Professional Audio Recorder Buying Guide

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Professional Audio Recorder Buying Guide

In order to buy a professional audio recorder, it is imperative to have basic knowledge of the different methods of audio recording, the different types of audio recorders, the relevant technical terminology, and the basic classes of audio recordings. Once this understanding is established, learning how to use an audio recorder to record professional sound recordings is a relatively simple process.

Traditionally, audio recordings have been created through electrical and mechanical means. The object on which a recording is stored is called the recording medium, and the re-creation of audio signals is called reproduction. Analogue recordings and digital recordings are the two main classes of audio recordings. Having the basic knowledge of these terms helps buyers make appropriate buying decisions.

Some of the many applications for professional audio recorders include taking dictation; broadcasting news reports, documentaries, and speeches; recording in home studios; recording data; and institutional duplication. eBay and other online and offline retailers boast a range of audio recorders for both professional and personal use. Recorders differ from one another in price, brand, features, common uses, target audiences, recording techniques, components, and in many other ways.

Audio Recording Mediums

Different mediums are used for audio recording, including analogue cylinder, analogue disk, tape, digital audio tape, and compact disc.

Analogue Cylinder

Analogue cylinder audio recordings are created using mechanical means. This is essentially an outdated technology that is mostly only used by enthusiasts and collectors. In 1877, Thomas Edison used analogue cylinders on a phonograph for the first time. Phonographs feature a rotating analogue cylinder that is covered with a soft material, such as lead or wax. Audio waves move a needle placed next to this soft material, and the rotation of the cylinder causes a pattern to be carved into the material. The phonograph cylinder thus records the audio signal.

Making copies of these cylinders is a complicated and next to impossible job, which is why technology for audio recordings continued to rapidly advance and improve over the years.

Analogue Disk

The first improvement to analogue cylinder technology for audio recording was the creation of analogue disks. These disks rotated on a spinning table. The technology was used for the first time in the gramophone around the year 1888. Reproduction of audio signals is much easier when compared to the analogue cylinder technology, and one master copy can be used to produce several additional copies.

Vinyl was traditionally used to create records, but in the initial stages of this invention, rubber was the most common material used. With the advancement of technology, the rotations per minute (rpm speed) has dramatically improved, and now a better quality sound that can last for a longer period of time can be produced.

Magnetic Tape

A recording head is used to record the sound onto magnetic tape. Unlike earlier technologies, the audio signal is converted to an electrical signal inside the recorder, which then enters the recording head and alters the polarity of very small magnets. The magnets then set the pattern of the magnetic particles on the tape in a way that represents the sound signal as it moves past the head. The re-arrangement of these magnetic particles is a representation of the vibration energy of sound signals. This is the recording process.

For playback, the playback head reads the signals and converts them back into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to any sound producing device, such as speakers.


A magnetic tape is often divided into tracks. Each track constitutes a specific portion of the tape and has the ability to store a completely different audio recording that can be played separately. The most common forms of magnetic tape are two-track, four-track, and stereophonic (or stereo).


What is known as "reel to reel" today is a system in which large storage reels have tape wound around one reel that transfers to another empty reel as it is played. After playing, the tape can be re-wound onto the storage reel. This system is still in use for some professional recordings.


In the 1970s, large, unwieldy reels were replaced with much more user friendly cassette tapes for typical consumer use, and reels were restricted to professional recordings only. Cassettes feature a magnetic tape sound recording format that consists of two small reels inside small cartridges.

Eight-Track Tapes

Eight-track tapes are similar to cassettes, but the tape is on a loop that repeats all the way through again and again after completing the play cycle. These tapes were common in the 1970s and 1980s, but they are now only found as vintage collectibles.

Quadraphonic and Monophonic Recordings

Quadraphonic recordings play four tapes simultaneously by using a four-track tape in order to mix the tracks in different ways. A good quadraphonic recording may sound much more ‘real’ than a monophonic or stereo recording.

Digital Audio Tape (DAT)

Magnetic and computer technology developed by leaps and bounds in the 1980s. This ever-improving trend laid the foundation for the introduction of yet another improved version of audio recording technology, the digital audio tape (DAT). The technology of DAT is similar to that of a cassette tape, with the exception that the magnetic patterns of data represent digital data instead of sound vibrations, as is the case with cassettes.

Compact Disc (CD)

Compact discs (CDs), like DATs, are a storage medium that requires computer technology to record and play. Since the 1990s, the trend of using CDs has been the standard, and CDs are typically the first choice of users when it comes to choosing a medium for audio recordings. More recently, a growing trend has been seen for other types of digital recordings, such as MP3s, but even in the case of MP3s, the recordings are often stored on CDs for playing.

Techniques for Recording Audio

The mechanical technique of recording audio in which a live recording of a performance is transferred directly to the recording medium is called acoustical recording. With the advent of electrical recording, microphones started to gain popularity for recording a performance, and overdubbing became possible. After the invention of analogue audio tape, overdubbing found several uses. Tape overdubbing is also referred to as sound-on-sound recording.

Mistakes can be corrected by using an analogue tape recorder, which makes it possible to record over and erase a previous recording. Cutting, looping, duplication, addition of effects, instantaneous changes, rearranging the parts of a recording, and other miscellaneous tasks can easily be performed with the use of computers. Digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software DAWs are frequently used for different audio recording tasks.

Types of Audio Recordings

While audio recordings can be recorded onto several different mediums using several different techniques, the recordings themselves are still classified as either analogue or digital recordings.

Analogue Audio Recordings

Analogue audio recordings use analogue signals to record audio for storage and playback. The signals may be analogue audio or video. In an analogue audio recording, a signal is stored ‘in’ or ‘on’ the media in various ways, such as the fluctuation of the strength of the field on a magnetic recording or as a physical texture on a phonograph record.

Digital Audio Recordings

Digital audio recordings are created using digital signals that are directly transferred to a storage device in the form of a stream of discrete numbers. These numbers represent the changes in air pressure (sound) that occur and create an abstract template for the original sound. Digital signals must be converted in this way in order for the recording to be stored on the medium and play.

How to Buy Professional Audio Recorders on eBay

Buying a professional audio recorder requires thorough research. The basic knowledge of the different recording technologies and types of recording devices makes the entire process of choosing an appropriate audio recorder much easier and saves a buyer from experiencing regret at a later date. It is not a good idea to purchase this type of technology without at least understanding the basics.

eBay offers a large variety of audio recorders. To browse relevant listings, you can start on the eBay homepage and use the search bar to enter a relevant query for the type of audio recorder you want to find. For example, type ‘audio recorder’ or other relevant keywords into the search bar to see a list of the available recorders. Alternatively, you can browse through the different categories to find various recording products. In order to save on postage, you can enter your postcode in the ‘Distance’ filter on the results page to find local listings. Many sellers agree to a local pickup if they are asked.

Feedback is an important part of the eBay process and should be examined carefully. Once your own purchase is complete, you should leave feedback for the seller about the transaction.


Audio recording is the encryption of audio signals, which has traditionally been done through electrical or mechanical means. The two main classes of audio recordings are analogue and digital recordings, and different technologies are used for each class.

The different mediums used for audio recordings throughout history include analogue cylinders, analogue disks, magnetic tapes, digital audio tapes, and compact discs. Vintage phonographs use rotating analogue cylinders, and analogue disks are what most people think of as ‘records.’ For tape recordings, an audio signal is converted into an electrical signal inside the recorder, and a recording head transfers the sound onto magnetic tape. DAT recordings and CDs store digital data instead of sound vibrations, and both require computer-based technology to record and play.

eBay and various other online sources and traditional retailers offer a large variety of audio recording equipment. Armed with the correct information, buyers can easily make the proper choice when it comes to buying an audio recorder for their own use.

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