A field recorder, or portable recording device, is meant to record on location. “Location” could be for a movie, tv show, or an orchestral performance. Most also work as an interface for a daw. To be a proper field recorder, however, they must be able to receive timecode information and the “High-end” units here can all generate timecode as well. Do you think generating timecode is important? Comment below
What is more important is the room you choose and the microphone placement (and of course the microphone). Finding where the sweet spots are to place your microphones will have a much bigger impact than all the below field recorders but all field recorders below will render the audio nicely if it is recorded well
Fully-featured but not top-tier
Roland – R-88 – Class A pres
Sound Devices – MixPre – 10 II – Class A Pres – The MixPre line is Sound Devices prosumer-to-pro grade products but only the MixPre 10 II has a timecode generator built-in. The MixPre-6 II and MixPre-3 II can accept timecode however cannot generate it.
These are the top-tier recorders on the market (and in some cases out of production). These all have class-A mic pre’s with discrete components. Their converters are top-notch. They all generate
Aaton Digital – Cantar
Nagra – VI – these sound incredible, perhaps the best here, but are somewhat low on features and very expensive. 4 inputs switch between mic pre and line in, and 2 inputs switch between line in and AES in and because the quality is so high there is good value. Where other devices have more preamps, features, and portability the Nagra VI has a subtly more defined/flattering sound. For orchestral recordings the Nagra can’t really be beat. As a field recorder it is heavy and power-hungry.
Sound Devices – 833, 888, and Scorpio – these are incredibly full-featured and robust. They also sound great, nearly as good as the Nagra’s. But because the Sound Devices have so much more portability, features, lower cost, and are super durable they are quite popular with the film/tv/dialog recording people.