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Portable Recorders

From Handheld Models to Over-the-Shoulder

The term portable recorder can refer to a wide range of devices designed for an array of applications, from recording speech or documenting a musical idea or a gig, all the way to capturing sounds in the field and mixing them for a big-budget action movie or animated production. This year, Mix surveys 12 versatile products representing both types of portable recorders, from manufacturers that specialize in them to meet the needs of anyone who relies on high-quality audio for work or for play.


Aaton’s Cantar-X3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, inheriting the ergonomics of the X2 and its microphone preamplifiers, which have been redesigned to improve filtering possibilities and reduce the noise level. It also offers Audinate Dante IP networking as an option, and a display-based menu control that was designed by Transvideo, a designer and manufacturer of LCD flat-panel monitors in France. The Cantar-X3 is optimized for location work due to its avionics aluminium machined housing and its military grade water- and dust-proof durable coating. The Cantar-X3 features extended linear faders, smooth rotary knobs and silent switches.


The pocket-sized Boss Micro BR BR-80 records directly to an SD/SDHC memory card (up to 32 GB) with a built-in stereo condenser microphone, and is equipped with three modes for creating, recording and performing music: an 8-track MTR (Multi-Track Recorder) mode; an eBand mode for onstage backing tracks and phrase training; and a Live Rec mode for instantly capturing high-quality stereo recordings. Plus, all three modes can be used in combination.

Fostex FR-2LE

Manufactured from high-grade materials and specifically designed for professional location recording, the Fostex FR-2LE records 24-bit/96kHz BWF files, as well as MP3 files, to a Type II CompactFlash card. On an 8GB CF card, it can record 12 hours at 16-bit/44.1kHz. The FR-2LE is equipped with two phantom-powered XLR microphone inputs (XLR-phone combo) complete with precise control over the recording level, as well as high-quality microphone preamps and trim control. Analog out is offered on RCA connectors. It features a 1 take = 1 file recording system to eliminate overwrites, and it has a 2-second pre-record buffer.

Nagra LINO

The Nagra LINO is a solid-state audio recorder with built-in microphones designed for use in any ultra-portable recording situation. It records to a removable SD/SDHC memory card of any memory capacity. (Standard SD cards have a maximum capacity of 2 GB; from 2 GB to 32 GB they must be of the SDHC type.) It records at resolutions from 16-bit/44.1kHz to 24-bit/96kHz to PCM mono or stereo audio WAV files, while MPEG compression allows for longer recording times.

Olympus LS-14

The Olympus LS-14 Linear PCM recorder uses two internal 90-degree directional stereo condenser microphones plus a third omnidirectional mic at the center, with a stated frequency response of 20 to 20k Hz, and an amplifier, supporting sound pressure levels up to 130 dB. Audio and system circuitry are separated to minimize sound degradation. Files are recorded in PCM or MP3 modes and saved to the 4GB internal memory, or on SD/SDHC cards up to 32 GB.

Roland R-26

The R-26 uses dual stereo mics and six channels of simultaneous recording. There are two types of stereo microphones built into the R-26—directional (X/Y) and omnidirectional—plus a pair of XLR/TRS combo inputs to accommodate external mics, for up to six channels (three stereo) of simultaneous recording, and an input for a stereo plug-in powered mic. In addition, users can mix the mics together to achieve the optimum balance. The R-26 is equipped with Roland’s proprietary IARC (Isolated Adaptive Recording Circuit) on the inputs for the built-in mics as well as the external inputs. This analog circuit is completely isolated from the digital circuitry and has its own power supply, reducing digital noise and achieving very clear sound. The R-26 includes a USB interface and is bundled with SONAR LE software (Win).

Sony PCM-D100

The PCM-D100 is a high-resolution recorder with two-position (X/Y or Wide) electret condenser microphones, 32 GB of internal flash memory and a SD-XC Card slot. Recording formats include linear PCM (at 192, 176.4, 96, 88.2, 48 and 44.1 kHz); DSD (2.8224 MHz) and MP3 (320 and 128 kbps). Additional playback support is provided for FLAC, WMA and AAC files. The PCM-D100 offers comprehensive signal processing features for location recording including a limiter and low-cut filter. The PCM-D100 also includes a 5-second pre-record buffer and cross-memory recording function. The PCM-D100 is constructed of lightweight aluminum and uses conventional AA alkaline batteries. The recorder includes a USB high-speed port, digital pitch control, dual path digital limiter, Super Bit Mapping and A-B repeating capability.

Sound Devices 688

The 688 incorporates a multichannel mixer, recorder and MixAssist auto-mixing technology. It features six high-bandwidth mic/line XLR inputs, each with phantom power, highpass filter, analog input limiter and variable pan, plus six additional line-level TA3 inputs for added flexibility in complex productions. All inputs are assignable, pre- or post-fader, to eight output buses, left/right plus Aux 1-6. The main left/right mix is available to three outputs at once via transformer-balanced XLR and Hirose outputs. The 688 offers 16-track, polyphonic or monophonic broadcast WAV and MP3 file recording to SD and CompactFlash cards. All common sampling rates are supported, including 192 kHz on up to six tracks. The 688 features comprehensive metadata editing, sound report creation, Ambient time-code generator and reader, 2-second power-on, recording with QuickBoot, and PowerSafe, a built-in 10-second power reserve to protect against loss of data due to inadvertent power loss. The optional SL-6 powering and wireless system accepts up to three dual-channel slot-compatible receivers for the 688.

Tascam DR-44WL

The DR-44WL 4-track recorder (reviewed in Mix’s July 2015 issue) includes WiFi for transport control, file transfer, and audio streaming to a smartphone or PC. Built-in stereo condenser microphones are shock-mounted in an X/Y configuration. A pair of XLR inputs is also available for 4-track recording, and all four feed an improved microphone preamp and AD/DA stage. The DR-44WL includes WiFi for control and file transfer to a smartphone. A free app for iOS and Android devices controls the transport for remote recording start and stop. Audio streams to the user’s device, and files can be transferred over a wireless connection. Also available is a 4-track multitrack mode, allowing arrangements to be recorded one track at a time with reverb. For video recording, the DR-44WL recorder includes a hot-shoe mount and a stable internal clock to avoid drifting out of sync with a camera.

Pocketrak PR7

Pocketrak PR7 is equipped with X/Y stereo microphones and comes with 2 GB of internal memory, with the ability to expand internal memory with micro SD/SDHC memory cards. It features long battery life, a 1/8-inch mic/line input, 24-bit/96kHz recording and a built-in speaker. The PR7 comes with Steinberg’s WaveLab LE audio editing and mastering software that provides 2-track audio editing with high-end EQ and dynamics processing, as well as VST plug-ins. The PR7 also has a dedicated overdubbing button and users can insert up to 36 index markers in audio files either during recording or playback. It offers five presets for different recording environments— Off, Near, Band, Field and Speech—as well as a highpass filter and dynamics control settings. Plus, the PR7 has a built-in tuner and metronome.

Zaxcom Nomad

Comprising Nomad Lite, Nomad 10 and Nomad 12, Zaxcom offers a complete location sound recording system designed specifically for sound bag use. Nomad can record 10 or 12 tracks (depending on the model) at up to 24-bit /96kHz resolution with a dynamic range of 137 dB on dual Compact Flash cards. Nomad 10 adds ZaxNet compatibility, while Nomad 12 adds the ability to record MP3 files and is able to record to a USB flash drive. All versions of Nomad feature 10 analog inputs with six mic preamps featuring NeverClip. Nomad 10 and Nomad 12 each have three pairs of AES digital inputs with sample rate conversion. One pair can be configured as an AES42 input. All inputs can be mixed to six output buses over four XLR connectors and three TA5 connectors (with two buses per TA5). Each output connector can be individually configured for line, mic and consumer output levels. There is also a mono and tape output.

Zoom F8

Zoom North America’s F8 MultiTrack Field Recorder, which records at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, weighs just more than 2 pounds and is designed for filmmakers and sound designers. It comes equipped with eight XLR/TRS combo inputs that use Zoom’s finest mic preamps to date. The F8’s preamps feature a -127 dBu EIN noise floor and input gain of up to 75 dB. The F8 offers timecode at 0.2ppm accuracy and dual SD Card slots, each compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC cards of up to 512 GB. Zoom states that the F8 is the first field recorder to come with wireless Bluetooth control. The Zoom F8 Control app provides control of the F8 from an iOS device via Bluetooth LE, with transport controls, level monitoring, and metadata editing.