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Best Digital Voice Recorders

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 5 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 144 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best digital voice recorders

    Last Updated November 2018

    When you need to take notes for school or work, a digital voice recorder can make the task much easier. With a good voice recorder, you don’t have to worry about missing a single word, and you can rest assured that you have all the information you need to stay on top of your project.

    But that means choosing the right digital voice recorder from a variety of sizes, recording capacities, and other features to find the option that will work best for your projects. With so many models on the market, finding the right one can seem like mission impossible.

    If you’re ready to buy a digital voice recorder, you’ll find our top recommendations in the product list above. For general advice on shopping for a digital voice recorder, keep reading.

    Digital voice recorders outperform smartphone recording apps in most situations, so it’s a good idea to invest in a recorder if you often need to capture audio.

    Digital voice recorder uses

    A digital voice recorder is a small handheld device that converts speech and other sounds into digital files. These files can then be transferred to other electronic devices such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone for storage. You can also edit the digital files, which can help you organize your information.

    • Note taking: Digital voice recorders are most commonly used for recording notes at school lectures or business meetings, which can then be transcribed later. A recorder is also helpful for capturing your own thoughts and ideas for later transcription. For example, doctors often use them to record patient notes.

    • Interviews: Journalists and writers use the devices to record interviews and story ideas.

    • Dictation: You can use a recorder to dictate letters, memos, and other documents in a business setting for later transcription.

    • Website streaming audio: You can create digital files that allow you to add streaming audio to your website.

    • Presentation audio: You can add digital sound files from your recorder to PowerPoint and other presentations.

    • Podcasts: You can easily record your own podcast and then post it online for listeners to download.

    • Audiobooks: You can create audiobooks.

    • Custom ringtones: You can record custom ringtones for your smartphone.

    EXPERT TIP

    A digital voice recorder can be very helpful if you’re visually impaired and find writing difficult.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Digital voice recorder benefits

    • A digital voice recorder is media-free. Because it converts sounds to digital files, a digital voice recorder doesn’t require a cassette, CD, or other type of media to store the files. Instead, the files are saved on small, lightweight memory cards that you can easily remove from the device.

    • Some digital voice recorders have expandable memory. You may be able to store up to 32GB.

    • The sound quality is good. A digital voice recorder offers higher sound quality than other recording devices.

    • It’s easy to edit digital files. You can upload them as needed.

    • Digital voice recorders are versatile. For example, the playback function lets you upload MP3 audio files and use the recorder as an MP3 player.

    Digital voice recorder features

    Size

    Digital voice recorders are usually designed to be lightweight and compact, so they’re easy to carry with you on the go. In most cases, they’re slim and light enough to stash in your pocket, making them highly portable for business meetings, college lectures, and travel.

    For the most portable digital voice recorder, choose a model that has the following traits.

    • One-and-a-half to three ounces in weight

    • Two to four inches in length

    • One-and-a-half to four inches in width

    • One-half to one inch in depth

    Sound quality

    For the best possible audio quality, choose a digital voice recorder that features strong built-in microphones and, if desired, jacks for attaching an external microphone and/or headphones. Some models offer triple microphones that allow you to record 3D sound.

    To ascertain sound quality, consider the voice recorder’s sample rate, which measures the number of samples per second that a continuous signal must produce to create a digital signal in kilohertz (kHz). For general playback, a recorder with a sampling rate between 44kHz and 48kHz is usually sufficient. If you plan to use the recordings for podcasts, audiobooks, or other types of broadcast media, you may want a higher sampling rate of up to 96kHz.

    For improved sound quality, connect an external microphone to your recorder. External mics are often better at picking up sounds than built-in ones.

    Supported audio files

    When you’re choosing a digital voice recorder, pay attention to what audio files the device supports. Not all files are compatible with all devices. If you have an iPhone, for example, you want to be sure that you’ll be able to upload the digital recorder’s files to your smartphone.

    Nearly all digital voice recorders support MP3 files, which are compatible with most devices. However, some other common files supported by digital voice recorders include the following.

    • WAV is supported by Windows, Mac, and Android devices.

    • AIFF is supported by Windows and Mac devices.

    • AU is supported by Windows, Mac, and Android devices.

    Recording capacity

    Most digital voice recorders have built-in flash memory that allows you to store your audio files. For most users, a device with 2GB to 4GB of memory is sufficient because it can hold between approximately 800 and 4,000 hours of recordings, based on sound quality. If you need additional space, consider a recorder with 8GB memory.

    Some digital recorders also feature a slot for a memory card, so you can increase the memory to suit your needs.  

    The lower the sampling rate of a digital file, the lower its sound quality – but the less storage space it takes up on a digital voice recorder. In some cases, you may want to compromise quality to free up storage space.

    Battery life

    Some digital voice recorders have batteries that can run for up to 48 hours. For most users, that type of of battery life isn’t necessary. Look for a model that can run for at least three to four hours on its batteries.

    Startup speed

    You want your digital voice recorder to be ready to go whenever you need to record, so look for a model that starts up quickly. That means it should power up within a few seconds of turning it on and feature one-touch recording to prevent you from missing anything important.

    Digital voice recorders that provide their own editing functions are particularly helpful for students and transcriptionists because you can bookmark key spots in the audio.

    Editing ability

    All of the files created by a digital voice recorder can be edited. However, in most cases, you’ll need to transfer them to a computer or other device and edit them once they’re already recorded.

    Some higher-end recorders allow for editing on the device itself. Some features may include the ability to bookmark certain portions of the file or search for keywords so you can easily retrieve certain segments of the files.

    USB port

    In order to easily transfer the audio files from your digital voice recorder to another device, it’s important to choose a model with a USB port. This allows you to connect the devices via a USB cord and quickly transfer the files.

    EXPERT TIP

    While recorders without a USB port are usually less expensive, it’s often worth the added cost to buy a model with a USB hookup for the easy transfer of audio files.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Digital voice recorder prices

    Digital recorders vary in price based on recording capacity, battery life, and other features, but you can typically expect to spend between $20 and $200.

    • Budget friendly: For a  2GB digital voice recorder with a shorter battery life, you’ll usually pay between $20 and $60.

    • Mid-range: For a 4GB digital voice recorder with a medium battery life, you’ll usually pay between $60 and $100.

    • Expensive: For a 4GB to 8GB digital voice recorder with a long battery life, you’ll usually pay between $100 and $200.

    Tips

    • Make sure that your batteries are fresh or fully charged.

    • Do a test recording before you use your recorder at a business meeting, school lecture, interview, or other event. Be sure you know how to operate it properly so you don’t miss any important audio when it matters.

    • For better sound quality while recording, try to limit the ambient noise as much as possible. Even placing the recorder next to a laptop can distort the audio because of the whirring of the computer fan.

    • Use headphones when you listen back to recordings on your recorder. The audio is usually much clearer.

    Consider where you’re going to use your device to help identify the best model for your needs. Any recorder usually works in a quieter setting like a lecture hall, but you’ll want a higher-quality model if you’re recording in a noisy coffee shop.

    FAQ

    Q. What features can help improve the sound quality of a digital voice recorder?
    A.
    For the clearest audio, look for a digital voice recorder with a noise-canceling microphone. It will keep the recorder from picking up ambient noises that might distort the audio if you’re recording in a busy room.

    Q. What audio file formats are best for a digital voice recorder?
    A.
    WAV files provide the highest audio quality, but they’re not compressed, so they take up a great deal of space on a digital voice recorder. MP3 and WMA files don’t take up as much storage space. While their sound quality isn’t quite as good as WAV, it’s sufficient for most uses. Keep in mind that WMA files don’t play automatically on Mac devices, so you’ll need to download a WMA player app for your device.

    Q. What type of batteries do digital voice recorders require?
    A.
    Most use traditional AAA batteries. However, some models use rechargeable AAA batteries that you can charge through your computer via a USB cord.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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