While you can record meetings and lectures on your phone easily enough, a physical voice recorder still offers plenty of advantages. You’ll generally get better audio quality, capture sensitivity, and battery life, from a device that’s typically smaller and more discrete than your smartphone.
Not all voice recorders are the same, though, and the ideal model depends largely on your budget and intended uses. To help you make a decision, we’ve outlined our picks for the best voice recorders you can buy right now, from high-end professional models to cheap, compact versions no larger than a flash drive.
- Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.5 inches × 0.5 inches
- Internal storage: 4GB
- MicroSD support: Yes
- Battery: rechargeable, up to 22 hours
- Dimensions: 4.0 x 1.1 x 0.4 inches
- Internal storage: 16GB
- MicroSD support: No
- Battery: rechargeable, up to 20 hours
- Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.7 x 1.5 inches
- Internal storage: 8GB
- MicroSD support: Yes
- Battery: 2x AAA, up to 110 hours
- Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.7 x 1.7 inches
- Internal storage: None
- MicroSD support: Yes
- Battery: 2x AA, up to 20 hours
- Dimensions: 2.5 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches
- Internal storage: 8GB
- MicroSD support: No
- Battery: internal, up to 28 hours
Best Voice Recorder: Sony UX570
The Sony UX570 is a surprisingly good voice recorder despite its compact size and modest price. It’s the best option for most people, with impressive audio quality for general-purpose recording of meetings, classes, and more.
The UX570’s small size lets you record discreetly when you need to, with the device fitting easily in a pocket or purse. The stop and record buttons are large and easily pressed, while the scroll buttons let you quickly navigate the user-friendly interface.
A toggle switch on the side lets you lock the buttons so you don’t accidentally press them while you’re recording.
As we said, the audio capture quality is impressive. The 16-bit 44 kHz sample rate is fine for recording dialog, and the UX570’s microphone is sensitive enough to capture clear audio in large venues such as conference rooms. The recorder supports MP3 format as a default, as well as Linear PCM, AAC, and WAV.
The device has a built-in, retractable USB plug, allowing you to stick it into your computer much like a flash drive. It’s a small thing, but being self-contained like this is more convenient than carrying around a separate cable.
The UX570 has 4GB of internal storage, which isn’t a lot. Fortunately it also supports microSD cards if you need more space, and you’ll often find the device bundled with a card when you purchase.
While we’d like to see a bit more inbuilt storage, that’s really the only minor issue here. With a strong balance of performance, user-friendliness, portability, and price, the Sony UX570 is our pick for the best general-purpose voice recorder.Buy on Amazon
Best Budget Voice Recorder: EVISTR 16GB
The straightforward EVISTR voice recorder is a good compromise between price and performance, with decent capture quality for the money. You can record at up to 1536kbps in WAV format, and up to 128 kbps in MP3.
The interface is simple and easy to use: there are only four buttons, each clearly labeled and self-explanatory. While the screen is relatively small, that leaves more room for the buttons, so that even fat-fingered users will press the right one without accidentally hitting its neighbor as well.
The device comes with a useful voice-activated recording mode that, when it’s enabled, will automatically pause audio capture when it doesn’t detect anyone talking. This reduces long blank spots in the recording, and helps save storage space and listening time.
Speaking of storage space, the EVISTR has a 16GB capacity. That’s a good amount given how little you’re paying, and compare favorably to the UX570. It doesn’t support a removable memory card, however, has limited output formats (MP3 and WAV), and can’t compete on audio quality with the more expensive models.
Even so, the EVISTR is a good budget pick with decent quality and usability, perfect for students and others looking for a low-cost voice recorder that gets the job done.Buy on Amazon
Best Value Voice Recorder: Olympus WS-853
The Olympus WS-853 is a close contender to the Sony UX570 for our top pick, and it’s a voice recorder with plenty going for it.
To start with, the Olympus model has 8GB of internal storage, twice of the UX570, so you can record longer clips or at higher quality without having to add a microSD card.
It also has exceptionally long battery life, lasting around 110 hours of continuous recording at the lowest quality setting (8 kbps mono) using a pair of AAA batteries.
The reason the WS-853 wasn’t our top overall pick was based largely on the audio quality: it just doesn’t match up to the Sony in objective or subjective testing. Even so, the device performs well in most general recording situations, with a useful noise cancellation feature that filters out unwanted background sound.
We also don’t love the interface, since it’s more cluttered and complicated to navigate than others on this list. All things considered, though, the WS-853 is still a great voice recorder for many people. Given that you’ll usually pay less for it than the Sony, it’s an easy choice for the best value voice recorder right now.Buy on Amazon
Best Voice Recorder for Professionals: TASCAM DR-40X
The TASCAM DR-40X is the voice recorder of choice for professional use like music, film, and high-end podcasting.
A powerful yet portable 4-track stereo voice recorder, the DR-40X uses a pair of unidirectional condenser mics to capture a wide range of sound at 96 kHz and 24-bit, at up to 125dB (that’s above the safe human limit).
The microphone is sensitive enough to record sounds beyond human hearing range, although the drawback of that sensitivity is the likelihood of picking up a lot of ambient noise as well. If you’re not recording in a quiet space, you may need to do a bit of work in post-production to remove background sounds.
The DR-40X can also be connected directly to your computer as an audio interface, letting you use it as a powerful stereo microphone for recording podcasts, shows, or live performances. You’ll get around 18 hours of recording in standard mode from three AA batteries.
There are also lots of advanced features for professional work. One of these is the nondestructive overdubbing feature, which allows you to record new tracks and overlay them on an existing one without affecting the original. Recording is done directly to microSD card, with support for capacities up to 128GB.
As expected, the main drawback of this model is that it’s comparatively expensive, and complicated for casual users to get to grips with. If you’re after the best audio quality and most features available in a portable voice recorder, however, the TASCAM DR-40X is a strong contender.Buy on Amazon
Best Voice Recorder for Podcast Interviews: Zoom H2N
The Zoom H2N looks like an actual microphone, but that’s not the only reason it’s an excellent choice for podcast interviews. Full of controls to fine-tune your live recording, it’s a powerful, flexible, and high-quality voice recorder for those wanting professional-level results.
While it looks like a single microphone, the large surface area of the H2N actually contains five discrete mics that can be configured depending on your recording situation.
X/Y mode is better for capturing sound from a specific direction, for example, and is ideal for solo podcasts. In contrast, Mid-Side mode is more sensitive to the sides and front, ideal for podcasts with multiple in-person hosts or guests.
The H2N provides powerful built-in effects that you can use to adjust audio on the fly, including compression/limiting and a low-cut (ie, high-pass) filter. For musicians, there’s both a chromatic tuner and a metronome included. There’s an analog-style gain control, and
Battery life is reasonable, at up to 20 hours from a pair of AA’s. The device records directly to microSD cards (there’s no internal storage,) with support for cards up to 32GB in size.
The H2N is far from being the cheapest voice recorder on this list, but given its flexibility and audio quality, it’s a fantastic choice for those who are getting serious about their podcasting.
Note that Zoom also makes the PodTrak P4, a podcast-specific voice recorder with four separate mic inputs and headphone outputs, and better support for recording remote interviews. It’s more expensive than the H2N, and likely overkill for many podcasters, but is worth considering if you’ll use the extra features.Buy on Amazon
Best Voice Activated Recorder/Flash Drive Recorder: MQ-U350
The MQ-U350 can lay claim to being the most discreet voice recorder on this list. On the outside, it looks just like an ordinary flash drive. On the inside, however, it can record up to 288 hours of audio to its internal storage, with 28 hours of battery life.
Recording is activated either via voice detection or by pressing the recording switch. The MQ-U350 also functions as a regular USB flash drive, which means you can simply plug it into your computer to access all of the recordings.
For a small device, the capture sensitivity of the MQ-U350 is surprisingly good. This can be a drawback, however, since it tends to record a little too much audio, background noise included. As a result, it has limited value in crowded or noisy environments, and the quality of the recording is also relatively poor compared to others on this list.
Even so, for discreet voice recording in relatively quiet environments, the MQ-U350 is one of your best bets. Just make sure you’re using it legally and responsibly!Buy on Amazon
Wrapping It Up
In our view, the best voice recorder for most people is the Sony UX570. The outstanding balance of price, performance, and portability puts it in the top spot.
It’s also worth considering the Olympus WS-853 for its larger storage capacity, longer battery life, and excellent value for money, although we’re not as impressed with the audio quality.
If you’re looking for a voice recorder for professional or podcast use, check out either the TASCAM DR-40X or Zoom H2N. Finally, if you’re after some budget options, we recommend the EVISTR or MQ-U350; the latter if you want to be particularly discreet.
Main image via AndreyCherkasov/Shutterstock.com, product images via Amazon