Money may not be an object to some, but plenty of folks either can't afford the pro- or mid-level digital voice recorders, or they could care less about all the high-end features piled into these pricier units. For those who prefer to pass on the extra frills and don't have the patience often needed to master more complex digital voice recorders, the Olympus VN-702PC (Est. $45) is a solid voice recorder for note-taking and capturing class lectures.
Reliability and ease of use are important considerations in finding the best digital voice recorder, and the Olympus VN-702PC does well on both those counts. It's intuitive to use, even for those with limited experience. This voice recorder's small, super-portable size lets you slip it into a pocket easily, making it great to take with you on the go. It records in both MP3 and the lower-quality WMA formats. User reviews at retailer sites like Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com rate it highly across the board for overall sound quality and usability.
Like many digital voice recorders on the cheaper end of the spectrum, the Olympus VN-702PC has its quirks, too. One of the biggest complaints among users is poor playback volume and sound quality when listening to recordings through the built-in speaker. That's not uncommon among budget-priced units, including the even lower-priced Olympus DP-201 (Est. $30) , though using headphones makes a big difference.
The smaller Olympus DP-201 certainly hits the sweet spot in price but lacks even some of the most basic features that most users look for in a recorder. It can't transfer recorded files to a computer, for example, one of the big reasons why it lags behind the Olympus VN-702PC. There's no way to expand its memory beyond the internal 2 GB flash memory, either, which means you have to delete old files to make room when the memory runs out. Also, the recorder only supports lower-quality WMA format; on the plus side, that means that the built-in 2 GB can hold more than 200 hours of recordings (at the lowest-quality setting). Still, the DP-201 earns praise among those who keep their expectations reasonable and use this very basic digital voice recorder for simple recording tasks.
The Sony ICD-PX333 (Est. $55) also earns high marks among owners posting at user review sites Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Staples.com. While not as highly acclaimed as the Best Reviewed Olympus VN-702PC, this Sony digital voice recorder has a few things going for it. Like its competitor, owners say it works well for basic recording situations such as classrooms or note-taking. While both voice recorders' memories can be expanded via a microSD card, the Sony digital voice recorder comes with 4 GB of internal memory, whereas the Olympus digital voice recorder only sports 2 GB out of the box. The Sony recorder can also record for a longer more than 1,000 hours -- albeit in its lowest-quality setting, and only in MP3 format.