There are many forms of portable recording options, and they range from a device the size of a cell phone to a laptop to racks of equipment. In most cases, radio usually requires the smaller form factor to capture an interview, sound byte or impromptu performance. With this more common use in mind, we'll focus on the smaller options.
One attribute of portable recorders that continues to change rapidly is the amount of storage space. The cost of solid-state storage has continued to drop to the point that 32GB of memory can be bought for less than $5/GB. Because of the low cost of storage, many recorders that are only a few years old may be at a disadvantage with limited storage capacity.
All recorders now include USB connectivity as well. Some can function as audio interfaces (sound cards), too. This simple interface makes it easy to access the captured audio events.
Other common features of many recorders include automatic record levels, multiple file formats (WAV and MP3 being the most common), mic and line inputs, and clear metering. Some recorders provide basic editing functions for field editing. Many have some type of built-in microphone.
Portable recorders take several shapes, but the dedicated recording device is the most common. Handheld and compact, these small boxes place a great number of features in a tiny package. Their bright displays and simple transport functions allow even the most inexperienced user to record quality audio.
The squarish devices typically have some type of mounting option available, whether it's a camera tripod thread or a custom clip. This makes it easy to place the recorder on a desk or podium during an event.
Some recorders have features that musicians will value, such as a metronome and tuner. Some offer 4-track recording, which may be suitable for live music. Many have some option to remotely control the device. There are cases where a wired remote could be handy, although some models offer a wireless remote, which would be useful if the recorder is placed in an inaccessible spot. One example would be on a podium at a news conference.
There are two models that have packaged the recorder into a microphone handle. For interviews, this can look more natural than holding a little box, but it has the advantage that it can hold a mic flag to make the station's call letters visible. The mic-style recorders have simplified transport buttons and minimal displays. For a user, knowing the sequences is not as simple as reading a display, but they are still easy to use.
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