Portable recorder or sound card?

Fellow Nauts,

I need to get myself a new recording solution. My need is simple. Line in stereo recording in 24-bit / 96khz (no less, but I don’t need more either). That’s it.

I notice a lot of portable recorders do this now and seem to get great reviews.

If all I want is to just record, and then take this result with me to a studio for actual mastering, is there a reason not to just get a portable recorder instead of a sound card? The recording is straight from an SSL SiX, so it’s a line in set-up, nothing else.

The convenience of just plugging in a recorder and press Record appeals to me a lot. I just don’t need a sound card because there’s no computer around. But I’m prepared to cave if there’s an obvious difference in recording quality between a decent sound card and an equally decent portable recorder.

I’ve been eyeing specifically the Tascam DR-05X, which seems to be getting great reviews all over.

For once, someone else is paying so budget’s not an issue, but I’ve been told by those paying I shouldn’t mess with my workflow, so if portable recorders are an option in terms of the right amount of quality, then this is an easy decision. That’s where I’ll go. But I don’t want to show up with a recording where the engineer goes “You did what?”

What do you guys say?



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Looks like there are no balanced line inputs on that one. I would look into something slightly more professional like a Zoom H4n Pro.


I have a Tascam DR-05 (which I guess is the previous model to the X) for for field recordings, it’s a great little device, and the inbuilt mics are actually not too bad. I’ve never used the line in though, and for use in the studio you might want something a little more pro as @t notes – the H4n works as a 4-track tape recorder too, which might be handy if you’re working DAWlessly, and even if you are mainly just wanting a line in having better preamps might come in handy at some point, too.

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I use a zoom u-24 connected to my phone to record stuff. Sounds great imo…

Edit: granted I’m far from an audiophile


I use a Dr-40 for exactly that. Mixer goes directly into the Line IN and I press on Record. I am “mastering” myself, because noone but 4 random people on soundcloud ever listen to it besides me and my wife, but I like that process a lot!


Zoom H5 is pretty good.


I’ve owned a Tascam DR40 and a Zoom H4n pro and used them exactly as you have described. I slightly preferred the UI and features on the DR40, but the build quality was not the best. The Zoom is a little less user friendly (still not difficult to use though) but built much better. Either one will do the job well.

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I got this , I highly recommend it so far

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…most handheldrecorders can record anything, anywhere whenever u want…and work also as a proper interface…
…no interface can record without a computer host…

all handheldrecorders also provide internal mics…and are able to run on battery power…
no interface can do that…

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I know, right? No sound card for me. I’m going portable.

Thanks, all. Recorder it is.

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I’m currently eyeing up the Tascam DR-44WL, which can record 4 tracks (I really like the idea of recording line in as well as ambient sound), as well as having wifi file transfer (because it’s such a drag to have to plug cables/cards in to transfer files…)

Reviews look good, and it comes with a bunch of extras (carry case, windshield etc), which is nice. Bit more pricey than some other models tho…

Thanks for asking @circuitghost – I’ve been pondering this question myself lately – and thanks to everyone who replied!

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Yep, for sure. I think I’m gonna go for the latest tascam. While it doesn’t have balanced inputs, I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference in my context. I’ll record straight from the SSL SiX, device will be right by the mixer, and there won’t be anything else going on around except for the Blackbox into the SSL.

So I’m thinking it won’t make a difference in practice.

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I use both a zoom h1n (ultra portable) and a tascam dr40x.

Either straight into my phone (USB interface), or onto SD card.

I rarely use the mics but they are pretty neat.

It’s so simple.

Just get rechargable batteries and you’ll be able to record whenever and wherever!

I was eyeing the Zoom, actually, before someone pointed me to the Tascam. You like it? Recording quality’s good?

Unclear if my ears are that good but it surprised me for sure!

Here is an example over USB (lower quality than SD card options):

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Sounds pretty good to me.

What I’ve noticed is that it’s rarely the actual recording where you can tell the difference (or at least imagine that you can) in a blind test, but rather when you start working with the results in other contexts. Since my purpose is to bring the result to a mastering environment, there’s subtle stuff you might almost not hear, but that becomes more obvious when you tinker with the mix. Hence also the 96khz requirement.

Someone told me the input of the Zoom was slightly noisier than the Tascam, which is why I was gunning for the Tascam. But I do like the form factor and immediacy of the Zoom.


Yea the 96k makes sense for your purposes for sure.

Honestly if there is any kind of return window I would try both assuming you have 2 SD cards (micro/regular).

Everything coming out of the BB and the SSL should be exactly the same so it would pretty simple to do contrasts and make a decision after a week or so!

The UI isn’t that difficult on either so you won’t be wasting to much time on that end.

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