AV Recorders are specialized devices that record signals from either an external device, or occasionally, an attached one. They often offer superior recording capabilities compared to on-board camera recordings. They also can provide functionality, with useful features and tools. Specialized AV Recorders are a great way to improve quality and add more functionality to your workflow.
The purpose of this guide is to inform potential buyers about the features and functions to think about when shopping for AV Recorders, as well as to give an overview of some units currently on the market. For the scope of this guide, we will consider recorders that are made just for audio, separate from those for video.
What to Consider
Overall, when choosing any type of recorder, there are a few things to consider. At what resolution does it record? What’s the battery situation? It’s also important to know what recording medium each device uses. SD cards? Hard drives? Are they HDD or SSD? This guide will help give you a few ideas of a few of the features to look at.
Among the most important features of a recorder are which sorts of inputs it’s built to accept and if they will be compatible with the devices you plan to record from.
Among the most important features of a recorder are which sorts of inputs it’s built to accept and if they will be compatible with the devices you plan to record from. Many modern video recorders will have inputs for either HDMI, SDI or both. If your camera only has HDMI out, you’ll want to make sure you find a recorder with HDMI in. Likewise for audio, many recorders have XLR, ¼-inch and/or 3.5-millimeter inputs. If your mics use XLR and your audio recorder only takes 3.5-5-millimeters, you’re going to have a compatibility problem. By getting to know your gear, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time finding a recorder with compatible inputs.
Blackmagic Video Assist 4K $895
The Blackmagic Video Assist 4K is a 10-bit 4:2:2 recorder with a built-in 7-inch 1920 x 1200 touchscreen monitor. It records Apple ProRes, and AVID DNx files for Quicktime or MXF file formats. It has one SDI in and out, one HDMI in and out, two mini XLR audio inputs with 48-volt phantom power and a 3.5-millimeter audio out. The recorder uses dual SD cards, automatically switching when one is full. The Blackmagic Video Assist uses dual LP-E6 batteries or AC power.
Shogun Inferno - $1,300
The Atomos Shogun Inferno is a recorder/monitor capable or recording 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHR up to 4K 60p. Offering four SDI inputs, one SDI output, one HDMI in, one HDMI out and a connecting cable that allows for two XLR in/out with 48-volt phantom power, the Shogun Inferno records uncompressed 10-bit or 8-bit 4:2:2 video to 2.5-inch SSD/HDD mounted in a caddy. It has a 7-inch touchscreen monitor, with 1920 x 1200 resolution and 10-bit processing. Offering 10 stops of range and 1500 nit brightness,the monitor applies ATOM HDR to see natural colors on-screen for Log footage. The Shogun Inferno uses dual NP batteries and automatically switches between them for continuous power.
PIX E7 - $1,700
The PIX E7 recorder/monitor can record 4K at 30 frames per second or 1080p up to 120 frames per second in ProRes codecs up to 4444XQ 12-bit as well as H.264. The 7-inch monitor has a 1920 x 1200 display with 500 nit brightness. For connections, the PIX-E7 has two SDI in, one SDI out, LTC, HDMI in and out and a GPIO port for tally light and remote control units. It records ProRes to a mSATA drive in a custom enclosure and simultaneously can record H.264 with baked-in LUT to an SD card for dailies. The PIX-E7 provides 35mm jacks for mic-in and headphones, and Video Devices offers an add-on sound mixer with XLR inputs as an accessory. The PIX-E7 uses L-mount batteries or external DC, and can switch between power sources seamlessly during operation.
Odyssey 7Q+ - $1,800
The Odyssey 7Q+ from Convergent Design is a robust recorder/monitor. It can record ProRes at up to 4:4:4 color sampling with 12-bit, 2K resolution, or 4K at 60 frames per second in ProRes 422. The 7Q+ is capable of RAW recording with an optional upgrade available from the manufacturer. It’s 7.7-inch 1280 x 800 monitor uses a touchscreen for controls. It boasts 3400:1 contrast ratio and provides vectorscope, waveform and histogram features, as well as 3D LUT support. The Odyssey 7Q+ has two SDI inputs, two SDI outputs and an added two bi-directional SDI connections, as well as a 4K HDMI input, a 1080p 30 HDMI output, and LTC BNC. It records to dual SSDs. It uses AC power or is available with a wide variety of adapters for different power options.
The Datavideo HRS-30 is a portable 50Mbps 4:2:2 video recorder with a built-in 10.1-inch 1280x800 monitor and integrated keyboard. It finds its place as a location, off-camera recorder. It records 1080p at 24 frames per second using SDI in/out/thru while also providing HDMI output. The HRS-30 records MXF or MOV files to 2.5-inch HDD or SSD drives in a removable caddy. It is powered by 12VDC in Coaxial, V-mount, or Anton Bauer batteries.
Little DARling Distributed Audio Recorder-$200
This recorder is made to be worn by the talent and records directly from a lavalier to avoid using long wires or wireless transmitters. It provides 16-bit/48kHz stereo recording to a WAV file. The locking 3.5mm mic jack and recessed menu buttons are designed to keep talent from accidentally disrupting the recording. The Little DARling records the main track and a duplicate -16dB safety track to Micro SD card and operates a single AA battery. The unit weighs only 2.0 oz without a battery.
DR-10L - $200
The DR-10L from Tascam is a Digital Audio Recorder purpose-built for lavalier mics. This pocket sized unit is also designed to be worn by talent. The DR-10L records 24-bit/48kHz to WAV files on microSD cards. It functions on a single AAA battery and offers mini stereo out port for headphone monitoring. To help get a clean recording, the DR-10L uses a built in limiter, four pre-programmed EQ settings and records a -12dB safety track.
LS-100 Multi Track PCM recorder - $335
Thes LS-100 handheld recorder is capable of 96kHz/24-bit PCM recording. It provides
four gigabytes of internal memory and accepts up to 64-gigabyte SD cards for additional storage. It has one 3.5mm input, one 3.5mm out, two XLR / ¼-inch combo inputs with 24/48-volt phantom power as well as built-in stereo condenser mics. It uses a built in rechargeable lithium-ion battery with an approximate 12.50-hour recording life.
H6 - $350
The Zoom H6, the top model in Zoom’s popular line of handheld recorders, offers interchangeable on-board mic units along with four XLR/¼-inch combo inputs that can provide up to 48 volts of phantom power. The device can record up to six channels at 96kHz/24-bit to WAV or MP3 files. It has both a 3.5mm line out, and additional 3.5mm headphone out, plus a usb connection to use the H6 as an audio interface. The most interesting aspect of the H6 is that the on-board mic module that it comes with (a 90-degree stereo X/Y mics with additional 3.5mm input), which can be switched out for alternate modules such as shotguns, ‘Mid-Side’ mics or even additional XLR jacks. The H6 uses four AA batteries and records to SDHC cards.
PCM-D100 - $775
Sony’s PCM-D100 records 192kHz/24-Bit PCM or 2.8224 MHz DSD to its 32 gigabyte internal memory, which can be supplemented with SDXC cards. With the only input being a 3.5mm stereo mini, the PCM-D100 relies heavily on built-in stereo mics that can be arranged at 90 degrees or 120 degrees. Four AA batteries will power the recorder for up to 11 hours.
MixPre-6 Audio Recorder/Mixer - $900
The MixPre-6 from Sound Devices is a high resolution recorder and full-featured mixer with integrated usb streaming. It can record at up to 24-Bit/192kHz in WAV format. It has four XLR/¼-inch combo jacks that can supply 48-volt phantom power. The MixPre-6 boasts Kasmir class-A mic preamps with 32-bit A-to-D converters. It can can record to dual SD cards while simultaneously streaming multiple channels of audio via usb. Accessories allow for a wide range of power options, including AA, Sony L Mount, USB and AC power. The MixPre-6 can be operated wirelessly via the free Sound Devices Wingman app.
F8 - $1,000
The Zoom F8 field recorder records 24-Bit/192kHz to WAV and MP3 formats on dual SDXC cards for redundancy or as a main and safety track. It has eight 48-volt phantom powered XLR/¼-inch combo inputs that can each be routed as outputs if desired. It has two 3.5mm outputs, two TA-3 outs, and a ¼-inch headphone output. It also can jam sync timecode via a BNC. It can operate on AA batteries, an AC adaptor or DC power supply (not included) with automatic switching between power supplies.
R-88 - $1900
Roland’s R-88 is an eight-channel recorder and mixer that can be used as a USB audio interface. It boasts up to 24-Bit/192kHz PCM recording and 24-Bit AD-DA conversion, recording in BWF (WAV). It has eight phantom powered XLR inputs and eight XLR outs, plus two digital inputs through AES/EBU connections, two ¼-inch jacks, two SMPTE BNC connectors and a 3.5-millimeter output. It can run on AA battery, AC power or 4pin XLR power.
Finding the right recording device is a matter of applying the age-old standard of balancing production needs v.s. budget. By understanding what will best suit your workflow, you will be able to make an informed choice to determine the right recorder to suit you.
Erik Fritts is a writer, photographer, and videomaker based in Hollywood CA. He has two enormous dogs and can be found online @ErikFritts