The 7 Best Voice Recorders to Buy in 2018

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Sony ICDUX560BLK

5

Sony’s ICDUX560BLK digital voice recorder is another terrific option that offers excellent performance for lectures, meetings and interviews. Capable of recording in MP3 format with a highly sensitive s-microphone, the Sony adds 4GB of internal memory that can hold up to 159 hours of recording time while organizing files into more than 5,000 possible folders for easy navigation. File management is a breeze with an easy on-board system for moving, erasing, dividing and locking files with minimal effort courtesy of a smart menu system.

The already eye-popping recording time is expandable via microSD up to 32GB of total storage for nearly eight times the recording space. The backlit displays add quick access to the date, time and current recording mode, while a built-in earphone mini-jack offers private playback. Transferring files off the Sony is a snap, thanks to a built-in USB port that plugs right into both Windows and Mac computers.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Zoom H2n

Compact with sleek looks, the Zoom H2n is billed as one of the only voice recorders to come with five built-in microphones and four different recording modes, so it’s more than capable of handling everything from a live concert, rehearsal recording, lectures or office meetings. Recordings go directly to the SD card with expandable storage up to 32GB to allow for hundreds of hours of recordings. On-board effects such as compression, chromatic tuner and low-cut filtering help quickly maximize performance for the best possible voice record result.

Extras such as auto gain, auto-record and pre-record features work along with the data-recovery function to add even more options that help make the Zoom second-to-none in the voice recorder space. Additionally, the Zoom is the lone voice recorder available for properly recording 360-degree “spatial audio” files that are native to Google’s JUMP virtual reality platform and is compatible with YouTube. A line-in jack adds the option of an external microphone for enhanced performance, while the 130-gram weight and 1.68 x 2.66 x 4.5-inch sizing make it ideal for sticking right in a pocket. 

Best Battery Life: AwesomeWare Digital Voice Recorder

Whereas most voice recorders focus on getting you through a single day, the AwesomeWare Digital Voice Recorder sets its sights on an entire business trip. With a 380mAh battery, it promises enough power for 60 hours of voice recording on a single charge. And that’s on top of 8GB of built-in memory that can hold a whopping 560 hours of recordings. 

Audio is captured at 1536Kbps quality which provides crisp playback. The DPS noise-cut chip provided by AwesomeWare ensures that meetings, lectures, or interviews are captured with clear sound. The dual microphones can grab audio from up to 40 feet while noise reduction technology muffles ambient background sounds leaving the focus on the subject. This addition of voice activation ensures that recording only begins when someone begins speaking. This enables the recorder to skip over silent moments. 

The minimalist design includes intuitive operation and a 128 x 64 LCD display that provides only the most relevant information. The front of the unit is adorned with the necessary controls including Play, Stop, and Menu. 

Best for Music: Tascam DR-05

Tascam DR-05
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Best Splurge: Sony ICD-SX2000

Ideal for nearly any type of environment, the Sony ICD-SX2000 is a high-resolution voice recorder that excels at capturing crystal clear conversations while minimizing distortions. The Sony offers outstanding features for the price, including three-way adjustable microphones for quick and easy sound optimization to match your environment whether it's for business, music or outdoors. The Sony takes voice recording to an entirely different level with even more features such as remote control access via an Android or iOS application that can start and stop recordings, as well as adjust levels and settings directly from a smartphone. The 16GB of storage allows for nearly 636 hours of MP3 audio recording, while the inclusion of a MicroSD slot offers even more storage capacity. Transferring recordings off the Sony is incredibly straightforward; just plug and play directly into a computer via USB direct for easily moving files.

Best Design: Sungluber Digital Voice Recorder

If you believe that minimalism is a sign of good design, the Sungluber Digital Voice Recorder is going to wow you. A compact 3.35 x 1.0 x 0.52 inches in size, the Sungluber is about as wide as two fingers. There’s no question that one-handed operation is the key to the design. The front of the recorder has a small digital display that’s good for viewing even in direct sunlight. A 'play' key is the only other button or toggle that is available on the front. All other functions — including volume, menu, fast forward, and rewind — are all hidden on the side. 

When it comes to function, its minimal design doesn’t mean it’s short on features. Inside the Sungluber is a welcome 16GB of storage. That’s enough space for up to 16 hours of recordings at 1536Kbps. The 300mAh battery is capable of recording up to 16 hours of audio and if you’re short on battery life, the recorder can also record while charging. The device is voice activated so recording will only begin when someone speaks, this means any silences are omitted in order to reduce the amount of consumed memory. 

Best Microphone: Zoom H1

Zoom H1
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent five hours testing one of our readers' favorite voice recorders. We asked them to consider the most important features when using this voice recorder, including its recording quality, portability, and battery life. We've outlined the can’t-miss points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Voice Recorder

Recording quality - What will you be using your voice recorder for? If it’s just for personal memos and notes, you probably don’t need top-tier recording quality. But if you’re using it to do interviews or keep track of conversations in noisy places, then the quality of the recording is very important. For superior quality, you may want to look into a model that has built-in noise reduction.

Connection and battery life - Like any other portable device, battery life is important when it comes to voice recorders — especially if you’ll be using it often during the day. Some of these devices use batteries, while others recharge via USB. Others even have a built-in USB port so you don’t have to carry an extra cord. Think about what’s most convenient for you when it comes to these two factors.

Size - A voice recorder is something you want to be able to tuck into a pocket or purse with ease. Often, there's a tradeoff between size and recording quality (due to the microphone), so you want to make sure you find a device that’s a perfect balance of the two.

Test Results: Sony ICDUX560BLK (Best Overall)

5

What We Like

  • Easy to use

  • Lightweight

  • High-quality recordings

What We Don't Like

  • Old-school design

Sony ICDUX560BLK
Sony ICDUX560BLK back
Sony ICDUX560BLK side
Sony ICDUX560BLK bottom
Sony ICDUX560BLK part

Our testers felt that this device produces excellent-quality recordings. “If you place it on a surface nearby,” one reviewer explained, “recordings are crisp. I even tried keeping it in my front pocket to record a conversation, and I could hear it clearly.” Other pluses were its ease of use and its exceedingly portable design: “I can slip it into my bag or pants pocket and start it up very easily for quick use,” noted one tester. Though our reviewers didn’t have many complaints, one person did mention that its interface seemed fairly old school. “It reminded me of an old cell phone where you navigate with limited keys or buttons,” he said. “But I didn't mind it because I think it lends to its compact form and simplicity of use.”