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Updated Apr 24, 2023 12:14 PM

Voice recorders are convenient and portable tools. They can document lectures, interviews, conversations, and any other environmental audio you may want to listen back to later. Unlike magnetic tape designs of yesteryear, today’s voice recorders record to internal flash media or SD cards to deliver better file organization and compatibility with computers. Voice recorders range widely in terms of audio quality; some designs are capable of recording wide stereo sound at high bitrates, while others excel at capturing compressed audio and speech alone. Knowing the difference can profoundly affect your listening experience. If you’re looking for a quick solution for capturing audio on the go, the best voice recorders will have your back and make sure you don’t miss a single detail.

How we chose the best voice recorders

Since they’re often used for capturing live discussions, interviews, and lectures in critical scenarios with the intent to review and playback, we selected the best voice recorders with quick startup time and an easy-to-use interface. 

Most of our picks can record with the single press of a button, which ensures that you don’t miss out on any details when capturing audio. We also aimed to include voice recorders that are small and portable, which is an important design consideration that helps users travel light and draws less attention to the fact that they’re recording in the first place. 

The most compact picks on our list tend to record lower-quality files, while those that are relatively bulkier can record high-fidelity audio. In making sure the entire spectrum of audio quality is represented, this list can accommodate everything from the most casual recording applications to critical production situations.

The best voice records: Reviews & Recommendations

Voice recorders are fairly simple devices that consist of microphones, playback, recording controls, and file storage systems. The best voice recorders are set apart by portability and ease of use, which saves users time and allows them to place their focus on the conversation or lecture at hand.

Best overall: Sony ICD-UX470 Digital Voice Recorder



Why it made the cut: Expandable storage and quick-charging features make this pocket-sized recorder a good option for frequent use on short notice.


  • Memory: Up to 32 GB
  • Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Recording format: WAV, MP3, WMA, M4A


  • Built-in USB; no cable required
  • MicroSD slot for expandability, plus 4 gigabytes of built-in memory
  • 55 hours of battery


  • Requires AAA batteries

This compact voice recorder from Sony features automatic file organization and a handy selection of onboard controls. The design makes it the best voice recorder for interviews. Key among its front-panel buttons are two playback navigation buttons. One fast-forwards 10 seconds, and the other rewinds three seconds. This functionality, combined with the unit’s automatic file labeling system, allows users to review recordings quickly and efficiently, making this a good tool for transcribing interviews and other spoken-word recordings.

Other standout features of this design include a headphone jack for playback and a 55-hour battery life. Unfortunately, you’ll need to keep a set of AAA batteries around since the recorder doesn’t have an internal one (we suggest rechargeable batteries). The external microphone input appeals to users who want more control over their recordings. When using the unit’s onboard stereo microphones, users can toggle between normal stereo, wide-field, and focused recording modes. When it’s time to transfer files to the computer, this voice recorder has its own USB connector that pops out and retracts with a simple switch.

Best digital: Zoom H1n Portable Recorder



Why it made the cut: The H1n is a rugged portable recorder built by an industry-leading audio company that features easy controls and 90-degree stereo recording.


  • Memory: Up to 32 GB
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Recording format: WAV, MP3


  • High SPL limit for recording loud sources like concerts
  • Built-in microphone cage
  • Wide 90-degree stereo recording
  • Records to SD card for flexibility


  • Requires AAA batteries
  • Plastic construction can be noisy when handling

Zoom portable recorders are well-known in the audio and video production industry as a great option for capturing audio on-site at events due to their relatively high durability and sound quality. The H1n aims to pack this reputation into a compact and affordable digital recorder that can be used for a wide variety of purposes from concerts and musical sampling to interview and lecture recording. Because it has a high volume limit and records in resolutions of up to 24-bit/96 kHz, this is the best digital voice recorder to consider if sound quality is your primary concern.

Design-wise, the H1n has a relatively streamlined user interface and a monochrome display that is controllable via a series of buttons on the front panel. It has one-touch recording and automatic distortion prevention, which are key features that help this recorder excel in settings where setup time is limited or non-existent. 

Its array of two condenser microphones record in a fixed X/Y stereo configuration, allowing users to pick up a wide field of audio without any adjustment required, and these microphones are protected within a cage that’s integrated into the body of the recorder.

The H1n’s plastic construction allows it to be portable and lightweight. Ideally, the H1n should be mounted on a stand using its built-in threaded mount, but if you need to operate it in handheld mode, consider wrapping the body in a microfiber cloth or other dampening material. The H1n also uses traditional AAA batteries, which can feel slightly inconvenient and antiquated in terms of portability (and don’t forget to hold onto used ones to dispose of them properly). Still, it does prevent the need to stop and charge up when the battery runs out. That’s another reason pros like it.

Best voice-activated: SciTech Mini Digital Voice Activated Recorder



Why it made the cut: At only 0.19 inches in thickness, this compact card-shaped recorder is one of the best options for taking notes on the fly.


  • Memory: 32 GB
  • Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Recording format: MP3


  • Onboard noise reduction offers enhanced clarity
  • One-touch recording with autosaving
  • Fully charged in one hour
  • 360-hour recording capacity


  • Limited user interface
  • Won’t record with headphones connected
  • Records in MP3 only

If you require hands-free operation of a voice recorder for safety or convenience, this best voice-activated recorder from SciTech can do the job. It’s smaller than a credit card. It uses a single on-and-off switch to start and stop recording manually. A separate button can be held down to place the unit into voice-activated mode. Voice-activated recording prevents memory cards from filling with silence and gaps. It also doesn’t require any user intervention during the recording process. That makes it useful for intermittent note-taking and recording in various multitasking scenarios.

This voice recorder fully charges in a single hour via an included USB cable that can also transfer files to a computer after recording. An onboard DSP chip offers some noise reduction to voice recordings, but this can’t be turned off. That limits recording to speech only for optimal sound. The recorder’s 32-gigabyte capacity and default MP3 recording format allow it to hold up to 360 hours of material at a time, which is plenty for note-taking purposes, but bear in mind that its limited user interface and controls make onboard playback of such a large quantity of audio somewhat impractical.

Best for iPhone: Shure MOTIV MV88 Condenser Microphone



Why it made the cut: This Lightning-powered condenser microphone is a compact and convenient option for traveling light and recording files straight to your smartphone.


  • Memory: Uses smartphone storage
  • Weight: 1.28 ounces
  • Recording format: WAV


  • Records high-quality stereo WAV files directly to iPhone
  • Offers an abundance of DSP options via a proprietary app
  • Windscreen included


  • Prevents device charging while in use
  • Phone notifications interfere with recording

This convenient, iPhone-powered microphone from Shure is the best voice recorder for an iPhone and a great way to improve the quality of your smartphone’s sound recording without the need for a separate voice recorder. It requires the downloadable Shure MOTIV app, which gives users access to all recording functionality and a host of DSP options, including noise reduction, limiting, compression, and EQ. 

Due to its ability to record high-quality audio and apply post-processing effects via an app, the MV88 falls somewhere between a classic voice recorder and a portable audio production setup, making it a particularly good option for acquiring polished audio intended for production purposes.

Users can adjust the stereo width of their recordings via the app to tailor their recordings in various acoustic settings. The microphone itself can also rotate on its hinge up to 90 degrees in either direction, which offers some additional customization of directionality. The MV88 also includes a robust removable windscreen to help capture quality recordings in outdoor settings, a feature often sold separately when it comes to the best voice recorders.

The ability to use your smartphone eliminates the need for a separate device and allows the use of your device’s touchscreen for controls. Still, there are a few limitations that come with this convenience. Due to its app-controlled nature and smartphone-powered design, the MV88 can’t function as a standalone unit. 

Additionally, it occupies the Lightning port on your phone, so you’ll lose the ability to keep your device charged while using the MV88. Notifications can also interrupt recordings and create unwanted noise, so airplane mode is a must.

Best for street interviews: Blast Mic

Amanda Reed


Why it made the cut: Unlimited cloud storage and eight hours of battery life give you plenty of time to channel your inner Narduar or Billy Eichner.


  • Memory: Uses smartphone storage
  • Weight: 4.9 ounces
  • Recording format: WAV


  • Lightweight
  • Can be put on a tripod
  • Lossless recording


  • Plosives happen easily without included pop filter

Street interviews are some of the most popular TikToks on the platform. If you’re looking for a wireless way to record high-quality audio, look to the Blast Mic. All you need to get started is a Wi-Fi connection and the Blast Radio mobile app. After you’re done taking the streets asking hard-hitting questions like “name a woman for $1,” your audio will be uploaded to your Blast Radio channel. You can keep it on your channel, or you can record audio right on the mic to download, edit, and export later. You get a lossless WAV file, which means the final product will sound pristine and crystal clear. Sorry tiny mic—your days might be over, thanks to the Blast Mic.

Best for long-distance recording: Dictopro X100 Voice Recorder



Why it made the cut: With two ultra-sensitive mics that can capture high-quality audio from 40 feet away, the Dictopro X100 Voice Recorder is an ideal solution for anyone who needs to do some long-distance recording.


  • Memory: 8GB
  • Weight: 2.47 ounces
  • Recording format: MP3, WAV


  • Ultra-sensitive mics capture audio from up to 40 feet away
  • Voice-activated recording
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • Sleek design with color LCD display


  • Not always intuitive controls
  • No microSD card support

The Dictropro X100 is a very stylish, pocket-sized recorder that somehow manages to perform just as well as it looks. Two ultra-sensitive microphones with dynamic noise reduction allow the Dictopro X100 to record high-quality sound at distances up to 40 feet away, making this recorder especially useful for recordings captured from afar, such as in a lecture hall. You can record those files in either WAV or MP3 format.

Long-distance recording aside, the Dictopro X100 includes several other useful recording features, including a voice-activated function that allows you to record audio without pressing a button. Perhaps not as cool as voice-activated recording, but arguably even more useful is the Dictopro’s 8GB of internal storage, which supports up to 700 hours of recordings.  

Additional features include a headphone and external mic port, the ability to function as an MP3 player, and even an alarm clock—something you rarely see in a handheld voice recorder. One feature that is missing, however, is a microSD card port, which means you’ll have to rely on the Dictopro’s 8GB of internal storage.

Best for students: Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder



Why it made the cut: Pocket-sized portability, plenty of storage, and quick-charge features make this recorder a great recording solution for students and other users on the go.


  • Memory: 4GB (internal); up to 64GB (microSD/microSDHC)
  • Weight: 1.76 ounces
  • Recording format: MP3, LPCM


  • Three recording modes help capture audio in any setting
  • 4GB of internal storage and microSD support
  • Easy-to-read OLED display
  • Fast-charging battery


  • OLED display might be too bright for some users

The slim and sleek Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder offers several features that make it an excellent solution for students or those recording in a classroom setting. For example, the recorder’s stereo mics and three distinct recording modes—Normal, Focus, and Wide-stereo—allow users to capture sound naturally, regardless of whether they are in a small classroom or large lecture hall. In addition to its superior sound quality, the Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder also comes with 4GB of built-in storage, which is almost 160 hours of compressed audio. And when you’re ready to transfer your recorded audio, simply plug the Sony ICD-UX570 Digital Voice Recorder into any compatible device using the recorder’s built-in USB.

Other student-friendly features include the voice recorder’s compact build, which allows it to be carried to and from class easily, a bright OLED display, and a built-in rechargeable battery that can last up to 27 hours. That same battery also supports fast-charging tech, which yields up to 1 hour of recording time off of only a 3-minute charge.

Best budget: Akaluli Digital Voice Recorder



Why it made the cut: This voice recorder doubles as a pen, allowing users to jot down notes while reviewing their recordings—and it’s cheap.


  • Memory: 32 GB
  • Weight: 0.6 ounces
  • Recording Format: WAV


  • One-touch recording
  • On-device playback
  • Records high-quality files
  • Real working pen


  • Built-in storage is not expandable
  • Can’t turn off onboard LEDs

When it comes to note-taking, it can be difficult and cumbersome to keep pace with speakers and lecturers whether you’re typing on a computer or writing in a notebook. This voice recorder for lectures from Akaluli looks like something straight out of a spy movie and aims to offer a streamlined note-taking process that covers all the bases. It’s a working ballpoint pen, but there’s a 32-gigabyte digital voice recorder inside. Users can begin recording audio of their surroundings with a single press of the top button, and the onboard memory can store roughly 400 hours of audio before requiring a file cleanup.

Compared to other best voice recorders, this unit excels at being discreet and easy to use. It’s literally a ballpoint pen, so it blends in with any office environment, and it offers convenient features like one-touch recording, automatic file organization, and automatic saving in the event of low battery. It comes with a USB cable as well as a small pair of earbuds, so users can enjoy full functionality right out of the box without the need to purchase extra items. 

If you anticipate needing a voice recorder with expandable storage, a pen recorder isn’t the best option. It’s limited to 32GB of built-in storage. This pen recorder also sports LED indicator lights for recording status and battery status, but these can’t be turned off at will, so some users may find them disruptive in dark environments.

What to consider when buying the best voice recorder

At their most basic, handheld voice records all perform the same basic function. To choose a handheld voice recorder that’s good for you, consider how you intend to use it. If you’re looking to record vocals for singing, consider one of the best microphones for vocals. In general, a good voice recorder should produce clear, intelligible audio, be easy to use, and be portable. Here is what you should know:

Audio quality

Manufacturers often save space on voice recorders by recording at lower bitrates and in compressed formats. This is usually fine for note-taking applications and transcription purposes, but if you want to use your recorded audio in a production setting, go with a voice recorder that records in high-quality formats like the Zoom H1n or the Sony ICD-UX570. Bear in mind that the higher the quality you’re recording, the faster you’ll run out of storage space.

Laws regarding recording conversations

In some states, you can’t just plop down a recorder and press “record” without getting consent from all parties involved. 38 states and D.C. have “one-party” consent requirements when recording phone calls or conversations. That means only one person—yourself included if you’re in the conversation—needs to consent to be recorded. The other 11 states—California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington—require all-party consent, meaning everyone in the conversation has to agree to be recorded. Getting this consent is as simple as asking, “Can I record this conversation?” beforehand. If you really want to keep receipts, get confirmation to record in writing, or get verbal confirmation off the record (while the recorder is not running) and then confirm on the record (while the recorder is running) that they consented to being recorded. If you can’t remember all this, some lawyers went to school for this—and posted the nitty-gritty of these laws online—who you can reference.

Type of recording

The human voice occupies a specific frequency range, which is why certain technologies, including noise-canceling headphones and smartphone microphones are particularly good at separating it from background noise. If you’re recording speech primarily for note-taking purposes, consider a voice recorder like the SciTech Mini Digital Voice Activated Recorder that automatically enhances speech while ignoring background noise.


Voice recorders with higher storage capacities are better suited for the unpredictable conditions of remote recording, whether you’re conducting interviews, recording concerts, or sampling environmental audio. If you’ll be using your voice recorder for sustained periods in offsite locations, consider a design that uses SD cards or other removable media to ensure that you don’t run out of space when you need it. The Zoom H1n is particularly good for this type of use, or you can opt for the Sony ICD-UX570, which has its own dedicated internal memory plus SD card compatibility.

Discreet form factor

If you’re looking to record audio without drawing attention to that fact, a traditional voice recorder may not make the cut. Products like the Akaluli Digital Voice Recorder and the SciTech Mini Digital Voice Activated Recorder can record high-quality audio while remaining relatively inconspicuous, which can help put interviewees at ease and improve the quality of your interactions.

Editing software

While this guide is dedicated to the hardware you’ll need to create recordings, you should make sure the one you choose supports the MP3 or AAC audio formats. These common formats are compatible with all free or paid audio editors, music production software, and media players for Windows and MacOS. Selecting higher-quality audio formats like FLAC, ALAC, or AIFF will eat up more space, which means your recorder won’t be able to hold as many recordings.


Q: How much do voice recorders cost?

This depends on how much you’re willing to spend, but voice records should cost less than $100.

Q: Are voice recorders better than phones?

 When it comes to recording voice audio, handheld voice recorders do offer some significant advantages over smartphones. The most notable of these advantages is sound quality. Handheld voice recorders are designed specifically to capture voice audio. As such, they include recording capabilities most smartphones cannot compete with, including better internal microphones, greater support for different file formats, noise filtering, and more.

Q: How do I transfer data from a voice recorder to my computer?

This depends on the voice recorder. In some cases, you can plug it directly into your computer; in other cases, you’ll need to eject a memory card from the recorder and insert it into your computer. Voice recorders with a high amount of storage can record for several hours at a time. Voice recorders have limited software that allows you to begin and end recordings, and in some cases check your volume levels or other basic data.

Final thoughts on the best voice recorders

Voice recorders are a helpful tool for eliminating the challenge of sustained note-taking and listening, allowing people involved in lectures, conversations, and interviews to remain engaged. When it’s time to review your audio, the best voice recorders also offer easy playback functions to make transcription a breeze. If you’re looking for a convenient way to create recordings, make notes, or keep tabs on the go, a dedicated voice recorder can do all the heavy lifting for you.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.