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You ask, we answer: Which external mic inputs for 2-track digital recorders?

July 19, 2013
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I’M INTERESTED IN A 2-TRACK DIGITAL RECORDER FOR RECORDING MY REHEARSALS AND CONCERTS, BUT I’M UNSURE WHICH TYPE OF EXTERNAL MIC INPUTS TO LOOK FOR. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
 
EVA-LYNN ADAMS
ROCHESTER, NY
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Every portable digital recorder intended for tracking music (as opposed to simple dictation) has a 3.5mm external stereo mic input. The options that work with this type of input range from inexpensive consumer grade microphones to moderately expensive pro-quality mics. Look for a recorder that offers plugin power, which is used to power the higher-quality condensers. Plug-in power should not be confused with phantom power, which is offered on the recorders with dedicated XLR inputs.

Portable digital recorders with XLR jacks are increasingly common, affordably priced, and also include the 3.5mm mic jack, so you can decide which mics make sense for a given situation. For example, the built-in mics can be used as distant mics for capturing a group, while the external mics can be used as spot mics for soloists. Often, products with XLR inputs allow you to record additional tracks— commonly, a stereo file from the built-in mics and a separate stereo file from the XLR jacks. The Roland R-26 can even record six channels as three stereo files, using its two onboard stereo mics and two XLR inputs. However, you should also base your choice on the sound quality the recorder produces, as well as its ease-of-use, size, weight, and build quality. The easier it is to get up and running, the more often you’ll put your recorder to work.
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