying to pick out a single subject, they can’t do anything about overly loud or quiet subjects. For that, with traditional recorders, you need to be monitoring your audio and tweaking gain dials. This is difficult in a fast-paced environment. With 32-Bit float recorders, you can record all the sounds, loud and quiet, without having to worry about clipping. You can raise or lower the volume in post to get a perfect level.


Digital field recorders have been very capable machines for many years now. There are a number of things that separate them. The number and type of inputs, the quality of the preamps, digital vs analog gain dials, build quality and durability, and a number of other factors will all affect your buying choices.

But no matter how much money you spend or how good a particular item may be, there’s no such thing as a perfect field recorder. Just like cameras, all field recorders will have situations where they shine and others where they fail and just get in the way.

So, you may end up buying multiple field recorders during your journey to cover different needs. I have the Zoom H8, which covers around 95% of my field recording needs, and I have a USB audio interface for recording at home, but I’ll still be picking up the Zoom F3 to cover the other 5%.

Which you start with and whether you should plan based on owning multiple units in the future or just upgrading and replacing as the years go by is going to depend entirely on your own needs.

How do you record your audio right now?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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