Which digital voice recorder is best?

Digital voice recorders are an essential piece of office equipment. From recording thoughts about a new project to playing back important minutes from a meeting, they come in handy in every line of work. For those venturing into the world of digital voice recorders for the first time, the Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder is a solid option.

What to know before you buy a digital voice recorder

Memory size

Memory size is one of the most important aspects of a digital voice recorder. The more memory a unit has, the more hours of audio it can record. Consumers using a digital voice recorder to jot down their own thoughts will be content with a 4GB unit, which typically records about 45 hours of audio. Those who record regular lectures, meetings or phone calls will want more memory. Digital voice recorders can range up to 32GB.

Ease of use

Digital voice recorders have different displays based on manufacturer and size. Users want a display that’s easy to understand and shows the amount of time they’ve been recording. Some units also show how much recording time is left before the recorder runs out of memory. The best units are similarly easy to utilize with clear buttons to start and stop recording.


Digital voice recorders are meant to be portable, which means they’re small enough to fit in a pocket or purse when not being used. The size makes it likely a recorder may fall out, be dropped from a hand or knocked off the edge of a desk. Look for a digital voice recorder that can withstand these little accidents and preserve your files.

What to look for in a quality digital voice recorder

Audio quality

The other critical component of a digital voice recorder is the quality of its audio recordings. It doesn’t help to record a conversation or a meeting if you can’t understand the speaker when it’s played back. For better audio quality, look for digital voice recorders that have multiple built-in microphones. Some units also list that they come with noise-canceling features or options.

USB ports

Once you’ve recorded an audio file, the next step is to transfer it from the digital voice recorder to your computer or smartphone for storage. This requires some form of USB connectivity. Many units come with a USB cable that can connect the digital voice recorder to the USB port on a laptop or desktop computer. Newer models may offer a built-in USB port that pops out of the recorder and connects directly. Whichever option you prefer, make sure there is some form of USB access, because not every digital voice recorder has it.

External microphone

The most useful accessory for digital voice recorders is an external microphone. When the microphone(s) built into the unit may not be enough, or if you’re interviewing someone and want a specific microphone they can speak into, you can purchase an external microphone. These are normally smaller than a battery and plug into an external jack on the recorder (which will be indicated by a microphone icon). It’s worth looking for a recorder that can plug in an external microphone if you think you’ll ever use the device in a crowded or loud environment.

How much you can expect to spend on a digital voice recorder

The price of a digital voice recorder varies depending on the size of its memory and the number of functions. Most units range from $30-$100.

Digital voice recorder FAQ

Are digital voice recorders compatible with smartphones?

A. Yes. Digital voice recorders save audio in the same file formats as any other electronic device. However, not every recorder works with every smartphone. Anyone looking to transfer their audio files to their phone should check what file format their recorder saves in. The most common are MP3 and WAV, which are compatible with most phones. AIFF recordings are not compatible with Android phones.

Do all digital voice recorders use batteries?

A. Most digital voice recorders are powered by batteries and can’t be charged wirelessly or by plugging into an electrical outlet. Battery life varies by manufacturer and how long you’re recording at a time. Typically, a digital voice recorder uses two AAA batteries and can record thousands of hours of audio before the batteries need to be replaced. However, it’s always a good idea to carry a spare set.

What’s the best digital voice recorder to buy?

Top digital voice recorder

Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder

Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder

What you need to know: This easy-to-use digital voice recorder is compatible with a wide variety of computers and can record in just about any setting.

What you’ll love: It features different recording modes to focus on a single speaker or wide for a large group of people. It includes a built-in USB port for quick file transfer and has a micro-SD card slot to easily increase available memory.

What you should consider: It does not have as much longevity, with some reviewers reporting issues with both memory and functionality after a few months of regular use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top digital voice recorder for the money

Dictopro Digital Voice-Activated Recorder

Dictopro Digital Voice-Activated Recorder

What you need to know: Excellent sound quality puts this digital voice recorder at the front of the pack.

What you’ll love: It records voices clearly from up to 40 feet away. Sound is similarly clear when files are played back, making it great for transcription. It has two microphones with built-in noise reduction.

What you should consider: It turns off quickly to save battery if not in immediate use. The software has a slight delay between pressing the record button and the actual start of recording.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

EVISTR 16GB Digital Voice Recorder

EVISTR 16GB Digital Voice Recorder

What you need to know: This digital voice recorder features a large amount of memory in a small and efficient package.

What you’ll love: This unit can store up to 16GB of audio files and features a “voice-activated” recording mode to only record when a speaker is talking. It can record in both MP3 and WAV formats. It comes with its own earphone to listen privately to recordings on the go.

What you should consider: This unit is on the smaller side so the display is smaller and harder to read. It uses a separate USB cable rather than a built-in port.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Brittany Frederick writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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