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The voice notes app on your phone is all well and good, but it’s no real replacement for a high quality voice recorder. The best voice recorders won’t interrupt your recording with a pesky phone call, and they include a variety of helpful functions like easy start and stop, volume settings, and noise filtering, which can vastly improve the audio quality.
Portable voice recorders are enormously helpful tools in many settings, whether you’re a college student recording a lecture, a musician recording a particular melody, a journalist recording an interview, or a professional recording an important meeting.
What Are the Best Voice Recorders?
There are a few basic functions you’ll want from a good voice recorder, including superior audio quality, a size that is convenient to carry, plenty of storage space, and the ability to easily share and edit files. Here’s what else to look for:
Convenience: Recording devices can be impressively small without sacrificing functionality or sound quality, which is an important feature. We like a device small enough to be tucked into a pocket without awkwardness, or with a lanyard attachment. We also look for devices that are intuitive and easy to use. Some can be awkward to figure out, especially when looking for additional features.
Storage Space: A good voice recorder will have a large memory capacity so you can continue recording for long periods of time without needing to delete files.
Sharing Files: In addition to large storage space, we look for devices with easy file-sharing capabilities so you’re never struggling to transfer a recording to your computer. In most cases, the simplest way to do this is with a usb plug-in. These can be tricky depending on your computer software, however, which don’t always recognize the folder right away.
Editing and Playback Features: You’ll want to be able to easily playback and edit your recordings. Ideally, recorders will have functions to adjust speed, which is particularly helpful any time you’re doing transcriptions. You should also be able to skip ahead or skip backwards in small increments in case you need to repeat a section or find a particular moment.
Audio Quality: Excellent audio quality is a must. We like recorders that automatically filter out ambient or peripheral noises to enhance the sound of the voice you’re recording. We also look for recorders sensitive enough to pick up sound from a wide range, and which can be heard clearly via speakers or headphones.
1. EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder
This voice recorder may look basic but it’s anything but. Its small size fits neatly in a pocket and its intuitive design makes it easy to use right out of the box.
It’s also packed with helpful features, like a voice-activated mode, so it will start up automatically when your lecturer begins speaking, for example. Sound quality is exceptionally clear with a wide range, filtering out ambient noise.
It is also rechargeable via USB, which is handy, and also makes it easy to download audio files to your Mac, PC, or phone. For listening on the device itself, it has a built-in speaker as well as an earphone jack. Just don’t forget to press stop while recording or it will not save.
2. Sony Mono Digital Voice Recorder
This recorder includes many of the features we like about the device above, including auto voice recording, which captures vocal frequencies and reduces background noise. You can also optimize the audio with the device’s four preset scenes: music, meeting, interview, or dictation.
This recorder also includes a USB connection which allows you to plug the device directly into your computer to download files. It records in MP3 audio; these files are compressed and require less memory, making them better for recording long lectures or meetings.
In fact this recorder’s biggest claim to fame is its large memory and super-powered battery life. Its 4 GB of memory records up to 57 hours of audio, but this can be expanded by adding a micro SD card for an additional 32 GB2 of memory.
3. Olympus Voice Recorder
This Olympus voice recorder is a must-have in our reporting kit, thanks to its high-quality MP3 recording, 8GB of internal memory and ability to transfer files to a micro SD card or to your device via USB.
Olympus introduces a ton of technical features that help it stand out too, including an “Intelligent Auto Mode” function that automatically adjusts microphone pickup and sensitivity based on how loud someone is speaking. Noise-cancellation technology helps to filter out ambient noise — say, traffic or an air conditioner — so you can clearer playback.
Playback controls let you slow down or speed up your recordings for easier transcribing.
Olympus’ “True Stereo Mic” uses two microphones positioned at a 90 degree angle to deliver an authentic stereo experience. The mics automatically monitor the distance between the person speaking and the recorder, to make the recording feel more accurate.
4. Digital Voice Activated Recorder
We really like the range of this voice recorder, which captures sound from 60 feet away, making it perfect for places like large lecture halls. We also like the robust 16GB of memory, which allows for up to 1160 hours of recordings.
Like other picks, this recorder has a voice-activation function, as well as power-on password protection which is useful for any sensitive recordings.
If you do a lot of transcribing, this is a particularly useful device, as it includes 16 levels to adjust play speed and functions to jump quickly to a particular point you’d like to replay. So if you’re trying to type up a lecture or interview with a particularly fast-talker, you can slow down the voice speed and save yourself the trouble of rewinding the same 15 seconds over and over.
Wide pick-up range and good audio quality. The ability to slow down audio makes it great for transcribing interviews or taking notes.
5. Digital Voice Recorder 16GB SuperEye
This is a multi-functional voice recorder with auto record and A-B repeat, which allows you to flag a particular section and easily jump back and forth. You can easily download recordings onto your computer via USB, but this device also allows for downloading MP3s from your computer and onto the recorder itself.
It allows up to 72 hours of WAV recording, or 1,000 hours of MP3, which is more than enough for most purposes. It has a noise-reduction chip to enhance human voice recording and most people agree that the sound quality produced is excellent.
The best part: this voice recorder doubles as a music player, with the ability to play MP3 files through the built-in speakers or by plugging in a pair of headphones. That said, audio heard through earphones is much superior to the sound produced by the built-in speaker.
Like the other recorders, it is small enough to fit in a pocket, but this one also comes with a protective carrying case which we think is a nice touch.