External Recording Devices

Why not just record straight into your audio editor? It saves time, it’s there, right there in front of you on Audacity or Garageband or even Hindenburg. This is great, on one level, but…

Ah there’s always a but! But then you have but one version of your recording. Does this not make you feel a little uneasy? What if, and I hate the phrase, “What if?” but what if the file is corrupted? What if your laptop fried itself?

The solution is, of course, an external recording device. (Hence the name of this post.) These come in a variety of options. From something you may not have thought of through to the usual suspects.

The first recording device I used and had recourse to use last September in an emergency was, the iPhone. The quality of recordings you can achieve on these is quite surprising. You need to hold the handpiece correctly,  you need to know where to direct your voice and so on. Just like a “real” mic.

There are a few options. The voice memo recorder is one. I used Opinion app for about six months. It is a great little tool for recordings up to about ten minutes or so of audio. You can do quick cut edits in the app and then export the file to your host or Auphonic then your host. Another great recording app without editing options is Voice Recorder Pro which despite the name is a free app. I’ve used this one and it works as described on the tin.

There are even improvements on the built in mics. “Rode videomic me” is one such. It’s a handy little shotgun mic with a huge dead cat which works wonderfully. The links at the bottom of this post will take you deeper into these things.

The next step from the iPhone or even, I’ll told, android phones is a digital audio recorder. I use a Zoom H2n, I know producers who use the Zoom H5 and H4 and they are all good. It depends on what you’re doing. I’ve had the Zoom H2n for a quite a few years. They are an improvement on the H2, the “n” standing for next, and it is almost unbreakable. It is designed for outside work by journalists so the the quality of recording is great, inside or out.

There are other makers but I like, really like, the Zooms. They all, as do the other makes, carry SD cards. These are where the recordings are held. You can either physically move the SD card from recorder to laptop or do so electronically through a usb cable. My choice is the latter.

Now these devices can become corrupted or broken just like a laptop. The probability is much lower. They have less digital moving parts to go wrong. I’ve only heard of the SD card failing once and that was because of dirty contacts not a software issue. Response: clean contacts annually.

Now you can record direct into your laptop and never have an issue, ever. Lucky you. I prefer the belt and braces approach of keeping the “master” tape separate from the editing process. I always have the original in case of power outages, lightning strikes, power surges or blue screens of death.

Further reading here, here, here and here.


  • Recording off your laptop creates a safety net for your audio
  • You can and indeed should at least once, record an episode on your smartphone
  • Digital Audio Recorders ensure you have a “master tape” to go back to in an emergency
  • Belt and braces!