The Best Voice Recorders 2020
Updated 23 November 2020
A voice recorder is a simple, compact device that can save you time, increase your productivity and record your work and ideas with greater clarity.
While many smartphones have great built-in recorders, phones are not a replacement for a built-for-purpose, high-quality voice recorder.
If you record audio content regularly, a voice recorder will be an essential purchase, and you won’t be interrupted by phone calls, messages or other alerts, or have to worry about conserving your battery or if you have enough storage.
The sound quality is also much better.
To choose the best voice recorder for your needs, you need to choose your preferred features such as the sound quality, type of microphone, usability, design, battery life and storage.
The price of voice recorders can vary considerably. The more features you want and the higher the audio quality – the greater the price. You can get a good quality voice recorder for under £50 or the most expensive voice recorder that we reviewed – the Sony PCM-D100 was £555.
A value for money voice recorder with great audio that’s compact and portable
Whether you are sitting in a lecture, conducting an interview or remembering something for your to-do list, the sleek and compact Sony ICD-UX570 will sit comfortably in your pocket or bag, ready at a moment's notice. With its voice-activated start and stop recording feature, it is easy to start to record whenever you have something to say. If you are commuting or in a busy coffee shop, this voice recorder has a low-cut filter to reduce excess noise.£79.99 from Amazon
Whatever your profession or schedule, the Sony ICD-UX570 is a great addition to your day-to-day life.
The audio and sound quality is very clear stereo sound and it has a low noise, 90-degree directional microphone.
The device itself is slim and light with an OLED backlit screen, and is an easy system to navigate.
This voice recorder has a good battery life at 23 hours with 4 GB of built-in storage. You can add a microSD card to increase that to 32 GB of storage.
The UX570 also has features like long and short-range skipping, and equalizer settings of bass, speech and treble to aid your recording.
It has features like ‘time jump’ and ‘easy search’ to help you to easily find your recordings. Audio files are also easily transferred using the USB port.
Finally, it includes a handy quick charge feature giving your battery an extra hour with just a three-minute charge.
The next level up – studio-quality sound at an affordable price
For our runner up choice, we chose a voice recorder that is geared for a production setting. As opportunities for broadcasting your ideas and conversations increase, you will need an on-the-go studio-quality voice recorder. The Tascam DR-40X ticks all of these boxes and more. It might look a little more chunky, but it is incredibly user friendly allowing you to operate it with just your thumb. As the name suggests, it includes four recording tracks, with 96kHz/24-bit audio and an adjustable mic system providing you with excellent sound quality.£136.91 from Amazon
The Tascam DR-40X is full of tech features such as high sound pressure levels set up in AB or XY, a pre-amp, mic input ports for additional microphones, peak reduction, sound limiter and auto-level. It also has dual-level recording to avoid distortion.
This voice recorder does have lower battery life than others at 15 hours, but it has an adjustable mic system that allows it to record up to four tracks at once.
It comes with an inbuilt storage of 4 GB and you can add an SD card for up to 32 GB of storage.
The Tascam DR-40X also has some great mixing features allowing you to equalize volume and audio quality as you go. It also can transcribe the voice recordings with dictation mode and, when ready, you can transfer the files using the USB port.
If you are venturing into podcasting or looking to level up your voice recorder to improve the quality of your audio files, then this is the voice recorder for you.
EVISTR 16GB Digital Voice Recorder
A budget option for everyday use with crystal clear audio
A popular and well-rated option for the regular user. Whether you need to record a lecture or public talk, a meeting, some notes for yourself, or an interview, this voice recorder will get the job done and provide crystal clear audio playback. It has two highly sensitive built-in condenser microphones with noise cancellation features and is a compact, easy to use, four-button device.£35.99 from Amazon
The EVISTR 16GB Digital Voice Recorder is a high-quality budget option. It has 8 GB of built-in storage and can transfer files via USB to PC and Linux operating systems.
It also has a few useful tech features such as voice-activated recording, A-B repeat, and fast forward and rewind options during playback.
It also has an auto file saving function every five seconds, an easy file navigation system and a timestamp function allowing you to organise your recordings efficiently.
For the everyday user, this efficient but high-quality voice recorder is a must-have as you go about your day.
What Is a Digital Voice Recorder?
Digital voice recorders capture sound and convert it into an audio file that is then conveniently shared or transferred to a laptop, computer or another device.
It is somewhat similar to the record function on your phone but with a lot more clarity, sound sensitivity and features designed solely to improve the audio.
Many voice recorders have at least 4 GB of internal storage and have the option of adding external storage.
Some of the better recorders can record in different file formats, making it easier to share the audio file with different devices.
Depending on what you are using your recorder for, there is a myriad of features to choose from.
Reasons You Might Find a Digital Voice Recorder Useful
To Share Your Work With Others
Whether you are a musician, songwriter, podcaster, author, presenter, teacher/lecturer or journalist, there are many instances you might find yourself needing a voice recorder to record your performance, conversations with others, or your thoughts and ideas.
It can also be a handy tool to record an audiobook, if you are an author.
You could also read aloud storybooks for your children to play back later.
To Remember Ideas or Things to Do
You might be commuting home or having some downtime in the park when you think of a great idea or concept.
Recording yourself is a useful way to ensure you remember these things later.
You might be in a meeting and want to record the ideas and strategies shared, especially if you are the one keeping the meeting notes or responsible for the deployment of a new project.
Voice recorders can help you record an interview rather than try to take notes, reducing distractions which might affect the rapport you have with the interviewee.
It is also a much easier way to get a word-for-word quote. Just make sure you have the permission of everyone present before recording.
For Learning (Again With Permission of Course)
We live in an age of constant information. Recording someone while they speak during a lecture/lesson or public presentation can be very useful when trying to remember the ideas and facts later on.
You can speak much faster than you can type or write and there are many apps that you can use to convert your recordings to text.
Using a voice recorder in your daily life can be useful if you need to jot down some important notes after a phone call or meeting. It is also much easier to put together an article or other written text by talking rather than typing. This article might have been written a lot faster if I were speaking into a voice recorder.
Legal or Medical Settings
Lawyers and legal assistants sometimes use voice recorders to take notes while preparing for a case.
In the medical field, doctors and other practitioners record notes during an examination so that patient notes can be saved to their systems.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Voice Recorder
Voice recorders are a personal choice and to make sure you use it often, save yourself time and increase your productivity, you need to choose the best option for your needs.
Here are some things to consider:
- Why are you are recording, for how long and how often?
- Are you recording notes from a meeting or a lecture?
- Are you transcribing or will someone else be transcribing your recording?
- Is it for a podcast, a public lecture or performance, a to-do list, or are you interviewing someone?
- Will you be indoors or outdoors?
- Will you be stationary or on the move?
- What is the size of the room and layout of speakers (if any) or acoustics?
- What will the lighting be like? (If it is dark, you would want something easier to use or have a backlit screen)
- Will you be alone or will there be others – how many?
- Are you part of the audience or participating?
- Is there one speaker/performer or many? Do they have a microphone?
- How would you like to share your work and what file storage would you prefer?
- Are you publishing or producing your recordings?
- Are you recording this for yourself or someone else? Is it for transcribing?
Important Features to Look For
Voice recorder features to choose from include, audio quality, supported microphones, storage, recording clarity, noise cancellation options, editing options and more.
For example, if you are using the voice recorder to record a presentation, then unrelated noise removal is very important.
If you are using it for interviews, having a bidirectional microphone can be very useful.
Use the guide below to choose the best voice recorder to meet your needs:
Imagine you are in the middle of a music recording, presenting your next lesson or podcast, or recording a great interview. You want to make sure that you don’t run out of storage space during the recording.
This is particularly important if there is no immediate opportunity to upload your recordings to a computer or laptop.
Memory space is affected by different factors, such as the type of file (wave, mp3, etc.) and recording quality – the higher the quality, the more space it will use.
Many voice recorders have at least 4 GB of built-in storage, and some have additional options such as built-in USB ports or a removable memory card.
2. Sound Quality
One of the most important things to consider is the quality and clarity of your recording.
High-quality audio files are easier to understand and have the advantage of being compatible with automated speech recognition services.
Remember, the higher the quality of the audio, the more storage space it will require, reducing the overall amount of time you can record.
Digital voice recorders have multiple sound quality options such as:
- LP (long play) – the lowest quality
- SP (standard play) – medium quality
- HQ (high quality) – the best quality
For something simple like recording yourself for your own listening, you could use the LP option on your voice recorder. If you are producing something or creating a podcast then you should choose the HQ option so that the clarity and sound quality of the audio are the best.
3. Microphone Type
Depending on where and how you use your voice recorder, you might want to consider the type of microphone it uses.
Most modern voice recorders come with built-in microphones; however, this is only useful when it is a single person's audio in a quiet room as it will capture all surrounding sound.
An interview situation with two people would be best recorded using a bidirectional microphone. Otherwise, you would need to move the recorder back and forth between the speakers.
However, a quiet room with several speakers such as a meeting, a panel conversation or a lecture hall would be best recorded using an omnidirectional microphone.
A voice recorder that has an external microphone jack is also a great option as you can choose from a unidirectional, bidirectional, omnidirectional or a lavalier microphone based on the setting you are in and the audio you are recording.
4. Battery Life
Most people who use digital voice recorders are looking for a portable option that will last a long time. This is one of the benefits of using a voice recorder instead of a phone as a dedicated recording device.
Ideally, you want your voice recorder to have a battery life of about 48 hrs, giving you enough power to record. This is especially important if you are conducting fieldwork or are on the road.
A device with a rechargeable battery might also be more useful than constantly replacing regular batteries.
It is important to note that while many recorders boast that they can record for 1,000s of hours, that number may reduce based on audio quality – the higher the quality, the fewer recording hours.
5. Portability, Sharing and Convenience
You want your voice recorder to be portable and convenient to use. A simpler interface is ideal for someone who is recording for personal use as you won’t need a lot of extra features.
Compact voice recorders are about the size and weight of a smartphone. Additional features or better audio will result in a larger and heavier recorder.
A more advanced recorder will also organise different audio files into separate folders.
All modern voice recorders have sharing options for easy transfers of recordings. Most use a USB connection, others use SD card options or share via WiFi connectivity.
Most voice recorders also save in formats that are compatible with Windows and Apple operating systems, but sometimes the file format will need to be edited before you access it from your operating system.
There are many paid and free services that convert voice-to-text. You would need to see which options are compatible with your voice recorder.
Some digital voice recorders already have built-in transcription and voice recognition software but others will require you to purchase it separately.
If you are regularly using your voice recorder and need the content in text format, you may prefer to purchase one that can easily do this.
If you are planning on manually transcribing your recordings, you might need additional accessories such as a foot pedal or headphones.
7. Editing and Playback
Editing features on your voice recorder such as cutting, trimming, deleting, merging files or editing it into sections will significantly improve your workflow and improve productivity.
However, editing features will increase the purchase price as they require a lot more processing power.
The convenience of editing as you record – especially if you are a podcaster or publishing other media content – is worth the initial upfront costs.
Even if you are recording a file that requires transcribing, you won’t need to manually edit the file before sending it on to a transcribing service. Irrelevant content would be reduced and this would cut down the costs of transcription and increase the speed.
Most recording devices also have other features like review, cue, speed, skip ahead and playback.
Another convenient feature is having a recorder that has voice activation with a simple on/off button. Here, the recorder starts recording when it detects sound and stops when there is silence.
8. Extra Features
Additional features can add to the price of the recorder, but some, like noise cancelling, can be worth the cost. Here are some things to look for:
Noise-canceling will reduce any background noise and create clearer audio.
Filters also contribute to reducing excess high and low frequency sounds similar to treble and bass settings on a stereo system.
LCD or backlit screens are useful if you are using your voice recorder in a darkened environment.
File organisation is another handy feature if your voice recorder has multiple recording formats. The stored files on the voice recorder are organised and easily accessible based on the type of recording.
Other Voice Recorders We Reviewed
There are many voice recorders out there. Some of the better-known brands such as Sony or Olympus regularly update their devices even if the older models are just as good and are a lower price.
Here are some other great recorders to consider:
The Olympus WS-853 is a well-rated voice recorder and one that has topped many lists in the ‘best voice recorder’ category.
It has an impressive amount of technical features, such as auto mode to match the recording level to the volume of the person speaking, distortion avoidance, and will automatically edit the recording.
You can start and stop the recording using its voice-activated functionality and it has noise cancellation features which include a low-cut filter to reduce ambient noise.
It has an impressive 110-hour battery life and comes with 8 GB of built-in storage with a USB for file transfer.
It is presented in a sleek and slim design and can easily fit into a pocket.
The Sony ICD-PX470 is very similar to the UX570, not as stylish and the audio quality isn’t as good, but it is also cheaper.
This recorder is ideal for clear, stereo recordings of quiet memos and personal notes. It has a focused and wide audio recording function and can capture quieter sounds with its S-Microphone.
It also has four pre-set recording settings for a meeting, music, dictation and interview, and you can record and listen in MP3 and PCM.
It has 4 GB of built-in stereo, which can be increased to 32 GB with an SD card, and 55 hours of battery life. It has a low-cut filter and noise cancellation to increase the clarity of the audio file.
The Sony ICD-PX470 has a transcription-friendly playback service and other useful features, such as easy search and calendar search. It also has a USB port for easy transfers.
All-round a great voice recorder for day to day personal recordings.
If you want a feature-packed voice recorder with excellent, professional-quality sound at 96 kHz/24-bit recordings and two microphone noise cancellation, then the Olympus LS-P4 Hi-Res Audio Recorder is a great choice.
It features a TRESMIC – a three microphone recording system – and has a zoom microphone mode for distance recording.
It also has a FLAC recording and playback system.
This is one of the smallest hi-res audio recorders from Olympus and it has a lot of features packed into it.
This voice recorder is Bluetooth compatible, has a fade in/fade out function, voice balancer, trimming and partially erase functions, overdubbing, and can be controlled remotely.
It can record better than CD quality and is a great recorder for music performances or video shoots.
If you are a sound purist then the Sony PCM-D100 is the voice recorder for you.
The PCM-D100 is made to focus on technical specifications for sound. If you want to record the performance of a singer/songwriter or record an important interview, this voice recorder will ensure you get the crispest and cleanest audio file possible.
There is little or no harmonic distortion, as well as reduced jitter noise and other ambient sounds.
It has a highly sensitive directional microphone and comes with a wireless remote control.
It has 32 GB of internal storage space that can be increased to 64 GB, and a 12-hour battery life.
It has some tech features such as equalizing and can record PCM and MP3 simultaneously. You can also change the playback speed and it comes with a five-second pre-record function which can be handy in case you don’t hit the REC button in time.
It is not the most versatile product and is quite steeply-priced, but the audio quality on this recorder is excellent.
KINOEE 8GB Digital Recorder Voice Activated Recorder
An affordable voice recorder that is great for personal usePrice: £16.99 from Amazon
It makes sense that after looking at the priciest voice recorder we reviewed, we look at one of the lowest-priced.
The KINOEE 8GB Digital Recorder might be affordable, but it does the job. It is a voice recorder that is great for personal use whether that is to record a few notes, a lecture or a meeting.
It has a simple and easy to use three-button interface with record, stop and play buttons and can record in MP3 or WAV files. You can rewind or fast-forward your recording.
It also provides a recording function for telephone conversations – something that is useful as many important conversations are conducted via telephone.
The KINOEE has a 20-hour battery life and 8 GB of built-in storage. It has double sensitive microphones that record at 128 Kbps and a noise reduction chip for cleaner recordings.
Overall, a great device for a budget price.
The Zoom H4N is another top of the range voice recorder for a podcaster or other production enthusiast.
The audio quality on this recorder is very rich – a pristine and natural sounding recording in either mono or stereo options.
It comes with a built-in X/Y stereo unidirectional microphone that can be used in either a focused 90-degree layout or a wider 120-degree layout.
It can also do Mid-Side recording and has a low-cut filter and a very low noise floor to capture audio at lower volumes.
The H4N also has XLR input and built-in preamps with four-track simultaneous recording channels. It has a bright, backlit LCD with other features such as time stamping, overdubbing and phantom power input jacks to connect external microphones or instruments.
It also has onboard multi-editing effects such as compression, reverb, limited, etc. You can attach it on top of a DSLR for the ultimate audio/video combo.
It is a great choice for a seasoned podcaster or other production professional.
At a Glance Comparison
|Voice Recorder Model||Price||Sound Quality||Battery Life||Storage||Microphones||Convenience/Size||Noise Reduction||Other Features|
|Olympus WS-853||£62.42||Very good true stereo and MP3 recording||110 hours||8 GB. Micro SD card can be added. 2,080 hours of recording time||Low noise directional microphone with 90-degree layout||Sleek design. Voice-activated start and stop recording||Low-cut filter and a noise cancel feature||Auto mode. Editing options. Voice balancer. 130 hours mp3 recording time. Pop out USB 3.0 connector. PCM, Mp3 and WMA playback options|
|Sony UX570 UX series||£79.99||Very good stereo audio and recording||23 hours||4 GB/32 GB or 64 GB can be added. Can record up to 59 hrs in stereo||Wide microphone modes suitable for lecture halls or meeting rooms. S-Microphone||Easy to use. Thin, light and easy to carry. Voice-activated start and stop recording||Low-cut filter||Built-in lithium battery quick charge feature. Long & short range skipping. Time jump and easy search. OLED display. USB for easy file transfer|
|Sony ICD-PX470||£45.98||Focus and wide Stereo sound||55 hours||4 GB/32 GB added. Built-in storage with 59hrs in stereo||S-Microphone. Four 'scene' pre-sets (meeting, music, dictation, interview)||Similar to UX570. Auto voice recording||Low-cut filter. Noise cancellation||USB connection for file transfer. MP3 and Linear PCM. Transcription friendly playback. Can record in a range of formats. Calendar search. Easy search. A-B repeat|
|Tascam DR-40X Portable 4-Track Audio Recorder||£136.91||Four track audio and high-quality audio||15 hours||4 GB/128 GB can be added||Adjustable mic system. Cardioid condenser microphones for high sound pressure levels set up in AB or XY for wide stereo field. Can add own microphones||Chunky but has a lot of features. Easy to use with one thumb||Peak reduction. Auto Level. Limiter||Mixing features. Ability to equalize volume and audio quality. USB jack. Built-in microphones can capture ambient sound. Dual level recording. Dictation mode|
|Zoom H4N||£199||Natural-sounding pristine stereo recording in mono or stereo||20 hours||Records directly to standard SD and SDHC cards up to 32 GB||X/Y stereo microphones with a tight 90-degree stereo or 120-degree wider layout. Two matched unidirectional microphones. MS decoder to do Mid-side recording||Ergonomic, rubberised body. Pre-record and auto record features||Low-cut filter and super-low noise floor||Four-track simultaneous recording. Bright, back-lit LCD. Time stamping. Overdubbing and punch in features. Phantom power input jacks. Onboard multi-effects. Supports files in WAV and MP3|
|Olympus LS-P4 HI-RES Audio Recorder||£135||Excellent, sound quality with 96 kHz/24-bit recordings||39 hours||8 GB/for 32GB can be added. Up to 253 hours recording time||Tresmic 3 microphone system. Zoom microphone mode for distance recording||Slim and compact device. Can be used for music performances or video shoots||Two-microphone noise cancellation||Bluetooth compatibility. Hi-Res music player function. Fade in/Fade out function. Recording formats for linear PCM, FLAC and MP3. Records better than a CD quality with 30 percent smaller file size. Overdubbing. Multiple language formats supported. Can control remotely|
|Sony PCM-D100||£555||Top of the range sound quality||12 hours||32 GB/64 GB can be added||Highly sensitive directional microphone||Focus is on technical specification||Very low harmonic distortion. Reduced jitter and noise||Wireless remote and windscreen. Can change playback speed. Can EQ using a graphic interface. Pre-record function. PCM and MP3 simultaneously|
|EVISTR 16GB Digital Voice Recorder||£35.99||Crystal clear audio||13 hours||8 GB||Two highly sensitive built-in microphones||Simple to use four button function. Voice-activated recording||Noise cancellation microphone||Can transfer to PC, Linux via USB. A-B repeat, fast forward, rewind during playback. Easy file management and time stamp function|
|KINOEE 8GB Digital Recorder Voice Activated Recorder||£16.99||Quality audio recordings at 128 Kbps||20 hours||8 GB. Can store 7,680 minutes of recordings||Double sensitive microphones that record 128 Kbps||Can fit in pocket or wallet. Easy operational three-button interface||Noise reduce chip for clearer recording||MP3 or WAV file format. A-B repeat, fast forward and rewind function. Telephone recording function|
Accuracy matters and audio quality in production is important. Voice recorders can do both.
Whether you want a recorder for interviews, for a podcast or to carry in your pocket for personal use, there is a recorder for your needs.
As we move further into a more digital lifestyle, digital voice recorders have become quite common and, in turn, have become considerably more advanced and compact.
There are many available options on the market and it is important to research and consider your recording needs to make sure you get the correct voice recorder with the features that matter to you.