i'd like to upgrade from my h4n and was thinking about purchasing the d50.

unfortunately have to option to rent one and compare the recordings.

basically my question is whether a d50 will be a noticeable upgrade when it comes to quality of the recordings taken with the in-built microphones, with focus on outside ambiences as well as quiet sounds (with gain set to higher levels). i'm looking for more detail, lower noise floor and range i guess.

10 Answers 10


Very big difference. The mics are much better and it has a much quieter noise floor. It is more expensive then the H4n but if you use it a lot it, will pay for itself with its battery life and the remarkably few times you will need to change the batteries. H4n eats up batteries and D-50 last forever on a set.

I upgraded to the D-50 in the spring and have not regretted it once.

One thing to budget for though is wind protection. The D-50 onboard mics are out in the open so you will need to either make your own furry, invest in the Rycote portable mic kit or put it in a blimp.


If you're looking for better sound quality, I'd suggest saving your money for decent external mics instead of purchasing an entirely new recorder.

Sony PCM D50 ($484): Good built-in mics. No XLR input. Great for "on the run" recording but the lack of XLR input (and ridiculous size/cost of the XLR adapter) makes it a poor standalone recorder. IMO, not a great choice if you want to focus on quiet sounds (i.e. foley) or plan to eventually use external mics.

Tascam DR-100 ($313): Decent built-in mics, includes XLR input, arguably better preamp/controls/battery life than the H4N. Good as a standalone recorder and also good for capturing quick sounds on the fly. The downside: As with the H4N, you'll likely want a mixer/preamp when using external mics (read here and here). This will run you another $350 or more.

Marantz PMD 661 ($599): Larger size, poor built-in mics, but in other ways a much better standalone recorder than those listed above (preamps, controls, XLR input, etc).

Tascam HD-P2 ($699): Fantastic as a standalone recorder, but you will probably never use it without an external mic hooked up... making it useless for quick and easy "on the run" recording.

It's a matter of weighing your options. Do you plan to eventually use external mics? Or do you just want something small to run around town and record sounds with? What kind of sounds are you looking to record?

  • I was thinking about external mics. but portability is the key factor here. especially when recording outside. somewhat worried I won't benefit form decent external mics due to rather questionable h4n pre-ams. any suggestions? Interested in urban and natural ambiences in general (i record a lot of sound walks) but also recording very quiet sounds from very close range. just yesterday recorded buzz of a light bulb and hiss of a small speaker. had to crank up the gain almost to 100%. i can deal with the self noise but then again would like to have cleaner recordings.
    – MacJ
    Oct 7, 2011 at 15:54
  • Rene's tests with the $135 Deneke might have changed my mind. I'm starting to think the D50 might be the way to go after all... Also keep an eye on the new Roland R-26 ($500) which should be shipping some time this month.
    – mattdesl
    Oct 10, 2011 at 7:59

Yep, D50 much better in that regard - though I'd hang on to that H4n for low pro recordings with ext mics.

Here's the shootout I did a while back.


people are suggesting the Sony XLR adapter is the main way to get XLR mics into the device. IMO the Deneke PS2 is a far better solution for 1/3d the price.

listening test of PS2->PCMD50 vs a 744t here.

  • would the Denke PS2 be a good solution for the h4n? in the sense would it do a better job then the in-bulit ams of the h4n? how many mics can you hook up to it, it's two mono XLR in/two mono XLR out, right? would for example the SD MixPre-D be a alternative?
    – MacJ
    Oct 7, 2011 at 16:03
  • It's probably overkill for the H4n since its not a pre - its just phantom power with XLR ins, which is exactly what the D50 lacks. The PS2 has 2 XLR ins, and I modded mine to break out into a single stereo 35mm cable. The SD Mix Pre-D is also a pre and a headphone amp, so with that box you basically only need a bit-bucket to catch whatever you're recording.
    – Rene
    Oct 7, 2011 at 17:19

I had a D-50 and it was stolen from me... literally!

so I bought a H4N so if they steal from me again it will be a smaller pain...

for me these 2 are 2 different things - H4N for effects - D-50 for ambiances - the end.


I am about to do this myself. Have been recording with the H4N for about 6 months and am receiving a new D50 as "an upgrade" on friday to take with me on a trip to NYC. Hoping for a noticeable difference in everything you originally stated MacJ.


D50 has no XLR inputs if you want record with good external mics... but there is some adapters like this one: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/516317-REG/Sony_XLR_1_XLR_1_XLR_Mic_Adapter.html Too expensive though


If you're looking for a good D50 windscreen, check out these!



The D-50 batteries lasts forever. Maybe this is obvious but hand holding the D-50 while recording the battery door and other parts rattle enough to ruin recordings. I wish it was a one piece unit with no parts at all. Thats my only complaint about it.


I'm sorry, I don't know how to ask a question to a question, but to the people recommending the D-50 as having superior in-built mics, I"m quite cautious about phase issues, and the zoom h4n does have co-incidence pairs as compared to a slightly spaced pair.

Does this give the h4n much of an advantage? cheers.

  • Hmmm. I've had the D50 for 6 months now and did an awful lot of research into it before I made the purchase. Honestly, i've never read a thing about there being a phase issue with the mics. And I can assure you that the mics and preamps in the D50 are far superior to those in the H4n. Oh and to you last comment I just say this "NO"
    – Si Charles
    Oct 10, 2011 at 21:01

the D50 is a fantastic recorder if you can afford to buy it over the H4n, the mics don't sound any better and the noise floor fairly similar with both using XY electret mics which always exhibit noise, the D50 is a tad quieter but I doubt in real world scenarios you'll find yourself in a quiet room recording nothing with built in mics. the preamps in the H4n cost around $6 and the preamps in the D50 cost around $8.00 they're very similar everybody uses these apogee, apple, sound devices, kindof p isses you off but I guess it's the R&D we pay for in this tech.

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