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Microphone Month 4

Handheld Recorders Buying Guide

How to Choose a Handheld Recorder

Handheld recorders are some of the hottest products in the audio world! You can use them just about anywhere to record anything. With hours of recording time on affordable media, remarkably high audio quality, and simple operation, a handheld recorder belongs in every musician’s and engineer’s gig bag.

We’ve compiled this Buying Guide to help you sort out the features of the many available handheld recorders. If you have additional questions, the audio experts at Sweetwater can help you choose the handheld recorder that’s just right for your needs. Call us at (800) 222-4700!

Why Would You Want a Handheld Recorder?
How Many Tracks Can You Record?
Recording Time
Handheld Recorder Mics
Battery Life
Transferring Audio Files to Your Computer
What to Look For…


Why Would You Want a Handheld Recorder?

handheld-whybuyHandheld recorders have become so popular because you can use them just about anywhere to record anything – a band practice, a recital or concert, a song demo, sampling in the field, a lecture, a meeting, and more. The first thing you’ll notice about all these recorders is their small size. You can literally hold them in the palm of your hand! They’re also really easy to use and require minimal setup. Just point them at the source, press record, and go. Some recorders even give you amplifier modeling and effects to use with guitar, bass, keyboards, and more.

One thing that surprises many people about the current crop of handheld recorders is their audio quality. They sound amazingly good – much better than you might expect for the price and size. Part of that sound quality is due to the fact that these recorders have no moving parts that generate noise.


How Many Tracks Can You Record?

Most handheld recorders offer stereo (2-track) recording modes. Some offer as many as six simultaneous tracks for more complex recording events that involve multiple sources. Some units even offer virtual tracks, meaning you can record several different takes and then decide which one to keep.


Recording Time

Handheld recorders store data on CompactFlash, SD, or microSD cards. These economical, widely available cards offer an amazing amount of recording time in a small package. The total recording time available depends on the chosen recording format. For uncompressed CD-quality recordings, you can store as much as six hours of stereo audio on a 4GB card. Most of these units also allow you to record in MP3 mode. At the most economical settings, a single 4GB card can handle as much as 63 hours of audio!

It’s easy to load and change memory cards on these recorders. Simply put one into the slot and you’re ready to record.


Handheld Recorder Mics

handheld-micsMost handheld recorders available today have built-in stereo microphones. They work remarkably well and make recording easy. You can even use external microphones if you want. Different recorders have different input types: XLR, minijack, and more. Some models even have phantom power for condenser mics. You can also plug a guitar, bass, keyboards, or other line-level source into the line inputs on these recorders. Handheld recorders make it easier than ever to record a rehearsal, gig, or new song.


Battery Life

The big advantage of handheld recorders is their portability. All of them can run on battery power, with anywhere from three to 20 hours of recording time possible, depending on the model. Most use standard AA alkaline batteries and can also use rechargeable batteries.


Transferring Audio Files to Your Computer

After recording, it’s easy to transfer audio files from your handheld recorder to a computer for more processing or storage. Plug the recorder into your computer’s USB port and it appears on the desktop.


What to Look For…

handheld-lifeTrack Count:
If your primary purpose is to record live events, a stereo recorder should do the job. If you envision yourself creating song demos with multiple instruments, then choose a unit that offers 4-track recording.

Storage Capacity:
Be sure to choose a recorder that offers enough storage to suit your needs. Different units have different media size limitations, with maximum sizes ranging from 1GB to 128GB.

Internal or External Microphones:
For portability and ease of use, choose a recorder with built-in microphones. If you prefer to use your own mics, be sure the recorder you choose can accommodate their connectors and phantom power needs.

Battery Type and Life:
All handheld recorders can run on battery power. Choose one that uses batteries that are easy to recharge or replace.

Your Sweetwater Sales Engineer can help you decide which handheld recorder is best for your situation. Give us a call at (800) 222-4700!

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