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Best Audio Baby Monitors

By: Saundra Latham on April 10, 2017

Audio monitors are an extra pair of ears for parents

Reviewers say the Philips Avent SCD570/10 (Est. $120) 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 parents say it does so effectively. The monitor has a range of up to 164 feet indoors and a range of more than 1,000 feet outdoors. 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 features, which help the monitor adjust to white noise and other ambient sounds. There are five sound-activated LED lights that register noise even if the parent unit is on mute.

Clear directions and intuitive controls make it quick and easy to set up the SCD570/10 – setup took just four minutes in tests by BabyGearLab.com. A charging station is included, but parents who don't need this convenience can pay less for the Philips Avent SCD560/10 (Est. $90). Battery life is impressive: Though it's billed as up to 18 hours by the manufacturer, it lasted over 25 hours in BabyGearLab.com's tests. 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. A "peaceful night" mode dims the screen to address complaints about middle-of-the-night brightness. 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. Daily use gets mixed reviews; BabyGearLab.com testers say the menu isn't as easy to navigate as it is on the Philips Avent SCD570/10; they also knock the annoying beep that every press of a button produces.  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, though. The nursery monitor's handle doubles as a nightlight, 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 $11 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 bottom-dollar price will want to check out the VTech DM111 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor (Est. $20). This monitor still boasts DECT connection despite the low price – other low-priced sound monitors often rely on analog technology that's much more prone to interference. Range is also still relatively robust at up to 1,000 feet outdoors, and parents say that it fares just as well as pricier models in this regard. Five sound-activated LED lights tip parents off to noise visually, too.

The DM111's parent unit requires two AAA batteries for those who don't want to be tethered to a power cord. Unfortunately, many reviewers say you'll need to invest in a lot of batteries if you want to go cord-free often. While VTech says battery life is about 20 hours, several reviewers say they didn't get anything close to that, even on fresh batteries. 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.

As is typically the case with cheaper baby monitors, there aren't a lot of extra features on the DM111. A belt clip makes it easier to tote the parent unit, and a model with two parent units is available for about $15 more. But as for nightlights, lullabies or other bells and whistles, buyers will need to look elsewhere.

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