When you're looking to capture high-quality live music, field recordings for film, or interviews for podcasting and broadcasting, using just any basic voice recorder -- or even most mid-range voice recorders -- simply won't cut it. Professional users demand a high level of audio fidelity and loads of useful features in their digital audio recorders, which is why the Samson Zoom H4n (Est. $270) comes out on top according to feedback from audiophiles and pros.
The Zoom H4n's two adjustable microphones can be rotated from 90 to 120 degrees to capture better stereo sound and provide some measure of isolation between multiple sound sources. A pair of quarter-inch and XLR-compatible inputs also let you attach additional mics to get a more dynamic mix. Additionally, the Zoom H4n's four-track overdubbing and layering features greatly extend its usefulness, though they're not quite as robust or flexible as what you find in a stand-alone four-track digital audio recorder. The trade-off is that this professional-grade digital voice recorder is a bit too bulky for some users.
A vocal minority of users on Amazon.com argue that the Sony PCM-M10 (Est. $250) digital voice recorder offers better sound quality and a more portable form factor than the Zoom H4n. Others disagree about the recording quality difference between the two devices, which is arguably top-notch in either case. What is clear, however, is that the PCM-M10 has fewer of the extra bells and whistles that professional digital voice recorder users who gravitate toward the Zoom H4n crave. The Sony digital voice recorder is certainly a more pocket-friendly option, which resonates highly among some users -- and a good pick if you're not looking for those extra functions that make the Zoom H4n shine. It's available in red and black versions.
If you're on a budget, the cheaper Tascam DR-05 (Est. $80) digital voice recorder might be a viable alternative, at least for some situations. Its main drawback is that it easily falls prey to background noise issues in diverse settings, ranging from windy outdoor conditions to extremely quiet indoor settings. Still, it's rated highly among users for its ease of use and generally good sound quality, even if it's not as powerful or feature-rich as the pricier Sony and Samson digital voice recorders named above.