A few years ago I was asked to adjudicate (judge) a jazz festival. Having done this a few times before, I was surprised when there was no tape recorder at my table, just this little bloated-cellphone-looking digital device. Turns out it was a digital handheld recorder, and since that day it's been the only thing I've seen at a judging gig.
So, what exactly is a digital handheld recorder (DHR), and what does it do?
Well, if you're ready to spend the next couple of hours surfing the web, start here. In the simplest of terms, DHRs record sound, either from onboard microphones or through inputs, in a variety of file formats. They are small, lightweight and portable - hence handheld - and usually much less expensive than traditional recording options (unless you're still using this). Most DHRs also offer limited editing and exporting ability, and many use portable storage, such as SD cards.
Great. Why do I want one?
There are obviously more, but here are two major reasons I can't live without a DHR. First, you can easily record a rehearsal or writing session to keep and reference your ideas. Second, you can record live shows from the audience, or plug into the sound board for a direct feed. I've also set up my DHR behind or near the drum kit so I can hear the band in the background, but I get my own sounds loud and clear. All of these uses are aimed at analyzing and improving my playing and performance.
Which model should I get?
There are a lot of great models, but I'm partial to the Zoom H4N. In terms of features and cost, it's a good balance for my particular needs. For a more complete list with reviews, check out this page.
I'm not saying you should go out right now and get a DHR (okay, maybe I am), but it should definitely be on your list of gear to incorporate into your life. I'm all about things that help me to make my time and effort more effective.
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