You probably have a vision in your head as to where you’ll do most of your podcasting. Maybe it’s in your office, or you’re building out a dedicated recording studio, or maybe you’ll be tracking down interview guests and interviewing them wherever you can get them to sit still for 30 minutes. But have you figured out what sort of podcast recording device you’ll be using in those moments?
Your decision to record directly to a computer or with a portable audio recorder should be based on how and where you plan on recording, as well as your budget. There’s not really any performance-based reason to choose one over the other.
Is there a computer in the room where you plan on recording? Do you have a laptop that you wouldn’t mind carrying around with you when recording off-site? Then there’s no need to buy a standalone recorder. However, without a portable recorder, you may need a mixer if you’re recording with multiple microphones.
Do you have USB mics? Then you’ll need to record into your computer. The nice thing about using a USB mic and a computer it’s nice and simple.
If you have XLR mics and you need to be mobile (and you don’t have or want to lug around a laptop), then you’ll need a portable recorder. Plus, if you do get a portable recorder, you could use it to do all your recording, no matter where you are.
When selecting a portable recorder, think about what you need it to do. How many XLR microphone inputs do you need? Would you take advantage of built-in stereo mics to capture the sounds of an audience, or do you simply need one external mic input for your purposes?
Requirements for a Portable Recorder
Regardless of the mic input and additional built-in options that drive your decision making, these functions should be non-negotiable when choosing a portable recorder:
- Independent input gain control for each mic input.
This lets you independently adjust the recording level for each microphone/guest.
- Recording specs: 16-bit, 44.1k (WAV or AIF format)
The numbers above refer to sampling and frequency. Unlike mp3 files, WAV and AIF audio is uncompressed. Suffice it to say that these specs are industry standard minimums.
- Input channels can record to separate audio tracks.
OK, this one’s not a total deal breaker, but as producers/editors, we much prefer working with audio that has each mic/voice saved to its own track.
A USB microphone will not work with a portable recorder, in which case you’ll need to record with a computer.
Any worthwhile portable recorder will have a built-in mixer for the multiple mic inputs, which removes the need for an additional mixer.
Rather than creating two recording setups (computer and portable), you could simplify by just using a portable recorder.
When selecting a recorder, there are lots of makes and models to choose from. Zoom is the current industry standard, and we like their equipment a lot. Our advise is to keep it simple to start. As you gain experience and your needs increase, you can get a more advanced recorder.
|Recorder||Microphone Inputs||Rough Cost|
|Zoom H4N||2 XLR inputs plus built-in stereo mics||$200|
|Zoom H5||2 XLR inputs plus detachable stereo mic capsule||$260|
|Zoom H6||4 -6 XLR inputs||$390|
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