External audio recorders provide many benefits and greater reliability over recording into PCs. Although recording directly into a computer can often be fine for podcasting, here are five reasons you may want to podcast with an external recorder.
The best external recorders
These prices were updated on October 8, 2012.
- Zoom H4n: $248.45 on Amazon.com, $259.00 on B&H, $242.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Zoom H2n: $113.37 on Amazon.com, $155.52 (-$30 rebate) on B&H, $161.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Zoom H1: $66.70 on Amazon.com, $87.99 on B&H, $89.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Roland R-05: $199 on Amazon.com, $199 on B&H, $199 on Musician’s Friend
- Tascam DR-05: $94.91 on Amazon.com, $99.99 on B&H, $99.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Tascam DR-07mkII: $149 on Amazon.com, $149.99 on B&H, $149.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Tascam DR-40: $186.60 on Amazon.com, $174.99 on B&H, $199.99 on Musician’s Friend
- Your Android smartphone, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or similar portable device
Depending on the external recorder you choose, you may be able to eliminate several steps from your workflow or several pieces of equipment.
A portable recorder can:
- record straight to MP3;
- mix a inputs;
- connect directly with XLR mics (Zoom recorders);
- apply compression, limiting, and gating; and
- hear what you’re recording through headphones.
It’s entirely possible to record and publish a podcast with just an external recorder and a device to upload and post on your website.
4. Mic replacement
Some recorders, like the Zoom H4n, offer ASIO support. This enables the device to function as a USB microphone when connected to a computer.
These recorders usually have condensor mics, which aren’t the best for podcasting. But they’re still functional and produce good quality.
3. Extra functionality
Some external recorders will give you options and features that you couldn’t use before.
- Four-channel recording (Zoom H4n)
- XLR inputs without a mixer (Zoom models)
- Visual audio-level monitor
- Easy pause and resume (some models)
- Noise reduction by not requiring a computer
Podcasting doesn’t always have to be from your basement or closet! Imagine how much more content you could produce if you could do it from anywhere!
- Record somewhere with ambience to enhance the feel (from a sporting event, at a coffee shop, out in nature, etc.).
- Record impromptu interviews with people at events.
- Turn your own public presentations into podcast episodes by recording them.
- Continue recording podcasts while you travel without lugging your entire studio.
1. Stability and reliability
There’s usually nothing wrong with recording straight into a computer, but it always presents a high possibility of several things going wrong:
- Line noise, especially through analog connections
- Resource demands that can corrupt your recording
- A crash while recording that loses all of your progress
- Complexity for Skype calls or similar remote cohosts
Portable recorders are far more stable and reliable. Just make sure you have a consistent power source and good SD cards, and you’ll be fine for hundreds, maybe even thousands of episodes!
Podcasting poll: do you use an external recorder?
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