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Best voice recorders
There is more to audio than just listening to music and podcasts on your headphones or speakers. Good audio can be a handy tool whether you’re recording video, taking notes in class, or making sure that you don’t miss anything important during an interview. Whatever your intended use, it’s always a good idea to keep a voice recorder at the ready just in case. These are some of the best voice recorders available right now.
Editor’s note: this post was updated on March 21, 2022, to include add the Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit to the Best list, include a section on using your smartphone, and to add Boss Micro BR BR80, Movo UM700, Roland R-07, and Shure MV7 to Notable mentions.
Most people should go with the Zoom H1n
One of the most trusted names in portable recording is Zoom. The company has a number of products ranging from entry-level recording to professional gear, and the Zoom H1n bridges that gap. You can use it as a microphone for interviews, set it down on a table and just leave it be, or attach a lavalier mic to it thanks to the input on the side.
It features stereo condenser microphones that are protected from damage by the plastic cage surround them, and there are a few basic effects such as lo cut and a limiter you can add right on the recorder as well. The H1n records in 96kHz/24-bit in WAV or MP3 format which is more than enough to get the job done for most people. It also accepts microSD cards and you’ll get about 10 hours of use via two AAA batteries.
Best voice recorder for an interview or a meeting: Sony ICD-UX570
Sony seems to be great at just about everything. It already has some of the top-performing active noise cancelling headphones on the market thanks to its top-notch microphones, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has a great option for digital voice recorders too. The Sony ICD-UX570 recorder is a sleek piece of tech that almost looks like a remote control.
It has a bright OLED display that lets you see how much time is remaining on the memory card and has three recording options. The ICD-UX570 automatically adjusts modes to suit input volume. It accepts microSD cards but also has 4GB of internal storage so if you forget the memory card you can still get what you need. In a pinch, a three-minute charge yields an hour of recording time.
Smartphone video creators should get the Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit
If you have a smartphone, then you already have a pretty good voice recorder. The problem is that the microphones built into your phone aren’t great, which is why Sennheiser made the Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit. I’ll admit this pick is kind of cheating since it isn’t technically a voice recorder, but just by adding this mic to your smartphone you can really step up the audio quality of your recordings and just use the tiny supercomputer in your pocket.
The shotgun condenser mic can connect to either iOS devices via Lightning adapter or Android devices via USB-C adapter, and you can attach a deadcat (windscreen) to it if you’re recording outside. Similar to the Shure MV88+, you get a Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod that clamps to your smartphone. A three-step sensitivity switch rests on the microphone housing so you can easily make adjustments before hitting “record.” It also has a low-cut filter switch and direct mic monitoring feature, which is incredibly handy to get a read on how much background noise is coming through.
Voices come through very clearly with the MKE 400, and sound better than on the Sennheiser MKE 200. Although $229 USD isn’t cheap, it’s a great value for mobile creators.
For serious production pick up the Zoom H5
If you’re a little more serious about your gear and how your audio sounds, then pick up the Zoom H5 which gives you some more flexibility when it comes to using it with high-end gear. Not only does the Zoom H5 have some pretty great condenser mics built into the top of it similar to the Zoom H1n mentioned above, but it also has two XLR/TRS combo inputs on the bottom which means you can plug in a pro-level microphone like the Shure SM58 dynamic mic.
You can even independently set the levels for each input. It records onto an SD card that can go up to 32GB and runs off of two AA batteries. It can even provide phantom power to a mic if it needs it, though that will drain the batteries quicker. Not to mention that if you really need to, you can plug this into your computer and just use it as an audio interface instead. While that isn’t its first use-case, it gets the job done nicely in a pinch.
Get the multi-purpose Tascam DR-100MKIII
The Tascam DR-100MKIII records high-resolution audio at 24-bit/192kHz sampling rate (arguably an overkill, though it’s good for editing). It also has an internal rechargeable battery, as well as the ability to add extra batteries boosting the usage time. You will need an SD card, however, because there is no storage. The dual microphones onboard are shock-mounted and complimented by two XLR/TRS inputs for your outboard gear. You can also use it as a USB audio interface.
What’s more the DR-100MKIII’s aluminum body offers some degree of toughness in a market dominated by plastic. I wouldn’t be rough on it though: users have noted some buttons can be wiggly. Additionally, the accessible button functions for limiters and mic pads are a welcomed departure from menu-diving purgatory. A tripod mount adds extra flexibility, making it a great companion for video production, podcasts, and songwriting.
Sometimes your phone is the best voice recorder
These days our smartphones are packed with a lot of capabilities, including recording. You won’t get the best audio quality, given the limitations of your phone’s internal microelectromechanical systems (MEMs) mic, but sometimes the best voice recorder is the one you have at hand. Plenty of low-budget productions and impromptu interviews have utilized a smartphone to record audio.
Related: The best voice recording apps
Voice recording apps are great for people who prioritize convenience above all else. Whether you need to record a last-minute meeting or song demo, voice recording apps make it quick and easy to jot your ideas down. It is worth noting, however, that most smartphone microphone quality isn’t the best, sporting a limited frequency response that fails to capture audio sources in the best manner possible. For the absolute best in audio quality, such as for a published interview or audio sampling, there’s no replacement for a good ol’ digital voice recorder.
Voice recording apps are a convenient way of recording voice notes using the hardware already built into your smartphone. If you’re on Android and are just looking for a basic recorder that won’t require you to get a whole new device, then the best app you can get is the Easy Voice Recorder. This app utilizes 16-bit PCM and MP4 codecs for high-quality recording and playback. A pro version of this app is also available for people who want to make the most of their smartphone as a voice recorder, available for a one-time fee of $3.99.
For iOS users, the best voice recorder app is already on your phone: Apple’s Voice Memos. The app’s clean and straightforward design language has made it popular among artists who need to quickly jot down ideas for their next hit single. Of course, there are other options available, such as Rev Voice Recorder, or even Garageband for people who want to record straight into a mobile DAW.
One trick is to ensure the mic is aimed at the source to avoid accidental off-axis sound rejection. The lower quality audio results are the trade off, and likely will require more post production editing to really polish it.
The best voice recorders: Notable mentions
- Boss MICRO BR BR-80: This niche portable recorder is aimed at songwriters with optional eight tracks for demo recordings on the go, with input for guitar and metronome. It runs on AA batteries and only weighs about 300g. More generally, it has two built in condenser microphones and records at 24 bit/44.1kHz.
- Marantz Pro PMD-661 MkIII: For the teen sleuth out there needing password encrypted audio files in addition to very capable onboard mics with phantom-powered expandability, try this brick.
- Movo UM700: This one is a USB microphone. Increasingly, USB mics have been the direction of the market away from discrete voice recorders. It’s around $79 USD and pairs well with your PC to directly record. Of course that’s a less portable solution.
- Roland R-07 Handheld Audio Recorder: A pint sized recorder that has some intriguing functions like wireless connectivity for monitoring, dual recording with high and low gain so you can edit audio later if it peaks. Inside it has two microphones, and even a metronome and tuner for musicians. It runs on AA batteries or USB bus and supports up to 96kHz at 24-bit.
- Shure MV7: Like the MV88+ the MV7 is a USB microphone. It still requires either a phone, tablet, or PC. In any case it performs admirably with switchable mic patterns.
- Zoom H4n Pro: This is a favorite amongst beginner audio recordists and indie filmmakers. It can record up to four tracks and offers two XLR-1/4″ combo inputs and an integrated stereo mic, set up in an X/Y configuration. The H4n Pro can record up to 24-bit/96kHz, and can even act as a 2-in/2-out audio interface with your computer.
- Zoom H6: For $50 more than than the Zoom H5, you get on-board editing controls and the ability to record a maximum of six audio channels. The extra I/O and software tools are especially useful for podcasters looking to consolidate a bulk of their audio workflow into a single, portable device.
Read next: The best cheap voice recorders
What else should you know about voice recorders?
The good news is, many of these digital voice recorders are pretty straightforward to use. Even if you ignore all of the features and specs getting them to record what you need is mostly just as simple as pressing record when you need to. Still, there are some things that you might be wondering about.
How do you edit your voice?
If you want to get the most out of your digital voice recorder, then you might need to know how to edit your final voice recording. Before you go buying that super-expensive audio editing program your friend recommended, you should first take a look at your recording environment. Obviously, if you’re in a classroom or lecture hall, you don’t really have much control over this. However, you should look for a quiet place to record from possible. One tip to keep in mind when voices are at different volumes (like in a lecture hall) on the same audio track is to use a compressor in your editor of choice to reduce the volume disparity.
Leave a space for silence to establish a room tone, because it will make editing noise much easier.
If you’re recording yourself and don’t mind being a little uncomfortable, you’d be surprised how well a blanket fort will get the job done. Another major tip is to leave dead silence for a few seconds before and after your recording. This is called “room tone” and if you remember to do this, most programs will have a way to de-noise your recording with minimal effort. If you want to dig a bit deeper, make sure to check out our full article on how to edit your voice.
Related: Everything you need to record people
Can you use a voice recorder for podcasts?
Absolutely. The great thing about podcasts is that, just like video, the quality of your gear doesn’t matter as much as the content. A good story is everything, and while stepping up your gear will definitely make your podcast sound cleaner that doesn’t mean that it will be any better. While the MV88+ is really just a microphone, using it in conjunction with any voice recording app on your smartphone is a great way to get your podcast off the ground.
What is an audio interface and do you need one?
An audio interface is a tool that lets you connect a microphone to your computer. Your computer most likely only has some type of USB connection, and while that’s perfect for some USB mics most microphones use an XLR connection. It’s this kind of connection that requires an audio interface, as there’s no other way to plug it into a computer.
So unless you have a high-end microphone, you don’t need an audio interface to record your voice with any one of these voice recorders. They all have their own microphones that can be used to record audio. If you think you will have some need for a way to connect an XLR mic to your computer at some point, then you should probably go with the Zoom H5 mentioned earlier as it can also double as a solid audio interface.
Related: The best USB audio interfaces
Why you should trust SoundGuys on the best voice recorders
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Frequently asked questions about the best voice recorders
A field recorder refers to a device that primarily records audio from external sources, such as multiple mic inputs mixed together. On the other hand, voice recorders are devices that rely on their internal microphone to record audio, since their primary use is to record… well… voices. The Zoom H5 is an example of a field recorder that provides you will multiple XLR input options, though it can double as a voice recorder thanks to its internal mic. On the other hand, the Evistr digital voice recorder only has an internal mic, making it a digital voice recorder.