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How To Choose The Best Zoom Recorder For Your Needs

Choosing a Zoom recorder can be tricky since they come in a variety of styles. Our guide helps you select the best Zoom recorder for your unique needs.
Stephen Robles
Video & Podcast Creator
Last Updated:
April 4, 2022
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Looking for a way to capture professional-level audio outside of a recording studio? With a Zoom recorder, you can get great audio for your podcast, film, or news report while out in the field. These portable digital recorders are full of features that help them deliver high-quality audio when used outside of a traditional studio setting. 

We’ll explain when and why to use a Zoom recorder, the features to look for in a digital recorder, and provide our picks for the top Zoom recorders available now. 

What is a Zoom Recorder?

A Zoom recorder is a piece of hardware used for capturing professional sound outside of a studio setting. These recorders are also called field recorders, digital recorders, voice recorders, or portable audio recorders. 

Zoom recorders come in a variety of styles and are used to record music, podcasts, new interviews, educational material, and more. Many Zoom recorders can connect to other pieces of recording equipment such as audio mixers, external microphones, and instruments and some even have audio mixing and mastering capabilities.

When Should You Use a Zoom Recorder?

Zoom recorders are designed for use outside of a studio when you need to capture quality audio but don’t have control over your recording environment. Often called “field recorders”, these devices contain built-in features and microphones that eliminate unwanted noise so you can record high-quality audio for YouTube videos, podcasts, feature films, or other kinds of projects. Though they’re designed for on the go use, most Zoom recorders have USB functions so you can connect them directly to a computer for studio use and easy editing

Why Use a Zoom Recorder?

There’s no limit to how you can use a Zoom recorder for capturing high-quality recordings while in the field. Some of the most common uses for digital recorders include:

  • Recording live music performances 
  • Capturing lectures or other school-related events
  • Interviewing guests for podcasts or vlogs
  • Personal note-taking
  • Recording content in the field for news reporting 

What to Look For in a Zoom Recorder 

There are many different models of Zoom audio recorder, so finding the perfect one to fit your unique needs can be tricky. Before you start shopping around, know how much you can afford to spend on a digital recorder and have a good idea of the kind of content you’ll be creating. Once you know these two things, choosing a Zoom recorder will be much easier.

Consider the following features when selecting the best Zoom recorder for your content creation needs: 

  • Battery life and power options: Most Zoom recorders are powered by batteries or through a plug-in power source, often an AC adapter or USB. Be sure to check the battery life for any recorder you’re considering to make sure you’ll be able to use it on the go for as long as you need to. Some of the best Zoom recorders have many advanced features, but all of these bells and whistles can hurt the device’s battery life. 
  • Recording formats: Make sure the recorder you choose records in formats that are compatible with your editing software or the platforms you use to post content. Most Zoom recorders capture audio in MP3 or WAV format.
  • Track count: The number of tracks you can record simultaneously is an important factor to consider when looking at Zoom recorders. Most provide multi-track recording and offer simultaneous recording for up to six or eight tracks. Be sure the recorder you choose has the number of recording channels you need.  
  • Interfacing with other devices: Pay attention to the number of inputs and outputs a Zoom recorder has and make sure it can easily connect to your computer if audio and video editing is important to your creative process. If you’re a musician, you’ll want to be sure you can connect the mics and instruments you use to make music.  

9 Best Zoom Recorders

No matter the type of content you create or produce, there’s a Zoom recorder that will help you elevate the quality of your audio. There are even some Zoom recorders with video capabilities you can use to create vlog content from anywhere or stream to your preferred streaming platform. Below, find our recommendations on how each recorder can be used for optimal results so you can narrow down your search. Compare your needs to the features of each device to find the best Zoom recorder for you. No matter if you’re looking for a Zoom podcast recorder, a Zoom video recorder, or a Zoom field recorder, our list has something for you. 

Zoom H6 

  • Price: $349.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter,  USB bus power
  • Battery life: Over 20 hours 
  • Microphone type: Unidirectional and bi-directional
  • Display: 2” full-color LCD
  • Recording formats: WAV and MP3 
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Phantom power for all main inputs
  • Auto-record, pre-record, and backup-record functions
  • Interchangeable input capsules 

This versatile portable recorder is used for everything from recording musical instruments to capturing professional-quality audio for a podcast or news story. This handy recorder includes a free download license for Steinberg Cubase LE, a piece of music production software, and WaveLab LE audio editing software. Once you capture your sound, it’s easy to use these programs to put the final touches on your recording to create high-quality audio. The Zoom H6 recorder comes with a free tripod and several accessories that include capsules to attach multiple external microphones.

Zoom H5 

  • Price: $279.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, USB bus power
  • Battery life: 10 hours in stereo file mode, 20 hours in multi-file mode
  • Microphone type: Unidirectional
  • Display: Backlit LCD
  • Recording formats: WAV, MP3 (stereo mode only) 
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Four-track simultaneous recording
  • Built-in low-cut filtering, compression, and limiting
  • Multichannel and stereo USB audio interface for PC/Mac/iPad

The Zoom h5 recorder doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge to operate. It’s ideal for recording audio for podcasts, documentaries, and other interview-based content. This Zoom multitrack recorder gives you a lot of control over your sound, providing both audio compression and limiting. The shock-mounted mics help to eliminate vibrations and minimize excess background noise. You can program predefined sound levels and the auto-record function will capture sounds according to your presets. 

Zoom H1N 

  • Price: $119.99
  • Power source: AAA batteries, AC adapter, USB bus power 
  • Battery life: 10 hours 
  • Microphone type: Unidirectional 
  • Display: 1.25” monochrome LCD
  • Recording formats: WAV
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Playback speed control and a voice emphasize filter 
  • Supports up to 24-bit/96 kHz audio for WAV files
  • One-touch button controls

One of the more budget-friendly Zoom recorders, the Zoom H1N is compact and super portable. This digital recorder’s X/Y microphones record in stereo and support up to 24-bit sampling in MP3 and WAV format. This Zoom field recorder is great for capturing vocals for audio used in podcasts, film, and more. It’s also an affordable option for students looking for a way to record lectures they can playback at their leisure. The H1N’s playback speed controls allow you to slow down your recording to take notes or for transcription purposes.    

Zoom R8

  • Price: $299.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter 
  • Battery life: 5.5 hours of continuous use
  • Microphone type: Omnidirectional condenser mics 
  • Display: 128 x 64 pixel backlit LCD
  • Recording formats: WAV  
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Loop playback with waveform zoom
  • 8 XLR/TRS combo input jacks
  • Output for headphones with separate volume control

The Zoom R8 recorder is a dream for musicians and music producers. Not only can this recorder capture audio, but it also has many built-in audio production tools musicians can use in the studio with a computer or on the go as a stand-alone production tool. The Zoom R8 offers eight tracks for recording and playback and has multiple inputs for microphones, guitars, and other instruments. In addition to being a piece of recording and production equipment, the R8 also functions as a pad sampler and rhythm machine, providing 24 different samples, drum sounds, and loops. 

Zoom H4N Pro

  • Price: $249.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter
  • Battery life: 5.5-7.5 hours of continuous use  
  • Microphone type: Unidirectional condenser mic
  • Display: 128 x 64 full-dot backlit LCD
  • Recording formats: WAV, MP3
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • 2 XLR inputs 
  • Mounts to a mic stand, tripod, or directly to a DSLR camera 
  • Plug in power and +24 or +48V phantom power for main inputs

Creating songs from start to finish is easy with the Zoom H4N Pro. This portable recorder features two combo input jacks, overdubbing capabilities, and natural-sounding preamps that make it a great choice for musicians looking for a portable professional-level recording solution. The Zoom H4N Pro recorder can also fit well into any studio setup. It can operate as a 2-input/2-output USB audio interface for PCs and Macs, so you can record directly to your computer. The pre-record and auto-record features ensure you never miss the beginning of a great take. 

Zoom Q8

  • Price: $299.99
  • Power source: Lithium-ion battery, AC adapter, USB bus power 
  • Battery life: 2-4.5 hours
  • Microphone type: Detachable stereo mic
  • Display: 2.7” full-color LCD touchscreen 
  • Recording formats: Video: MPEG-4, Audio WAV, AAC 
  • Video Recorder: Yes

Key features: 

  • Included accessory pack: foam windscreen and low-cut filter
  • Directly monitor for zero latency when using as a USB mic
  • Compatible with all action camera mounts: tripod-to-three-prong converter included 

The Zoom Q8 has everything you need to capture great content for film, podcasting, news reporting, or live music events. This recorder brings together HD video and professional-quality audio in one place, making it an all-in-one solution for all types of creators. The Zoom Q8 recorder has dual combo XLR/TRS inputs you can use to connect external mics and the 160-degree-wide-angle lens has flexible mounting options. Easily monitor audio and video using the HDMI output and the stereo output jack.  

Zoom H8

  • Price: $399.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter, USB bus power
  • Battery life: Over 10 hours
  • Microphone type: Omnidirectional condenser mic
  • Display: 2.4” full-color touchscreen LCD 
  • Recording formats: WAV
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Records directly to SDXC, SD, or SDHC card (max 512GB)
  • 3 different interfaces for podcast recording, field recording, and recording music 
  • Simultaneous recording for up to 12 tracks

One of the biggest draws of the Zoom H8 recorder is its adaptability. This digital recorder uses an app-powered interface that can be changed to meet your unique needs and has three distinctly different interfaces for podcasting, field recording, and music. You choose the type of content you want to record and the touchscreen changes to provide workflows specific to your project. 

This powerful recorder has it all: sound effects and music for podcasts, audio leveling and metering tools for music, and noise-reduction features for field recording. You have the ability to record to an SD card or other storage card, which increases the amount of footage you can capture while on the go.      

Zoom H2N

  • Price: $179.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter
  • Battery life: Over 20 hours of continuous recording
  • Microphone type: Directional (XY, MS mid mics)
  • Display: 128×64 backlit LCD
  • Recording formats: MP3 
  • Video Recorder: No

Key features: 

  • Data recovery feature automatically saves data
  • Built-in speaker for real-time monitoring
  • USB port for data exchange to and from a desktop device  

With four different recording modes and five built-in microphones, the Zoom H2N recorder gives you plenty of options for capturing quality audio for your project. You can choose to record in X/Y mode, Mid-Side mode, two channel surround, or four channel surround. Because the Zoom H2N allows you to capture four channel surround sound, you can use the Spatial Audio mode to create immersive audio for virtual reality. This recorder also provides advanced features such as automatic gain control and the recorder can also function as a multi-purpose USB microphone. 

Zoom Q2N-4K

  • Price: $219.99
  • Power source: AA batteries, AC adapter, USB bus power 
  • Battery life: 4-6.5 hours 
  • Microphone type: X/Y stereo microphones
  • Display: 1.77" full-color LCD
  • Recording formats: Video: MPEG-4, MOV (audio included), Audio: WAV 
  • Video Recorder: Yes

Key features: 

  • One-button recording
  • Automatic control over sound input levels
  • HDMI video output for connecting to other devices

The Zoom Q2N-4K is a great choice for live streamers because it delivers clear 4K video and X/Y stereo microphones designed to handle everything from spoken words to heavy metal instruments. This Zoom video recorder has adjustable field of view settings, a large LCD screen, and will capture video in 4K Ultra HD with the push of a button. You can purchase an accessory kit that includes an AC adapter and a battery case to boost the recorder’s battery-powered recording capabilities. 

How Do I Connect my Zoom Recorder to my Computer?

You’ll want to be sure you can easily connect your Zoom recorder to a computer if you do a lot of post-production work or if you’re recording audio and video separately. Many Zoom recorders have USB functionality so you can simply plug them in, import your files, and get to work. Zoom recorders also attach to other equipment, like DSLR cameras, that connect to a desktop for file importing.   

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Zoom Recorder Alternatives to Consider: Is Tascam Better Than Zoom?

There’s no clear-cut answer when it comes to the question of whether Zoom or Tascam products provide better recordings. Zoom recorders come in a wider variety of styles that can be used in many different ways. Generally, Zoom recorders are geared more toward podcasters, musicians, and field reporters. Tascam recorders are used more often by filmmakers. The type of recorder that’s best for you will depend on the type of projects you’re working on and your personal preferences. 

If you're looking for other alternatives, you can try our list of some of the best portable recorders:

Zoom recorder software alternative: Recording on the go with Riverside

While Zoom recorders are a handy piece of equipment for any creator, many other options exist for recording on the go. 

Perhaps you’re also interested in recording video, and you don’t want to hustle about with too much equipment. Or maybe you just prefer using a microphone over a recorder?

Either way, Riverside offers an alternative to recording studio-quality audio and video from anywhere. You can record directly from any laptop or use the Riverside mobile app to turn your phone into a powerful recording device. Plug in an external microphone and use your phone’s camera to capture content with up to 4K video and 48kHz audio resolution. You can invite up to 7 remote guests to join you and receive separate audio and video tracks for each. The platform is easy to use, and guests can join simply by clicking a link. 

Edit straight after recording with Riverside’s editor for a seamless workflow. The text-based video and audio editor, offers tools for removing unwanted sections, fine-tuning audio, and customizing your content with logos and backgrounds

You can also use the Magic Clips tool to turn your long-form recordings into short, shareable snippets. This just takes one quick click on your behalf, then Magic Clips AI will turn your key moments into multiple short shareable videos.

Other features worth noting include automated transcriptions for easy subtitles, live streaming with engaging audience call-ins, and a media board for funky sound effects. 

Start experiencing all these features and more. Record on the go with Riverside.

Choose the Best Zoom Record for Your Needs 

Digital field recorders are most commonly used to record live music, audio for podcasts, and interviews in the field for news reporting. These versatile devices come with a range of features that can be used effectively by any type of creator or producer. Have a clear idea of your budget and the type of content you’ll create to make your search for the best Zoom recorder as easy as possible. Match your needs to the features and capabilities of a recorder to find the one that’s best for you.     

FAQs About Zoom Recorders

Do you still have questions about digital recorders and how to find the best Zoom recorder for your content? Keep reading to learn more about Zoom recorders and get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about digital recorders. 

Are there any apps to record zoom meetings?

There are many apps you can use to record Zoom meetings from any device. Zoom recorders differ from apps used to record Zoom meetings. Zoom recorders are pieces of hardware recording professionals use in the field to capture audio for interviews, music, and other footage.   

Are zoom recorders worth it?

Zoom recorders are worth the investment if you frequently record audio and/or video outside of a studio setting. Recording in the field can result in poor audio and video without the right equipment. Zoom recorders capture high-quality audio and video you can use to produce professional-level content.    

Are zoom recorders good for interviews?

Zoom recorders are a great tool for capturing quality audio and video during interviews. These recorders have mics with noise-canceling and stabilization features and pick up great audio when positioned correctly. Audio captured with a Zoom recorder is saved in file formats that can be uploaded to a computer for editing to further increase the quality. 

Which audio recorder is best?

There is no standard for which audio recorder is best overall. The Zoom audio recorder that’s best for you will depend on your needs. Some are better for recording music, while others are designed to capture the spoken word. See our recommendations for the best Zoom recorders in the article above to find the one that best meets your unique needs.

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