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.

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. 

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.

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.

Measuring 3.6 x .5 x .8 inches in size and weighing only 1.8 ounces, the Eleckey E7 digital voice recorder offers an ultrathin and compact design that fits neatly in any pocket. With two built-in, ultrasensitive microphones that both incorporate noise reduction, the Eleckey captures high-quality recordings with minimal effort. Aside from its good looks, the Eleckey doesn’t disappoint on memory (it has 8GB of internal memory adding up to more than 250 hours of voice recordings).

Even with its compact and comfortable size, the Eleckey doesn’t require constant attention since a set-it-and-forget-it mode allows the E7 to be placed on a desktop or stand and automatically begin recording as soon as sound is detected. To help maximize battery life, the E7 will automatically turn off after three minutes of inactivity to help preserve battery for later use. Living a double life, the E7 can function as a dedicated MP3 player or flash drive to store files and move them between computers via any USB cable.

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