April 15, 2022

What is a Podcast Recorder, & Do I Need One?

Matthew McLean
Podcast Writer

The word “record” gets used a lot in podcasting. We use the word so much that we sound a bit like… well, broken records. And now I’m going to use it some more in order to answer three frequently asked questions:

  • What is a digital audio recorder?
  • Do I need one?
  • Which one should I choose? 

Sound good? You’d hope so eh. That’s the entire point of these wee gadgets… 

What is a Digital Audio Recorder? 

First up, because of the clunkiness of the term “digital audio recorder”, and the ambiguousness of the word “recorder”, I like to call these “podcast recorders” - even though you can record more than just podcasts with them. 

Podcast recorders are fully-fledged audio studios that you can carry around in the palm of your hand. They’re typically about the size of a gaming controller. They can work as stand-alone kit, letting you record directly into them. You can also plug additional gear into them. 

Do I Need a Podcast Recorder? 

Here are 3 reasons why you might need one:

  1. If you carry a podcast recorder around in your bag, you can quickly set it up and hit record. This “any place any time” functionality makes this kit perfect for on-the-go podcasters who cover things like travel, sporting events, and live music. 
  1. Have you ever spent months trying to nail down the perfect guest, only for your ageing computer to start playing up on the day? Owning a podcast recorder means you don’t need to be at your computer, or even connected to the internet. Instead, your audio is recorded into your device’s memory card. You avoid the heartbreak of losing a recording an hour into a great conversation.
  1. While portability is a big draw of podcast recorders, they’re just as good in permanent setups, too. They look much less cluttered than traditional mixing boards, which are complete overkill for most podcasters, anyway. Podcast recorders also free up your computer’s memory for things like scripts, show notes, and impromptu mid-episode Google searches. 

Which Podcast Recorder Should I Choose? 

The good news is that there are a lot of great recorders out there to choose from. The bad news? There are a lot of great recorders out there to choose from. 

Unless you’re an eccentric millionaire looking to collect every piece of podcasting kit on the market though, then you only need to buy one. I can’t just recommend one, because budget and setup will determine what’s best for you. Let’s cover all bases and settle on three options. 

Tascam DR-05X

Here we have the smallest and cheapest of my recommendations. You’ll pick one of these up brand new for about $115. The Tascam DR-05X is ideally suited to solo use but you can interview someone by pointing the recorder between the two of you, “journalist style”. You also have the option of running a 3.5mm splitter into the DR-05X and connecting 2 lavalier mics. If you plan to record a lot of conversations with guests or co-hosts, though, then I’d suggest checking out the other 2 options below. 

Zoom PodTrak P4

Available for around $200, I often describe the PodTrak P4 as “the ultimate podcast recorder”. You can plug up to 4 XLR mics into it and record each person on separate tracks. You can also connect it to your computer or phone and record calls. You can even play music and sound effects in your recordings. One downside of the P4, though, is that it has no built-in mics, so it doesn’t work as a stand-alone recorder. You will need additional kit to run it - at minimum, an XLR mic and cable. 

Zoom H6

Taking you above the $300 bracket, the Zoom H6 is a powerful 6-track podcast recorder. You can detach the default built-in mics and customise this recorder to take 6 XLR inputs, or to become a laser-focused shotgun mic. In my opinion, the H6 offers the best overall sound quality out of the three. Again though, you’ll need additional gear to use all its features. So if you’re just looking for a device you can point in someone’s direction and hit record, then the Tascam DR-05X will save you a lot of money.  

All Set? 

Hopefully, these three options cover all of your needs. Regardless of which one you opt for, be sure to check out Alitu for the editing, production, and publishing process, too.

As for me, I’ve just used the word “record” 33 times in this short post. So whilst you buy your fancy new recorder, I’m off to buy a thesaurus…

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