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The Best Zoom Recorders For Field Recording

Photograph of the blog post author, Jodie Francis

Jodie Francis

27.4.2020

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The Best Zoom Recorders For Field Recording

Field recording devices are such a convenient and quick way of capturing the sounds you need. From live concerts, band rehearsals, artist interviews and podcasts, they can do it all and capture it all! 

They are a must-have piece of kit for studio,  audio engineers and field recordists as they allow you to create wherever you are. 

We have selected what we believe to be the best Zoom Recorders for you to check out, so make sure you read on!

What is a Zoom Recorder? 

Put simply, a Zoom Recorder is a portable recording device that captures sound and audio while you are on the go. To give a brief history of the company itself, Zoom was founded back in 1983 and is based in Tokyo, Japan. 

They began by making rhythm machines and MIDI synchronizer systems. By 1992, they had produced the 9200 processor and it quickly became a firm favourite of studios everywhere. 

But it was in 2006 that they made a real name for themselves by producing the revolutionary H4 Handy Recorder! They now produce a range of recording devices, from drum machines, samplers, effects pedals and, most importantly, their line of handy recorders. 

Despite dominating the market with their field recording devices, they aren’t the only brand that produces them. Sony and Tascam have created popular and well-respected devices that engineers use regularly. 

Zoom Recorders are great stand-alone recorders, as they are high-quality products designed with the sole purpose of recording hours of quality uninterrupted footage. There are some basic features that all Zoom Recorders have, such as microphones, different angling options and decent SD Card memory capacity.  

As you’d expect, they are extremely practical pieces of equipment as they are designed with portability in mind. You can actually fit some Zoom Recorders in the palm of your hand!

Zoom Recorders are becoming more and more beneficial to an engineer’s career. Prior to them being created, you would end up lugging around heavy pieces of kit; now it’s easier than ever to capture sound on the go. 

Here are our 10 best Zoom Recorders for field recording! 

Tascam DR-05X

DR-05X

Tascam is a great example of an alternative portable recording brand. The Tascam DR-05X comes with a built-in dual omnidirectional stereo microphone, which is capable of handling high sound pressure levels (SPL), such as rock concerts. 

A definite plus is it has a simple interface, it’s so easy to use you probably won’t even need the instruction manual! Tascam have updated the layout for your ease and comfort of use. You can adjust your levels and discard unwanted recordings with just one click of your thumb. 

If you’re after general recording this is a great option, but it’s not known for its ability to exclude background noise from the recording. Taking this into account perhaps the price, from $120, maybe a bit high.

  • Ease of use – 9 / 10
  • Value for money – 7 / 10
  • Range of services – 8.5 / 10

Tascam DR-100 mkIII

Tascam DR-100 mkIII

Tascam’s DR-100 mkIII field recorder is packed full of all the features you could possibly need, and at the $399 street price its good value for money. It is a bit chunkier than their other models, but we don’t foresee this being a problem as it’s still easily transportable. 

It boasts a 109 dB signal-to-noise ratio, a memory of 128 GB of data, and a variety of built-in microphones. 

There are two omnidirectional microphones and stereo directional microphones, meaning you can be confident of the studio-level sound recorders quality you will receive. 

  • Ease of use – 8.5 / 10
  • Value for money – 8.5 / 10
  • Range of services – 9 / 10

Zoom H5 

zoom H5

This Zoom Recorder is geared for audio and video production and is an extremely flexible piece of kit. It boasts four multi tracks of simultaneous recording, mic line, line level meter, plus a huge six easily interchangeable microphones for recording mode. 

Fun fact, the microphone can handle a maximum of 140 dB SPL, which is the equivalent to the sound of a jet aircraft from less than 200 feet away! 

What’s more, it has a handy Back-up Record feature that automatically duplicates a set of L/R tracks, so you can rest easy that your precious recordings will be safe. 

The street price for the Zoom H5 is $279.99, and we think this is a reasonable price for the features that it offers. 

  • Ease of use – 8.5 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.5 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Tascam DR-07X

Tascam DR-07X

Tascam have based the DR-07X on the DR-05X, but have added some additional functions such as the X/Y microphone extra width, as it can be angled to 120 degrees if required. The microphones can also record in A-B and there’s a useful dictation mode for capturing human voices and dictation should you need to. 

What’s more, its interface is simple to use and offers a variety of languages, and it comes with a battery life of 128 GB, so you can keep recording for days. 

A slight drawback for you could be the size. It is probably the biggest and widest field recorder on our list, but it is still a piece of equipment that will fit easily into your bag or coat pocket. If you like easy to use field recorders then this is a viable option for you. 

For the street price of $149.99, you get a variety of features for a justifiable price. 

  • Ease of use – 8.7 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.5 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Sony PCM-D100

Sony PCM-D100

The field recorders from Sony can be fairly expensive, but you get your money’s worth with this one. The PCM-D100 has a fantastic battery life, lasting up to 25 hours with 4 AA batteries. This makes it a great choice for those long days/nights recording. 

It boasts a built-in adjustable microphone with an X/Y stereo and a pair of Electret Condenser Microphones. It captures the most stunning and distortion-free sound no matter what the SPL is. 

The street price for this recorder is $775. While it is the most expensive field recorder on our list, you are absolutely guaranteed the best recording quality out there. So if you have the money to spare, choose this one for quality. 

  • Ease of use – 8.5 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.5 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Zoom H1n

Zoom H1n

If it’s a super-compact field recording device you are after then this is a great option for you. But don’t worry, this does not affect the level of features it offers. Due to its size, the microphones are set at X/Y recording but this doesn’t stop it from being a quality product. 

This recorder has a handy one-touch button, making it one of the most accessible Zoom recorders out there. It boasts an advanced on-board limiter with a distortion-free signal of up to 120 dB SPL. 

This guarantees you a clean and crisp recording. There’s also a low-cut filter that eliminates background noise. 

An overdub function allows you to add different layers of audio, meaning that you can create a rich and full tone. And finally, this field recorder offers you a Playback Speed Control which allows you to transcribe anything you wish, such as interviews with artists/bands, without changing the pitch. 

Due to its size, it’s so handy to just pop into your pocket should inspiration strike while you are out and about. 

This product can be yours from the street price of $119.99

  • Ease of use – 9.9 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.9 / 10
  • Range of services – 8.5 / 10

Zoom H2n

Zoom H2n

The Zoom H2n is another great option for practicality, as it’s a smaller model. It has an incredible 5 different built-in microphones with 4 different nodes of recording.

This gives the choice of recording in the standard X/Y or the surround sound options. It can store up to 32GB of data and boasts a handy data recovery function, as well as auto-record and pre-record feature options. 

Again, it’s an extremely versatile Zoom recorder and is suitable for live concert footage down to videography. It comes with everything that you’ll need to begin recording, from a set of AA batteries, an instruction manual and Steinberg WaveLab LE software. 

The Zoom H2n recorder is perfect for those of you wanting one of the smaller and compact designs on the market that doesn’t skimp on quality or design features. 

This product can be bought for the street price of $169.99

  • Ease of use – 9 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.5 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Zoom H4n Pro 

Zoom H4n Pro

The Zoom H4n Pro has cemented itself as one of the best field recorders out there, and for good reason. It has all of the features that you could need, from a good battery life down to the microphones. 

You can use the Zoom H4n Pro uninterrupted for 6 hours just using 2 AA batteries, and for up to 10 hours if you use it in Stamina Mode. Zoom H4n Pro actually has a four-track simultaneous recording option.

It also provides you with a variety of different microphones, like the built-in X/Y microphone that can change angles depending on what sound you are after. A 90-degree angle can give you a tightly focused stereo image, while 120 degrees can give you a wider image. 

The MS decoder allows you to change the width of the stereo image, making this a versatile product for any type of audio recording. You can use it to record a live concert, music or to provide video for visual projects. Pricing wise it’s around $230.

  • Ease of use – 9 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.8 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Zoom H6

Zoom H6

This Zoom Recorder has earnt its place as the most advanced field recorder out there, taking things up a level from the others on the list. 

It provides you with six simultaneous tracks as well as a detachable stereo with X/Y capabilities. You have up to 128GB of data available and you can power it with 4 AA batteries (no AC Adapter or phantom power) or NiMH rechargeable batteries, meaning you can use this Zoom Recorder for 20 hours without worrying that you will run out of juice. 

Any recording situation you can think of, this Zoom Recorder will be able to deal with. If you are after a Zoom Recorder for just the basic field recording then you may want to go for something a little cheaper.

However, if you want a recorder that you can take on professional level videography projects then this is a great option for you. 

This product can be yours from $329.99

  • Ease of use – 9.9 / 10
  • Value for money – 9.9 / 10
  • Range of services – 9.9 / 10

Your Mobile Phone 

Mobile Phone field recorder

Yes, you read this correctly! 

Sitting in your pocket right now is a free option for field recording for those of you on a tight budget. 

These days, we all take our phones with us when we go out and this means that you can always capture the sound effect of anything that you encounter. 

This is a convenient option if you happen to hear a sound that you want to capture while you’re out and about. Plus you can pair your device with a variety of microphones that can enhance your sound, like Rode i-XY

Our Verdict 

So there we have it – the best Zoom Recorders for field recording. 

For those of you out there with money to spare we would recommend the Zoom H6 recorder, as you simply can’t beat it for quality and premium features as well as durability. For those of you on a budget but still wanting that quality sound, we would recommend the Zoom H1n

Having said that, a great place to buy these Zoom Recorders is from Amazon, as you can choose to purchase a second-hand model at a reduced price. We would advise you to shop around and see what deals are about. And, remember, you can always use your phone! 

We advise you to spend what you can though, as you can’t put a price on perfect audio quality. 



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