Best Digital Multitrack Recorders in 2020



Zoom F8n Multi-Track Field Recorder Review:


The F8n is an updated version of the original F8. Comparisons of the features can be found online. Sound quality is good, build quality is very good, and I'm amazed at how many features are packed into such a small box. If you're a production sound pro then you should consider the Sound Devices recorders which have better sounding mic pre-amps but the F8n is no slouch. The F8n is being used in many mid to lower budget productions and as a back up recorder in large budget productions. This is an excellent product and highly recommended.



Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder with Zoom APH-5 Accessory Pack for H5 Review:


SUMMARY: Solid, affordable recording device that offers lots of features for reporters, audio producer, podcasters.

I needed to replace a Marantz 671 that fell off a motorcycle and on to a busy freeway while recording :( Let's just say it after being run over by about a dozen cars, it was well beyond repair.

Did the research, went with the H5, and I'm pretty happy, especially considering it's considerably cheaper, offers far more capabilities and sounds at least as good or better as what it replaced.

Love the record level dials. Thank you for that Zoom. Operation is fairly straightforward. The menus are less confusing than most, and operated with a little toggle switch that's pretty easy to use. I'm not fully sold on the mic capsules; they are adequate, but not stellar. I purchased the option MS (mid side) mic and was a bit disappointed in the quality of the recording when compared to my Shure VP-88, but then the Zoom mic costs almost exactly 1/10th the price, so...

The standard X/Y mic that comes with the recorder is very wind and pop sensitive. And the included foam windscreen doesn't help much. If you decide on this unit, get a fuzzy windscreen. I bought the Zoom model, it fits nicely and makes the recorder look like a smurf. Or Don King. But it does the job, and is a must for pretty much any recording, inside or out.

There is an option to add compression to recordings. The 'general' setting is set at a whopping 9/1 ratio, excellent if you want to capture every bit of background noise in your recording, useless otherwise. There is a 'vocal' setting with a much lighter touch that could prove useful, but for the most part, I intend to limit my compression to post.

Others have complained about battery life, but I have found it to be pretty good. I've been using a battery-powered external mic rather than phantom power, so perhaps that's why.

Biggest drawback for me, so far, is that the machine feeds a monitor signal to the headphones even though it's not recording. Maybe I am just getting old, but more than once I have set levels, checked to make sure things are looking and sounding good, and then failed to hit the record button, only to realize minutes later (or not at all) that nothing is recording. I wish there were a way to toggle the monitor so that you can only hear audio when you are actually recording, which would help pitiful recordists like me. Haven't found it - if it's there and you know about it, please educate me.

But overall, a good machine that will serve me well. If I can remember to press record.



Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder Review:


 This is my fourth Zoom H4 in the past ten years. They keep improving them and I keep upgrading, and it's been worth it every time. I shoot video so I use a Zoom H4 to record the audio. I do mostly interviews so the noise floor on the older H4's has sometimes been a problem for me. When I pulled this out of the box the first thing I did was an A/B comparison between the noise levels on this one and my 2015 H4nSP. The difference was amazing! There is almost no noise at all on this new unit. Everything else is pretty much the same, but let's face it, it's all about the noise, and Zoom really knocked it down on this new release. I'm really impressed.

I do an A/B test on the video, but you have to wear headphones if you really want to hear the difference between the noise floors on the two units. If you can't hear it here because of Amazon's draconian compression, search "Zoom H4nPRO vs H4nSP" on YT for a higher resolution version of this video.

PS - Writing reviews has become an accidental hobby for me, and it always makes my day to know that people find my reviews helpful (and if not, why.) Also, if you have any questions, clarifications, or comments please feel free to leave a comment below. I usually respond pretty quickly and almost always within 24 hours.



Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder (H4n Pro All Black) Review:


 This is my fourth Zoom H4 in the past ten years. They keep improving them and I keep upgrading, and it's been worth it every time. I shoot video so I use a Zoom H4 to record the audio. I do mostly interviews so the noise floor on the older H4's has sometimes been a problem for me. When I pulled this out of the box the first thing I did was an A/B comparison between the noise levels on this one and my 2015 H4nSP. The difference was amazing! There is almost no noise at all on this new unit. Everything else is pretty much the same, but let's face it, it's all about the noise, and Zoom really knocked it down on this new release. I'm really impressed.

I do an A/B test on the video, but you have to wear headphones if you really want to hear the difference between the noise floors on the two units. If you can't hear it here because of Amazon's draconian compression, search "Zoom H4nPRO vs H4nSP" on YT for a higher resolution version of this video.

PS - Writing reviews has become an accidental hobby for me, and it always makes my day to know that people find my reviews helpful (and if not, why.) Also, if you have any questions, clarifications, or comments please feel free to leave a comment below. I usually respond pretty quickly and almost always within 24 hours.



Tascam DP-006 6-Track Digital Pocketstudio and Deluxe Accessory Bundle w/Headphones + Case + Cables + 16GB + Xpix Tripod + More Review:


While I haven't spent a lot of time with my Tascam DP-006, I can say that I got up an running with ease over a big cup of coffee and about 15 minutes reading through the manual. Having had a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder years ago, and more recently an Olympus digital recorder, this was an easy transition. Controls are familiar and quite intuitive. It comes with a 2GB SD card that has a demo track on it, and 4 AA batteries in the box to get you started. It also included a USB cable to connect to a computer, for additional versatility when creating tracks or synching to video.

The package overall is a great value! I absolutely love the customizable XPIX case that was included ( considering buying another for some of my other gear). Also included was a mini tripod that can double as a pistol grip on a camera, but works great with the recorder allowing you to give it a little tilt so you can see and reach all the controls easily when you are recording. To round out things out, this package also included Samson corded headphones which feel light and may not hold up to years of use, but are well suited for my current purposes, two 15 ft 1/4" patch cords, a 16GB SD card and a spare set of AA batteries.

If you are looking for an easy to use portable multi-track recording package that gives you the flexibility to record literally ANYWHERE this is an excellent package that ticks all the right boxes in. Great Value!



Tascam, 4 AD Converter, Black, DR-40 (DR-40) Review:


I've never previously owned a recorder so I was jumping in the deep end with this after doing some homework. I used it for the first time this past weekend to record my band at a live gig, and I couldn't be happier with the results. I watched a few tutorial videos on YouTube, and read some of the manual so I was familiar enough to use it without a lot of effort. I also bought a 32 GB SD card, and an adapter so I could connect it to a mic stand. I recorded roughly three hours and forty five minutes of music (WAV, 24 bit, 44.1 khz). Since I wasn't sure how large the files would be, i recorded each set on three different SD cards. Each file was about 1.3 GB's. Using dual mode it recorded a separate backup file so 2.6 GB's x 3 for close to 8 GB's total. So, as it turns out I would've been fine just using my one 32 GB card. Using only the built in mics in A-B mode we turned the input level down to 26, raised in on a mic stand about 8 ft in the air level with the PA speakers about 10 feet away in a relatively small room. The crowd was loud, but didn't drown out the music at all, and there was no clipping either. Levels for each of the instruments were recorded well. I could hear drums, bass, guitar, vocals cleanly. Based on this first time experience, and the ease of use/learning curve, I'm very glad I made the purchase and would recommend it to someone else looking to use it to record live music.



Zoom H1n Handy Recorder (2018 Model) Review:


This is the audio solution I'd been searching for for my YouTube videos. It's really an all-in-one device - a pocket or belt clip-sized recorder (for a separate wired lapel mic), a standalone microphone and a USB desktop microphone. I'd tried a couple of wireless mic systems to allow me to move around in my videos without being tethered to the camera, but I just wasn't happy with the sound quality from any of them in the consumer price range. The Zoom H1, though, sounds great and achieves the same purpose while also filling those aforementioned extra roles that I never really expected it to.

The included microphones (it has two for stereo) sound great - very high fidelity with low noise. Noise has been one problem I've had with every other microphone system I've tried, wired or wireless - either there's a lot of noise and/or hiss, or the sound is muffled on the high end as that's how the inherent noise is being controlled. But that's not true of the H1. If anything, despite the relative lack of noise it's a little too bright, but I'm pretty confident that a basic windscreen could tame that.

Workflow using a separate off-camera audio recorder is a little different than recording through the camera, but with Davinci Resolve (even the free version) it's a snap to sync it up, so don't worry about it if that's what's holding you back. There's basically one extra step, which is to import the audio files in addition to the video files, but you can tell Resolve to just sync everything up by waveform (assuming you also recorded audio on camera) and it'll compare the files and automatically link and sync your audio files to their video files. I assume other apps have similar functions, although with some you may need to do it manually, which would make a slate helpful.

With this recorder, while shooting myself I will typically have the H1 on my belt with a Sony ECMCS3 lapel mic connected and attached to my shirt. This allows me to move anywhere while filming (my camera also allows smartphone control), and I just need to remember to press record on both devices - honestly, this has been easy to get used to doing. The H1's record button is so big that you can just press it by feel, without looking at the recorder, which is, well, handy.

If there's any minor criticism I might have, it's overall build quality, construction and design other than the big record button. The unit is plastic, and it's that nasty slippery smooth plastic that forever feels yucky and sweaty after the first few days of use without constant cleaning. Also, the buttons other than the record button are tiny and recessed, all the better so you don't accidentally press them, but initial setup can be a bit of a challenge as a result, as is changing settings whenever you need to.

I've also noticed that there seems to be slightly more noise when I switch to 24k sample rates rather than 16k. For me, I don't need 24k since I'm just recording my speaking voice, but for someone recording music, it might be a concern. It's still a very tiny amount of noise, but I tested in silence and I could hear it through headphones with the volume turned up a fair amount. It was true with either the built-in mic or external mic activated, so I'm pretty sure it is the recorder. For what it's worth, I had auto level control turned off, and had the record level at around 75.

Still, at around $100 (or much less for the white one as I write this), I consider this recorder a bargain. I'm recording literally all of my audio with it at this point, and it sounds great for both "live" stuff and in-studio voice-overs.

I do recommend a few accessories to make this recorder truly useful and versatile. The first is a belt clip. Second is a desktop tripod. Third is an external lapel mic. And fourth is probably a windscreen to tame the high end (though I don't have one that fits yet myself). With a windscreen you don't really need a pop filter either, though I'm using one now myself. It's also handy to have a mini-USB cable to use the recorder as a USB mic, but you probably already have like 15 of those. With those things, you can do anything with this recorder, and you're going to get great, near-pro quality sound for not much money.



Tascam DP-006 6-Track Digital Pocketstudio Multi-Track Audio Recorder Review:


First off, I appreciate that Tascam still bothers to make Hardware multitrack recorders at all! They can be immensely helpful for a songwriting and demo production workflow.

In researching which multi track system to buy, I looked extensively into the portable Tascam line, as well as the zoom line of portable multi track recorders. I already have a Tascam dr-40 which I feel very happy having for recording live performances and notes and ideas. It has fantastic mix of quality and options, but it's multitrack ability amounts to basically a two-track recorder, with one track record and one playback. This requires a mixdown (aka, "bounce") for each new track. For my actual song demo workflow, I find it much easier to have more than two tracks of simultaneous playback! Secondly, in the course of putting together a demo song, it is much easier to be able to queue and record on a different track at a specific point in a song. On the dr-40, however, you must play each take all the way through from the beginning. This has its benefits, don't get me wrong. It really forces you to get your stuff together, and really know your song inside and out. But it can also make putting together a quality demo much more tedious and stressful. If the dr-40 allowed me to separate out the two stereo tracks into two mono tracks or even one mono and one stereo track, and it allowed me to record from a queued position, then it would fit all of my needs. But it doesn't so here I am...

While I appreciate zooms transparent WAV file recording, in studying their user manuals, I have found them incredibly tedious and confusing to operate due to a lack of dedicated controls. I record only with real instruments, so the extra features of the zoom and boss recorders do not appeal to me, and quite frankly they give the units a complexity that leaves me feeling anxious. That basically left me with the Tascam units as the most Hardware Direct option.

In looking at the Tascam line, I considered this unit, the dp-006 as well as its larger siblings, the dp-008ex and the dp-03sd. I ended up going with the dp-006 for the following reasons:

First, all three recorders have microphones based on the portable Dr recorder line of microphones, who's sound quality is actually very good. However, microphone placement is one of the most important factors in getting a good recording. More important than the type of mic and the quality of the preamps, Etc. The only things more important are the environment, and the Sound Source itself, which basically amounts to a quality performance and composition. Confusingly, neither the dp-008ex nor the dp-03sd have a tripod mounting option like the dp-006! This sabotages our capacity to maximize recording quality through appropriate mic placement. The dp-008ex and the dp-03sd each have built-in microphone preamps, which you will need to make use of in order to get anything in the way of decent microphone placement. While the dp-006 does not have a built-in microphone preamp, you can use its internal microphones to maximum effect. More microphones means more gear and more complexity in the setup, which creates more inhibition in the workflow. If needed, we can always add an outboard mixer feeding the dp-006 to use external mics.

Second, the dp-006 gets much better battery life then its larger sibling. It has a much more portable footprint. This means I am more likely to keep it with me and to actually use it to its fullest potential! The dp-03sd requires AC power, which drastically limits it's use as a portable device and further limits the potential to use its internal microphones fully. The dp-03sd is honestly probably too large to consider any serious placement of its internal microphones by providing a tripod mounting option, and so internal mics do not make sense for it. The dp-008ex badly needs the same tripod thread mount that the dp-006 has!

Third, when recording solo I like having the option of remote control. Interestingly, the dp-008ex and the dp-03sd use different footswitch options. The former uses a standard quarter-inch Jack single-function footswitch, while the latter uses Tascams RC 3F footswitch, which I already have. In the end, however, I decided that no footswitch and better mic placement was far more important. On that note, good mic placement usually leaves the recorder within relatively easy working distance for me, practically eliminating the need for a foot switch in the first place.

Fourth, and Final, the dp-006 does not have any effects or EQ on board. It has only level and pan controls, which are easily the most important controls we need to determine the potential of a good mix. After that, we have EQ, and then after that we have effects. It confuses me that the dp-008ex and the dp-03sd dedicate a precious Hardware control to a Reverb send! Their EQ section while admirable for a few rough tweaks, does not provide sufficient options for doing any serious mixing. I feel it provides a dangerous distraction. The dp008ex and the dp03sd would be much better served by replacing the dedicated Reverb knob with a dedicated assignable EQ knob for a flexible EQ section, with an easy reverb or effects and even EQ bypass switch to hear the all-important dry signal. The dp-006, in foregoing both EQ and Reverb or other effects such as compression, really requires and allows us to focus on getting good quality recording takes from the start, focusing on mic placement, recording environment which we have much more flexibility over due to the portability of the DP-006, and in the end, more focus on the performance and the composition. We can then export all the finished tracks to a digital audio Workstation for much more powerful EQ and other effects processing. Although ironically, really good takes need a lot less in the way of complex post production work!

Although having only six tracks versus eight seems Limited, it is actually even more limited than that, because it is basically a four track recorder with two stereo tracks that can be assigned as mono tracks. This gives the possible configurations of four mono tracks, 3 mono tracks and one stereo track, or two Mono tracks and two stereo tracks. This provides a huge upgrade to me over the extremely limited two track recording of the otherwise fantastic dr-40 portable recorder.

If anyone thinks that this unit is too limited, I strongly recommend that they read the "applications" section on the Tascam dp-006 product website. It provides a fantastic example of a usage scenario and workflow that captures the full potential of this little portable recording studio! If Tascam ever made an 8-track version of this device that also allowed control with their rc3f footswitch then I would pounce on it like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh!

This could be an incredible unit if they also allowed 24-bit recording and had dedicated left/mono and right line outs for outboard effects and/or EQ.



Tascam DR-60DMKII 4-Channel Portable Audio Recorder for DSLR Review:


I have had this recorder for more than 18 months and used it in my studio primarily for recording audio during video interviews. I use a separate audio tracks and synch to video in post production because the built-in camera sound mics are not adequate. The DR-60 is well worth the price. It has many super features that you can read about in the specs. But I have only two negative comments or rather, disappointments: First, this unit, like every other recorder that I have tested recently, uses AGC or automatic gain control, which means, that even when you properly set the gain level manually during speech with a given microphone, the gain automatically increases during periods of silence, and boosts the background noise level up to audible, objectionable levels! I use two condenser lav mics that need the gain set up to "high" and the level set to 1:o-clock position to get to -12dB on the display. I get lots of background noise during pauses in speech while my clients are being interviewed. For example, I can pick up refrigerator compressor noise and air conditioners two studios away! Unfortunately, it does not have an AGC cut-out switch like my Radio Shack cassette recorder has! Secondly, I cannot discover a satisfactory way to mix two mics to obtain quality monaural sound with the controls on this unit. Maybe it is my ignorance, but I had to purchase a n Alto ZMX862 mixer to achieve this. And it also solved the noise problem! The Alto does not use AGC, so I was able to feed my two mics into the Alto, and send the Alto output mix to the stereo inputs of the DR-60. This also let me set the Alto gain control to 1 o-clock, the level controls to 3 o-clock, AND REDUCE the DR-60 gain setting to LOW! This eliminated the noise problem. Now, the DR-60 works like a gem along with the Alto ZMX862. If you are recording music, you probably will have no problem at all. But AGC is a problem all audio engineers have to fight for certain applications. Buy one, you will love it. Buy the Alto, too!



Zoom R24 Digital Multitrack Recorder Review:


The Zoom R8 is an incredible, inspiring piece of equipment. I won't go into the tech details--you can find all the specs elsewhere. I'll just talk about how it's fit into my workflow.

* The ability to record in .WAV files is excellent. It's one of the main reasons I chose this over other options, like the Tascan DP series. If you recorded it on the R8, you can just copy it off and use it anywhere.
* Its timing--as in BPM--is rock solid and matches up to DAWs. For instance, If I record a demo in the R8 at 120bpm, I can create a 120bpm project in my DAW (Sonar X3) and import the R8's ,WAV files directly into it. It just syncs perfectly. No need to re-record. No need to edit or time-stretch.
* The onboard mics are great. Just ensure you have a seriously quiet space (They're very sensitive and omni-directional), and you'll able to capture some great performances. They're also very convenient if you just want to lay down a scratch track anywhere, noise-be-darned.
* I use the onboard drum machine all the time. I can't in good conscience call it realistic-sounding--kind of like a late-90's Boss DR or Alesis SR-16-type sound--but it's very useful for creating something to play against. They're also good for figuring out what kind of rhythm/feel you want for your song. I always record my own patterns, but the R8 brings a pile of stock ones.

I used all the above on one of my most recent songs. I created some drum patterns in the R8, then proceeded to record electric bass via the 1/4" input, and two acoustic baritone ukulele tracks (lead and rhythm) via the onboard mic. I also recorded a couple of vocals tracks to finish out the composition. When I was ready to do a full production version of the song, I was already happy with the bass and uke tracks, so I just imported those into Sonar X3. Then I re-recorded the vocals, and recorded full drums and synth in the DAW. However, the original instrumentation--bass and uke--are the originals from the R8.

I've also recorded a few finished tracks inside of it, making good use of the onboard effects and mixing capabilities. There's plenty of tweakability to the effects, and some hidden gems. For instance, you can do a tempo-synched delay, which is not obvious. Also, when you bounce down tracks, the original ones aren't destroyed. You can just go back into the file system and recall them. The machine simply has a ton of depth. I've had it a couple of years and keep finding new things inside of it.

Tips:
* I'd recommend pairing it with a good vocal preamp or processor. I like the TC Electronics Harmony G-XT personally.
* Use rechargeable batteries. It runs fine on 4 Eneloop AAs.
* For a case, I use the Case Logic LNEO-10 . It's a Netbook case that fits the R8 and its manual perfectly in the main pocket, and has a side pocket for the USB adapter and cables.
* The Volca Keys is an amazing sound companion for the R8, . The Keys can produce everything from shimmery synth pads, flute-like sounds, hard leads, and really good bass sounds. It's very easy to play and a lot of to tweak. When I travel, I take a solid body electric ukulele, the R8, and Volca Keys. I've got a tiny, battery-powered studio everywhere I go.

If you'd like to hear an an instrumental I wrote on a cruise ship using just the R8/setup described above, search SoundCloud for "markrossmore travel 03 demo". It's a simple little happy song using the uke (both clean and distorted), the Volca Keys (both as bass and synth lead), and the R8's drums.

Drawbacks? Maybe that I wish I'd gotten the R24 instead, as it's easy to run out of tracks quickly, and that I'd like to have the eight simultaneous inputs. Each drum pattern requires its own track, so if you have three patterns (say, a verse, chorus, and a bridge) you're down to three usable recording tracks. Depending on the song, this may not be a big deal. I've recorded a few songs on the R8 using a single four bar drum pattern for the entire song. Like I said, I can always import the audio into my DAW and build a full drum track. Again, not a deal breaker.

However, I prefer the small size of the unit. It travels beautifully.