As I’ve said before, the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder is a great tool for radio producers or podcasters on a budget. For under $300, it has a high quality internal microphone, XLR inputs with phantom power, and sounds better than flash-based recorders that cost twice as much.
One while one of the main draws for me were those XLR plugs, I’ve found that in most real-world situations they aren’t that useful. The built-in stereo mics sound great and records at a decent volume.
But if you plug a dynamic microphone into the XLR inputs, it’s hard to get a good level, and you generally wind up with some hiss. The situation’s a bit better with a condenser mic, and a studio condenser mic actually sounds pretty good, but it’s not that practical for field recording.
So if you can live without the XLR inputs, you might want to consider the new Zoom H2 Handy recorder. Like the H4, it’s distribute by Samson in the United States.
The H2 is about half the size of the H4, has three internal mics, instead of two, includes 1/8th inch inputs instead of XLR, and has a list price of $199. Odds are you’ll be able to find it for a bit less than that soon. The H4 has a suggested retail price of $299, but I found one online for $260.