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Best voice recording apps
Voice recording apps are convenient for quickly taking notes, or jotting down ideas without having to hold a pen to paper. Whether you’re a journalist in an interview, a singer-songwriter demoing new song ideas, or a student planning to record an hour-long lecture, you’ll want to use an app that is easy to use and provides you with enough control over your recordings.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on June 6, 2023, to highlight Apple GarageBand as an alternative to conventional voice recording apps.
The best voice recording app for Android is Easy Voice Recorder
Easy Voice Recorder has a clean and straightforward interface that makes creating, organizing, and sharing your recordings a seamless experience. The app also utilizes 16-bit PCM and MP4 audio codecs for high quality recording and playback. Additional features that make this app an Android favorite include the lack of software recording limitations and support for Android Wear OS (formerly Android Wear), enabling voice recordings from a smart watch.
One drawback to the app is its exclusion of convenience-oriented features, which are only included in the Pro version. These features include clip trimming/editing, MP3 and AAC codec support, Bluetooth microphone support, skip silence, custom bitrate selection, and automatic cloud storage uploading (to Google Drive or Dropbox). Fortunately, the upgrade only requires a one-time payment of $4.99—about the price of a latte.
Apple’s Voice Memos app is the best voice recording app for iPhone
Voice Memos is a free voice recording app used by many — from students to singer-songwriters. Besides recording voices, the app is often used by artists to spontaneously record audio samples and song demos. The popularity of Voice Memos lies in its simple design, which is a signature of Apple software.
Upon opening the app, a bright red record button lies at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to start recording instantly, with added timecode and waveform readouts. The app also includes a trim function for basic audio editing. When you’re done recording and editing, the file is saved locally to your drive, and is automatically synced across your Apple devices via iCloud. File transfers between other Apple devices are also instantaneous thanks to the company’s proprietary AirDrop file sharing feature.
While editing your recordings, you can enhance your audio with the tap of a button. The feature works by using machine learning to identify and filter out unwanted sounds, such as background hums and echoes. While it won’t magically transform your smartphone microphone into a $3,000 vintage mic, the enhanced recording feature allows you to better hear your subject.
Unfortunately, Voice Memos does possess some limitations. The most obvious drawback is that this app is only available on iOS devices. Moreover, Voice Memos has limited compression codec support, using MPEG-4 for recording, and either Apple’s AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) for compression.
Google’s Recorder app is the most innovative
Over the years, Google has made leaps and bounds in the realm of artificial intelligence. Recorder is the company’s free voice recording app that automates the process of transcribing audio, rendering human transcription services a thing of the past.
The Recorder app goes above and beyond merely transcribing people’s speech, with the ability to recognize other sounds such as music, applauding, and even animal noises. Because of this automated transcription process, you now have the ability to search for recordings based on what’s been said, rather than just looking up clip titles. Amazingly, audio transcriptions are done locally on the device, rather than online with a constant Internet connection. Plus, with an update released in late October 2022, the Recorder app now gives you basic audio editing functions—including trimming audio based on text transcribed by the app.
Because this type of app is still maturing, there are a few caveats. For starters, the app is only officially supported on select Google Pixel devices. However, some people have found ways to run the app on unsupported devices. Other limitations include English-only language support, and limited codec support (AAC only).
The Rev Voice Recorder is a cross-platform solution for people who need audio transcriptions
Featuring a clean UI and relatively cost-effective pricing scheme, the Rev Voice Recorder app is meant for people who are willing to pay for reliable audio transcriptions.
Available for both Android and iOS, the app itself is rather simple with a clean design that makes recording an instantaneous process. There aren’t any fancy controls to look forward to; and it lacks support for high-quality audio formats, editing tools, and custom recording settings.
Rev Voice Recorder uses humans to transcribe your audio for fewer mistakes, but it's a costly service.
The heart of the app lies in its ability to quickly send your voice recordings for transcription, which costs $1.50 per minute of audio. All transcriptions are done by humans, and the company promotes a turnaround time of 12 hours or less. If time really is money to you, and if you’d rather not go through the hassle of transcribing audio by hand, the Rev Voice Recorder is definitely worthy of your consideration.
If you need a robust voice recording app, check out Smart Recorder
If you need total control over your voice recordings, SmartMob’s Smart Recorder may be the app for you, especially if you’re an Android user.
The app features a great interface that gives you control over parameters that aren’t found in most recording apps. This includes Wave/PCM encoding support, mic gain control and calibration tools, sample rate control, and skip silence—one enterprising reviewer mentioned using this last feature to record their spouse’s snores, and deleting the silences in-between. A live audio spectrum analyzer is also included in the app, allowing you to better visualize your recordings.
As advanced as this app may be, it doesn’t feature any editing tools, so you’ll still have to export your recordings to another audio app for processing. Smart Recorder also has a 2GB recording limit, which means you’ll either have to tweak your recording settings, or just keep a lookout to make sure you’re still recording. As with most free apps, Smart Recorder has in-app purchases that allow you to unlock additional features, such as removing those pesky ads.
Alice is sort of free for iPhones
If you’re not sure if you have much use for transcription, try Alice. It’s for iOS, and uses gestures to record, with the aim of getting you started quickly. You’re limited with regards to audio quality, but you can trial the transcription service for free. Otherwise, there’s tiered pricing ranging from $2.99 USD to $9.99 USD per hour, depending on if you buy a lot or a little transcription. Transcription aside, it’s a pretty fast recording tool that links up to your email, and it’s free if you never use the transcription. Plus, there are no ads and no tracking.
GarageBand is free and available on your iPhone
Granted, Apple’s GarageBand is technically more of a digital audio workstation (DAW) so let’s not get too far into the weeds. However, if you think there’s a chance you’ll need to do some extra editing, or anything that requires uncompressed audio it’s definitely an upgrade over Apple Voice Memos. You can do multi-track recording, if you have more than one mic (and don’t want to use your iPhone’s) and you can edit with access to free tools like EQ and compression.
This is a great starting point for musicians and podcasters alike. You can also save your projects and transfer them to your Apple computer, which makes sharing and your workflow easier.
Add effects to your recording with Dolby On
Dolby On, made by the folks responsible for such innovations as Dolby Atmos, combines recordings with some useful clean up tools for Android and Apple. You can filter out noise, adjust stereo imaging, boost volume, and more. The intuitive interface is useful for people who want to add some gloss to their recordings without having to learn in depth about editing audio. It’s free, which is great, but for some people the functions may feel a bit too simple.
What you need to know about voice recording apps
Think of voice recording apps the way professional photographers look at smartphone cameras: handy, but not a substitute for pro gear. If what you need is to hit the record button now, recording apps are perfect for capturing the moment in an unobtrusive way. The name of the game here is convenience, rather than quality. Voice recording apps don’t usually have support for the highest-quality audio formats, nor do they feature any extensive noise filtering capabilities like high-frequency boosts or low-cut filters.
Having a lossless voice app recording may not be especially valuable if the microphone (built into your phone) is poor. No app can fully make up for bad hardware and a sub-optimal environment. If you want to get the most out of your recording app, consider a portable recording solution like the Sennheiser XS USB-C Lavalier or Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit. Lossless compression is excellent for studio recordings, but it also takes up a lot of storage space. Check out our guide to see what best fits your audio compression needs.
If you’re someone who needs to record the clearest vocals or samples on the go, you’d be better served by a portable voice recorder. Otherwise, if you just need a way of recording voices or other sounds on the spot, voice recording apps are your best friend.
You’re not limited by your imagination, just by your storage space
If you’re someone who consistently makes long recordings, such as a two-hour class lecture or five-hour jam session, be wary of recording limits posed by your device. Some apps like Easy Voice Recorder don’t have a recording limit built-in — though, it will stop recording when your phone’s hard drive is critically low on space. Meanwhile, the Smart Recorder app has file size limits, which may be inconvenient for some users. It might be a good idea to check your phone now and then to make sure it’s still recording.
Audio transcriptions are a growing trend among recording apps
If you’ve ever used a voice recording app to record a two-hour lecture, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of having to self-transcribe your audio notes; having to constantly rewind and turn up the volume to near-max just because your professor didn’t enunciate clearly. It would be much easier to just have someone transcribe the audio for you.
Software developers have come up with different approaches to creating audio transcriptions. For example, Rev Voice Recorder is an app that allows you to record voice memos, and send them off to a real human to transcribe the audio for you—all for a small fee. Meanwhile, Google is taking the more innovative route by developing an app that uses AI to automatically generate transcriptions. This technology is still in its infancy, but the results are promising.
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Frequently asked questions about the Best voice recording apps
Back up your files to something like Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud (or something else Cloud based) when you’re done to keep your device storage free. Also if your phone has any audio editing tools, you can get to editing there, or transfer it to your computer to edit in your favorite digital audio workstation (DAW).
This happens for all sorts of reasons. First off try to point your device’s microphone towards the sound source in order to capture it best, because if the sound is off-axis it might get captured inaccurately, or not at all. If the source is too loud for the mic it’ll clip, so back the mic up, or move it closer if it’s too quiet. Clipping (when your sound source is too loud and it distorts the audio) can’t be fixed really, but a quiet source can become louder in editing by adding gain and compression effects. The bad audio could also be caused by an especially reflective room which creates echoes and reverb. Try a smaller room with carpeting if possible, or a blanket fort. To be honest, your phone mic is only so good, and you may want to temper your expectations or upgrade the mic.
Sometimes your location is anything by ideal. For more tips check out our suggestions on how to get the most out of field recordings.
This is a common issue, as most recording apps default to your phone mic, even when you’re connected and you select your Bluetooth headphones (and their mics) as the input. Rev Voice—the paid version—offers the feature and it works. If you’re using Android there’s a free, though very much homebrew, app called Earbuds Voice Recorder that seems to be one of the few free apps that actually works with a Bluetooth headphones mic. The user interface isn’t perfect and you get ads. This is definitely more of an Android bug, especially if you’re using an iPhone with AirPods, which is more integrated.