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Best Audio Baby Monitors

By: Tara Tuckwiller on March 26, 2018

Audio monitors are an extra pair of ears for parents

Experts and owners love the tried-and-true VTech DM221 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor (Est. $30), saying it offers a huge bang for your buck. It uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology to eliminate interference and prevent others from being able to eavesdrop on your monitor, and parents say it lives up to that billing even in homes full of wireless gadgets. It advertises a 160-foot indoor range and 1,000-foot outdoor range, although VTech says walls and other obstructions will shorten the range (it works for 90 feet, through five walls in Baby Gear Lab's test – plenty for most homes).

Besides its long range and low price, the VTech DM221 also bests other audio baby monitors with its convenient rechargeable battery (it lasts a whopping 19 hours per charge in Wirecutter's test) and "great" audio quality and talk back functionality – "easily better than the crude talk back features on our video monitor picks," Wirecutter says, which makes it equally superb as a baby or elder-care monitor. It's the top pick of experts at Baby Bargains and Baby Gear Lab, too.

Despite its low price, the VTech DM221 comes loaded with features, including adjustable sound sensitivity, a belt clip, a nightlight, and the ability to set the parent unit to vibrate when it detects noise in the baby's room – nice for those who may not want to be jolted awake at night. Five LED lights measure noise intensity even if the volume is off, a feature parents appreciate.

Owners give the VTech DM221 high marks at retail websites. When owners do complain, it's usually that the battery dies faster than they'd hoped or that their parent unit tends to drop its connection and start beeping annoyingly. Most owners don't report any problems, though.

The VTech DM221 comes with one parent unit. For $11 more, the VTech DM221-2 (Est. $40) comes with two parent units.

Parents who simply want a basic, no-frills audio monitor at a bottom-dollar price will want to check out the VTech DM111 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor (Est. $19). This monitor still boasts DECT technology despite the low price (other low-priced sound monitors often rely on analog technology that's much more prone to interference and other issues). It offers the same long range as the DM221, and it has the same five sound-activated LED lights that give parents a visual alert that there's noise in the nursery. It likewise comes with a belt clip.

However, it's not rechargeable. The DM111's parent unit requires two AAA batteries for those who don't want to be tethered to the included power cord. Unfortunately, reviewers say you'll need to invest in a lot of batteries if you want to go cord-free often. "Dozens of reviewers say that this model drains batteries in just a few hours," Wirecutter says. There's no nightlight, no vibrate mode and no adjustable sound sensitivity. The audio isn't as clear as the top-rated DM211's in Baby Gear Lab's test – but it's still good enough to earn the cheaper DM111 Baby Gear Lab's "Best Value" award.

On the bright side, setup is easy and there is no complicated menu to navigate in the middle of the night – just a power button and volume controls. There are low-battery and power/range indicator lights. There's a single parent unit, or you can opt for the otherwise identical VTech DM112-2 (Est. $30), which comes with two parent units.

Bottom line: If you're trying to decide between the two, Baby Bargains says, "we think the DM221 offers the better value -- the intercom and vibrating sound alert features are worth the extra expense." However, if dollars are tight, the DM111 outperforms and out-features other budget options.

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