Whether you want to record a lecture, interview, deposition or jam session, or you just want to remind yourself to buy jam, there are plenty of uses for a digital voice recorder. But do you really need a standalone device when there’s an app for that on your smartphone? Of course it is possible you don’t have a smartphone, but even if you do, there are advantages to a device built specifically for this single purpose. Here are some examples:
Convenience: Digital voice recorders have physical buttons for recording and playback that are just a thumb press away. To get to the app on your phone you typically have to first enter your password, locate the app, select it and then hit record.
Battery life: Typical battery life for one of these devices is around 30 hours. The Sony ICD-PX promises 96. A smartphone barely makes it to the end of a day on a single charge, and most of us would rather spare battery life for tasks such as texting, surfing, gaming, navigating, watching videos and maybe even talking.
Increased functionality: All the digital voice recorders we tested had features such as variable-speed playback and voice activation. Some even excel at recording music, offering features such as tresmic microphones, which capture sound from three directions at once, and multi-track stereo technology. The recording quality on some models even exceeds that of audio CDs.
The latest technologies in the best digital voice recorders help you conveniently capture sounds in perfect clarity. They suffer neither the 120-minute limits of standard cassettes, nor the tinny sounds of micro-cassette recorders. In addition, they provide hundreds of hours of recording time and reproduction largely free of background interference.
Voice recorders in our review, such as the Philips DVT, Sony ICD-SX and Olympus WS, are great for anyone seeking an easy and efficient way to make audio recordings. We provide the best digital voice recorder comparisons and reviews. For additional information, visit our articles on digital voice recorders.
The market for digital voice recorders is competitive, with manufacturers offering comparable features in scores of similar models. Finding the best to suit your needs can be tricky. That’s why TopTenREVIEWS evaluated 22 categories in features, functionality, capacity, dimensions and customer support to rank the best voice recorders out there. Here’s a brief look at some of the criteria we used.
A feature common to all the recorders in our review is a USB connection. This lets you upload the audio files to your computer for easy organizing and searching. Find a quote from an interview, for example, or relive a moment with your child with a couple of mouse clicks. SD cards offer another simple means of file transfer to a computer. We also looked at the number of folders for storing recording files and whether voice recorders have rechargeable batteries.
If your goal is to transcribe your recordings, variable-speed playback is a valuable feature. While all the recorders we reviewed have this feature, some, such as the Sony ICD-UX, enhance it with capabilities like pitch control, which maintains the pitch of a recording regardless of the playback speed. Music professionals will appreciate the capabilities of models that have enhanced audio capabilities. Voice-activated recording, also available on all the tested models, conserves battery power and memory.
The ubiquitous MP3 recording format was available on all the tested models, but some offered additional options such as WAV. Because MP3 files are compressed, they’re quicker to upload, but WAV files offer superior sound quality.
Another feature worth looking for is track marking. This lets you mark a spot on an audio recording for easy return to that spot.
Capacities of tested models ranges from 2GB to 16GB, which can provide anywhere from 50 to more than 2,000 hours of recording time, depending on the model. Memory card slots allow for additional storage by way of SD cards. A few models in our review ship with an SD card. While total storage is important, what matters more is the total recording time, and this is not always a direct correlation. A model with lots of gigabytes of storage, for example, may offer less recording time than one with fewer gigabytes. We also compared battery life.
Dimensions & Weight
If portability is important to you, look for a compact model that weighs just a few ounces. Those in our review ranged from 1.3 ounces up to 9.9 ounces. But keep in mind the more feature-laden a model is, the bulkier it is likely to be.
Help & Support
Manufacturers are not equal when it comes to help and support of their products. That’s why we gauged digital voice recorder companies on whether they offer support by email, FAQs, online forums, online chat, phone or all of the above.
The best digital voice recorders are those that link easily to computers with storage options, including large built-in capacity and removable SD cards. Features such as variable speed playback and track marking enable ease of use. Small and lightweight voice recorders are more desirable. We'll help you find the best recorder for you in our comparison.
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