If you're in the market for a high-quality digital voice recorder but don't need all of the high-tech extras that tend to hike up the price of some devices, there are some great options that can deliver top-notch recording quality without completely emptying your wallet.
In this category, the Olympus DM-620 (Est. $110) emerges as a clear top choice. Reviews tell us that the DM-620 is a great voice recorder for tackling everything from concert hall performances and public meetings to face-to-face interviews.
Radio magazine's Gil Wilson praises this Olympus digital voice recorder for its all-around excellent sound quality, citing the recorder's unique three-microphone system as a major plus. The two outer mics are mounted at an outward angle, while the omnidirectional center mic picks up amazing bass range for superior stereo recordings. Adjustable sensitivity and multiple presets make this recorder adaptable for a wide range of situations, and it picks up sounds clearly at great distances, reportedly up to 55 feet in some cases.
Though not as expensive -- or as feature-rich -- as fancier professional-grade voice recorders such as the Samson Zoom H4n (Est. $270) , the Olympus DM-620 is still priced on the high end for this category. Among its advantages, however, is support for lossless WAV audio files, something that's missing from less expensive choices such as the Sony ICD-AX412. The Sony digital voice recorder is limited to MP3-only format support, which is adequate for most uses but won't fly if you're a professional user needing the best sound quality.
Some find the Sony ICD-AX412 a little easier to operate than the Olympus DM-620. Among other things, we've seen some user reports of issues mastering the DM-620's interface and file menu system, though most conquer the learning curve pretty quickly. Mac users, on the other hand, are annoyed that the otherwise Mac-compatible Sony ICD-AX412 voice recorder ships with audio-file editing software that's PC-only, leaving them to fend for themselves in that regard. Note that the Sony ICD-AX412 has been officially discontinued by Sony, but is still widely available at retail.
The Wirecutter's Bryan Gardiner names the Sony ICD-AX412 as his top choice, but notes that the Olympus WS-802 (Est. $80) might be a better recorder in some situations. His tests reveal the WS-802 to be highly directional -- more so than any other voice recorder he reviews. That means that as long as you have it pointed directly at those speaking, it does a great job of picking up voices even at relatively long distances. However, it fares worst of all at picking up voices that are off-axis. Still, users at Amazon.com make the Olympus WS-802 a top choice. The few complaints are dwarfed by the number of users who grant the WS-802 a 5-star rating. Recording quality, build quality and ease of use are among the positives cited in many reviews.
The Samson Zoom H1 (Est. $100) is another solid choice. Judging from reviews, this digital audio recorder offers great sound quality -- much more than its price tag would suggest. Its two X/Y-positioned external mics offer impressive stereo fidelity, though owners report that they are very sensitive and can pick up a lot of handling noise. The feature set, while respectable, is nothing to write home about -- at least compared to professional digital voice recorders with dedicated quarter-inch and XLR inputs, as well as multitracking capabilities. But if sound quality is a chief concern, owners say the H1 is a solid value among voice recorders, and one that's worth considering.