There are a zillion digital field recorders on the market these days.  You can get rid of a good handful of them by choosing a recorder with XLR inputs.  This will allow you the flexibility to use any type of microphone you have.

You will find many people that will recommend the Sony PCM-D50 or PCM D100. Don’t be fooled. These things don’t have XLR inputs.  It’s not worth it. Generally, I don’t recommend using the internal microphones on any field recorder.  We can do better than that!

So, what’s left?  There are very slight differences between the sound of the recorders below.  One thing to consider is  analog vs. digital control—dials as opposed to a complicated digital menu. Consider how you will use this audio recorder.  Will you want something to mount on top of a DSLR or something that you can carry on your shoulder “run and gun” style?

Zoom H4N Pro 4-Channel Handy Recorder ($213)

This is the least expensive of the recorders and is similar to the Zoom H5, but without the interchangeable mic inputs.  The Zoom H4N was wildly popular with musicians and film makers.  However, as time went on, competitors began outdoing the Zoom H4N. This “pro” version provides a nice upgrade to the H4N, in the following areas: (1) Battery life; (2) Microphone pre-amps; (3) Build quality (they rubberized the body).

Zoom H5 Handy Recorder with Interchangeable Microphones ($270)

This is the lowest amount of money you will spend on camcorder with XLR inputs. To be honest, this is pretty much the same camera as the Canon G20. The only difference are the XLR inputs.  However, it is worth it.  Having to adapt to a non-XLR friendly camcorder costs you more money in the long run.

Roland R-26 ($399)

This thing is a monster! Unlike other handheld recorders, the internal microphones on the Roland R-26 are very good. In addition, this recorder can capture 6-channels of recording. If you have the budget, definitely purchase this machine.  The menus are a bit more complicated to handle, but I like the big dials on the front.