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Audio

Best Digital Voice Recorder

These little digital marvels offer loads of storage space for days of recording time. Perfect for everyone from students to journalists to Moms who just need to remember shopping lists and their children's daily schedules, digital voice recorders are convenient and compact so that you can take them on the go. With built-in microphones that are sensitive enough to seek out only the vocal content you want to record and eliminate background noise at the same time, these recorders are often voice activated so that they only work when someone is speaking.

You also want a device that has USB connectivity so it’s easy to hook up to any PC or Mac so you can download and manage your recordings. Some devices are outfitted with additional features such as file editing, variable speed play back, external microphone ports, and they can even record and play multiple file formats from MP3 to WAV among others. Whether you're looking for a digital recorder to capture a busy sound environment with numerous voice speaking or you just need a device to record the audio from an important lecture, we have a variety of products at both ends of the price spectrum that we've determined to be the best you can buy.

Olympus VN-702PC Voice Recorder

To start, the VN-702PC offers over 800 hours of record time on 2GB of memory, one of the longest record capabilities available of any device on the list. You record lecture notes, store personal memos, and take down thoughts at the touch of a button. The included microSD slot lets you expand your memory up to 32GB further and you can conserve space with the choice of recording in either MP3 or WAV formats.

An important component you'll want in any good recorder is USB connectivity and the VN-702PC  makes file transfer quick and easy from the device to any computer. Recording your content is also pretty simple and you can adjust the settings to reflect the type of audible environment you're in.

A built-in stand keeps the device upright to minimize sound interference from where the recorder has been positioned while keeping the large LCD display in full view for easy reference. There's even a voice activation feature to keep you from draining the battery too quickly as it automatically engages and disengages the record function when no one is speaking.

Philips DVT1400 4GB Digital Voice Tracer

With an available built-in 4GB of storage capacity and a microSD card slot for expanded storage capacity, the Philips DVT1400 offers a virtually unlimited amount of record time. You're looking at around 44 days of recording on the long play mode setting, shorter at other speeds obviously.

There's a lot to like about this device, including a dual microphone setup to capture superior speech clarity, even in noisy environments. Your recordings are captured in MP3 format and you have a choice of one-touch recording with the push of a single button, or simply go hands free with voice-activated recording. All you need to do is start speaking and the unit does the rest.

Playback can be done right from the device itself or through any PC via the built-in USB connector. The time stamp feature lets you navigate and locate any recording with ease and it only requires just 2 AAA batteries to operate. One shortcoming, this is not a rechargeable unit.

Sony ICD-UX533 Digital Voice Recorder

The ICD-UX533 has 4GB of internal memory and comes with a storage expansion slot for up to 1,000 hours of recording time; there's also a microSD memory card for even more time if you need it. You get an internal dual-element cardioid microphone for capturing audio content with three sensitivity settings to adjust for the surrounding environment. There's also a speaker at the front of the device or you can use headphones to listen to your recorded content.

Your recordings are made in MP3 or LPCM and you can choose the bitrate resolution for sound quality, from 8k to 192k. You can also configure the unit to automatically set your record levels or do it manually to minimize distortion from loud, incoming sounds. Additionally, this recorder features file erase/protect, a hold function, a bookmark function to keep your place in any file, and a five-band EQ for MP3/WMA/AAC playback. The ICD-UX533 also lets you sync up with any PC or Mac.

Livescribe 2 GB Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen

You're trying to jot down important notes while the lecturer continues talking and you inevitably forget something or scratch it down improperly. Fortunately, Livescribe makes a line of smartpens based around the premise that none of us can write very fast. Available in 2, 4, or 8 GB memory sizes, the Sky works like any ball point pen but also records audio at the same time.

While you can just play back the recording and listen to the lecture over again, what's even better is the pen can remember what you wrote down when during that recording. All you need to do is touch the tip of the pen to a certain part of your notes and it automatically plays back the audio portion recorded from that position on the paper. This recorder is also Wi-Fi enabled and automatically sends your notes and the full recording to an Evernote account if you have one set up. And don't worry if this pen runs out of ink as it comes with replaceable ink cartridges.

Etekcity DVR126 Digital Voice Recorder

Etekcity's recorder holds its own against the other picks on our list by providing 8GB of storage for up to 500 hours of record time depending upon which record mode you choose. The DVR126 can record in long play at 32Kbps, slow play at 128 and high quality at 192; whichever of these modes you use will obviously affect the length of recording time length.

An integrated dual microphone picks up sound with consistent sensitivity while background dampening filters cut down on un-necessary excessive noise to ensure your recordings are clear and audible. SP mode works with a voice activation feature which conserves battery life and there's also a segmentation and repeat feature to listen to a certain portion of your recording repeatedly during playback.

Speaking of playback, the device records and plays four file formats; MP3, WMA, WAV, and ASF. The DVR126 can also be used to record telephone conversations with an included adapter and telephone cable which are easy to connect and utilize. Unfortunately, with just 8GB of memory, this recorder pales in comparison to some of the other picks on our list, as there is no expandable memory card slot to increase storage space.

Olympus DP-201 Digital Voice Recorder

The DP-201 gives you almost 200 hours of recording time with a storage capacity of up to 2GB; pretty good, though you'll find units with larger storage on our list. However, this recorder is our top pick because of its ease of use as well as creating great sounding thanks to noise cancelling filters which minimize background noise around you.

Finding your audio files is extremely easy with the recorder's Calendar Search Function. Simply do a search for the appropriate file by name or date and the unit will tell you exactly where it’s for immediate playback. The large LCD front display and basic function buttons are easy to read, so operation is effortless even for those who have a little trouble with their eyes.

One great feature with this recorder is you get about 70-80 hours of battery life on just two AAA batteries. There is one drawback as this recorder doesn’t plug in to a PC so you can't save audio files for posterity. Once your memory is full, you need to delete or erase over previous files.

Etekcity 4GB Rechargeable Digital Audio Voice Recorder

Featuring 4GB of storage capacity, this rechargeable recorder from Etekcity lets you record in four speeds with 46 hours of recording time at 192 Kbps. The unit records WAV audio files but supports MP3, WMA, ASF, and WMV files as well. Functionality on this unit is varied and easy to use, with immediate playback and voice activated recording, not to mention there's also an MP3 player built into the unit, so you can take your favorite music with you on the go. There's also a USB port so you can connect the unit to any PC. Simply just move files from the recorder to your computer's hard drive and you’ll instantly free up space in the recorder's memory for more recording time.

Olympus VN-7200 Digital Voice Recorder

The VN-7200 comes with three recording modes. HQ gives you the highest quality possible, while SP and LP extend your recording times of up to 1,100 hours of audio at the lowest mode. Dual playback modes let you play your recordings back at 25 percent slower speed or 50 percent faster. Creating a recording is as simple as speaking thanks to the unit's voice-activated recording function.

This recorder comes with a helpful indexing feature allowing you to bookmark specific points of an audio file for easy access. Large, clearly marked buttons let you stop and record with just one touch while a directional pad gives you total control over your files with play, skip and forward functions. There's no USB hookup on the VN-7200 but files can be transferred to any PC through headphone and microphone jacks with any sound recording software such as Audacity or Sony ACID.

iGearPro 16GB USB Flash Drive Digital Audio Voice Recorder

Voice recorders don't get much more basic than IGearPro's mini USB flash drive recorder. It has up to 16GB of internal memory and offers bitrate quality of up to 384 kbps in WAV format. Since this is a flash drive, the unit plugs directly into any PC or Mac to play back your audio files through just about any sound software. No need for any downloading of drivers with this unit, just plug it in and you're ready to go.

This recorder works on a rechargeable battery that requires a USB for recharging, but it cannot charge while in use so you have to pick between one or the other and unfortunately it isn’t a voice activated recorder. But for around $20, you could probably look past those issues considering how much storage and recording time you get in this tiny device.

aLLreli CP0038 Digital Voice Recorder

aLLreli's slim and comprehensive recorder gives you 8GB of storage capacity and three modes of record speed in MP3 or WAV formats. But despite only recording in just two formats, the CP0038 can actually support MP3, WAV, WMA, APE, FLAC, OGG, M4A as the unit doubles as a personal digital music player. When you wish to use it as a recorder, the device lets you record in bitrates ranging from 32 all the way up to 1536Kbps with noise reduction and noise cancelling capabilities.

The CP0038 comes included with an external mic, in addition to a set of earphones, junction box for recording telephone conversations, and a USB cable for connecting it to a PC. The battery is fully rechargeable and offers up to 26.5 hours of recording time on a single charge.

TASCAM DR-05 Digital Recorder

The DR-05 is a versatile digital recorder suitable for musicians and non-musicians alike. A full suite of recording features are at your fingertips with an easy to use interface that makes operation of the device pretty simple. The two highly sensitive stereo condenser omni-directional microphones are capable of recording up to 125 db of sound with clarity to pick up multiple vocal sources and ambient sounds.

A self-timer recording feature can delay audio pickup for up to 10 seconds after you push the button to give your subjects a little extra time to be ready to speak. The Peak Reduction feature minimizes distortion by automatically setting your levels based on audio input with a built-in sound limiting filter that keeps you from recording too hot.

Playback features are plentiful and each one let’s you conveniently adjust the settings of your recorded files. Variable speed playback lets you slow or increase recorded file without changing the pitch of your content. You can also edit files or even loop and repeat a portion of the track which is good for transcribing content. Storage size is comparable to the other choices on our list with 2 GB of included storage and microSD slot capable of up to 64.

Olympus WS-823 8GB Voice Recorder

The WS-823 is one of Olympus' most versatile models and it's hard to believe they packed so many useful features into this little device. For starters, record functions are fully adjustable with a zoom capability on the microphone that lets you enhance or decrease directivity to focus on a source of audio in an environment with excessive ambient sound. You can steer the microphone to a speaker that’s located far away or surrounded by other people talking. With the WS-823 it's much easier to pick up the sound no matter where you are in relation to it.

This recorder also can react accordingly to loud or soft recording environments, providing a voice balance function that accommodates multiple voices in a room so each can be heard clearly. Playback offers a number of options as well including a voice playback function allowing you to skip all non-vocal portions of a recording, 99 index marks for each file, and a pitch control that can change the sound and speed of your file.

With all of these functions, you may think this is a complicated device to use, but the interface couldn't be easier to understand. The WS-823 records in PCM, MP3, and WMA formats which can be easily transferred to your PC or MAC through the integrated USB port. You get 8GB of memory and a Micro SD card to expand the size of your storage all the way to 32 GB. Even more interesting here, the device has an FM radio tuner which lets you listen to and record broadcasts from any station you choose.

ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder

This device from Sony offers a pretty standard 4 GB of memory but it does include an expandable slot for increased capacity of up to four times more storage space. The ICD-PX333 records in MP3 and you can adjust the resolution quality at up to 192 kbps bitrate. The device is capable of over 1,000 hours of record time with your choice of input sources; either the integrated monaural microphone with sensitivity adjust or try the input jack to use any other stereo microphone of your choice.

This unit also offers Sony's noise reduction technology to minimize ambient sound and a recording mode adjust to optimize your settings according to what you're trying to record and where you're trying to record it. Playback is easy with an included USB port to transfer your files to any PC or Mac, or just listen through a pair of headphones.

Philips DVT6500 Voice Tracer Digital Recorder

There are so many things to like about the DVT6500, it's no wonder this unit made our list. First, the 3mic high-fidelity microphone array picks up sound from three directions using one omni-directional main mic and two side mics to read left/right and front/back sound to create multi-layered surround sound recordings. Second, the unit has a motion sensor to detect whether the device is standing up or lying horizontally. This helps the device adjust microphone sensitivity in order to provide you with the best possible recording quality.

Functionality is what makes this device a top pick; it's equipped with a USB port to transfer your files easily, you can record in MP3 or WAV and MPEG, there's variable-speed playback, a pre-record function that can pick up five seconds of sound prior to full depression of the record button, and voice-activated recording to conserve battery life. You also get 4 GB of built in storage capacity and a micro SD slot that can accommodate up to 32 GB of additional memory. There's one other thing you get here that the other guys don't offer - a wireless remote. That's right, you can start, pause, and stop recording even when your device is on the other side of the room.

Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder

This may be more digital recorder than you need for simple vocal content, given there’s so many more features here than any of the devices on our list. The H4n comes with a pair of X/Y stereo condenser mics designed to be equidistant from your source of sound. This provides a more uniform recording and prevents time delay, so you have true stereo sound.

You can record four channels of sound, combining the integrated X/Y microphones with externals of your choice and an onboard mixer lets you tweak the EQ so you have a fully balanced recording. The H4n's microphones can record up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution in linear PCM WAV files or smaller size MP3 files if you prefer.

The H4n includes multiple features like speed control playback, background noise suppression, file editing, automatic recording that triggers when the device detects sounds above a certain decibel level, and DSP effects including compressor, chorus, phaser, delay, and reverb enhancements.

Rounding this device out is an expandable card slot for SDHC cards, which means you have near unlimited storage capacity. Battery life lasts a considerable amount of time and can work up to 10 hours if it’s in stamina mode.

Marc Gottlieb
I'm a rabid sports-aholic who's been to Super Bowl XXI, the Indy 500 and witnessed Doug Flutie's hail mary pass to Gerard Phelan live in Miami. Sundays are sacred in my household and I'm a two-time back to back champion of my fantasy football league. I played a lot of sports in high school; football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and I was on the school ski team. I even tried my hand at racquetball in college. I've jumped out of two perfectly good airplanes and bungee jumped off a construction crane. Since then I've worked for one of the top product placement companies in Hollywood, coordinating with most of the major sports apparel labels to get their products featured in films and TV. But it's a life-long obsession with music and film that has given me years of experience with the latest technologies and innovations in electronics. If they've built it, I've tried it and likely bought it. Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray players; I own multiple units that cater to all of these formats and more. A misspent youth immersing myself in pop culture meant I craved the hottest devices through which to enjoy it all, and at the highest possible quality. What I learned over time though, is that the most expensive items aren't always the best.
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