The Best Digital Voice Recorders have been around for a while now, but they have had a long journey to get this far. The first instance of a voice being recorded that we know for certain was a ten-second clip from 1860 recorded by a Frenchman, de Martinville.
It is thought that Cros invented a similar thing before that, but there is no record of it. The first practicable working example was invented by Thomas Edison.
- 1 Best Digital Voice Recorders In 2020 – Top 10 Reviews
- 1.1 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $100
- 1.2 1 Olympus Voice Recorder WS-852
- 1.3 2 SONY ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder
- 1.4 3 DR-05X Tascam Portable audio recorder
- 1.5 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $150
- 1.6 4 Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder
- 1.7 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $200
- 1.8 5 Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
- 1.9 6 Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
- 1.10 7 Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder
- 1.11 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $250
- 1.12 8 Philips DPM6000 Digital Pocket Memo Voice Recorder
- 1.13 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $300
- 1.14 9 Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder
- 1.15 Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $1,000
- 1.16 10 Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder (F6)
- 2 Best Digital Voice Recorders Buyers Guide
- 3 What Would We Choose?
We’ve come a long way since then…
The forerunner to the Digital Voice recorder was the Dictaphone. That was actually a brand name rather than the name of the process. But it became the recognized description. Something like Hoover did for the vacuum cleaner.
Even that rather primitive recording facility evolved quickly, from reel to reel tape to compact cassette and then on to mini cassette’s and finally microcassette. We had just reduced it down to a manageable size when in the 90s, the digital age caught hold of it. No longer would managers walk about with little cassettes everywhere, giving their dictation. Now it was digitized.
There is no need to go into enormous detail about where it went from there. The digital age moves fast – at times, too fast. It often seems that some products are obsolete as soon as they are released. The impact that the digital world has had on products like voice recorders has been staggering.
So, let’s go through them and find the very best of the Digital Voice Recorders currently available…
Best Digital Voice Recorders In 2020 – Top 10 Reviews
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $100
1 Olympus Voice Recorder WS-852
This voice recorder from Olympus is very much a budget range item, but it is still packed with plenty of good features. It is a compact unit measuring just 4.4 inches by 1.5 by .7.1 inches and weighs just 2.72 ounces.
Will you be looking for an affordable, cost-effective product?
If so, this might be the best digital voice recorder for the money. What we particularly liked about this recorder is that it has two modes. One for those that know how to handle technology. The other for people like us who have just about mastered email.
In simple mode, it displays on its screen only the very basic of the necessary information. It is a clever little thing because it will recognize those functions you regularly use and display access to those as well. For those with more than half a brain, not us, we are afraid, full-function access is possible, which offers a wide range of features.
It has a built-in USB that will connect to your computer to save any items necessary that can be called up later. No cables required, so very convenient. You may want to record or use the recorder like a mini-computer. In this case, there is a small built-in stand located on the back. This allows easy visual access to the screen without using your hands, and it also reduces any noise if you are recording.
It has two microphones located in the front of the unit at the top. This gives you a stereo recording, but it also means it will collect its sound source across a 90-degree layout. A big plus if you have a number of people in the meeting, you might be recording.
You might be using this Olympus to record meetings where voice levels might be different. If so, it has an Auro mode function that will adjust the sensitivity of the recording according to the volume of the speaker. You, therefore, don’t have to keep adjusting the levels if a speaker with a quiet voice is speaking. Setting this function is easy by going to the record level from the menu and setting Auto.
Battery life is over 100 hours, and it has storage space for over 100 hours of recordings and a Micro SD card slot. It runs in two AAA Alkaline batteries, which are included. Or, if you prefer, two AAA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.
An excellent buy for the money with lots of good features.
- Easy to use with lots of very good features built-in.
- A well-built compact recorder at a great price.
- Some will want more technology and sophistication.
2 SONY ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder
Of course, Sony is going to be around producing quality at an affordable price. That is what they do. This is a very cost-effective recorder with a lot of nice features. At 1.48 inches by 4.49 inches, it is a compact machine that is easy to carry with you. It is a screen-based operation that Sony has made easy and comfortable to use.
Like many other similar products, this is not loaded down with features you may never use. It has a 4GB internal flash memory, which is an adequate size, and there is a microSD for expansion of the memory.
There are other interesting and useful features like the excess noise cut out and a repeat function. Another useful inclusion is the track marker. Included in the package is a USB cable for downloading to a PC. This is, in our view, is a bit of a negative to have to carry a cable around. Some recorders include a USB that connects directly to a laptop. It runs off two AAA batteries.
Where this Sony recorder really scores points, though, is in two other areas. Firstly it has a voice-operated recording facility allowing the recording to commence purely by hearing the voice, secondly with the quality of the recorded sound, which is excellent.
Excellent sound quality…
As it is Sony, perhaps we should not be too surprised about the sound quality. These two attributes make it a contender for the best digital voice recorder at its price point.
A great little machine at a very affordable price.
- Sony build quality with good features.
- Good sound quality at an affordable price.
- Having to carry a USB cable is a bit disappointing.
3 DR-05X Tascam Portable audio recorder
Tascam is part of the TEAC group. Both names are widely known for their high-quality products. Tascam was actually TEAC’s research and development group. They looked at ways that TEAC could utilize its products for musicians and recording studios.
In performing this function, they produced a number of quality products. They have continued to develop their own range of recording tools under the Tascam name. The DR-05X is one of their contributions to the portable voice recorder platform.
It is a compact unit measuring just 1 inch by 2.4 inches by 5.5 inches and weighs just over 4 ounces. It has a clever design that allows it to be handheld or mounted on a tripod stand if required. Featuring two mics that are omnidirectional that are arranged in an A-B configuration allows for great stereo recording. It can, therefore, record two tracks without any additional mic connections.
This Tascam is a bit more than just your average voice recorder. It serves as a note-taker or for recording meetings or small conferences. But it also can work for sound on shooting video or other computer audio work.
Quality voice recording…
It has a 3.5mm jack socket so you can attach a Lavalier microphone if that is required. Even maybe even recording input from a mixer is possible. Features are built-in to help you attain quality voice recording. Auto-leveling and Limiters preventing distortion and producing a clean sound.
To keep things simple, everything is recorded to either microSD. Other alternatives are microSDHC or microSDXC cards. It can record up to 190 hours in stereo using a 128GB card at 16-bit, 44.1kHz. This is an uncompressed WAV format. It can be connected to your computer using USB.
Many powering options…
It runs off two AA Alkaline batteries, which are included. Battery time is about 17 hours. If you require to use it for long sessions, it can be powered from a computer using the USB. Additionally, you can use it from an AC adapter, which is not provided.
A great little device with a clear, easy to read screen and some excellent features. Set at a very affordable price.
- Compact machine with a nice screen and plenty of features.
- Stereo recording and plenty of recording space at an affordable price.
- Some will want more features
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $150
4 Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder
Zoom is a company formed by an ex-Cisco systems employee. It was set up to provide sophisticated communication systems to support meetings. They work equally as well with audio and video conferencing. As such, they manufacture a range of products in support of those areas, Digital Voice recorders being just one.
It is a compact, sturdy unit measuring 5.4 inches by 1 by 6.4 inches but weighs just 2.4 ounces. It has an interesting design with what resembles a cage protecting the two built-in condenser microphones. They are set in a 90-degree X-Y format to facilitate stereo recording.
Record just about anything?
These microphones are set to ensure as much sound is recorded accurately. They have an SPL of 120dB, which ensures recording without distortion. This makes it suitable for recording live music, possibly rehearsals, for playback after.
There is a black and white LCD screen, 1.25 inches wide, that displays the information on the current operational status. All functions are one-touch button controls which are well-displayed and easy to use.
Control of the units with the buttons is through a series of menus. The quality of the sound is enhanced through Lo-cut filter, Limiter, and Voice enhancer options. There is also an overdub feature to record over an existing sound. It records directly to SD or SDHC cards with a memory size of 32GB. And uses one AA Alkaline battery that will give you ten hours of recording or playback time.
It is a decent Voice recorder set at a reasonable price point. In our view, it is not the best you might find. It is quite sensitive and does have poor handling noise if hand-held.
- Sturdy build with some good sound processing features.
- Affordable price point.
- If handheld a lot of external handling noise.
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $200
5 Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
A step up from the Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder, the H2n offers a wider range of operational features. It has five built-in microphone capsules that give a variety of recording modes. These range from Mid-side stereo to 4 and 2 channel and 90-degree X/Y stereo.
There are a number of features included that will increase the performance of the recorder. One critical area is the inclusion of a data-recovery function. In the case of a recording error, the previously saved version is available.
Chunky yet compact…
The screen is 1.8 inches wide with a resolution of 128 by 64 and contains up to date operation information. It is a chunky but compact unit, weighting 2.66 inches by 1.68 by 4.5 inches and weighing four and a half ounces.
They have certainly included some good features to manage the quality of the sound. There is a Lo-cut filter, automatic gain, and viable speed playback as well as a Limiter to reduce the risk of distortion. There is also a tuner and metronome, which indicated that Zoom sees this as working well with musicians.
Plenty of connections…
With two AA batteries, you will get in excess of twenty hours of operating time. It will take up to 32GB memory cards. In addition, it has a ⅛” line input/output or headphone socket and stereo phone jacks
It is a good recorder with plenty of features, which may be a little confusing to some. Certainly going to take a little time to get to grips with it operationally. Controls are easy to use, and the play and gain are placed well. There is so much though that it can become daunting to some.
- Well-built tough recorder at a reasonable price.
- Plenty of built-in sound management and operational features.
- Some may find it difficult to use.
6 Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
This product from Zoom, the H4N Pro, is more than just a voice recorder. Recording sound for film or getting the best sound from live performances are all within the grasp of this recorder.
In a live show, the 140 dB SPL means it is going to capture the performance with the minimum of distortion. It also has a lot to offer journalists and those making podcasts. Those disciplines need certain attributes from a recorder, one of which is portability. It is a compact but sturdy unit measuring 6.2 inches by 1.5 by 2.8 inches and weighs just over ten ounces.
Superb for post-production…
You can attach a lavalier mic for interviews, and the WAV files are marked with record time. This allows post-production work to be placed in a video through a ⅛” stereo feed in real-time.
The preamps used on the H4 are the same as used on the higher graded H5 and H6 models. These are recognized for their quality.
Adjustable stereo spread…
The two unidirectional condenser microphones are angled to capture a wide area of sound sources. The angle of the microphones is set at a standard 90-degrees. This can be changed to 120-degrees to gain a wider platform by just turning the capsules of the microphones.
There are plenty of connection options with a line/phone out that has its own volume control. This gives you monitoring through headphone capability, or there is a quick playback facility through the speaker if necessary. A USB port connects to your computer for file transfers.
There are two inputs accepting either XLR or ¼” cables. Phantom power can be applied to both inputs. There is a stereo ⅛” jack for any external sources, like a lavalier.
Add some effects…
To ensure the sound quality is good, some effects are built-in. Limiters, Compressor, and low cut filter. These, along with delay, reverb, and echo, provide an impressive array of sound management potential. Once again, Zoom indicates by its design and built-in facility that they have live recording in mind.
Also included are a tuner and metronome along with options for amplifier modeling for guitars and bass.
Everything a musician could ever need…
It records in both WAV and MP3 formats and will take SD and SDHC cards to 32GB. It comes with a free license for downloading Cubase LE music production software. If that is not enough, also WaveLab LE audio editing software, representing a complete audio production toolkit. A recording studio in your pocket.
But, and here is the most important issue, does it make the tea?
No, it doesn’t. That’s no good, is it? At its price, it must be considered as one of the best value Digital Voice Recorders around.
An exceptional piece of kit, except for the lack of tea and biscuits, at an affordable price point.
- Well-made functional, versatile packed with features.
- Great sound management and creation options.
- Apart from no tea and biscuits, it will take some time to learn it all.
7 Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder
If there is one company that has the potential to give us the very best of digital voice recorders, it is Tascam. We have had the good fortune to use their kit in the past, and it was exceptional.
This is a recorder that is designed for various recording activity. It will record up to four tracks using the built-in condenser mics. These are adjustable and are unidirectional. They can be set to record in an expansive or tight stereo image. It can be used either handheld or on a stand. The microphones have an SPL of 125dB, and so excessive volume at loud recordings won’t be a problem.
A-B or X-Y…
These are unidirectional microphones that reduce the chances of sound entering from unwanted sources. This creates a more focused sound reproduction. In some recorders, the microphones are configured to be outward-facing, the A-B position. This produces a wide sound. This Tascam has that facility but also allows an adjustment to the X-Y position, which produces a narrower, more focused reproduction.
It is fitted with dual XLR inputs to record with external mics, and they have either 24v or 48v Phantom power.
There is a 3.5mm output that can send sound directly to a camera or can be used for headphones for monitoring. The DR-40X has its own built-in mono speaker that can be sued for quick listening and monitoring. It will support micro SDXC cards to 128GB and can be connected to your computer using the USB for file transfers.
It is powered by three AA alkaline batteries or using the USB through your computer. If you choose, you can buy the AC adapter as an optional extra.
Safe and secure…
Some excellent features are built-in to assist any recording situation that may cause problems. Stereo safety tracks in a dual recording mode, and a feature to adjust the volume of the recording in quiet or loud sections. A low cut filter and the ability to add bass, mid or treble EQ to the finished recording.
There is certainly not enough room to cover every aspect here, so we have selected a few to be getting on with. It does demonstrate though what is packed into this compact little package and at a price that must be considered very realistic. The downside is that some are going to find it all just too much. This is not a recorder for those wanting basic operations or the faint-hearted.
- A well made compact unit that is packed full of recording technology.
- Affordable price for the many features it includes.
- Going to take some time to get to grips with it.
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $250
8 Philips DPM6000 Digital Pocket Memo Voice Recorder
The Philips company in Holland has been responsible for many great innovations over the years. We would expect them to produce a quality voice recorder.
So, let’s take a look…
It is a compact unit with its stainless steel design. It has a great design that fits neatly into your hand for comfort. This has no illusions about what it is and what it does. It is a dictation machine with extras and features a good recording quality. Power-wise it has a Li-ion battery for longer recording times and charges through a micro USB connection.
It has two microphones to create stereo recordings and easy to use push-button controls. The controls have been made simple to operate to allow one-handed use. You have control over all playback and record functions as well as editing, overwrite insert, etc. All easily usable.
Easy to use…
The screen is a large full-color design with easy operation. This is also an important inclusion. The screen is clear and precise, making it easy to read at a glance. It will automatically adjust its display brightness level to suit your environment.
It has Speechexec workflow software to ensure efficiency in your data management. This is a clever idea that will let you organize your work and files and lets you monitor the status as you go. Prioritizing documents can be conducted as you go.
Items that need to be dealt with urgently can be given priority settings. This ensures those tasks are completed first. The recordings are made in high-quality DSS or on the more usual standard on MP3.
Designed for the professional…
This has to be one of the highest quality digital voice recorders on the market. It makes no pretense about trying to be anything more than a superior voice recorder for business. As such, it doesn’t come with features that refer to music recording or video production. Just pure dictation and Management of files for work. Philips has kept its eye on the target and hit it with this one.
- Excellent features and design making it easy to use.
- Good file management systems at an affordable price.
- Some will want all the extra bells and whistles some unis provide.
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $300
9 Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder
Back to the world of simplicity, style, and excellence with Sony. Japanese culture is dominated by organization and design, and this is manifest in their products. This Voice recorder is a good example.
The CD-UX533BLK has been around for a few years now, but it is still one of the most popular recorders. It as a compact and efficient design measuring just 0.6 inches by 1.4 by 4 inches and weighing only 2.08 ounces. Its features might be considered basic compared with some, but its quality makes it one of the most popular digital voice recorders on the market.
One of is biggest assets is that it is so easy to use…
When you want to record, it is just a case of play. When you finish hit play again, and it will play to you what you’ve just recorded. For us, one of the big plus points is the on-screen menu and its operation. It isn’t cluttered up with endless features you will probably never use.
It is a dictation machine, a voice recorder, and doesn’t try to be anything else – it is a business machine, and that’s it. Included are some pre-recording options, and there are also some post-recording features. Largely speaking, though, it is an easy machine to use and ideal for students or for the workplace.
Lots of options…
The core-recording features include setting the machine for its forthcoming use. This includes EQ settings to suit the room size, etc., and you have five options of recording formats, including MP3 and MP4 at various bps rates.
Features for recording convenience are high on its design list, with a slow down facility allowing east transcription and a low cut filter to reduce ambient noise. It has 4GB of storage and 30 hours of battery life
An excellent machine that excels at what it does. Of course, its Sony.
- Easy to use with very good operational features.
- Well built and not cluttered up with unnecessary options.
- Some are bound to want the extras this machine doesn’t include.
Best Digital Voice Recorders Under $1,000
10 Zoom Digital Multitrack Recorder (F6)
Our final look into the world of the voice recorder takes us to a much higher level in the price range. This is not so much a voice recorder or a dictation machine, as a multitrack recorder.
It is quite a compact unit at 4.5 inches by 3.7 by 2.2 inches but at 2.65 pounds, no lightweight to carry around. This is certainly not your average voice recorder, and it is not going to suit someone who has that priority in mind.
A studio in your pocket…
It is a 6-channel recorder with 14-track field audio and features six preamps and inputs that carry up to 75dB of gain. It boasts a 32-bit float recording operation. This is a system that has a 24-bit recording but then adds 8 bits for volume.
Precision time codes allow synchronization of tracks, and it has look-ahead limiters. Zoom’s Automix software will automatically adjust volume levels as required if voices are quiet or louder.
Perfect for recording pros…
As we said, this is not a recorder for the average user and is designed for a certain level of use that most won’t need. It is not possible to mention all of the features that have been included. There are just too many. Some it seems to us are very necessary, others not so. It will be up to the potential purchaser to decide whether they are relevant for what they want.
Very expensive, as you might imagine.
- Compact size allows it to e carried anywhere.
- It has a lot of features built-in.
- Not for the average user and very expensive.
Best Digital Voice Recorders Buyers Guide
This is no easy task. The price ranges are wide, the potential features endless, and the uses interminable. We are tempted to ask, doesn’t anyone make a simple voice recorder anymore. Of course, they do. We looked at a few, but it’s’s for everyone to decide what they want.
Simple or complex?
Do you want a machine that will end up replacing you at work as redundant because it is too all-encompassing? Or do you just want to take voice notes for yourself or others to be used later?
For the businessman or woman, maybe no more than a clear, accurate, and manageable recording is required. A few sound options are nice, but you don’t need a built-in recording studio — the ability to edit and insert. Maybe have a system that helps you manage your workload would be useful.
If you do want all the other options, then there are plenty of options for that. Some are more sound recorders than just plain voice recorders. If that is what you need for video or music recording, then there are plenty of good options.
Defining exactly what you need and what you will use it for is important. That will have an effect on how much you will have to pay.
What Would We Choose?
We just want a quality Voice recorder, or as our generation called it a ”Dictaphone.” Recording meetings, moments of inspiration, or letters for transcript later is what we need. We have therefore chosen a simple unit that does all of that at a high level. So our choice for the Best Digital Voice Recorder is the…
Plain and simple, good features and a world-renowned manufacturer at a very affordable price.