9 of the Best Budget Portable Digital Recorders for Musicians

Portable recorders are great for solo musicians, duos and small bands willing to record rehearsals and demos

By George CassadrianContributing Author

Article photo - 9 of the Best Budget Portable Digital Recorders for Musicians

[category:1] are great for solo musicians, duos and small bands willing to record rehearsals and demos. The main differences between PCs and [category:1] are portability and price. A PC can be configured to become a fully equipped static recording studio, but the net price of the required software (DAW, plug-ins) and hardware (microphone, audio card, mixing board) might go up to 2000 Euros. On the other hand, portable recorders have everything included, and you’ll be able to record and do some basic mixing right from the box. Our top 9 budget choices are:

1. Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Zoom H4nSP", read the reviews and join the community!Zoom H4nSP

The Zoom H4nSP can record high-quality 24-bit/96kHz audio and save in .wav, mp3 and BWF formats. This recorder also has two XLR mic inputs with +48V Phantom power, which allows you to plug in any studio microphone. The Zoom H4nSP has a decent in-built mic as well. This recorder can be used as guitar pre-amp with several simulated filters and effects, which make the Zoom H4nSP a well-rounded, versatile recording device and A/D – D/A converter.

2. Tascam DR-05

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Tascam DR-05", read the reviews and join the community!
The price of the Tascam DR-05 V2 offers great quality for its price. Same as the Zoom H4nSP, the Tascam DR-05 V2 allows you to record high-quality audio. It stores the audio on micro SD-Cards (this model comes with a 4Gb one) with a carry capacity of up to 32 gb. The device is powered with two batteries and can easily carry its functions for nice hours or more. Its high-quality pre-amp and A/D converter is widely used for guitars, basses, synth-pads, turntables and so on. The only downside of the Tascam DR-05 V2 is that it doesn’t come with XLR mic inputs; hence it cannot be used with studio mics.

3. Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Zoom H2N", read the reviews and join the community!Zoom H2N 

The main feature of the Zoom H2n is that it has five in-built microphone capsules. That makes it perform almost like a classic studio microphone. It records high-end audio 24 Bit/96 kHz in two formats (mp3/wav). The Mp3 format is great for recording rehearsals, since it occupies way less storage space. On the other hand, .Wav is an uncompressed audio format that can be transferred to a PC for post-production purposes. The Zoom H2n also features an LCD display and can be configured in few clicks. 

4. Tascam DR-40

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Tascam DR-40", read the reviews and join the community!
If you were looking for an upgraded version of the Tascam DR-05 V2, then you just found it. The Tascam DR-40 features two XLR ports and phantom power. Its two microphone capsules move independently. This allows you to adjust the desired recording angle and achieve interesting stereo effects by either spreading or making the capsules face each other. This portable recorder also includes an electronic tuner, metronome and various filters to enhance the recording process.

5. Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Roland R-05", read the reviews and join the community!Roland R-05

The Roland R-05 is a handy, easy to use digital recorder. It features an LCD display and several LED lights that allow you to use it in the dark. It has a USB output, and once connected to the PC or Mac, you’ll be able to simple drag and drop the required recorded files without any complications. You’ll be able to tweak the input volume and you’ll be notified if there’s any clipping. The main downside of this device is that it doesn’t have phantom power. On the other hand, the high quality of its inbuilt microphone and filter effects are impressive. Combined with its small size, the Roland R-05 is a great choice for musicians on the go.

6. Olympus LS-12

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Olympus LS-12", read the reviews and join the community!
Praised for its versatility, the Olympus LS-12 offers many useful features. Its backlit display allows you to see the LCD screen in the dark, while the two AA batteries will keep running this device for hours. Its two inbuilt microphones have a decent quality and they record stereo. The Olympus LS-12 also offers an inbuilt speaker and a headphone output jack for monitoring purposes. Its thomann automatic recording level detection feature will prevent your recordings from clipping.

7. Olympus LS-14

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Olympus LS-14", read the reviews and join the community!
The Olympus LS-14 is an enhanced version of the LS-12. The LS-14 features a third microphone for mid. Same as the LS-12, the LS-14 offers four different recording modes: Tuner Mode for guitar tuning. Smart Mode with a 30 seconds sound check, which allows the device to automatically set the recording levels. Manual Mode for advanced users who prefer to adjust the recording levels manually. Finally, the Quick Mode is meant for immediate recording (when you just can’t afford to wait).

8. Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Sony HDR-MV1", read the reviews and join the community!Sony HDR-MV1

As its name suggests, the Sony HDR-MV1 allows you to record both audio and video. This feature is particularly useful for live performances and rehearsals. It records normal quality audio (16-Bit / 48 kHz) with its thomann 120-Degree X-Y-Stereo Mic and full HD video. It supports all the modern perks, including Wi-Fi and One Touch wireless data transfer. It’s also quite lightweight, with an approx. weight of only 140g. 

9. Zoom H1 MB Matte Black

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Zoom H1 MB Matte Black", read the reviews and join the community!
The Zoom H1 MB is the smallest and the lighter recording device among its counterparts. Compared to the Tascam DR-05 V2 (which is in the same price range), the Zoom H1 MB functions with only one AA battery instead of two. The similarities are that none of the two have Phantom Power or XLR ports. If plugged to the PC and configured properly, the Zoom H1 MB can easily work as a digital audio interface, converting analogue to digital signals and vice versa. In fact, its A/D & D/A conversion capabilities are impressive: it processes up to 24bit audio with 128 times oversampling.


Portable digital recorders are great both for musicians on the go and for those who are looking for an all-in-one recording device to get started. All of the listed budget devices feature decent stock microphones. As you could probably notice, the main difference is in the features those devices offer. Try to figure out the specific use you’ll be giving to your digital recorder and choose accordingly.


About George Cassadrian

One of the two lead singers of Mobvibe, George is an avid songwriter with a refined taste in retro music and beautiful electric guitars.

Contact George Cassadrian at georgecassadrian@musicngear.com

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