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Lifewire / Gannon Burgett
Great audio quality
All-day battery life
Visual audio indicator
Aging display technology
VTech has been making the DM221 since 2012 and after our extensive testing it’s clear why it’s still on the market—it’s affordable, reliable, and lets you listen to your infant without worry. It’s hard to ask for more.
Whether it’s your first child or your third, there’s never a time when you’re not worrying about if your young children are safe and sound. One of the easiest ways to keep your mind at ease is to purchase an audio baby monitor for those times when you aren’t in the room. The VTech DM221 is an old-fashioned audio baby monitor with excellent range, sound quality, and reliability. In over a month worth of testing, it met all of our needs despite its lack of video feed.
The VTech DM221 setup consists of a parent unit and an infant unit, each of which has an egg-shaped design and a little antenna concealed in a hoop at the top (which is also great for clipping onto your belt loop).
A neat little feature of the infant unit is the inclusion of a small night light at the top that can serve as a soft, warm light source for your little one’s nursery.
The parent unit features a compact LCD display that shows the vital information needed to change settings and ensure a proper connection. In addition to the screen and five buttons to control the various features and settings of the device, the parent unit includes a five-light array for showing, in visual form, the audio volume being captured by the infant unit. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and features everything you need without any wasted space.
The infant unit, on the other hand, features only the five buttons and a grille that houses both the speaker and microphone used to pick up audio. A neat little feature of the infant unit is the inclusion of a small night light at the top that can serve as a soft, warm light source for your little one’s nursery.
After plugging in the included lithium-ion batteries, setup involves turning on both devices and waiting for them to pair. There’s a quick start guide included in the box to help with the process, but we didn’t even see the guide until after we had already set up the devices. If you’re having issues pairing, VTech suggests ensuring you’re not near any other wireless devices to prevent interference.
It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and features everything you need without any wasted space.
Considering how long VTech has been manufacturing audio baby monitors it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the audio quality is fantastic. We placed the infant unit in different spots all over our child’s room and whether it was on a wall-mounted shelf across from his crib or tucked behind the crib, the monitor picked up the audio well enough to clearly hear any coos or cries.
VTech mentions other wireless gadgets can potentially interfere with the audio signal, but we didn’t experience any problems, despite having countless connected gadgets throughout our apartment. Audio stayed crisp and clear, even when the parent unit was at further distances, which we’ll address below.
Considering how long VTech has been manufacturing audio baby monitors it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the audio quality is fantastic.
Although it’s not directly related to the audio quality, the LED lights used to indicate the volume proved to be extremely beneficial. There were countless times when we were at our desk getting some work done and wanted to keep tabs on whether or not our little one was up from his nap. Every time, the LED indicators accurately lit up to let us know when he was up and ready for playtime.
VTech says the DM221 has a range of up to 1,000 feet. We weren’t exactly able to test this claim, as we didn’t have the real estate to walk that far away, but no matter where we were in our 1,100 square foot apartment, the audio signal was clear. This was true even when there were four or five walls between the infant unit and parent unit.
An added bonus of the VTech DM221 is the inclusion of DECT 6.0 digital technology, which creates a secure signal so even if others are using the same unit in confined spaces (such as our apartment complex), the units won’t interfere with one another and won’t pick up each other’s signal. We appreciated the additional privacy.
According to VTech’s spec sheet, the DM221 features an 18-hour battery life. In our weeks and weeks of testing, we found the actual battery life surpassed this, with an average runtime of 20 hours. This was more than enough to keep an ear on our little one the entire day and charging the parent unit at night while we were sleeping.
If you’re in the market for a simple audio baby monitor look no further than the DM221. We were incredibly impressed and are sure you will be too.
If you’re traveling and don’t want to carry around the charger for the parent unit, you could easily make it last over the course of a weekend if you make sure to turn it off the times you don’t need to monitor your child.
The VTech DM221 has an MSRP of $39.95, which puts it right down the middle for audio-only baby monitors. For that price, you aren’t paying for fancy features or an overly aesthetic design; instead, you’re paying for reliability and security from a brand that’s been doing this for decades. In addition to the kit with one parent unit and one infant unit, VTech also sells a kit with two parent units for $49.95 (MSRP), so if you think you’ll ever need a second unit, it’s well worth it to spend the extra ten dollars.
As mentioned above, there’s no shortage of audio baby monitors on the market. In fact, VTech itself sells competing models. Although there are plenty of options to choose from, for the sake of even comparisons, we’re going to take a look at the VTech DM223 and the Philips Avent DECT audio baby monitors.
First up is the VTech DM223. As the name might indicate, there is practically zero difference between the DM221 and DM223 aside from a redesigned frame that’s sleeker and a little more modern-looking. It features the same style screens, the same 1,000-foot range, the same two-way communication, and the same DECT 6.0 transmission technology. Interestingly, the VTech DM223 only comes in a kit with two parent units and has an MSRP of $69.95. At this price, it doesn’t make much sense to get this over the DM221 kit, but sometimes you can find it for cheaper which makes it a good option since it’s a bit newer.
Next up is the Philips Avent DECT baby monitor, which has an MSRP of $49.99. Despite being from an entirely separate company, the Philips Avent DECT baby monitor features nearly identical specs. It offers a 1000-foot range, LED audio indicators, a comforting night light, DECT 6.0 technology, and two-way communication. The only benefit we see with the Philips Avent DECT monitor is the ability to use standard AA rechargeable batteries with the units, which makes them a little easier to travel with, as AA batteries are fairly ubiquitous.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The VTech DM221 has been around in some form or another for decades and this particular iteration is the best to date. It’s affordable, reliable, and overall does everything it advertises and then some. If you’re in the market for a simple audio baby monitor look no further than the DM221. We were incredibly impressed and are sure you will be too.