The 7 Best Voice Recorders to Buy in 2017

Never ask someone to repeat themselves again

Whether it’s for a work meeting, school lecture, recording music or just collecting thoughts, the voice recorder offers a unique service. It’s true that smartphones and their voice recording apps have attempted to fill this niche and, while there’s something to be said for device convergence, apps don’t offer the feature-rich experience of a dedicated recorder. Pocket-friendly, inexpensive and for many, use-case scenarios where they fit the need perfectly, the voice recorder maintains its niche as a piece of gadgetry that does exactly what it needs to do, no more and no less. Read on to see the best voice recorders on the market today.

In today’s voice recorder world, the Sony ICD-UX533 is king of the hill, receiving praise after praise. This option is more than ideal for work, school, music, etc., with its stereo microphone, 4GB of built-in memory, microSD slot for expandable memory and a backlit LED display. Purchase a rechargeable AAA battery and juice it up every time via a microUSB port.

With more than 1,073 hours of on-board memory built in, Sony went to great lengths to ensure the UX533 could capture “every nuance, distant or low volume via a two-element stereo microphone array.” Right out of the box, Sony records in 192-kilobits-per-second MP3 format. Think Pandora audio quality for a better frame of reference. To increase storage space, you can reduce quality or even upscale for Spotify-like audio quality at 320kps. It is roughly the size of the iPhone 4 (but narrower) and weighs just 2.1 ounces. One additional note is the addition of the backlit display, which means navigating the menu is easy no matter what lighting conditions you’re in.

The Sony ICD-PX440 it’s slightly larger and cheaper than some others on this list and it also lacks a backlit screen (though that means it doesn’t consume much power when left on). Still, it has 4GB of built-in flash memory with 1,073 hours of recording time, 32GB of additional storage via its microSD card slot and built-in USB for direct connection to your computer.

You’ll benefit from Sony’s Intelligent Noise Cut feature that diminishes background noise, A-B Repeat to loop certain passages and Track Mark to mark important points in your recording that’ll save you valuable time during playback. The device supports MP3 files at a bitrate of 8 kbps to 192 kbps. All in all, it’s not the fanciest voice recorder you’ll find, but stands up to the job with aplomb.

Bonus points: Several Amazon reviewers admit to dropping the device from damaging heights, but this 2.7-ounce voice recorder comes up without a scratch — something which probably can’t be said of your smartphone!

When it comes to selecting a voice recorder for music playback, one of the top priorities should be to find a microphone that’s incredibly sensitive. The Tascam DR-05 has built-in omni-direction microphones that offer a natural ambient recording with a richer bass response, which makes it even more ideal for the musical audience. This may just be the perfect recorder for any musician who spends band practice trying to remember that one song or beat they wrote last week. Separately, the Tascam also helps differentiate itself from the pack with additional support for an external microphone with a 3.5mm stereo mic input for increased audio pickup while recording music.

Built-in speakers are capable of sound up to 125db SPL and, with 2GB of onboard memory boosted by an expandable microSD and microSDHC, there’s additional space for hours of music. Powered by two AA batteries, the unit offers around 17 ½ hours’ worth of battery life if you’re recording at the default audio setting. All this is great for the musically inclined, but if you plan on recording outdoors your might be a little disappointed since the microphone is so sensitive that it can pick up wind.

When it comes to the ideal combination of great microphone, size and design, the Zoom H1 is a favorite choice for our list. Roughly the size of a candy bar, the Zoom H1 is more than meets the eye. Courtesy of the X/Y microphone arrangement, the H1 enables a wide area of voice reception that also minimizes sound, which allows for high-quality sound to come in and record. Powered by a single AA battery, you’re offered around 10 hours of life before recharging.

The included 2GB microSD card is in place of on-board storage and, while expandable, we’d prefer to have at least some on-board memory to start. There is an included SD card so you easily transfer data from the microSD card to a PC or Mac alongside plugging into your computer via the USB 2.0 slot. The tripod mount on the back offers expandability and additional functionality and could be perfect for attaching to the hot shoe on your DSLR or onto a tripod. Mounting the unit on a tripod? It sounds a little strange but it would, in fact, give you additional control over the direction of the microphones and eliminates any additional noise that emanates from hand-held recording. If you’re looking for even more control over removing external wind noise, you can purchase a windscreen separately to utilize in less-than-ideal windy conditions. Overall, the highlight of the H1 is the microphone and it does not disappoint with good stereo image, high sensitivity and automatic recording levels that sound great for interviews, meetings and the like.

The Olympus LS-14 voice recorder is our choice for best splurge. With supported recording up to 96kHz, the difference is barely distinguishable between the Olympus and CD quality audio. If you intend to do any post processing, this is the model to get. The 4GB internal memory and expandable microSD memory allows for hours (and hours) of recording, which can vary depending on the level of quality you select. Unfortunately, one notable downside, especially at this price, is the lack of a rechargeable battery. Olympus quotes recording time between 43 and 46 hours with a backup option of the included USB port for external power. Still, when you’re on the move, battery life is the last thing you want to worry about.

The microphones are the first thing to draw your attention. Fortunately, they sound as good as they look with one caveat. Like most of the “best of” entries on this list, the stellar microphones are also thrown off by wind. Try as they might to reduce the noise, the purchase of a Windjammer, when available, should be the very first accessory you look to purchase. For musicians, the inclusion of overdub recording, metronome and chromatic tuner capabilities make this an ideal companion. It’s really the presence of the omnidirectional microphones that truly make the LS-14 standout.

Most digital voice recorders have a battery life of about 11 to 37 hours, but if you’ve got a long day of lectures or can’t manage a charge between uses, you’re likely looking at a dead battery. Not so, with the Olympus WS-853, which promises a whopping 110 hours of battery life and 2,080 hours of recording time. It runs on two AAA alkaline batteries or two AAA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries and can be charged via direct USB (no cable necessary!).

But how does the sound stack up? Its True Stereo Mic features two directional microphones situated at 90 degrees, ideal for precise pickup of voices. In settings where more than one person is speaking, the Voice Balancer amplifies softer voices and tempers louder voices, resulting in a playback that’s comfortable for listening. The noise cancelation feature also reduces unwanted background noise, so you can capture a clearer sound.

The Olympus WS-853 has an impressive 8GB of onboard memory, plus an external microSD that’ll score you another 32GB. At just 4.4 x 0.7 x 1.5 inches, some reviewers on Amazon complain that it’s too small, but its compact size might just seal the deal for others.

With its sleek and ultra-compact design, the Yemenren digital voice recorder is capable of capturing more than 576 hours of recording. Compatible with both Mac and PC via USB cable, the 3072Kbps voice resolution is composed of two ultra-sensitive microphones offering dynamic noise reduction that can capture a conversation with clarity up to 50 feet away.

Beyond voice capture, the aluminum body measures a narrow .9 x 3.7 x .45 inches and, at just 2.2-ounces, it is among the slimmest voice recorders on the market. The metal body is paired with an LCD screen, built-in loudspeaker and a minimalist exterior design interface that eliminates unnecessary buttons. Audio playback is available in MP3, WMA and WAV format, all while doubling as an MP3 player on the go. Add in multi-language, a wallet-friendly price, A-B repeat during playback and a 300mAh rechargeable battery and the Yemenren is a superbly packaged voice recorder with an all-star design.


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