How to Buy a Digital Voice Recorder
Updated May 2014
What the best digital voice recorder has
- Great sound quality. Powerful, adjustable microphones
should be built into the voice
recorder, with additional jacks for an external mic or an external
sound source. WAV file-format support offers the best lossless audio
quality, though the option
to switch to lower-quality MP3 or WMA formats to conserve memory
- Helpful features. Noise reduction, multiple presets for recording in different
environments, multitracking functions or additional
mixing software, USB connectivity for downloading audio files, and timed
recording functions are among the useful features found on the best digital
- Ample recording capacity. Digital voice recorders should offer upwards of 1 GB of memory
standard. The best voice recorders offer the ability to expand capacity via a
memory card slot, though low-priced audio recorders might omit that feature.
- Long battery life. Using lower-quality audio formats prolongs battery life, though digital
voice recorders should ideally be able to function for at least several hours
at their highest-quality setting before running out of battery power.
- Easy-to-use interface. The physical interface and menu system should be intuitive and easy to
operate. The most complex of voice recorders aren't always the best choices,
depending on your needs.
Know before you go
What kind of sound quality do you need? If you plan to
record dialogue, sounds or music for broadcasting or other professional
purposes, it's worth spending a bit more for a higher-end digital voice recorder.
Conversely, you don't need high-end features (such as the ability to record in lossless
audio formats) if you only plan to take notes during a class lecture or record
rough audio for band practice.
Where will you be using the digital voice recorder? Recording in a
concert hall or meeting room is very different from capturing audio outdoors or
in quiet spaces. The best voice recorders have adjustable microphones and
effective noise reduction to handle difficult recording conditions.
What are your battery needs? If you plan to take your
voice recorder on long trips or into remote situations where you might not have
access to fresh batteries, consider the unit's average battery life on its
highest-quality setting and whether it has lower settings you can switch to in
order to conserve energy when necessary. Voice recorders that accept standard
batteries, such as AA alkaline cells, will save you the worry of finding an
electrical outlet to juice up rechargeable batteries.
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