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The Best Audio Recorders for Under $300

Jourdan Aldredge

Good audio can make a good video better. Bad audio can make a good video unwatchable. That being said, you don’t have to break the bank to make sure your audio is crisp and clean. Here are a few solid audio recorders for under $300.

Top image via Flickr

It’s easy to get caught up in lights, lenses and the newest 4k DSLRs, but good audio should always be a major focus on every shoot. With the right equipment — and not just a recorder will always do — it can be the least of your worries. So listen to our advice and find the right option for you!

 1. Tascam DR-100 Mark II ($289)

The Best Audio Recorders for Under $300: Tascam

Image via Tascam

The debate for best audio recorder currently on the market (and at a reasonable price) really comes down to the Tascam DR-100 and Zoom H4N (see below). The Tascam offers a bit more in functionality than its counterpart with its analog controls — like the fun-to-spin control wheel and extra-hard buttons. It also allows you to monitor your audio while simultaneously feeding into another jack for easier syncing (a feature the H4N lacks).

Overall, the Tascam might be the most expensive option on this list, but it’s also the best.

2. Zoom H4N Digital Audio Recorder  ($169)

The Best Audio Recorders for Under $300: Zoom
Image via Zoom

While the Tascam DR-100 might be the best audio recording option, the Zoom H4N might be the best deal. Priced competitively below the Tascam, the H4N (basically) offers all the same features and whistles, but a slightly lower price.

The Zoom H4N has an advantage in its versatility with dual XLR and 1/4″ input jacks. While a bit on the bulky side, it’s a rough-and-tumble device that fits well either on a camera rig or a belt loop.  The onboard microphones capture great room sound in a pinch, but watch out for it picking up even the slightest wind noise.

If you can, I’d recommend trying out and comparing both devices before buying to get a grasp for which one feels best. Here’s a video where they do it for you!

3. Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder ($99)

The Best Audio Recorders for Under $300: Zoom H1
Image via Zoom

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for this little guy. He’s saved my butt more than a couple of times as a back-up option, and served admirably as my main audio-capture device on some shoots bigger than I’d openly admit. The Zoom H1 comes in at a paltry $99, so I’d even recommend getting more than one.

While obviously not as tricked-out as its H4N brother, the Zoom H1 makes up for its simplicity with its reliability and usefulness. Its greatest feature is its auto-level option (which the H4N lacks), which is a necessity for those one-man-band shoots. It also fills in well when you need to record the room, or as a back-up simply placed near a speaker in case your line-feed falters out.

Have any opinions on which audio recorder you prefer? Have any other options you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!