The best audio and video recorders — 2024

In this article, we’ll cover the best external recorders for both video and audio recording. Then, we’ll go over the specs we considered when making our selections so that you can choose the best recorder for your specific situation.


The Editors’ Choice award recognizes exceptional video production equipment, software and services. These products must help videographers be more effective storytellers while being affordable, easy to use and dependable. The products must also deliver a superior user experience.


Best audio interface

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X

Strengths:

  • High-quality preamps
  • Real-time UAD processing
  • Robust build quality
  • Unison technology

Weaknesses:

  • Price
  • Limited I/O
  • Dependency on UA software

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X is our pick for the best audio interface. It features two mic/line Unison preamps and DUO core real-time UAD DSP for top-tier audio processing. Also, the Apollo Twin X offers Unison technology for precise hardware emulation and a robust build quality suited for both studio and remote environments. Although it comes with a higher price tag and relies on UA software, the exceptional quality and performance make it a top choice for professionals. Its limited I/O might be a drawback for some, but its high-quality outputs satisfy most studio needs.

Top features:

  • Two mic/line Unison preamps, Hi-Z input
  • Headphone out, 4 line out
  • 24-bit / 192 kHz AD/DA conversion
  • DUO core real-time UAD DSP
  • 48V, near-zero-latency monitoring
  • Monitor section with Talkback mic

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Category runner-up

Neumann MT 48

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X surpasses the Neumann MT 48 as an audio interface primarily due to its enhanced connectivity options and superior onboard DSP for real-time processing. While the Neumann MT 48 excels in microphone technology, the Apollo Twin X offers a more robust feature set for recording and mixing, including Unison preamp technology and built-in UAD plugins for precision audio shaping.


Best budget audio interface

Solid State Logic SSL 2+

Strengths:

  • High-quality preamps
  • Easy-to-use
  • Affordable

Weaknesses:

  • No DSP
  • USB 2.0 Connection

The Solid State Logic SSL 2+ stands out as the best budget audio interface thanks to its blend of professional features and affordability. With top-notch preamps and 24-bit / 192 kHz AKM converters, it delivers impressive sound quality. The interface’s zero-latency direct monitoring and user-friendly design make it a breeze to operate, perfect for both newbies and experienced users. Although it doesn’t include onboard DSP and relies on a USB 2.0 connection, these are small trade-offs given its excellent value and performance. It’s a fantastic pick for musicians and producers looking to get the most bang for their buck.

Top features:

  • Two mic/line/instrument preamps
  • Two headphone, two 1/4-inch line, four RCA line out
  • 24-bit / 192 kHz converters by AKM
  • Zero-latency direct monitoring

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Category runner-up

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (4th Generation)

The Solid State Logic SSL 2+ beat out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (4th Generation) with its superior analog circuitry, offering a cleaner and more professional sound signature. What sets the SSL 2+ apart is its Legacy 4K enhancement mode, inspired by SSL’s iconic consoles. This feature blends recordings with a unique character and presence that the Scarlett 2i2 simply can’t match.


Best stand-alone recorder

Sound Devices MixPre-3 II

Strengths:

  • Audio quality
  • Compact and rugged
  • 32-bit float

Weaknesses:

  • Price
  • Battery life
  • High complexity for beginners

The Sound Devices MixPre-3 II secures the top spot as the best stand-alone recorder with its impressive technical prowess and sturdy design. Its 32-bit float recording technology captures a wide dynamic range and crystal-clear audio, even under harsh conditions. Compact yet robust, the MixPre-3 II is perfect for fieldwork, equipped with three high-gain, low-noise mic preamps and an internal timecode generator for flawless synchronization. Though its higher cost, shorter battery life, and complex interface may seem daunting to newcomers, these issues are easily outweighed by its superior performance and dependability, making it the go-to choice for dedicated audio professionals.

Top features:

  • 32-Bit Recording / 32-Bit USB streaming
  • Record up to 192 kHz, stream to 96 kHz
  • 3 x high-gain, low-noise mic preamps
  • Records three inputs and stereo mix
  • Internal timecode generator
  • Adjustable analog limiters
  • Polarity, low-cut and pan controls

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Category runner-up

Zoom F6

When comparing standalone recorders, the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II outperforms the Zoom F6 with its exceptional preamps, which provide impressively low noise and a wide dynamic range for clear, high-quality audio. The MixPre-3 II also stands out with its user-friendly touchscreen interface, streamlining workflow and setup. This intuitive design is a major benefit in fast-paced recording situations.


Best budget stand-alone recorder

Tascam X6

Strengths:

  • Price
  • Six-track recording
  • Touchscreen

Weaknesses:

  • Battery life
  • No timecode

If you’re looking for a budget stand-alone recorder, look no further than the Tascam X6. With its impressive range of features and an even friendlier price, while the X6 is a budget option, it’s still an impressive recorder. This is because it has versatile features at an affordable price. It offers adjustable stereo condensers with A/B or X/Y configurations, making it highly adaptable for various recording situations. With capabilities for up to 96 kHz / 32-bit floating point recording and a digital USB-C connector, it provides professional-grade audio quality. While the lack of a timecode feature and shorter battery life are notable drawbacks, the X6’s price point, six-track recording ability, and touchscreen functionality make it an exceptional value for emerging professionals and hobbyists alike.

Top features:

  • Adjustable Stereo Condensers, A/B or X/Y
  • Two XLR mic/line inputs, 3.5 mm line out
  • Up to 96 kHz / 32-bit floating point
  • Digital USB-C connector

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Category runner-up

Zoom H4essential

The Tascam X6 surpasses the Zoom H4essential as our top pick for budget standalone recorders due to its broader input options and more versatile recording capabilities. With six tracks of simultaneous recording versus the H4essential’s four, it offers greater flexibility for multi-microphone setups. Furthermore, the X6’s superior preamps and support for higher resolution audio formats make it a better choice for those aiming for higher quality recordings without a steep price increase.


Best console

Solid State Logic BiG SiX

Strengths:

  • SuperAnalogue architecture
  • Comprehensive routhing options
  • Robust build quality

Weaknesses:

  • Price
  • Size
  • Complexity for beginners

We choose the Solid State Logic BiG SiX as the best console currently on the market. Its performance and studio-grade features makes it a clear top choice for buyers. Equipped with four SuperAnalogue mic preamps, it delivers exceptional audio clarity, enhanced by SSL’s famous 3-band EQ and dynamics channel processing. This console also includes a 16-channel USB audio interface and 18-input summing at mixdown, offering extensive routing options and flexibility in a sturdy design. While its higher price, larger footprint, and complexity may be challenging for beginners, these factors highlight its professional-level capabilities, making the BiG SiX an excellent choice for serious audio production settings.

Top features:

  • Four console-grade SuperAnalogue mic pres
  • Four Stereo line inputs and two ext inputs
  • 16-channel USB audio interface
  • 24-bit / 96 kHz AD/DA converters
  • Three-band EQ and dynamics channel processing
  • Stereo master bus compressor
  • 18-input summing at mixdown

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Category runner-up

Trident 68

We pick the Solid State Logic BiG SiX over the Trident 68 primarily because of its integration of SSL’s acclaimed SuperAnalogue technology. This tech guarantees outstanding audio fidelity and ultra-low noise levels. Moreover, the BiG SiX includes extensive DAW control capabilities and an advanced built-in bus compressor aligns perfectly with modern production workflows. Its versatile channel routing and customizable options also make the BiG SiX an excellent choice for both mixing and recording. It seamlessly fits into both traditional and contemporary studio environments.


Best budget console

Allen & Heath ZED-10FX

Strengths:

  • Price
  • USB interface
  • Build quality

Weaknesses:

  • Lower headroom

The Allen & Heath ZED-10FX is our best budget console due to its impressive range of features at an affordable price point. It boasts four mic/line inputs and a USB digital audio interface. These allow for easy integration with computer-based recording systems. Although it has slightly lower headroom than higher-end models, the ZED-10FX stands out with its solid build quality and well-rounded features. It’s a fantastic option for budget-conscious musicians and producers.

Top features:

  • 16 delay, reverb and modulation FX options
  • Four x mic/line inputs
  • Two x Hi-Z Class-A FET guitar inputs
  • USB digital audio interface

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Category runner-up

PreSonus StudioLive AR8c

The Allen & Heath ZED-10FX is a better budget option than the PreSonus StudioLive AR8c due to its excellent build quality and outstanding onboard effects. The ZED-10FX features a range of professional-grade effects designed by the renowned Lexicon, delivering high-quality reverb, delay and chorus. Its compact and rugged design, coupled with a user-friendly layout, makes it an ideal choice for both live performances and studio sessions.


Best near field monitors

Neumann KH 120 II

Strengths:

  • Sound accuracy
  • Build quality
  • Powerful amp

Weaknesses:

  • Price
  • Bass responce

The Neumann KH 120 II earns our top spot for Best Near Field Monitors due to its remarkable accuracy and superior construction. Featuring a 5.25-inch Woofer and a 1-inch Tweeter, both bi-amped with 80W for low and high frequencies, it delivers a powerful and well-balanced sound over a wide frequency range of 44 Hz to 21 kHz. Its DSP engine enhances performance, ensuring a linear phase response from 120 Hz to 16 kHz, making it ideal for critical listening environments. Even though it comes at a higher price and has limited bass response, the KH 120 II’s precision and durability make it a prime choice for audio professionals who demand accurate monitoring.

Top features:

  • 5.25-inch Woofer + 1-inch Tweeter
  • Bi-amped: LF 80 W, HF 80 W
  • DSP engine
  • 44 Hz to 21 kHz frequency response
  • 120 Hz to 16 kHz linear phase response

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Category runner-up

Genelec 8330A

The reason we chose the Neumann KH 120 II over the Genelec 8330A is because of its linear frequency response and phase coherence. These uarantee accurate sound reproduction in diverse listening environments. The KH 120 II is also equipped with a Mathematically Modeled Dispersion (MMD) waveguide, which improves off-axis response and minimizes listening fatigue during extended mixing sessions. These features make the KH 120 II an excellent choice for critical listening and mixing tasks where precision is essential.


Best budget near field monitors

Mackie CR3-XBT

Strengths:

  • Price
  • Bluetooth connectity
  • Simple control

Weaknesses:

  • Sound accuracy
  • Build quality

The Mackie CR3-XBT is our best budget near field monitor. Featuring a 3-inch polypropylene-coated woofer and a 0.75-inch silk-dome tweeter, powered by a 50W amplifier, these monitors provide sufficient sound quality for casual listening and basic production tasks. And its Bluetooth connectivity enhances its versatility. Although its sound accuracy and build quality fall short of professional standards, the CR3-XBT stands out for its affordability, straightforward controls and useful features like multiple input options and a front-panel headphone output and is an ideal option for beginners in audio production.

Top features:

  • 3-inch polypropylene-coated Woofer
  • 0.75-inch silk-dome Tweeter
  • 50 W amplifier
  • All-wood cabinet
  • Custom-tuned rear port
  • Bluetooth, 1/4inch TRS and RCA inputs
  • Front-panel stereo headphone output

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Category runner-up

Tannoy Reveal 402

We pick the Mackie CR3-XBT over the Tannoy Reveal 402 for budget near-field monitors, mainly because of its Bluetooth connectivity, which provides significant versatility for wireless audio streaming. The CR3-XBT also boasts a broader frequency range than the Reveal 402, offering more detailed and expansive sound reproduction. Coupled with its compact design and affordability, these features make the CR3-XBT a more attractive option for entry-level users looking for convenient and flexible listening solutions.


Factors we considered

Just like cameras, there is no single recorder that’s perfect for every production; however, you can enhance your camera’s capabilities with a recorder that fills in the gaps.

Video recorders

The internal recording capabilities of your camera are often limited by recording media and processing power. An external recorder can often open up a lot of options in terms of format and record time, letting you record in higher-quality formats — like ProRes, DNxHR, CinemaDNG and RAW — for longer periods of time.

Recording format and color

At times, because of a client’s needs or to streamline your own post-production workflow, you may need to record in a specific format like ProRes 422 or DNxHR HQx to work more easily with editing software like FCP or Media Composer. Recorders often support these formats while many cameras don’t. If your workflow demands a particular format, make sure it’s available on any recorder you consider.

Along with additional recording formats, many external video recorders also offer enhanced color capture. many cameras only record in 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, which can lead to some images having color that looks a little off or that is difficult to correct and grade in post-production. 4:2:2 subsampling has four times as much color information as 4:2:0 color and gives you color that looks almost exactly like full bandwidth color (4:4:4). Many recorders support 4:2:0 color via HDMI and 4:4:4 color via SDI.

RAW recording is another reason to invest in an external recorder since this will give you maximum flexibility in terms of color grading and image correction — RAW recording pulls image data directly from the camera’s sensor, bypassing any image processing or compression.

Screen size, resolution and brightness

Though external video recorders do not always include a built-in monitor, this feature can add a ton of value to your purchase. Onboard camera monitors are typically small, low res and not very bright. There are many monitors/recorders with 5-inch to 7-inch screens in HD resolutions; some are even bright enough to see in sunlight.

These will often also provide handy shot assist tools like focus peaking and LUT preview in addition to their larger, more production-friendly viewing area. If you know you will be working with HDR footage, look for a monitor that supports HDR previewing.

Audio recorders

On some projects, you can mask problems with your picture in post-production with alterations in color and contrast, making them look like stylistic choices; however, you usually can’t do that with audio. You might be able to ADR (additional audio recording) all the dialog of your short film in post, but it’s not likely that the bride and groom are going to want to re-record their wedding vows after you’ve done the shoot for them. In some cases, there simply is no alternative to professional quality production sound.

Most cameras don’t offer all the features needed to ensure that you can get good quality sound for your production.

Most cameras don’t offer all the features needed to ensure that you can get good-quality sound for your production. This is where an external recorder can give you the ability to capture great sound, either with better input and output jacks, a lower noise floor, higher audio sample rates and bit depth, or by offering more control to adapt to the recording environment.

Connectivity

Sending an audio signal through an XLR jack doesn’t automatically make it better quality; however, using XLR cables and jacks can help eliminate some common problems with audio signal flow in production. Reliability is very important for signal flow. XLR connections lock in place; most 1/8-inch connections do not and can easily come out. Equipment using XLR jacks typically use grounded connections to help eliminate RF noise in the signal; most 1/8-inch jacks don’t allow for grounded connections. During production, the size of XLR jacks makes them more durable and less likely to break in contrast to smaller 1/8-inch connections. As an added bonus, XLR inputs usually can provide the phantom power needed by many professional microphones.

Noise floor and audio formats

All audio recorders have a noise floor. When you start a recording with no microphone attached or enabled, what you will hear in the recording is that noise floor. Generally, the better a recording device is designed and built, the lower the noise floor will be. Many cameras and recorders don’t list audio noise floor information in their specs, but this is certainly something you can learn by doing test recordings with the equipment before you shoot.

If you want great audio, you’re going to need to record in WAV or another uncompressed format since recording compressed audio severely limits what you can do in post. Of course, if your only delivery is a live web stream, then recording compressed audio may be fine; but you should test your workflow just to be sure.

Changing your record format from 16bit/48khz to 24bit /96khz WAV may not give you a noticeable difference in sound quality. However, it will give your audio signal more information, meaning that it will be easier to make alterations like noise reduction and equalization in post-production, often delivering a final audio track of significantly higher quality.

Ergonomics and isolation

Beyond boom poles, we don’t hear much about the ergonomics of working with audio equipment on a shoot. This can greatly affect the sound you’re recording, however. You’ll find that the easier the gear is to operate, the more consistent your results will be. Gain controls that are physical rather than menu-based can be quickly and easily adjusted. This will help you maintain proper audio levels. Using an audio recorder that is separate from your camera rig will eliminate the risk of vibrating the camera while adjusting gain. Likewise, if your audio gear is separate from your camera rig, you’re less likely to pick up camera noise in your audio recordings.

Summing it up

Production has its challenges, but with the right tools, the work is a lot easier. Audio and video recorders can help fill some of the needs when your camera falls short. They can also make your job a bit more comfortable.

Contributors to this article include Odin Lindblom and the Videomaker Editorial Staff.

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The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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