Field Recording App Options for Your iPad or iPhone

By Ryan C. Williams, Mike Levine

The first step to putting together quality field recordings involves choosing the correct app for your iPad or iPhone. Field recording apps differ from DAWs in that they don’t concentrate on virtual instruments or multi-track recording. You lay down your audio in stereo tracks, usually at a pretty high resolution (depending on the kind of mic you invest in).

Some apps just record the audio files, whereas others provide audio editing functionality and other features. Take a look at the following five apps for a better idea of what field recording apps have to offer.

RØDE Rec

RØDE makes high quality mics first and foremost, so the apps they offer probably act more as accessories to their smartphone based mics than as standalone recording apps. That said, RØDE Rec (and the free and less functional counterpart RØDE Rec LE) offers some solid features:

  • Up to 24-bit, 96-kHz audio (with their proprietary mic, of course)

  • In-app audio editing and looping

  • Built-in EQ, dynamics, and normalization

  • Export to several different sources in many lossless and lossy formats

RØDE Rec allows you to get to the recording easily. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the RØDE Rec app.

  2. Tap the + icon at the bottom of your screen.

  3. Tap Record and watch the waveform.

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  4. Tap Record again to stop the recording.

You can tap Record to bring in more audio, or you can tap Play to listen back. Tap and hold the waveform to scrub the audio (listen as you move the waveform back and forth to hear the exact spot where you want to make an edit).

How and where you edit your audio depends on what you record, but RØDE Rec provides the tools you need to accomplish your task.

Zoom HandyRecorder

Zoom also provides their app as a companion to their iOS mic, but they offer a full version for free. The app opens right into the record screen so you can get to work.

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Just tap the Record button to start your audio recording, and tap Stop to stop it. Very simple. Zoom also offers in-app EQ, reverb, and mastering effects along with audio scrubbing, but not in-app audio editing. After you’re done recording, you can send the file via email or share it to your SoundCloud account.

If you’re going to record audio for an extended period of time, tap the lock icon on the Zoom app. This prevents you from accidentally stopping or pausing the recording before you want to.

If you use this app in conjunction with Zoom’s mic, you can use the mid-side stereo recording technique to manually work with the stereo field, such as widening or narrowing the field to your taste.

Tascam PCM Recorder MKII

This app provides very similar functionality to the Zoom app — a clean interface with easily recognizable controls. And like the Zoom app, it opens ready to go on the main control screen.

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The scrub functionality doesn’t show a waveform like the RØDE and Zoom apps, but you can still move your finger along the bar shown below the meters to review the file. The Tascam app also offers a lock button similar to the Zoom app. However, you don’t get the ability to record in audio above 16-bit, 44.1-kHz resolution, and Tascam does not currently offer an iOS dedicated microphone. Still, you can’t really argue with free.

Hindenburg Field Recorder

The full app costs almost $30 and positions itself as a professional tool for journalists and broadcasters. This app represents itself as the mobile version for a desktop app, but you can do just about everything you need within the app itself. The app opens into the main record screen.

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Just tap the Record button to start the recording, but don’t expect the recording to stop when you tap the button again. In this case, tapping the button adds a marker to the recording but allows the overall recording process to continue. Markers identify a significant point in the audio file, such as the beginning of a song. To pause the recording, you must slide your finger over the switch at the bottom. From there, you can restart the recording when you wish or move to another file.

Hindenburg only records at 16-bit, 44.1-kHz resolution as well, which makes sense when you consider that the main purpose of this app involves recording audio interviews. However, the robust audio editing capabilities of this app make it a very versatile tool for field recording.

If you want to give Hindenburg a try before you purchase it, download the free version of the app and see what you think. You might find it worth the effort to audition the app before you shell out full price.

Voice memos

The iPhone comes with a built-in app to record audio, although the app works best as a quick way to record notes to yourself as opposed to a fully functional recording app.

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Tap the Record button to start and stop recording, and tap the Crop icon to trim or delete the file. This app is a possible last resort for quick jobs, but don’t count on it being a full-featured recording app.

Plenty of fish in the sea

You’ll encounter a great many recording apps in the App Store, but this overview should give you an idea of the features you should look for when choosing your app:

  • Superior audio quality (above and beyond 16-bit, 44.1-kHz if possible)

  • In-app audio editing capabilities

  • Recording in WAV or AIFF files with the option to compress after the recording completes