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When I was kid, my friends and I had fun recording ourself on a cassette deck.

For christmas, I want to get some gear for my kids (five and three) to record themselves singing etc.

What is available? Should I go for a cassette deck (they are still around, usually as a CD/radio/cassette unit), or is there some digital equipment that is suitable for kids that young?

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Depending on how much you want to enable your kids, and your budget, you could always go with a simple voice recorder. Tons are available that record to built-in flash. No parts to really lose, and they typically run on standard batteries or have built-in rechargeable.

None of them really have audio I/O though, unless you get into higher end stuff.

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Go old school if possible. These things were indestructible.

Brown Fisher-Price Tape Recorder

I bought a newer version a few years ago but it quickly broke.

  • I got a digital voice recorder, but would probably have preferred a something like what you recommend (better form factor for kids, simpler to understand). But I could not find a toy store that sold tape recorders. – codeape Jan 3 '11 at 8:32
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If you can get hold of one, I think a good ol' four track cassette tape recorder is still a great way to go (e.g. Tascam Porta-02). The main disadvantages are that cassette tapes are harder to come by these days, the sound will be a bit crackly and in order to perform the mixdown you'll still need to plug the 4-track output into something else.

But for these minor setbacks you have a physical unit which is simplicity itself to get going with and custom made for the job of introductory recording/mixing. The two most fundamental skills are covered:

  1. Recording tracks sychronously while listening to previously recorded tracks.
  2. Mixing down the four tracks to a stereo sound, using volume and balance controls in real-time with some LEDs to guide you to the right level for L and R channels.

Everything to do with the recording process is limited to the physical hardware so they don't have to worry about peripheral issues such as sound drivers or VSTi configuration. The skills will easily translate to more sophisticated DAW when they're ready (it did for me).

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For about $200, the Portastudio DP-004 records to an SD card (a 1GB card is included).

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  • "It's like a ROCKET in your POCKET" :-D – Brad Dec 22 '10 at 22:49
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    I'll look into something like this in a year's time if the kids enjoy the simple voice recorder I got them. – codeape Jan 3 '11 at 8:28

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