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The best audio baby monitors

Reviewers say the Philips Avent SCD570/10 (Est. $100) has everything a parent could want in an audio baby monitor: clear sound, interference-free technology and lots of extras. It uses DECT technology to ward off interference with Wi-Fi or other devices, and reviewers say it does so effectively. The monitor has a long, 164-foot range indoors and a range of more than 1,000 feet outdoors, which reviewers appreciate. Sound is clear and there are few reports of the parent and nursery units becoming unlinked. Parents are happy with the voice activation and adjustable sound sensitivity, which help the monitor adjust to white noise and other ambient sounds. There are five sound-activated LED lights, which register noise even if the parent unit is on mute.

Best audio baby monitor

Philips Avent SCD570/10 Baby Monitor
Philips Avent SCD570/10 Baby Monitor

Clear directions and intuitive controls make it quick and easy to set up the SCD570/10. The parent unit must be plugged in for 10 hours before it's fully charged, however. A charging station is included. Most reviewers are happy with battery life -- up to 18 hours -- and they appreciate being able to power the nursery unit with four AA batteries in case of a power outage. A few reviewers complain the monitor's display can be hard to read. There are indicators for power, connectivity, noise level, temperature and battery level.

The SCD570/10 packs a punch when it comes to extras: There's a vibration mode, nightlight, lullabies and an intercom that lets parents talk to baby. Some reviewers have complained the indicator lights are too bright; Philips Avent recently added a "peaceful night" mode that dims the screen and lights to address this concern. A temperature sensor allows parents to receive alerts when it gets too hot or cold in baby's room, and there's even a feeding timer that lets parents track how long it's been since baby's last meal. The parent unit has a lanyard for portability, but only one parent unit is available. Units are wired, and parents should be careful to place wires out of baby's reach to reduce strangulation hazards.

If you're looking for a more basic monitor at a friendlier price point, the VTech DM221 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor (Est. $50) offers the most bang for your buck, reviewers say. It uses interference-free DECT technology, and parents say it lives up to that billing even in homes full of wireless gadgets. It has a 150-foot indoor range and 1,000-foot outdoor range, but some reviewers say the monitor falls short of what's advertised. Others say the units lose their connection too frequently, which leads to annoying beeping, or that it can be tricky to get sound sensitivity right if there is white noise in the baby's room. Five LED lights measure noise intensity even if the volume is off, a feature parents appreciate. 

Reviewers say the Safe & Sound has clear instructions that make setup easy. The parent unit must be plugged in for 11 hours before it's fully charged, which some owners aren't happy to discover. Battery life is among the most frequent complaints about this monitor, with parents saying the rechargeable batteries simply don't last as long as they should. Many reviewers also say the LCD display fades after several months. The monitor indicates when it is out of range, is not linked to the nursery unit, or is low on battery.

The Safe & Sound offers a lot of features for the price, reviewers say. The nursery monitor's handle doubles as a night-light, and parents love having an intercom that lets them talk to baby. Parents can also set the monitor to vibrate when it detects noise -- nice for those who may not want to be jolted awake at night. This version of the Safe & Sound comes with two parent units; a version with one unit is available for about $15 less. Nursery units are wired, and parents should be careful to place wires out of baby's reach to reduce strangulation hazards.

Parents who simply want a basic, no-frills audio monitor at a low price will want to check out the First Years Crisp and Clear Audio Monitor (Est. $20). This 49 MHz analog monitor doesn't have the DECT technology that pricier units have to ward off interference, so it might not be the best pick in a tech-heavy home. Some reviewers complain about static, particularly at high volumes, but they say that can be minimized by keeping the monitor away from other electronics. It has a 700-foot range, which most parents say is good enough for quick trips to the mailbox or to take out the trash. There are four LED lights to measure noise intensity in baby's room even if the volume on the parent unit is all the way down.

The Crisp and Clear is "about as straightforward as it gets," according to editors. Because of that, it's exceptionally easy to use and instructions are clear, reviewers say. No charging is required because the parent unit doesn't have rechargeable batteries -- it requires three AA batteries instead. Battery life receives mixed reviews; one reviewer reports changing batteries "at least once a week." However, the receiver can also be plugged into the wall to save battery power. The monitor indicates when it is out of range or low on battery.

There aren't a lot of extra features on the Crisp and Clear monitor, but it is available with either one or two parent units, but the two-unit version will run you about an additional $15. The disc-shaped nursery unit can be mounted to the wall, and the parent unit comes with a belt clip for better portability. As always, parents should take care to place wires out of a baby's reach to reduce strangulation hazards.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Baby Monitors | Best Video Baby Monitors | Best Motion Detection Monitors | Buying Guide | Our Sources

VTech DM221-2 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Baby Monitor with Two Parent Units
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New: $59.95 $49.50   
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